I enjoy flea markets, and there’s a great one near Fredrickburg, Texas — about an hour from our Hill Country home. We go almost every month. Last October we came home with vintage cast iron pots and skillets, a UT Longhorn-branded Crockpot and — best of all — an old Stanley No. 5 jack plane for just $8!
There was a catch of course. The plane had been stored outside and was covered with rust. It had broken and missing wood parts, and wasn’t much to look at. Kind of a leap of faith. It sat in my shop for a couple of months before I had time to work on it.
Given the rust, I wasn’t expecting much. I thought it might be fun to experiment with a rust removal method I had seen online.
YouTube maker Jimmy DeResta restored several tools using distilled white vinegar, and I found an article on the Fine Woodworking site. They recommended soaking rusty tools in a mixture of 1 cup of salt per gallon of distilled white vinegar for about 12 hours. A light scrub with Scotch-brite or other scouring pad then removes the rust. To my amazement, it worked. There was some pitting, but nothing too bad. I was beginning to think this might work.
Paul Sellers describes a method of cleaning up the sides and sole of a plane by scrubbing the cast iron body on 220/400 grit wet/dry sandpaper supported by a plate of glass. It took about an hour and several pieces of sandpaper, but the process reset the flatness of the sole and minimized the pitting on the sides.
A cloth wheel on my grinder and some white rouge quickly cleaned and polished all the metal surfaces: iron, chip breaker, lever cap, body and so on. Since much of the paint was damaged or missing, I decided to mask the sole, sides and parts of the frog before applying a semi-gloss black paint. I wanted parts of the cast iron body and frog to remain bare. Some polishing of the screws, brass adjustment wheel and tote nut finished the cleanup.
It was time to sharpen the iron. I like to use plate glass with wet/dry sandpaper to sharpen, but I also use a honing guide to set an accurate edge. This took a while because there were big nicks in the iron, but it sharpened well. Nice and sharp.
I borrowed a knob from another plane to replace the missing one, and repaired the broken tote. Reassembled, it looked almost new. A few passes on a 2 by 4 confirmed operation. Wonderful, thin curls of wood. The Stanley No. 5 is a great addition to my woodworking shop, and will come in handy for my next project: a lumber storage rack. But more on that later . . .