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My Contribution To The Perpetual Woodworking Project (Part 1)

May 8, 2013

At some point last year, I was at a garage sale just down the street from my house. Due to a combination of several factors – it was raining, late in the season, and pretty chilly out – there weren’t a whole lot of people there, nor had there been a lot of people there that day. Still, I was surprised when I stepped into the garage-turned-workshop to see an old Millers Falls hand plane sitting there with a $5 price tag on it.

I picked it up, popped off the lever cap and took out the blade/cap iron, and gave it a quick once-over for cracks or obvious issues. Seeing none, I gladly gave the man $5 and went home with a Millers Falls No. 9 smoothing plane (equivalent to a Stanley #4).

I didn’t really need the plane. And though I do love me some Millers Falls eggbeater drills, I haven’t ever found an attraction to their planes. My thought was to fix it up and give it away to someone who might need it. But, as is so often the case, life happens. I sat it behind my regular user hand planes and promptly forgot about it.

Then, last week Chris Schwarz had a blog post that caught my eye. Sam Cappo is working on a Perpetuating Woodworking project, putting together a set of tools and building a tool chest, all to be passed on to a needy woodworker who will breathe life back into them as they begin their woodworking journey. Chris is donating a portable workbench but, more importantly, he put out the call for tools, which is exactly the fanfare a project like this needs. Hey, this is exactly what I wanted to do with this plane, anyway! So I contacted Sam and let him know I had a smoothing plane for his project.

This morning, I found myself with a bit of free time at home while we had some house repairs being done. I went into the basement and started getting familiar with the smoothing plane before I tuned it up for use.

Using a Millers Falls Type Study, I easily determined this was a Type 4 smoothing plane, manufactured between 1955 and 1966. Key features of this type include: a high knob and a chunky tote of goncalo alves (instead of cocobolo), a thick red-orange varnish (still partially present), a black frog (all previous types had a red frog), and the famous three-point lever cap. Well, that was easy enough!

Disassembled, Part One...

Disassembled, Part One…

Then I wanted to see if the sole was flat enough to spend the time fettling the plane or if there were any as-yet unnoticed defects that might stay my hands before I did any more work on it. I started by laying out some 150 grit adhesive-backed sand paper onto a melamine board to begin flattening the sole. I didn’t do any prep work beforehand, just retracted the blade and sprayed down some WD40 on the sandpaper and went at it. I did not intend on fully flattening the back; I was just checking for defects and to see how much work I had ahead of me. After just a few strokes, I could tell everything looked to be in good condition. There was a small hollow behind the blade opening, and it was going to take a little bit of work to get all of the sole flattened, if I choose to take it that far, but it was in-line at the important parts – the toe, behind the blade, and the heel. I decided to work on it a bit more.

I’d thought about getting a photo or two at that point, but I’d once again forgotten my blue latex gloves, so my hands were a black-stained swarffy mess and I didn’t want to pick up cell phone or camera to get a picture of it. I’ll need to spend a little more time with it later to get the bottom completely smooth, but it shouldn’t be too much work. I’ll hit the sides, as well, just because I figure I’ll clean this thing up as best I can.

Disassembled, Part Two...

Disassembled, Part Two…

Then I went about disassembling the plane, soaking various parts in WD40 (the body and frog), low odor mineral spirits (most of the screws and bits), and Evaporust (the blade and cap iron). As you can see, I did snap a few shots off here. Unfortunately, the wife was home to take her shift (had LOTS of things done to the house) and I had to get to work, so I figured I’d let everything soak for a few hours and then pick it back up again this evening… (more to follow later)

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