Restoring Hand Planes.. My methods #15: Discovering the history and wonders of an old plane/tool

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Dan posted 05-17-2011 08:40 PM 5530 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Stanley Bailey #4 1/2 cleaned, tuned and upgraded to super user plane Part 15 of Restoring Hand Planes.. My methods series Part 16: Stanley Bailey #2 Restored »

When I first took interest in restoring old planes and tools I didn’t pay much thought to the individual tools history. I just took a hunk of rusted metal and made it look new erasing the tools past in the process. I have no issues doing that as its my belief that you are only adding a new chapter in the tools history. On the other end I can also now understand leaving the tools history alone and getting a joy out of wondering what its story is. It wasn’t until I had restored a dozen or so planes that I started to take an interest in the tools past.

As I restored more and more tools I would start running into marks and modifications on the tools that just stumped me. I would be sitting there scratching my head trying to figure out why the tool was altered. How did this altercation assist a previous owner?

One of the first things I ran into was this lever cap off of a Stanley plane.

When I saw this lever cap I couldn’t help but wonder why someone had put a grinder to the end of it. I will never know for sure but its the guessing game that makes its history interesting to me.

Another example that I want to share is this side damage to the #8 Stanley plane I have.

The grinding marks that you see in the picture are also on the other side in the exact same spots. I was completely puzzled and confused as to why someone would have put these gouges on both sides of the plane in the exact same spots. Judging by the amount of damage it couldn’t have been done by mistake. After sanding the sides for a while I got a closer look and reviled some more clues..

Do you see it yet??? No? Then lets take an even closer look!

You should be able to see the letter “H” hidden in the scratches. You cant see in the photos but there is also a letter “B” and “D”. “B.D.H” was stamped on the bottom front and back side of each of the planes sides. My guess is one of the owners had his initials stamped at the 4 bottom sides of the plane. Then I believe there is a good chance the plane was stolen from this owner. The reason I think it was stolen is because it looks to me like someone took no care at all when trying to erase the initials. Who ever put the gouges and scratches in the sides didn’t seem to care at all about the damage but rather to just make sure his name was removed. I could be completely wrong but again thats the joy of these old tools. You can guess and guess and guess on what the tool has been through and it will always be interesting to me.

Although I have don’t some heavy restore to most of my planes, I still respect the past of the tool and don’t mind leaving some of it alone.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

7 comments so far

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 4346 days

#1 posted 05-17-2011 08:57 PM

Very interesting. I have come across a few odd ones when restoring some tools myself. The lever cap above is rather curious. In so doing, that lever cap will never be able to adequately do it’s job any more. My guess would be that someone, who did not understand the purpose of the lever cap ground it to remove a gouge or damage of some sort, but as you say, it’s anybody’s guess. When I use an old tool that I have brought back to life, I like to think that I am yet another along a line of craftsmen that have used the tool. Somehow that makes me feel like part of a great tradition. I have a couple of planes that belonged to my grandmothers brother who was a cabinet maker back in the post-WWII era and I like to think about the kitchens and other things that he made with those planes when I use them. I will never sell them because of that connection.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Kerry Drake's profile

Kerry Drake

169 posts in 4308 days

#2 posted 05-17-2011 09:24 PM

B.D.H!!!!! That’s MY hand plane, give it back!

-- Kerry Drake, Loudon NH,

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 4168 days

#3 posted 05-17-2011 09:32 PM

Kerry – Show me some ID when you come to pick it up! That would make a great story if somehow the tool was brought back to the original owner after 50,60,70 years.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5015 days

#4 posted 05-17-2011 10:14 PM

maybe an initial was stamped on the cap as well?

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4328 days

#5 posted 05-17-2011 10:35 PM

I Have on with 55555 Stamped on the sides & cap.

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Bertha's profile


13624 posts in 3980 days

#6 posted 05-17-2011 10:41 PM

I can’t quite figure how a cap ends up like that. I admire you for owning it, though.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View chrisstef's profile


18138 posts in 4294 days

#7 posted 05-18-2011 02:38 PM

Nice write up Dan. Ive been following your ventures into rehabbing those old tools and i have a story kind of similar to yours while rehabbing what i thought was an old Disston saw owned by my grandfather. I have all ready cleaned up all the saws that i took from my grandfathers basement but my uncle and my cousin had a few as well. So i was having a few pops with my uncle when we went down to the basement and he handed over 3 saws that were taken from my grandfathers, his father. Home i went with the saws to clean them up and get them back to my Uncle. The last one i was working on was in awful shape, an early D7, that needed the works. I took the handle off and began sanding it down and to my surprise there were marking on the handle under all the grime. I keep working away at it, picking crap out of the stamped name. Finally the name became legible … J Sesstilli …. Johnny Sesstilli was a long time buddy of my uncles who have drifted apart over the years. I thought no way … how the hell did this end up in my grandfathers basement, the saw outdates johnny by about 40 years. I called my mother and my uncle to tell them about the finding and come to find out my grandfather used to hang out with johnnys father. Thats the story behind the D7 and its one of those things that keeps me rehabbing old tools .. there’s one hell of a story behind em all.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics