A Tale of Two Wooden Jack Planes.

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Cheshirechappie

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Way back in the mists of time, when the world of hand-tool woodworking was young and the interwebs were not available to techno-challenged plebs like me, I bought by mail order - sight unseen - a wooden jack plane from Bristol Design. It was an unused Marples BB, which had clearly been properly stored, because it was almost immaculate. I can't remember how much I paid for it, but it wasn't much.

I used it occasionally - and liked it, except for a small, hand-pinching handle. Wooden planes glide over the workpiece in a way even a well-waxed metal plane can't quite manage.

Fast forward a good few years to a time when even the techno-challenged plebs like me can play freely on the interwebs, and I felt the need of another wooden jack plane. The Marples, I felt, was just too good to turn into a heavily-cambered, open-mouthed rougher. It was worth keeping with a straighter iron for shooting board and end-grain trimming. So I turned to that repository of almost all things tooly, Ebay.

The plane I bought, for a sum total of £6-79 including postage, was described as 'in very good condition'. It certainly looked clean in the photo. Well, I won the auction (only bidder!) and paid immediately. Then I waited. And waited. Then an email arrived - the seller had taken it to the Post Office, and they'd wanted £13 or so to deliver it. Hermes would do it for only £1-40 more than he'd quoted, so did I mind delivery by Hermes, would I be happy to pay the additional £1-40, or was i happy to cancel the sale? Cheeky beggar, I thought; but not wanting to go off all guns blazing from the start, I replied that I was quite happy with Hermes delivering, I didn't want to cancel the transaction, and I looked forward to receiving the plane. Well, there was a quiet spell, then it duly arrived.

The plane, when examined, wasn't really in 'very good condition'. It was clean. Ish. The sole was heavily scored, and filthy. The ends were cracked, and the grain ran at 45 degrees to the sole. The iron and cap-iron were rusty, and the iron had quite a bit of pitting on the flat face. On the positive side, I couldn't see any evidence of woodworm.

The first job was to consign the iron, cap-iron and screw to a two-day vinegar bath. Then a good scrubbing over of the body with an abrasive pad and turpentine. That cleaned things up nicely, so I added a coat of Renaissance wax. This done. I was putting the plane down when a load crash announced that the body had reached the bench well before the handle, which was still 18" up in the air in my hand. Oh well, nothing a brush of glue can't cure...

Back to the blade. By Gilpin, now all the crud was off it. Still pitted on the flat face, though. Didn't fancy rubbing it up and down an oilstone for several evenings on the trot. Surf Ebay for 2 1/4" tapered irons. They all cost far more than the plane did. Scratch head.

Somewhere in the dim and distant past, I recalled reading about someone who de-pitted plane irons by holding them to the side of a grindstone. Well, nothing much to lose, so I hauled out the old 7" Tormek (it was an 8" when I bought it, but that was a LONG time ago), and gave it a whirl. Tormeks are not fast grinders, so it took a while, but it worked a treat. I ground a nice camber on the bevel while I was at it. That wasn't quick, either.

Finally - plane the sole off clean, straightish (it's a jack plane, remember!) and out of wind, flap the iron up and down the fine India a bit, and bung it all together. The wedge needed a gentle pare to get a really nice seat, but that didn't take long. The plane is now doing what it's supposed to.

The moral of this story, ladies and gentlemen, is that if you want reasonable certainty of getting a good quality tool, buying at a fair price from a reputable dealer is the better bet. If you buy cheap stuff off the web from people who don't really know what they're selling - that just might be what you get!
 

lurker

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Never ever use the side of a grind wheel, at best you will wreck the wheel at worst you will loose both your eyes!

I have used a belt sander for getting a bad iron depitted however.
 

Cheshirechappie

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I certainly wouldn't do it with a high-speed bench grinder. The Tormek only runs at about 100 rpm, though, and by a friction drive. And I don't have a belt sander.
 
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