Monday, November 20, 2017

Bench Planers Restoration

While out and about with my wife at an antiques mall searching for vintage records, I spotted a bunch of bench and smoothing planes.  Although I wanted to buy all of them, I decided on the nicest one in the bunch, seen below.

This is a 14" bench plane by a company called Dunlap.

I am assuming that this is a number 5 bench plane (due to it's size), but there are no markings on the plane to tell me for certain.  I also can not ascertain the year that this specific plane was made.

There is a good amount of rust on this plane, but for the most part it is in very good condition.  The sole of this plane is dead flat - which is great!

The wood handles are painted red, and I assume that it was sold that way.  The red handles match the color of the red on the frog.

This is the largest planer I have by far (not counting my power hand planer, or surface planer).

So I'd like to restore it and make it a great edition to my workshop.  

While looking up how to restore planes, I came across a video on youtube from Fisher's Workshop where he restores a similar Stanley hand plane.

Fisher's Shops' process was rather simple and straight forward, so I decided to proceed as he did.
The first step was to disassemble the whole thing.  Fisher's Shop used a larger piece of PVC pipe for soaking the pieces, but I didn't have such a piece of pipe, nor did I feel like going out to buy one.  So I placed all the metal pieces in a plastic box I had.  

I already had a full gallon of distilled vinegar.  Living in Arizona means having hard water - which can be damaging to things like shower heads, coffee makers and the such.  Vinegar helps break down the high mineral content and cleans out the build up, and so I have a bunch of vinegar on hand.

I filled up the plastic box, completely covering all the parts.

After about 20 minutes you could see the vinegar was working as air bubbles were beginning to form.

I left the box with the vinegar and metal parts alone for a while.  According to Fisher's Shop, it'll take about 24 hours before the rust will easily come off.  So while I waited, I thought I'd do a little work on the handles.  Both are in good shape, but the back handle had a little chipping towards the back.

I also wanted to see how the wood underneath it looked.  If good enough, I think I'd rather stain the wood pieces than paint them red again.

So first I started with some lacquer thinner to try removing the paint.  With this I had limited success.

So instead I decided to sand off the paint.  I started with my belt sander which easily removed the paint on the flat areas of the handle.

For the curved areas I used a file and some course sandpaper to remove the paint.  This took off a good amount of the paint, and I was also able to fix that chipped area.

I then moved onto a sanding drum on my drill press to further remove paint...

....and finished off with some fine sandpaper and sanding sticks.

The back handle was looking pretty good.  So I repeated the process on the front handle.

Once both were smooth and cleaned up I applied some ebony stain to them.

I think they look okay now, and will look better with a glossy protective coating.  However, I had neither spray varnish nor polyurethane left in my shop, so that process will have to wait until I get around to buying more.  So I let everything just sit for several hours.

About 10 hours after first putting all the metal in the vinegar, I decided to see how well the rust was coming off.  I took out each piece one by one and used a sanding sponge and a rag to start clearing off the rust.

Unfortunately I couldn't really take pictures while I was removing the rust, but it was all coming off very easily!  There are still a few rusty spots here and there, but I have to say that I was able to remove about 90% of the rust off all the pieces.  I put everything back in the vinegar to continue lifting up rust overnight.  Simply comparing the before and after pictures should show how well the vinegar works.


While looking at the difference, I glanced over at 2 other planes I had on the other side of my workshop.

Both of these are no.2 black planes and both have served me well.  The black one on the left  belonged to my friend Julio who gave it to me when I began wood working about 5-6 years ago.  The red one on the right belonged to my grandfather and was given to me about 3 years ago by my father.  I have kept the blades on both of these planes sharp, but they do look a bit gritty.  So I think maybe I'll do the same thing to these planes.

But I'll do so later - At this point it was late and I was tired, so I wrapped up things for the day and let the vinegar do it's thing overnight.

The next morning I took a look at the plane in the vinegar.  The liquid had become much cloudier as it broke up more rust overnight.  This is probably a result of my sanding the pieces the night before.

One by one I removed each piece and cleaned it up some more, this time using a scouring pad.

I was surprised just how good these pieces look.  I removed about 99% of all the rust.

At this point I finally went to the store to pick up a few things.  To further clean up the metal parts I bought a set of wire brushes.

I also picked up some spray paints and clear coat.

I took the largest wire brush and attached it to my drill press.

Then I put on some safety gloves and began brushing the parts of the plane.

It's really hard to see the difference with the poor lighting in my garage, but the wire brush worked great.

I further tried to show the difference with the blade.  The bottom is brushed and the top isn't.  Again, not the best photo, but trust me, the brush did a great job.

All the pieces were nice and clean now, except the frog.

The metal pieces on the frog were too small for me to use the wire brush on, so I attached a small wire brush to my dremel...

...and got those pieces clean.

With all the pieces of the new plane out of the vinegar bath, I decided to disassemble my other 2 planes...

...and put them in the vinegar bath.  Everything went in except the 2 knobs.

My grandfather's plane (the red one) had a sticker on the frog which read "Craftsman Handyman".  I figured I take a picture of it since it probably won't survive the vinegar bath.

