Restoring an old Norris No 5

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
UKW Supporter
11 Mar 2011
Reaction score
London UK
Hi, I recently managed to buy a Norris number 5 infill type smoother. Its in not back condition, but I would like it look better. The wood has been painted over with a gloss black finish and the metal sole and frame is in pretty good nick. It still works very nicely however.

Will I be reducing its value by restoring it ? If I go ahead, is there any pointers anyone can give me - for example, I could see no easy way to remove the brass pivoting cap iron tensioner, it seems to be inset into the sides of the frame. I would like to restore the wood, polish the sides, clean all the metalwork etc and generally get it looking gorgeous.

any links or article would be appreciated.

If it's in good condition apart from the black paint I would leave it alone?
Some of the later ones had varnished beech? handles.
A light clean and a bit of wax polish is probably all it needs?

Any idea what period it is? I was reading yesterday about pre 1920 = bad, 1920 - 1940 = excelent, 1940- 1956? = bad again but for different reasons.... I'll try to find that link + others.
Some of the later planes did have painted wood infills, so if its not missing a lot of paint and you think its original paint, not put on like treacle, best give it a polish and leave it at that maybe. Restoring a common Stanley or Record fully is pretty ok, but doing a Norris is more a matter of conservation than restoration I think myself.
How is the iron length/ width?
Here are some spares I noticed recently ...
Including a clue: "(A 3/16" thick blade won't fit a late model Norris A5 plane)."

I've never used this site so can't recommend but at least they appear to have spares. Other goodies too ... proper mitre iron anyone?
I'd personally go down the restoration route, and just as Rod (Harbo) suggetsed, just clean the plane using some paste wax, Renwax is ideal for this as it'll protect the metal as well as the wood.

We need some pictures as said before....but I agree with the general view...Rennaissance wax on the wood and the metal bits and leave it.

It would help to see what it looks like though.

Thanks for all the advice, I have started polishing up the sides and sole and the cap iron etc and its starting to look pretty nice.

There were some scratches and rougher patches on the paint, if I decide to strip it and refinish it, what would you recommend ? I t looks like it has several coats of laquer over the black finish. Is the black usually just paint or something else. i think the infill wood is lighter grain than rosewood, it looks more like beech or something like that.

I will post up some pictures later.

Cheers, Mark
I have a beech varnished one which is cabinet maker tidy as in clean but not polished and it has worn varnish from use looks great.

My boss as an a1 which has had the handles died a rose wood colour looks amazing and its used regulary.
Out of interest why do most of you think that keeping it " warts and all" is better than making look like it should do if had not been neglected over time?

I appreciate everyone has their opinion and a lot of this is subjective. Personally, I hate tarnish, rust, dents, scratches and dull finishes on things. I have always kept my tools obsessively clean, and I guess this is the same.

I had a look at the spare parts site - the new Ray Isles adjusters look pretty nice, but I cant see how to remove the old one on my plane, without fabricating some kind of cranked screwdriver. Also, the new adjusters ( there is nothing wrong with mine actually) seem to fit differently, being surface mounted. have I got that right?

The iron and cap iron are pretty good, I had a good old hone and polish today and they have come up pretty well.

The article referenced was very helpful, from reading it seems mine is a "late model" type, from after the war, so thanks everyone for the input.

I know, I know, pictures.... will try and do some tomorrow, my camera is at work.

Cheers, Mark
Well,,,,, collectors of old rare planes like Norris prefer to have their planes in original condition showing their age and heritage of use. Not rough as rats but nicely cleaned and polished ( waxed ). If you do more to such a plane it nose dives in value. Thats it, if you don't mind that, then by all means do what ever you feel brings your plane up to the standard you want.
I found these photos a while ago, I remember not from where or whom so apologies if they are anyone's watching, of a "new" Norris found still boxed and unused in a shop.
By the price on the box it would be 1940s and the original finish on the steel is proved once and for all to be .....


Engine turned. :shock:


I don't know how long this practice lasted, or how long the finish lasted but I'm guessing not long as this is the only one I have seen.
So maybe the purest purist would have it re done ..... I wouldn't. A cigarette case maybe - a plane? Don't think so :)
This also confirms the wood was painted black, a very interesting plane that, what a time warp !
So maybe the purest purist would have it re done ..... I wouldn't. A cigarette case maybe - a plane? Don't think so :)

I'm thinking ugly it may be but rare, it probably is.

Since I am not a Norris (or any other infill) "collector" (really guv...really! :oops: ), I am no expert here...but my gut tells me there is a collector out there that would pay top dollar (currency intended) for an untouched example.....

Just a thought.... :wink:

S'not rare, as far as I know; Norris offered it during the 50s, if their ads of the time are anything to go by. I'm not a big infill fan anyway, but a black painted, engine-turned Norris certainly isn't going to get the aesthetic sensibilities doing handstands of happiness...