stories & treasures

Tools are funny things; especially old tools. Looking at, and handling, an old tool tells you a story. Every mark on each tool is part of the (mis)adventure of the tool's - and its owner's - life. Last year I came into possession of some tools from a deceased relative. At the time, they were appreciated as being kept in the family and carefully set aside as 'maybe I can use these one day' items. This year, the wood bug bit hard and I went digging into my past; I am now very glad that I did.

First out of the box was my grandfather's Bailey #4 (casting date 1910). The tote needs to be fixed, but it is otherwise in good condition. I remember him using it to plane down the edge of a sticking door. I can also recall his oilstone with a gouge down the centre that he could never quite get rid of; but he managed to sharpen tools with it anyway. This should make a nice scrub plane, and I can be reminded of him every time I use it.

Next up was a #5 Bailey in great condition. Now I have a pair! These will each get differently ground irons for different jobs. The #5 is long enough to true up the edge of a fairly long board, but it also serves admirably in flattening boards across their width.

Another great find was a Stanley 9-1/2 block plane with adjustable mouth. It needs a little squaring up of the moving part but is otherwise serviceable. I should be able to correct this once I get the machine tools going in the shop.

Six medium sized turning tools; skew, v, parting, and gouges. I don't (yet) own a wood lathe, but I suppose a treadle or spring-pole lathe project would be a fun undertaking :-) .

A large Yankee screwdriver. The twist-lock for the extensible shaft needs to be repaired but otherwise it seems to work just fine. The most common bit (back in the day) was for slot head screws and I simply dislike using this type for all but decorative applications. But, thanks to some retro-futurist, hex-bit adapters are now available to allow the use of any modern, 1/4" shank bit. Hurrah!

A Stanley #151 adjustable spokeshave. I've already cleaned up the sole on this and had a go at one of the many pine scraps. The iron is still sharp and takes a nice, controllable cut thanks to the thoughtfully shaped handle castings.

A Stanley #80 scraper with the 'sweetheart' logo. This has a crusty, rusty sole but is otherwise solid. And I couldn't help but notice that the edge of the blade is still very, very sharp. Very.

** Lee Valley sells replacement blades and irons for many vintage cutting tools **

An 8" throw, Stanley "Victor" #965 drill brace with the 'sweetheart' logo. A little oiling of the moving parts and it now turns just as well as the day it came from the factory.

7 auger bits in a terrible state. It's doubtful that I can save more than 2 of them. Sad, really.

A pair of 10", German made tin snips. I haven't tried cutting anything with these yet, but the 'ess' curves of the forged handles are visually appealing in a way that modern stuff mostly isn't.

A brass-and-wood sliding T-bevel. This needs a good clean-up and testing for straightness of the stock and blade. Nicely made and has a smaller form-factor than my own T-bevel.

All of the tools are nicked, scratched, scuffed, and otherwise show signs of use, wear, and care. Some of them have been around for 100 years, now. Still useful, still appreciated, still capable of doing good work. I'm going to clean them up, resharpen the cutting edges, and replace any broken or damaged components as best I can. Then they will be employed in my own projects and on various tasks for my friends, writing yet more chapters in their long stories. Maybe they'll be around for another 100 years...


slowly I turned...

step by step, inch by inch...

Nope. neither the Stooges nor Abbott & Costello are doing their respective Niagara Falls bit within my blog. However, Millers Falls once again appears in the story. I picked up one of their fine router planes at that same antique market, along with a mint condition Eclipse saw set. On the way back I noted a 60's vintage Rockwell-Beaver 4" jointer sitting roadside with appropriate signage and, after a short chat with the seller, loaded this find into the back of the vehicle to also take up residence in the (already) crowded house. Solid castings, sharp blades, and a small footprint. What am I thinking of using it for? Making wooden planes, of course...

Missing from the 'ideal equipment' list is a vertical bandsaw, a set of auger bits for the brace, various types of chisels (mortise & paring, at least), plus a solid workbench to undertake the projects upon. Otherwise I believe I am well & truly outfitted with tools, if not quite the energy or time to use them.

