RESTORING a WS PLANE


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I recently acquired (read...bought for an outrageous price!) an A6 plane that came from Quebec via eBay.  I have noted that there seem to be quite a few WS tools that are found in Quebec, but most of them are in quite a sad state of repair, and this A6 is no different.  So I thought that I would photographically and by description walk you through how I restore a hand plane, in this case WS.  Be assured that I have vast experience over the last 30 years in restoring almost any make of iron plane, including WS, RECORD, MARPLES, WODEN and STANLEY.  In fact I restore almost any hand tool, as it gives me so much pleasure to rescue these stricken pieces of metal from the evil clutches of a previous owner.   In that regard, I hazard to guess that 99% of all tools ever produced have been treated badly either by way of receiving no care at all  or by just plain bloody ignorance.

Let it be said here that restoring a tool is not for the feint hearted.   It is dirty, laborious work that takes a long time, so please forget about all those safety conscious advocates who insist that you must wear goggles, face mask, respiratory mask, rubber gloves, steel toe shoes and full protective Hasmat overalls as if you were about to embark on WW III.  In the real world you will get all sorts of nasty crud under your nails and ingrained in your skin. You will have splashes of paint remover, varsol, sodium hydroxide ('Fantastic'), and paint etc. on your hands and clothing, as well as inhaling some noxious substances and usually getting cuts and split nails.  In other words, this is hard labour, so get used to it, but you will survive and have some fine planes to show for your labours.   Allow an absolute minimum of 4 hours for a number 4 bench plane.

So let us take a look at this poor A6 creature:

Presented below as I bought it:

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IMG_4149  IMG_4153

 

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It certainly could not have fared any worse had it been buried in a dung heap for a few years.  It has most iron parts covered in a coating of oxidation (rust), but does not appear to have any pitting...but we shall see.  The wood handles have the usual loss of varnish but have not otherwise suffered a beating.  Obviously cleaning a tool after use did not figure highly on the previous owner's 'to do' list, and it can be seen that this plane has the usual paint splatters everywhere.  Just why is it that so many planes turn up with paint splatters?

My first thing to do in restoring any tool is to totally disassemble it into its' component parts and then to analyze each part so as to ascertain what needs to be done to bring it back to a healthy appearance.    Hint...the front knob is drilled such that the rod needs to be unscrewed through the hole because most times it does not merely pull out.

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I usually start with the small parts first and must tell you here that I NEVER use power wire brushes.  I have seen just too many intrinsically fine tools that show the haphazard application of a power wire brush...with disastrous results.  The only place I may resort to using this tool is to buff up a steel rod, such as a rear handle holding rod.  Never use the brush on the base or sides, and NEVER on any brass objects.

Tools and equipment that I use:

a) small stainless steel and brass brushes

b)  Circa 1850 thick paint remover. Any watery type remover I have found to be quite useless.

c)   A set of ' Dental Type' small picks and scrapers.

d)  180, 220 and 400 grit carbide paper and a square backing block of hardwood.

e)  A bottle of 'Bluing' compound, available from Gunsmiths or others (e.g. Lee Valley).

f)   CLR rust remover...more about this later

g)  'FANTASTIC ' cleaner...more about this later

h)  A  few HARD old toothbrushes

i)  a Hairdryer

j)  '3 in 1' can of oil

k)  'Blue' oil-based paint....more about this later

l)  'Red' oil-based paint  (Humbrol, Testors)

m) some small paint brushes  [fine-large] that work with oil-based paint

n)  a 4" engineers vice with jaw protectors, on a bench

o)  A good source of light.

p)  a 6" mill bastard file with handle

q)  a long slim punch to remove the 'stirrup' pin if needed.

r)  Gloss Marine varnish and 1/2"bristle brush.

s)   'Varsol' or Paint thinners solution.

t)   Old plastic 'Margarine' containers.

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Disassembly:

Clean the 'slot' in all screws with a pick and always use the correct size of screwdriver, to avoid burring the slot, especially in brass. If the part is seized I use a slot bit in a brace and if that offers resistance I apply WD40 to the thread area and leave it for a day before trying again with the brace.  You will see above that I utilize a small closable plastic bottle to get the WD40 where I need it.   To remove crud I soak the parts in Varsol(Paint thinner) for 5-10 minutes

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and then give the parts a total clean with a rag. Iron parts can then go into CLR for up to 30 minutes, as needed, and brass parts into a separate CLR bath for 1-2 minutes.  Keep separate solutions because steel parts placed into the brass CLR will be coated with brass!.  I put brass parts into CLR because it makes the polishing much easier.    After the CLR baths I spray the parts with 'Fantastic' , which is Sodium Hydroxide based and this neutralises the CLR acids, and this combined with a toothbrush scrub removes even more surface dirt.  Rinse everything off under a tap and dry all areas with a hair-dryer. The steel parts will have a dull appearance and these can be then hand wire brushed and/or cleaned with carbide paper.  Brass parts can be polished at this stage with 'Brasso', and set aside.  Parts which are 'blued' can be treated as above, and re-blued according to the directions  given on the product that you use.  In the past I have blued my items by using a propane torch, but it is much easier using the modern day solutions available.

