There’s no tool like an old tool

Or at least, that’s what the bumper sticker said.

This particular project is a rehabilitation of a jointer plane, specifically a Stanley #7 from the late 1930’s.  It was neglected, and missing its tote and knob, but it wasn’t abused, and the lack of wood meant it was affordable!


I started by cleaning up the metal with a little steel wool and oil.  This gets the rust off and burnishes the iron without removing patina.  This is a fine line to tread.  Everything but the sole and cutting irons I generally don’t sand or do anything more than burnish with steel wool.  I’ve seen plenty of “restored” tools that have been run over a wire wheel or even sandblasted and repainted.  The former is much too rough and scars up the iron.  The latter, while effective in removing rust (especially in cases where the japanning has been mostly destroyed), negates any vintage appeal.  In some cases it is, I think, justified.  But not in this case.  The japanning was fine and the iron of the castings wasn’t coarsely rusted, just the plum brown that occurs with age.  A little burnishing with oil and steel wool would be fine to create a usable tool.

But the sole is a working surface.  Anyone who uses the plane would have trued it on occasion, so it requires a little different technique.  A flat sole is especially important as this is a jointer plane, used to true edges for creating panels.  A curved sole rather works against that.  For this task, I use a strip of adhesive sandpaper (150 grit, meant for belt sanders) stuck onto a sheet of glass.  BE SURE to have the iron in and clamped down (though retracted fully!) when you’re truing the sole, as it does tension the main casting, and to work at this without that tension will create a false positive for truth (an obfuscation, perhaps?)  It will probably take a good bit for the entire sole to be flattened, but do work at it.  Eventually, the entire sole will show fresh iron (the dull brown-gray of time being abraded away by the sandpaper), and that will be it.  It does tend to use sandpaper pretty quickly, but the bulk of the work only has to be done once.  One nice thing about the corrugated sole of this plane is that there’s that much less surface to true!