Planes restored - Because I can. #13: To Restore a hand plane or to not restore a hand plane.

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Blog entry by Don W posted 01-11-2015 08:56 PM 4468 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: How to repair a Bench plane knob with a base blow out. Part 13 of Planes restored - Because I can. series Part 14: Restoring a Sargent Transitional »

I’ve always been a maker/restorer of tools and other things. My mother was sure I’d burn down the cow barn heat treating my new knives, or later bluing the rifles I was restoring. Then a few years ago, the hand plane collecting bug bit and bit hard. My wife was constantly dragging (and I mean kicking and screaming all the way) to antique shops. After a while though, I could hear the old tools crying for help. I had a few hand planes and hand saws and knew how to use them (or thought I did) but now they took on a new life. Pretty soon they started following me home in droves.

To read the rest, visit my website........

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

12 comments so far

View Cantputjamontoast's profile


416 posts in 4438 days

#1 posted 01-11-2015 09:32 PM

That sandpaper device you made from a broken part certainly gives me an inspiration!!!!

Just because it looks like it belonged to Jacques Cousteau and he used it under water all that metal can clean up nicely.

-- "Not skilled enough to wipe jam on toast!"

View Brit's profile


8302 posts in 3848 days

#2 posted 01-11-2015 10:17 PM

Great article Don. You tactfully dealt with that can of worms. :o)

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View summerfi's profile


4383 posts in 2693 days

#3 posted 01-11-2015 10:22 PM

Don, this was a great read, and a question I deal with frequently. I agree with pretty much everything you said. There is a saw forum I follow on another site, but I wouldn’t dare post one of my restorations there because the “experts” on that site would be aghast. They seem to believe nearly anything you do to an old tool is destructive. I think I personally lean towards doing a greater degree of restoration on a tool than most people do. There’s something about my make up that causes me want to make something look and perform as good as I can. On the other hand, there are a couple unrestored 1830’s saws laying on my bench that have been there for a good long while. I’d like to restore them, but a little voice in my head questions if that would be the right thing to do. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer, but it is a continuing struggle.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Don W's profile

Don W

19889 posts in 3573 days

#4 posted 01-11-2015 10:29 PM

I agree Bob. And I think if you’re asking yourself the question, you’re probably going to be ok. I’m all for preserving history, I just don’t understand how a well restored tool doesn’t do that better than one that is completely unlike itself.

To me, its history is about how it started, not what some fool did to it along the way.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brit's profile


8302 posts in 3848 days

#5 posted 01-11-2015 11:27 PM

I agree 100% Don. I also think about the people who designed, made and sold these old tools in the first place. What would they think of the neglected, rusty tools that we buy? I’m sure they would rather see them restored and used. If a tool is restored well and maintained well, it will last for ages. A lot longer than the rusty, neglected tools that land on my doormat. Having said that, I do believe there are some tools that should not be restored and they are the ones that have been looked after. Unfortunately though, they are few and far between in my price bracket.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View terryR's profile


7640 posts in 3314 days

#6 posted 01-11-2015 11:49 PM

excellent read, Don.
Thanks for sharing!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3786 days

#7 posted 01-12-2015 12:55 AM

Couldn’t agree more Don.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Slyy's profile


2840 posts in 2661 days

#8 posted 01-12-2015 01:34 AM

Don, fantastic read. Like Bob and Andy have mentioned you really hit the subject we’ve all talked about many times, both here with fellow LJ’s and a talk we’ve all had with ourselves. I’ve always thought of restorations of tools in the mindset of the fact that first-and-foremost these are tools designed and manufactured for one purpose: to perform that task for which they were made. If we find them in a state that makes them incapable of performing that task, then are they even tools anymore? I can’t disagree with the idea that an object that could singularly be considered historicaly significant probably shouldn’t be messed with but if someone who might consider themselves a purist would say you shouldn’t touch an old tool for any reason do we do ourselves a disservice by allowing that item to eventually fade to dust through a form of neglect?

The other point is like Bob said, what he does might be considered going too far sometimes but is it really? Is replacing a completely worn out handle, or plate, or spine (or some combination) on a saw to return it to a functional state any different then say replacing a worn out power cord on some beautiful vintage power magic lathe? Do any of these then make that tool less historically accurate or inherently less valuable? Certainly points you’ve touched on and things we’ve a thought about and no doubt, stuff that will be argued about through the ages. I think that if you do what you feel is right by you, how can anyone else really say you’re wrong?

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View theoldfart's profile


12452 posts in 3457 days

#9 posted 01-12-2015 01:40 AM

Don, a well thought out dissertation. I think a lot of the debate over restore/preserve/leave it alone rises from people believing everything older than 50 years will be valuable and touching it will take money out of their pockets. Tools are just that, tools meant to perform a task. I treasure my vintage tools, I only own one modern plane. I take pride in them, they are products of New England craftsmanship and manufacturing.

Please continue writing essays like this. They add much needed common sense to the cluttered and at times absurd discourse around here.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 2874 days

#10 posted 01-12-2015 02:12 AM

I like to think I have an eye for a nice plane. I’ve purchased a few, very few, and have a nice little set of users. I’d like to expand on that, but mostly just to use. One of the things that struck me the most was where you said “know what you have”.

I definitely fall short here. I’m always eager when I get a new find. Sometimes too eager. Thank goodness there are so many knowledgeable people willing to share their expertise with those who ask.

Thanks for sharing those thoughts, Don. You are a treasure trove of insight and experience.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View AnthonyReed's profile


10164 posts in 3446 days

#11 posted 01-13-2015 08:52 PM

Thanks Don.

-- ~Tony

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1053 posts in 2072 days

#12 posted 09-10-2015 05:27 PM

Good read Don, !! I’m way behind you in dirty finger nails. I have (Hard Headdely), come to the thought that there are two categories, Users and collectables. My Collectables will only be maintained by regular wiping and oiling with no intent of repairing or changing the state that I receive them. Now, I do on the other hand enjoy taking an old neglected User and bringing it back to life and seeing it perform as it should. There is no profit in it other than a little pride from seeing it throw out a fine shaving. My process for finishing is still evolving and changes from the particular plane type I’m restoring.
Jeff in Ky.

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

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