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Spiers number 1...blinged

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richarddownunder

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Hi there
thought I'd share my latest toy which I bought off a local auction site - obtained for a reasonable price I'll add. A Spiers #1 panel plane. It is generally in great condition...iron, infills (particularly the back)...but, oh dear, how it has been blinged. I guess it must have had some rust and a previous owner has buffed and polished (maybe used a linisher?) so the dovetails and pins have gaps...It has really spoiled what would have a been a beauty.

I was wondering how much metal would have needed to have been removed from the sides to cause these gaps in the dovetails and pins (and how much it has devalued it). Has anyone who has brought a very rusty plane back from the brink seen this? I measured the wall thickness at the gap between infills and one side was~2.8 mm, the other ~3.2 so I guess it was originally 1/8" ...of course, they may not have ben the same thickness originally. At least it remains pretty square between sides and sole.

As a user it works well, the iron is huge and the sole is fairly flat. The mouth isn't especially tight but it takes nice wispy shavings.

The Spiers is upside down on the lever cap. Does that help date it?

Interested in views.

Cheers
Richard
 

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D_W

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I have that plane's twin, but only with light lapping done to it (not by me) and some moderate pitting remaining - mine is nearly unused.

As for how deep you have to go in the metal to expose gaps, I'm not really sure, but there is a method to close them that may be a bridge too far that is, tap/pein the pinholes with a fairly large ball pein hammer until they close and then draw file sectionally (so as not to create a visual dip) until the tiny peining dents disappear and hopefully no new pinholes appear. The latter sometimes happens, so you chase whatever is appearing until you get to the magic point that there are none.

(or just leave them as they are).

I can only say from two things that ...I still don't know how much metal:
1) I draw filed a spiers coffin smoother pretty significantly and no gaps opened, but it may have varied through eras or workman
2) when I've made my own planes and demanded no pinholes, I've used the method mentioned above until none showed and my plane definitely had pinholes closer to the surface than the spiers.

If one made a lot of planes, then a skill of economy would be closing the pinholes deeper so that they don't appear in final truing.

Shame they sanded the crisp transition off on the sides at the top of the bed, but the handle appears to be unmolested and unbroken or at least fixed nicely (either) and that's far better than many.

I haven't used the one that I have - since it's crisp and almost unused, I bought it to copy and haven't gotten around to it. Pictures are fine, but making a plane is always easier if there's one in hand to work with and take measurements from.
 

richarddownunder

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That seems to confirm that it has had quite a bit of work done to it - yes its a shame everything has been rounded over. I missed a really nice one a few weeks ago and was determined to get this. In the end I got it for a pretty reasonable price (as these things go - the more informed probably gave it a miss for the reasons I'm bringing up now) - but kind of regret it so might sell it again and get my money back. On the other hand its hard to find something that doesn't have some issues when it is that old. The infills are very nice with no repairs apart from a bit I'm doing on the top of the bun (just shellac). Not sure I'm game to start hammering it as I might make it worse.

Cheers
Richard
 

D_W

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I think I've had about 20 infills now, and made 5. I've never gotten one that's perfect except for a newer A5 (and that plane just wasn't a very good plane).

While it's a shame the crispness was sanded off, if the plane works nicely, then there's a lot to that for a reasonable price. I think I spend about $200 for materials on a nice plane and it can be a real chore to find a good quartered dry cocobolo or rosewood blank for the infill.

They do seem to all have user personalities unlike stanley planes - if that one was reasonable and really works great and everything adjusts perfectly, it's good just at that. I think I paid somewhere around $500 for the one I have (it's the closest to a perfect plane that I've found, but with some previously stabilized pitting, that's pretty expensive -I figure it'd be a challenge to get my money back out of it, but that'll be forgiven if I manage to make a good copy or two and use the handle pattern.

You've probably found like I do - excellent priced infills generally find you. If you get an itch and go out and try to force finding one, often there's some compromise of some sort in every one listed.

It's a weird market, too. I got the spiers infill I mentioned above because it was listed with a picture of the iron as the main picture and the body was covered with surface rust. bad luck for the seller on both cases - most people probably thought the seller was listing an auction for an iron, and anyone who looked further saw rust. I got it for $125, completely refinished it (perfect wood and ward iron) and listed it for double several years later and the only person willing to buy it was a tool dealer here in the states. Then because he had it, someone else was willing to give him another $125 for it above my ask).
 

