The Stanley Smoothing Plane

Stanley Smoothing Plane

At least a dozen years ago, I helped my Dad and his wife clear out their home in Colorado in preparation for a move to a smaller home in Southern California. They had been there about 10 years, and had a lifetime of accumulation that included some things from my Dad’s childhood home in Fontenelle, Nebraska. There were tools I remembered from visiting the family farm that had belonged to Gramps, and others my Dad had collected over the years, I was very pleased when I learned that many of them would be going home with me.

I had recently viewed a Paul Sellers video on how to recondition old wood planes.

This was interesting since there were two old planes in the tool set from my father. I suspected they had come from the family farm in Nebraska, and they looked suitably old. I hadn’t really expected to use them. Now, with the help of the video, I would be able to bring them back to like-new condition and use them. The Paul Sellers video can do a better job of describing the process than I can, but I worked for the better part of an afternoon at the task. I like his approach because he resists expensive stones, diamond plates and other exotica in favor of a simple plate of glass, some 250-400 grit wet/dry sandpaper, a little water and a fair amount of elbow grease. Before long, I had the iron honed to a very sharp edge. The plane sole also needed lapping since after a few swipes on the abrasive I could see that it had been used mainly to plane the edges of wood — there was a shallow depression running the length of the plane. Since I wanted to remove the oxidation anyway, I scrubbed until the sole was flat and shiny. Next I did the sides. Everything cleaned up, a little oil on the moving parts and it was time to reassemble. It worked right away. It cut well, and I was soon producing elegant coils of thin wood. Excellent!

Stanley Smoothing Plane sole
All cleaned up!

One mystery surfaced as I worked with the disassembled plane. It had no frog adjustment screw. I had never noticed that, and a little cruising on the Web suggested that was rare. What did I really have here? This was the real rabbit hole. As I searched for “Stanley plane no frog adjustment” and “no frog adjustment”, several great articles popped up. There was a surprising amount of energy on the Web around this one tool, and it was clear that several folks had put a great deal of effort into it.

The Superior Works: Patrick’s Blood and Gore Planes #1 – #8C ” was very comprehensive and I learned a great deal about the history of the Stanley plane and some of it’s competitors. I was beginning to have an idea of why my plane didn’t have a frog adjustment screw. “Why WWII-Era Stanley Planes Have Thicker Castings | The Literary Workshop Blog. ” really sealed the deal however. My plane was made in the early war years. 75 years old! They had been my grandfather’s (aka. Gramps) and were probably purchased to add onto the old farm house. A piece of the family history had a ray of light.

I’ll go ahead and recondition the second plane soon. With two, I’ll be able to set them up differently, and with a little care, there’s no reason they won’t last the rest of my lifetime. There aren’t many tools made like that today, and using them will always have a little more meaning for me.

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