Bench Plane Restoration
by Willard Anderson
There is a deep reverence in using a tool that has been used by generations of woodworkers, possibly traveled across the ocean, seen the Revolution and maybe been carried across the continent to help in building a new life. These tools define the term “vanishing resource” – once they are gone, they will never be seen again.
Every tool is a history unto itself, telling a story for those willing to look and listen. They have seen hard work and deserve to continue to be put to good use. You bring honor to the tool and to yourself when you preserve these implements.
This article focuses on “user tools” those – of modest historic or cultural interest – that can be restored to use in the shop. Maintaining tool marks, maker’s and owner’s marks, penciled-in vendor notations, as well as the patina from 100 or more years of use, is important to maintaining the character of the tool. I generally don’t modify a plane or apply a finish (other than wax) – though sometimes I have to blend in a wooden repair so that it is not too glaring.
Make a Plan
Do your research first. Two great references on wooden planes are W.L. Goodman ’s “British Plane Makers from 1700” (Arnold and Walker) and Martyl Pollak and Emil Pollak’s “A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes” (Astragal Press).
Your plan of restoration should take into account the historical or cultural importance of the particular plane, the uniqueness of its design, the state of its preservation and the purpose to which you’ll put it.
Video: Watch how to flatten the sole of your metal-bodied tool using a granite tile and sandpaper.
Blog: “Strike button” fixes are a less common need – you can read Bill Anderson’s instruction thereupon on our blog.
In our Store: “Handplane Essentials,” by Christopher Schwarz.