IWW

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Richard, from the pics it looks like the keen "restorer" has got stuck into it with one of those "Scotchbrite" type pads on his angle grinder. Good things for removing scale & polishing the metal, but not too good at maintaining a flat surface!

Occasional small voids in a peened joint are surely not rare & must have happened to the most experienced peeners on occasion, but I'm surprised to see gaps as obvious as those you show. Perhaps this was an apprentice peener doing his first unsupervised plane, or he was handed a body prepared by the apprentice cutter-outer? ;)

Attempting any sort of repair is fraught, unless you have a very clear idea of what you are doing. You could easily make the situation far worse (well, I could!). I certainly wouldn't try peening them directly. While you could probably fill the gaps, there is simply no 'spare' metal, so you would create a dish around the gapped area by moving the metal over, and in cleaning that up, you are very likely to expose other gaps, & end up like the dog chasing its tail, as DW warned. It is possible to drive a tapered sliver of steel into a hole and peen it down to lock it in place & make an invisible repair. I've done that successfully with fresh metal (like a bad over-cut on the side of a socket on a steel sole! :mad:), but I doubt you'd get as satisfactory a result with a hole full of oxide. In any case, the 'hole' in your plane is likely to be very irregular because of the way Spiers cut their dovetails for peening. Peter McBride shows a badly corroded example in-situ & pulled apart. On your pic, it looks like that corner notch has been exposed by over-enthusiastic "cleaning up", & the gap will continue obliquely into the side.

As a "collector" it's a bit of a dud, but as a "user", these 'flaws' are strictly cosmetic; I doubt the structural integrity of the plane has been compromised, so if the plane works well, just get on & enjoy it. These massy beasts are a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get that taste, nothing else feels as nice as one of these things sliding over a board & leaving a surface that rivals float glass in flatness & smoothness...
:)
Cheers,
Ian
 

richarddownunder

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Thanks for the replies. Well, $125 (US) makes this one sound quite expensive at the (NZ) equivalent of 200 quid (NZ$400). A somewhat better one that I missed went for NZ $600, so 300 quid and I thought that was pretty good. But that was in un-'restored' condition and looked pretty much perfect. I'm sure it will hold together but I'll consider selling it at some stage as it'll bug me - although I'm not a 'collector' I just find it irritating that it has been butchered. It does work well, but no better than my other planes and is more time consuming to adjust precisely (probably just haven't got the knack yet). I'll try it for a bit and see.

Any sort of infill over here is a rarity, so you get what you can. This is a particular model I've been looking for for ages so was disappointed to miss the 'plane of my dreams' a few weeks ago so this was, so to speak, a rebound relationship!

Cheers
Richard
 

C.R. Miller

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The pin holes in the metalwork won't really devalue the plane at all. Rounding over the edges, however, will - as well as any re-furbished shellac, but if you use it for a few years and wear it down a bit then most people will be none the wiser.

As for how much metal has been removed it's not 100% easy to tell. Perhaps not that much actually. When properly finished it's okay that the peining hide a couple of flaws here and there. The process of peining is not always exact, even for the professional infill makers of old. See, the goal here is to pein the dovetails enough for a good strong joint, as well as file them back to make them 'invisible'. Nothing else really matters. It's a testament to the maker's skill that many of these infill planes have lasted several generations and still work as well as the day they were made.

You are right on when it comes to the thickness of the plates that most makers adopted - around 1/8th of an inch for the sides and 3/16ths of an inch for the sole. Most of the pins are either 3/16ths or 1/4 inch in diameter. I always used 3/16ths for large planes - and by this I mean 'full scale', as I've also made hundreds of small planes for the musical instrument trade with greatly reduced sizes when it comes to pins. I use 1/8th of an inch for the smaller planes but still, usually, use 1/8" for the sides and sole. It just depends on the actual plane itself.

Not that you need to do anything to this particular plane, but I was just going to say that you don't need a large hammer to dovetail, as mentioned above. Over a 35 year period I primarily used very small ball pein hammers - by 'normal' standards. My main hammer has a head about 3/4" wide by about 2-1/2" long, but I also have several that are only 3/8" to 1/2" in diameter.

