Thursday, December 3, 2009


As I have previously indicated, I have a growing fetish for handplanes. The last six months or so have resulted in a collection that has grown from a single Stanley #220 to over 20 different benchplanes. My collection includes Stanley #3 to #7 bench planes including a #4 1/2, a #45, #71, #75 and a range of wood bodied jack planes and coffin shaped smoothers.

I recently restored one of the Stanley #3's that I picked up for around R250 (about $33) on a local auction website. Considering that a current (crappy!) Stanley 12-204 retails for around R750 (about $100) I don’t think I did too badly on the purchase price especially considering that it included the shipping costs from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

It’s probably a Type 19 (1948 to 1961) that was in pretty good condition to start with: minor surface rust on all metal components and a sole that wasn’t too far from flat. I would hazard a guess at around a mid 1950’s model. I took care of the corrosion by means of electrolysis and also removed the original japanning. The tote and front knob were stripped, sanded and recoated with polyurethane varnish.

After spray painting the body black I set about tuning the plane. The frog was filed flat and lapped; the sole was flattened using a granite surface plate and water paper. The sides of the sole were lapped in the same fashion. The frog was bedded into the frog receiver with diamond grinding paste and copious amounts of elbow grease.

The iron was in fairly good nick so I simply flattened the back and went about putting a decent cutting edge on it. The cap iron was set and polished after I had fussed around with the iron.

Here are the “before” pics:

And the obligatory “after” pic:

The proof of the pudding was when I took to a piece of pine. I set the iron to take a fairly thick shaving and had one of those “WOW!!” moments when the plane sliced effortlessly through the wood:

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the shaving was thin enough to read through (The photo really doesn’t do the shaving any justice! And small things do amuse small minds!!)

Am I having fun with my growing collection of hand planes? You bet I am! Since I’m not going to be in a position to get my grubby little paws on a Lie-Nielsen or a Veritas plane any time soon owing to a truly prohibitive exchange rate, I’ve decided to go for the middle ground and experience the satisfaction of taking someone else’s “junk” and turning it into something that I can use and hopefully pass on to my son someday should his little sparks of interest in the craft continue to grow.