Stanley No. 5 restoration, Part 2

So, when I left you all in Part 1, I had found several online sources for restoring a vintage hand plane and was ready to get started. One thing I figured out about myself while doing this, is that I tend to work somewhat slow and methodical on projects, as it sometimes takes me a while to wrap my head around some techniques and concepts before I can move forward. That being said, the first thing I went after was the rust and dirt, since if I was going to be repainting it, that would have to be cleaned up. In most of the articles I found, two products were mentioned for this task-either Naval Jelly or EvapoRust. In the end I went with EvapoRust because it was more environmentally friendly and a little safer to work with. After trying several hardware stores, I finally found some at the local Harbor Freight outlet. I recommend getting the gallon jug, as the quart size can really only handle small parts, and you’re going to need a good amount to cover the entire plane body. After taking the plane completely apart, I found a small pan to soak the frog, screws, blade, chip-breaker and cap iron. Then I pulled out an old 9 x 12 cake pan to soak the body in. The rust wasn’t too bad, so it only took a couple of hours of soaking to get the parts cleaned up, then I used a stiff nylon brush to scrub out all the corners & crevices on the body, and the various screw threads. Although it’s tempting, DON’T rinse with water-soak everything in denatured alcohol. Water will just start the rust all over again.

Next up was to flatten all the contact surfaces of the frog. I use sandpaper attached to a piece of plate glass with spray adhesive. The plate glass I use was sold as a decorative shelf in a hardware store, and is about 6″ x 18″. I did the face of the frog (the part that contacts the blade) first, starting with 150 grit aluminum oxide sandpaper. I found out rather quickly that you have to work around the lateral adjustment lever in order to get as much surface area as possible. After getting a good scratch pattern, I moved up to a 220 grit to finish it off. Then I turned my attention to the points where the frog contacts the body of the plane and keep everything straight. I found these a lot more difficult due mostly to the small surface area, especially the ‘toes’ (the two points closest to the mouth). Since I didn’t have any valve-grinding compound or silicone-carbide powder, I tried using small pieces of sandpaper glued to one part of the surface, then the other. At this point I was wishing I had one of those other methods, since I couldn’t get the sandpaper to stick to the points on the sole. So, I free handed the surfaces of the frog on the plate glass, although this wasn’t the best way to go since it kept feeling like I couldn’t keep it perfectly flat front-to-back, sort of like it had a slight roll to it. After checking with the square, it seems to be fine and I moved on to the other mating surfaces on the body. For these I was able to glue small pieces of sandpaper to the frog’s surfaces and slowly flatten these points as well.

Now I could finally work on flattening the sole. It’s important to mention here that this step should be done after the frog is finished, as it’s crucial to have the plane tensioned before flattening the sole. All that means is to have the plane reassembled as if you’re going to plane something, but have the iron withdrawn into the body. For this step, I had just enough room on my plate glass to lay down 2 sheets of sandpaper end-to-end which gave me plenty of room to get a good back and forth motion on the plane. I marked the sole with a Sharpie using 4 or 5 lines going across the bottom, making sure I had one on each side of the mouth, one near the toe, and the other 2 evenly spaced going towards the heel. Once again, I started with 150 grit although I wish I had used 80 since it took a long time to wear off the marks with 150. Then I used 220 to give the bottom and sides a good polishing. Sorry I didn’t get any pics of this part of the process, but at that point I wasn’t thinking “Boy, I’d really like to blog about this!”.

The last part was the repainting. This is where I relied on Dan’s blog on Lumberjocks. After a lot of searching, I finally found the 2 spray paints, the Rustoleum Sandable Primer and the Rustoleum Acrylic Enamel semi-gloss. First I sanded down the existing japanning to rough up the gloss while feathering down any places where the paint had flaked off the body to smooth the transitions. Then I taped up the areas that didn’t need paint and applied 2 coats of the primer and 3 coats of the enamel. Even though the drying time between coats isn’t much (maybe and hour or so), between weather and other things, it probably took me a week to finish the painting.

Here are a couple pics of the original iron and chip-breaker, along with some shots of the finished product.

I’m very happy with the way it turned out. I know its’ not a true restoration as far as the japanning goes, but I like my tools to look well-maintained even though they (will) get used a lot, and this method fit the budget. I was also able to pick up replacement tote and knob set from eBay that was in much better condition. The original blade was surprisingly sharp (this thing was used well) and had a slight camber to it. I tried to flatten the back of it, but it was having none of that. You can see it would only work on the outside edges, so since this already has the camber, I’ve relegated this blade and chip-breaker to more of a scrub plane role, and bought a new O1 iron and breaker from Lee Valley for finer work.

Next up- a recently acquired Stanley No. 7. This one is going to be more work considering it came with no rear tote at all, is almost 100 years old and is longer than my plate glass that I use for flattening. Until next time, Thanks!

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