My main 'anvil' is still a block of steel I found in my dad's garage that was passed down by his own father who was a engineer/boilermaker (dad was apprenticed as a toolmaker, but then went into electronics and worked for Honeywell for several decades.) It's worked flawlessly for my purposes over that time but it does bounce around a bit on the bench. However my working methods got used to it and it was never an issue. It was also easy to transport to various trade shows and exhibitions whenever needed. Having said that, I've always meant to have the top resurfaced, because it's quite rough, but never ever got around to doing it.

The steel block is about 3" by 3" by about 4-1/2" long. It has a 1/2" hole going through it lengthways (from whatever life it had beforehand) which is surrounded a selection of different width holes of various shallow depths that I drilled for different sized pins.

When it comes to peining, my method of work is also different from many of my contemporaries. Instead of striking the metal with slower, heavier blows like most metalworkers do, I'm more of a 'machine-gun' peiner. In other words, I'm VERY fast, with a barrage of much lighter - and more controlled - strikes. I never actually thought about it much until I saw a video of the guys from Shepherd peining their planes. Then I noticed others were very similar. I think Konrad is faster than the Shepherd guys were, but not quite as fast as me.

I just timed myself and I counted between 65 and 70 strikes in a 20 second period. That would vary a little bit though, depending on the plane. You always slow down a bit when peining the corners.

As far as the age of your plane is concerned, it's a later one from a little before 1900 to, say, the 1920's or so. The price you paid is actually quite good for that plane. Yes, they crop up cheaper from time to time, but most of them - especially in Australia (where I live) and New Zealand - go for a lot more. They can be cheaper in Britain because there's quite a few of them over there - plus they're always in the shadow of Norris planes somewhat, which is always a shame (to me at least).
 

D_W

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That sounds like a fair price to me. I've never seen an infill on the ground here and have bought most from New England (most of those are probably just from tool dealers who brought them from England recently) or from England. Good wood and good metal is rare.

...and the story of the $125 spiers coffin that came out looking great is the only story I've got like that out of 20. More common to start cleaning grime and find a glue line in the wood that the seller didn't disclose. I've sold about half of mine, and for sure haven't broken even with them.

What's been a bit discouraging is that I can clean a plane up and prove in pictures that it's working well, and it's still very difficult to get close to breaking even (a dealer can get 1 1/2 or 2 times what I can for a plane in "as found" condition.
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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The only work I would do in the plane is to refile the upper edges and return their crispness. Owing to the degree of roundedness, this may need to be done in two planes: flat along the top, and then an angled chamfer.

Leave all else - the body will lose its shine and regain its life over the next few years.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

richarddownunder

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Thanks fellas, that is an encouragement. Maybe I'm a bit too much of a fuss-pot and should be content a bit more! Derek, yes I had contemplated taking to the rounded edges with a file, carefully. I'll have a go tentatively and see how it looks. Not sure how I'd file the top of the metal without damage to the infill though, even if I tape over the wood. The bit of shellac on the bun was really more to stabilise the grain than pretty it up as there was a segment delaminating on top. I guess it had been hammered and would have chipped off badly without something done. I'll use it for a bit - its a new experience as I have never used a larger infill before. It certainly slides effortlessly over the wood once it has started moving, I guess that is just the mass.

I enjoy the peining process but on a finished plane with no meat to pein over I think I'd just end up with dents so I'll not attempt that. In the meantime there is what appears to be a nice Matheson coffin smoother up for tender so I'll keep an eye on that although the price is un the way up https://www.trademe.co.nz/a/marketplace/antiques-collectables/tools/listing/2828241169?bof=hpKW5lVM . Seem to have the bug.

Cheers
Richard
 

D_W

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Yes on the dents - the process is a bit subtle - first, the pein end of the hammer needs to be a little bigger and flatter than something that would move a lot of metal fast (i end up using a large hammer but really light taps), second you have to do the light taps, and third, you have to be willing to draw file an area to remove the tiny dents. It's not a guaranteed process, either - I've always managed to get everything closed deeper than the dents, but you can chase new openings in a spot or two and I suppose it's possible you could unearth something. The amount of metal that I've removed in closing the dents is probably a hundredth, but it does feel risky. I also wouldn't bother on an older plane - I do it out of shame on planes of my own make - when I'm filing sides, after the meat is gone, a tiny pinhole here or there usually shows up somewhere unless the plane really peined dead flat.

