Another cleanup question - lever caps!

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Eric The Viking

Established Member
19 Jan 2010
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Bristle, CUBA (the County that Used to Be Avon)
I've got an old Stanley USA #7 that's in good nick, but needs a matching lever cap really. I've found one on-line in the USA, so overall it won't be cheap, but it would be nice to complete the plane, and the added value will cover the shipping, etc. I think.

The trouble is, the example I've seen is rather rusty. I'd have to clean it up thoroughly once I got it, and it's putting me off a bit. That generation didn't have chrome plating, which helps, but I'd hate to have at it and then ruin it.

So my questions are, how can you get into the area behind the spring strip and around the hinge to clean it up? Can you strip lever caps down without terminal damage?

Chemical or electrolytic cleaning I'm OK with as a starting point, but it tends not to work in crevices too well, and I'm a bit nervous of getting all the acid out afterwards.

Any thoughts, or better still, "I did this and now look!" pictures, would be welcome at this point.


I don't think this is one to agonise over too much. Here is an example of a rather old, plating-free lever cap which has just been cleaned of rust with citric acid then gentle abrasives. It would probably have been possible to get a higher sheen on a buffing wheel but this is a working tool.


As for any rust at the back, under the tab, I'd just brush off what you can see and run a few drops of oil in to take care of the rest.
I did this and look now!!
Working down the grades of wet n dry brings any steel up like chrome. This is my 1901 No 7 before and after.





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1925 Stanley lever cap before


Electrolysis took all of the rust off. From memory I think I just slid a small strip of very fine 3M film under the spring strip to remove any residual rust and gave it a good oil for future protection. It's two or three years ago and it is still tight and rust free with only an occasional wipe with camellia since then.
Eric - here's another before and after that I'd forgotten about - a pre-war USA Stanley 41/2 - before:


and after


IIRC it would have had a dip in citric acid and some gentle cleaning with Micromesh and WD40. In this case the lever cap would have had some plating originally (presumably nickel) but it's all gone except for this little bit:


Overall, I was happy with the finish, but I generally aim at 'old but cared for' rather than 'looking as if it was brand new'


Some Renaissance wax and better storage conditions should stop such damage recurring.
AndyT":2h8yprur said:
Eric - here's another before and after that I'd forgotten about - a pre-war USA Stanley 41/2

Cool, a challenge! I'll see your Stanley and raise you a Vaughan and Bushnell 4 1/2! Before;

and after, electrolysis again.

But each to their own; it's a bit like sharpening really, one man's lemon juice is another man's electric soapy water...
Very nice Scouse, I think you must have started with a better grade of rust...

What do you do after electrolysis? Wire brush? Wet n dry? Micromesh? Abraflex? Just an oily rag? Or is there some other magic potion known only to violin makers?

Edit: I just realised that I had not noticed that shiny Veritas edge plane accidentally on view in the background.
I'm sure nobody else saw it either. ;-)
Hi Andy,

Just a wire brush under a tap followed by a liberal quantity of camelia oil.

Didn't notice the edge plane myself... handy tool though!