I clean all threads with a wire brush and have found that a 'backwards' motion of the brush works the best

IMG_4178   small parts all cleaned and ready.

Blade and cap-iron:  Remove most of the rust carefully with a wire brush and then carbide paper, in a straight line. Then place the items in a CLR bath for up to 30 minutes, turning often. Spray the items with 'Fantastic' (to neutralize the acids) and brush all over with the toothbrush. Rinse off with clean water from the tap and then dry with a hairdryer.  If necessary repeat this process. The blade can then be lapped on a diamond stone at 220 grit and then use finer stones to produce a mirror image lap. If necessary the blade may need (usually all the time) to be re-ground to the correct 25 degree bevel angle. You will find so many planes that have bevels much too steep and wonder just how any cutting was possible. In fact I think that many planes get put on the shelf because the owner found cutting just impossible to achieve. In this regard I am very thankful that ignorance is alive and well, as I today can find so many good planes.

IMG_4180 IMG_4181   IMG_4191 the best that I could achieve.

 

Wood:  The front and rear handles will invariably need stripping with Circa 1850 stripper ready for re-varnishing.  Few of these planes survive with such good finish to the handles that they will require absolutely no help.  Once the wood has been stripped, very carefully sand with the grain using 320 grit sandpaper.

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Make some dowel rods that just screw into the holes on the bottom of the handles, or else you can use the tapered handles from artist brushes. You will use these articles over and over again, so I have collected an assortment of sizes to fit my needs.  I use Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Gloss varnish, and 2 thin coats are better than 1 thick coat. For authenticity allow a certain build up of varnish drips on the bottom of the handles.  Varnish 3-4 days apart and with a light 320 grit sand in between coats. Apply the correct decal [obtainable only from this site]  so that it is readable from the front of the plane (in most cases,except some early planes)

IMG_4222 finished handle with waiting 'decal'.

It is inevitable that the finished wood will look darker than when freshly issued from the manufacturer.   I have yet to experiment with bleach to overcome this discrepancy.

Lever Cap:   The lever cap will probably need a Circa 1812 bath to remove crud, but you should note at this time whether there is ANY indication that the cap had RED infill around the WS characters. This is important in WS history. Also at this time use dental picks to lever out any crud UNDER the lever cap spring. You would be surprised as to how much muck has accrued there. Clean with a rag and rinse with 'FANTASTIC' then rinse again with water and dry totally with a hair dryer.  I then apply and use BRASSO to polish up the cap.  HOWEVER if your cap needs a red paint application to the 'WS' area proceed thus.  Clean up any Brasso residue powder in the WS channels with a toothbrush.  Then apply the Red paint with a fine bristle brush using a drop action...apply the drop on the end of the brush to an area of no paint in the channels and continue to do this around the letters. You will note that the paint 'fills in' the channel as it spreads and therefore there is no need apply paint over the raised brass area.  IF there is any overlap onto the surrounding area, wait for this to dry at least 2 days and then remove this with a finger nail or piece of hardwood [these will not scratch the surrounding brass].

Frog:  Again remove the greasy crud with VARSOL and small brush then dry with cloths.  Spray with FANTASTIC and toothbrush scrub. Rinse with water and dry with the hair dryer.

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Remember to wire brush the end of the steel post as invariably this is rusty [see above left]

The frog was sufficiently  'bad' that I decided to remove the depth adjuster lever(s)[using a small drift]{see below***}  but when I did this I discovered that the brass rivet that holds the 2 pieces of the 'saddle' together, was broken. I then had to find a brass rod of 5/32" exterior dimension and of a sufficient internal dimension to accommodate the pin that secures the unit to the frog. Then I had to rivet both sides of the saddle together using a small ball-pein hammer.  This is an unusual step needed in restoration. Before this was done I cleaned/rust removed the individual 2 parts and 'blued' them again. {***At this stage you should note from which side, [from the back view], the pin has to be removed, as this pin will need to be put back into the frog in the opposite direction.}

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Lateral Lever:  This A6 had a twisted lateral ever that I had to carefully straighten in the vice with rubber/plastic faced hammer. Clean the lateral lever with a stiff toothbrush (a wire brush leaves too many fine scratches) and blue the lateral lever as needed (tricky, exacting work).