I keep an eye out when draw filing the tiny dents out - that is, as soon as a little dot appears, then I begin to tap it, too, so it stays closed while I'm draw filing. I guess it's not guaranteed, but it's not that risky, either, and would look pretty intuitive in person.
 

AJB Temple

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Interesting thread. May I ask an ignoramus question? Why not run a little silver solder into the dovetail gaps if holes need to be filled? Would be nigh on invisible and reversible, and avoid the risk of peening?
 

Tony Zaffuto

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If the gaps really bother you, why not do a repair that is reversible (or at least will not cause further potential degradation? Some expoxies will match to color of the plane body quite well. JB Weld has an aluminum colored one, that comes to mind. Mix up, fill the voids and lightly scrub off the excess with a piece of silicon carbide paper.

The edges that have been rounded over, are really far more detracting, than the few voids.
 

D_W

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Interesting thread. May I ask an ignoramus question? Why not run a little silver solder into the dovetail gaps if holes need to be filled? Would be nigh on invisible and reversible, and avoid the risk of peening?
I've never done it with silver solder, but I'd imagine that one thing you might not want to do is heat the steel around much.

regular electrical solder or anything softer (like zinc) maybe formable enough to go. I'd be inclined to do something like tony mentions with a filled glue or a metallic paint, but the reality is I probably wouldn't fill them at all, either.
 

D_W

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Thanks fellas, that is an encouragement. Maybe I'm a bit too much of a fuss-pot and should be content a bit more! Derek, yes I had contemplated taking to the rounded edges with a file, carefully. I'll have a go tentatively and see how it looks. Not sure how I'd file the top of the metal without damage to the infill though, even if I tape over the wood. The bit of shellac on the bun was really more to stabilise the grain than pretty it up as there was a segment delaminating on top. I guess it had been hammered and would have chipped off badly without something done. I'll use it for a bit - its a new experience as I have never used a larger infill before. It certainly slides effortlessly over the wood once it has started moving, I guess that is just the mass.

I enjoy the peining process but on a finished plane with no meat to pein over I think I'd just end up with dents so I'll not attempt that. In the meantime there is what appears to be a nice Matheson coffin smoother up for tender so I'll keep an eye on that although the price is un the way up https://www.trademe.co.nz/a/marketplace/antiques-collectables/tools/listing/2828241169?bof=hpKW5lVM . Seem to have the bug.

Cheers
Richard
The small mathieson and spiers smoothers are very similar in weight to a stanley plane, which translates to them not having the loaded van feeling of a typical panel plane (wait, you already know this - I remember a preston or some other similar smoother that I ogled when you got it - and you probably have another two dozen!).

I can't tell if the handle is cracked on that one, or partially cracked, and same with the bun. The bulk of the planes of that type that I've seen over here have been dropped (not a big deal for the plane function, but hard on the wood) or had shrinkage on the front bun. The mathieson that I had (and have since sold) had a good handle but had the crack across the front bun and was pretty rough looking. GREAT plane to use in heavy work, though, because it didn't weigh 6 pounds. I figure those to be $200-$300 US planes here if they have a really good replacement iron or a good bit of original. Many ask more, of course. Can't tell if the iron isn't inserted quite right in that picture or if the bed is diagonal from the mouth.

AS you mention not using panel planes, make sure they're taking plenty (use the cap iron) and wax very regularly. The combination of weight, downforce and sticky steel makes for a lot of work if you're taking a bunch of thin shavings and not waxing.
 

IWW

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Interesting thread. May I ask an ignoramus question? Why not run a little silver solder into the dovetail gaps if holes need to be filled? Would be nigh on invisible and reversible, and avoid the risk of peening? ....
Please don't try that!
1. The heat required to melt even soft solder would not do the woodwork any good at all; you might get away with it, but it's a very risky thing to do on an expensive plane.
2. You would have a hard time getting solder to 'take' on those heavily-oxidised surfaces and end up with residual flux inside doing more harm than good.
3. The texture of solder is different & it would be just as obvious as the pinholes are now, to all but the most casual glance.

I tried soldering a poor joint once, very early in my planemaking career, and all it did was make it obvious I'd tried to disguise my mess.