Making space for all this is key. Progress on that front has been made, and continues to grind slowly onward to the goal of empty cubic feet. Look for 'For Sale' notices covering a variety of tools, books, models. and so forth in the near future.


salvage central

After work yesterday I was wandering a local hamlet's antique market after sampling the wares at their quaint little bakery (excellent date squares, if you must know). Lo and behold a there was a Stanley/Bailey #5 fore plane with "Made in Canada" in the top of the casting. In another overflowing room, a pristine Millers Falls ratcheting brace was revealed in a pile of lesser quality fare. Everything was 20% off the marked price, so I grabbed these two items forthwith.

The base of the plane has been slightly (and foolishly) abused, but should be easily repaired with a little careful work. It's equipped with a square-ground iron which I will regrind and sharpen to an 8" radius. The brace only needed some small streaks of ancient, pale green paint cleaned off the handle; both chuck and ratchet teeth are in really fantastic condition.


I went to the roadhouse...

and I got myself a...
chocolate milkshake and a Philly steak & cheese. Yeah, I know it isn't the same as the song - but I won't get sued by the RIAA, either.

If you're ever in Calgary, and even just a little hungry, eat here:

day 2, part 1

The second day in Calgary dawned bright and clear. The clarity & cleanliness of the air out there is surely something worth experiencing.

My host (Dean) and I tore off on another visit, this time to Geoff Southwood's place to see his in-progress HO Boston & Maine layout. Geoff is very nicely integrating his layout into his beautiful home as he goes along; no forests of unfinished benchwork cluttering up the place endlessly for him. I can appreciate his desire not to be surrounded by visual chaos for ages, even at the expense of not being able to run op sessions by getting all the track down first.

The layout will be two levels, and will feature RDC's and many other recognisable staples of the B&M.

Keeping it real - a simple plan but an attainable goal.
Some modeller's licence in the harbour interior. Water still to be poured.
What is New England without antique shops?
Fine dining on the waterfront.
The harbour grow-out. The fascia treatment is very clean.
Two legs of the wye.
An overall shot of the primary portion of the layout,
with bookshelves neatly included in the design.

beady little I

An attempt at a length of moulded edge using the Stanley 55. A short, warped piece of pine proved to be the first victim. 1/4" bead along the bottom edge and 3/8" bead along the top edge (to different depths) leaving a shadowy step in the middle.

Immediately, I can see the need for a proper length & height planing bench with better stops & clamps (sorry, trusty old Workmate). However - since I have still not sharpened or cleaned anything, nor deployed the slitting cutters ahead of the irons, I am mightily pleased. A tiny bit of tearout was quickly dealt with using the impressive Lee Valley spokeshave.

I can easily imagine a bedside table with a similar edge on its top...


ploughing ahead

I now have (most of) a Stanley #55 universal plane. Thanks to favourable planetary alignments I was able to obtain this plane for my own use and am looking forward to tackling various projects.

I said "most of" as the plane is not quite complete. There are more than enough components to perform various rabbet, dado, and beading functions - which should see me well along the learning curve. Careful browsing of eBay and various antique tool vendors should eventually garner the rest of the parts, opening up even more capabilities. It did come complete with 17 brand new cutters from Record Tools in England, so I won't be scrabbling around looking for irons just to get started.

This particular tool is, by many accounts, a notoriously difficult piece of equipment to coax into its best behaviour. However, within 1/2 hour of receipt and only cursory inspection of the instructions, I was ploughing a precise 1/4" groove along the edge of pine board to a fixed depth. I won't say it was effortless, but it certainly wasn't the torturous journey some people would have you believe. That said, I can already see that setting up multiple cutters in succession to create a complicated bit of casing or crown will be a matter of patience & perseverance.

I am not surprised that a tool in excess of 100 years old (if I read the markings on this example correctly) remains able to continue its work in the manner it began. Not much can be expected in the way of longevity for most offerings in the trade today. I am extremely pleased to be able to accompany this tool into its second century of useful output (and it will likely outlast me). A little cleaning and sharpening is all that is required to allow me to undertake some further experiments. My expectations are high.