Base:  Clean most of the crud out with a toothbrush and then apply Fantastic and use the toothbrush scrub. Rinse with water and dry with the hairdryer. Remove, clean and re-blue [if needed] the frog adjuster screw.

IMG_4162  typical 'çrud'.

In this case I very carefully removed most of the sides and base oxidation with 100 grit carbide paper followed by 220 grit and hand wire brush (always in a straight line parallel to the side edges.)  The top edge of the sides is also done in this manner. Most times you will find chipping of the paint at the transition point of paint and non-paint areas. Unless a full total paint restoration is needed (I use an 80% paint criterion) these areas will need either spot-fill painting to build up the levels or 'feathering' of the paint away from the transition point.( as shown below)

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I clean up the slope portion of the mouth with a very thin file or else you could use carbide paper glued to thin wood.  The back [square] edge of the mouth is usually painted, but at this stage can be cleaned up carefully and lightly with a 6'' Mill Bastard file.  On the example here it took me 2 hours to clean up the base ready for painting.  I do not spray paint as I find the masking off too finicky. I use a No.8-10 artists camel hair brush and quickly apply the first coat.  According to whether this is a selective fill-in paint job or (as in this case) a full over coating of the original surface, apply the paint rapidly and paint into the areas that have already been painted.  I usually apply this first coat undiluted and thick.  The second coat, to be applied a few days later, should be thinned about 5% with paint thinner, so that it flows readily over the first coat and does not leave any brush marks.

IMG_4220 first coat.

Frog:  the Frog can be carefully painted at the same time as the base, but take care to only paint those areas that originally had paint on them. This is finicky and may have to be done at 2 different times as the frog is difficult to hold and paint at the same time, or you can wedge (screw) a wooden rod into the lever cap screw hole and hold it by that function. When the paint is dry, scrape off any excess on unpainted'' areas with a chisel type pick. Install the stirrup,wedging the pin in from the same side that it came out. Be sure that the stirrup 'faces' the correct way!!

Body:  When the paint is TOTALLY dry any excess can be easily scraped off with a chisel type pick. This is usually on the top edges and I find it easiest to hold the pick and use the middle finger as a guide on the outer side of the plane.  This is best achieved whilst holding the plane carefully in the vice.  Do not apply too much pressure to those sides and never to the large cheeks.  Grip the plane at the lower 3/4"of each side.  After scraping , use the same technique with 320 then 600 grit carbide paper.   It is important that the paint be totally dry because otherwise the top skin of paint will drag off and the under portion will smear...needing a few more days drying time before progressing.

ASSEMBLY:   Gather all the restored parts together and apply a coat of furniture wax to all brass and non-painted iron areas.  Even though you have cleaned up these areas after finishing, you will still find that the wax cloth will remove a black residue of iron. Therefore use a fresh area of cloth frequently.  Let the wax dry about 30 minutes and polish the parts with a fresh soft cloth to produce a shine. (hand work, no power buffing!!).  Assembly is the same as disassembly...always use the correct size of slot screwdriver that fits deep into the slot and with no slop and no sideways protrusion. All threads should receive a drop of 3-in-1 oil

In putting the frog together you will have to install the frog adjuster plate first (making sure the bend in the plate faces toward the back of the plane) before threading on the brass wheel. Screw the frog adjuster screw into the hole in the base a nominal amount, then install the frog onto the base ensuring that the forked plate fits into the slot of the screw.  I adjust the screw such that the frog slope mates nicely with the slope at the back of the mouth.  Insert the 2 screws with washers and tighten them such that the frog is parallel to the sides of the plane.  Install the lever cap holding screw into the top surface.  Apply a drop of oil to the lateral lever swivel point. Install the front knob...I align the wood grain parallel to the sides of the plane. Tighten the brass nut just so much that the knob cannot rotate, no further.  Thread the brass nut fully onto the correct end of the rear handle rod (the top end usually has a filed/cut mark in the threads about 3/8"from the end). Insert the rod into the rear handle and position the handle on the base.  Screw the rod into the base not quite fully, because you will need to install the blued bolt and brass washer(s) at the front of this handle before tightening the rod down all the way.

Align the cap-iron with the blade and tighten down the cap screw, then fit the assembly onto the frog correctly.  Oil the brass Lever Cap lever point and assemble the Lever cap onto the plane.  You will have to adjust the holding screw such that the Lever cap is tensioned sufficiently.

You should then have a plane that looks something like this:

 

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You will now have great pride in your labours because you have transformed an article that few will look at, to one that attracts the attention of many.