I would heed the voice of knowledge & experience from C.R.M and leave it alone. As he says, these things are amazingly solid & stable despite the odd void in he D/Ts. If you decide to re-file the chamfers, and haven't had much filing experience, practice on a bit of scrap first. Use the file like a spokeshave (i.e., draw-file) to keep the chamfers straight & even. I use a small to medium triangular file that will follow the curves without catching or digging in & the finer the cut, the better. [If you are an experienced fitter, my apologies for trying to teach egg-sucking].

As I said, if the plane is sound & performing well, who cares if it has a few cosmetic flaws? If you bought the thing to use, then use & enjoy it - it will probably get a few more marks as the years go by, but that will cause you far less pain & stress than trying to preserve a museum specimen in "original condition".

Cheers,
Ian
 

richarddownunder

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D_W - yes the Preston is a beauty...the only other infill I have is a Post war Norris which is essentially unused - I cleaned off the gloop it was coated with in the factory 70 years ago and it remains practically unused but sharp - I even have the box. Sadly it was left somewhere damp at some point so there is pitting spoiling the fine finish on the sides. I far prefer the Preston. Still not for sale :).

Looking at the Spiers again last night with a view to filing as Derek suggested and it seems to me that the walls have been thinned quite a bit, especially on one side at the heel so I am now wondering if filing would accentuate this. I suspect it has been attacked by a belt sander to tart it up and then buffed. Ian, no I'm not a fitter but have filed a bit over the years making planes and knives and such like, but always happy for suggestions to improve. I think in this case the flaws are deeper than cosmetic, the metal on one side has probably lost up to half its thickness towards the heel. However, I don't think its going to fall apart!

It seems such a shame that a plane like this has been butchered as it oozes quality and I really like the 'feel' using it. I'll just use it for now and look out for one which hasn't been 'restored' which may or may not ever turn up over here. Ian or Derek, do you know of any decent sources of such planes in Australia where the market is bigger than here (and postage to NZ wouldn't be prohibitive)?

Cheers
Richard
 

D_W

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I don't want to enable, but I had a post-war u-channel norris A1 that wasn't a great plane in a technical sense (it had all of the idiosyncrasies of the later norris planes (tighten the lever cap, the iron gains significant cut depth, etc, beech infill, ...), but in that format, the norris sins can be ignored (heavier cutting) and it turned out to be a great user. Soft iron, too, like most later norris planes, but again, in a heavier cut, a softer iron doesn't matter - may even be better.

This is two of my four panel planes.

The spiers I mentioned is in the front. I have lost some of my fire to build and wouldn't buy it again at this point - not quite ready to see if I can get most of my money back from it, though. The one in the back is a plane that most people told me was probably worthless and it's the best using panel plane I've had - it's not nose heavy, which is rare for a rosewood panel plane..

Just never know until you get a chance to use them a while. I have warmer feelings about the plane in the back, even though it was inexpensive and nobody would ever pay half for it vs. what they'd pay for the plane in the front.
 

IWW

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...... Ian or Derek, do you know of any decent sources of such planes in Australia where the market is bigger than here (and postage to NZ wouldn't be prohibitive)? .....
Richard, I don't know of sources other than the Tool Exchange or Hans Brunner.

Neither is cheap. Hans does know his stuff and his prices reflect the inflated market values for name-brands. The Tool exchange bloke seems to have nfi, and asks prices for some things that are way out of line - he recently had what looked like a (very poory) owner-made infill up for $800. I wouldn't have given $80 for it!

I think you are stuck with your current strategy of watching & waiting & hoping if you want to pick up a good panel plane at a bargain price.

I gave up long ago & made my own:
Brass-side PP.jpg


Total cost about $150 (including blade)....
;)

Cheers,
Ian
 

Tony Zaffuto

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Richard, I don't know of sources other than the Tool Exchange or Hans Brunner.

Neither is cheap. Hans does know his stuff and his prices reflect the inflated market values for name-brands. The Tool exchange bloke seems to have nfi, and asks prices for some things that are way out of line - he recently had what looked like a (very poory) owner-made infill up for $800. I wouldn't have given $80 for it!

I think you are stuck with your current strategy of watching & waiting & hoping if you want to pick up a good panel plane at a bargain price.

I gave up long ago & made my own: View attachment 94898

Total cost about $150 (including blade)....
;)

Cheers,
Ian
Beautiful plane! You should be doing this commercially!
 
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