There is really no better example of a tool that captures the essence of working wood by hand than a vintage smoothing plane. Finding and choosing such diamonds in the rough is a topic for another day, but I can promise you that putting some time and effort into restoring one is well worth the effort.
There is a wealth of information available online regarding restoring hand tools, and classic Stanley Planes in particular, but for those looking for some specific advice, I thought I’d share a step by step restoration. Keep in mind that my purpose here is to restore a plane to working condition, to be used on a regular basis. If you’re concerned more with collectors value, I wouldn’t recommend going this route. Also this represents my own experimentation, so take it with a grain salt and proceed at your own risk. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m happy with the results.
This plane is Stanley Bedrock smoothing plane, size 604 1/2 manufactured in the early 20th century. It shows some problems that are commonly encountered on old planes, including a fair amount of rust, a broken tote and decades worth of dirt and grime. Fortunately all the metal parts are sound, with no major damage. Planes that have cracked soles, or heavily pitted metal parts are not generally good candidates for this type of restoration.
Broken soles (the rear handle) are very common on old planes and replacements can be made or purchased relatively easily. In this case I decided to try and repair the crack, in part to preserve the great patina, and in part for sentimental reasons since this plane is an heirloom. Fortunately it’s a fairly clean break.
For the sake of space and time, I’ll break this article into a few parts and post them in succession. In reality this project took a few weeks to complete, but I probably spent only 5-6 hours actively working on it during that time.
In the next article, I’ll cover the first step in the restoration process, which is to fully disassemble the plane and clean the individual parts.