With the brushing done and the 2 older planes in the bath, I decided to spray paint the handles I worked on the day before.  They weren't terrible with the staining I gave them, but I now decided that I would rather have had them red then stained.

I also spray painted the red knob for my Grandfather's plane.

While I had the red paint handy, I sprayed a little on the blade guard where the Dunlap name was.

I then used a cloth and some lacquer thinner to remove the paint, leaving the engraved logo background red.

Then I sprayed the frog red.  I unfortunately could not remove the metal pieces (that weren't originally red) from the frog, but once the paint dries I can remove the red from them by sanding and/or lacquer thinner.

Next it was time to paint the insides of the planer sole.  I used blue painters tape to mask off the sides.

Then I trimmed the tape with a utility knife.

I gave it a good amount of glossy black spray paint.

I also spray painted the knob from Julio's planer black.

With everything drying, or soaking in vinegar, I decided to sharpen the planer blade.  The blade was already decently sharp when I bought it, but the buffing wheel brought the blade to the point of being able to shave with.

At this point I couldn't do anything else but wait.
Researching planes was fun at this time.  Dunlap planes were a secondary brand sold by the Sears Roebuck & Company, starting in 1941.  Stamped on the back of my blade is "Made in West Germany".  West Germany was around from 1949 - 1990, so this plane was made sometime during those years.

I found some of this out at
Here's also a great page about the different types of bench planes -

Anyway, patience isn't something I'm great at sometimes.  So I worked on some other small projects to keep me from doing stuff with the planers until the paint fully dries.  Below is a Christmas sign my wife and I finished up over the weekend.  I gave it a layer of clear coat so it'll last.

This sign is inspired by the "Christmas Trees For Sale" sign that Joanna Gaines from the TV show 'Fixer Upper' has hanging in her kitchen.

The rest of the time I spent doing my actual job, and writing this blog entry up to this point.  Several hours later the paint was dry, so I removed the tape from the sole.

I gathered all the pieces...

...and reassembled it.

And it looks awesome!

After admiring it for a while I tested it out on some wood.  It peeled through the wood like a hot knife through butter.

...but alas, my merriment wouldn't last.  I noticed the paint on the handle began to ripple.

It's hard to see in the picture below, but wherever I was holding the handle, the paint rippled.

The same thing happened to the knob on the front.  A bit devastated, I took the whole thing apart again.  The paint even rubbed off on the sole a little.

Now I'm not sure why this happened.  The paint was drying for about 8 hours.  My only guess is that I applied the paint too liberally and the under-layers of paint were not fully dry.  Not liking the rippled-look of the handles, I used a lot of lacquer thinner and removed the paint from both handles and the frog.

Once the paint was removed I cleaned them up and let them dry for a while.  Then I began spraying light layers of paint and allowing it to dry before applying subsequent layers.

At this point I couldn't do much except wait...again.  I want the handles to look good and dry correctly.  The other planes are still in the vinegar bath - which is looking rather murky.

Later in the evening I applied the last coat of red paint.  This I will let dry completely overnight.

I did decided to take out the other 2 planer pieces from the vinegar and begin cleaning them up.  They had been in the bath for about 10 hours.

After scouring the pieces they were looking pretty good, but still needed work.

My Grandfather's plane (above) looked a lot better than Julio's (Below).

But after using the wire brush, all the pieces looked nice.

At this point I was afraid to further paint them up (the knobs were already painted earlier).  So for now I simply sharpened the blades and reassembled them.

Before putting them back on my shelf I did test them out on a piece of wood.  Just as before, they were slicing through the wood nicely.

Then I went to bed.  The next morning I checked to see how the paint had dried - which it did, fully.  So I assembled the plane once again.

At this point I can say that I'm done.

As I stated earlier, this plane wasn't in bad shape.

But using the vinegar to remove the dust, plus repainting it really made this thing look close to brand new.

I tested it once again, and once again it did a nice job.

Here are a few Before and After photos.

I then made some room on one of my shelves for this new plane.

Although, after having them all up on the shelf, I felt like I should really finish off my Grandfather's and Julio's planes.

Julio's plane (above and below) look really cool with the metal showing.  But the inside of the sole used to be black.

The frog on my Grandfather's plane is less red now thanks to the vinegar and brushing.

The inside of the sole looks like it was a dark blue or gray.

So I took them apart and spray painted Grandpa's frog red.

I then taped up both soles...

...and spray painted the insides black.

Not wanting a repeat of the wrinkling paint from the day before, I let all the painted pieces dry overnight. The next day I removed the tape and reassembled the 2 planes and they look awesome!

Above and below are images of my Grandfather's plane.

And below are images of Julio's plane.

I then put all the finished planes on my shelf.

From left to right I have my no.1 plane - which I use primarily for champfering edges, the no.4 Julio block plane, the no.4 Grandfather block plane, the Harbor Freight "No.33" cheap-o jack plane (which I spent a lot of time fixing up to make usable), the new no.5 bench plane and all the way to the right is my very first block plane (probably a no.3).  I'm happy to say that they all work well, and they all get used.

This was a fun project to work on, and it made my old tools look new again.