So how do you restore a broken wooden plane?

Well in this case, with a wood putty as close to the original colour as you can!. Not exactly an authentic way, but given the number of cracks and the large bite out of the front it’s the only thing I could think of. These are the before pics, hopefully the after’s on the weekend. I need to make a blade for it too, it was missing when I got it and it’s wider than anything I have around. Time to cut up an old circ saw blade I think. It’s an old plane that I saved from sitting unused until someone threw it out, and it’s about the same length as a #7 so if I get it working well I can put it to good use.


To paint or not to paint?

The words “tool” and “painted” tend to make a lot of woodworkers cringe. A gold sprayed Stanley #7 that I saw for sale was a good example of why. Often it’s done in haste, without proper surface preparation, and with the wrong paint.

Take for example the Stanley #80 I got on the weekend. It looks a mess, but the tool is sound. I could leave it as is, strip it right back to bare metal and keep it oiled, or I could try and get it back to as close to original finish as I could.

I started by doing some researching into Japanning, which is what was originally used on these tools. It involves mixing Linseed Oil, Turps and a tar based paint and then baking the tools in an oven. Somehow I didn’t think my other half would be pleased at me doing that.

The paint store owner suggested that the best alternative would be to sand the metal really well then apply thin layers of a rust proofing enamel paint, sanding between coats. I gave it a go on the cabinet scraper and I’m really pleased with how it’s come up. The first photo shows it wet and it looks like I’ve made a mess of a really nice tool.

Once dry I gave it a light sand with 1200 grit Wet and dry sandpaper and recoated it, doing the same again to make sure it was smooth. It looks a lot better in the second photo, in fact I find it hard to tell the difference between that and the factory finished spokeshave in the picture for reference.

Will I be rushing out and painting all my tools?. No. What I will do is use my judgement and see which need it (say anything under 60% original finish) and make sure I carefully try and restore as much of the original character to the tool as I can. In the end, if a tool works that’s the main thing, but why not try and get it to look good as well?

Making a new handle for a dovetail saw

I recently started cutting dovetails and found my 14 inch tenon saw a bit unwieldy for the job. One of the Australian Woodwork Forum members was able to help out with something more suitable that he’d started work on and thought I could finish.

It’s a 10 inch Disston backsaw with fine teeth, but it needed a new handle. The previous owner had started to cut one out of American Oak and sent it along with the blade for me to work on.

The first step for me was to change the design to an open handled one as the closed handle grip wasn’t going to fit my hand. A bit of work with the coping saw and I had the below handle to work with.

I put the z-vice to good use holding it while I took to it with a rasp and sandpaper, until it both looked good and felt good in my hand.

Then comes the hard part – cutting the handle for the blade. I marked it carefully and using its own blade started the cut, then finished this with a tenon saw and a small gents saw.

Because this is a back saw I had to clear a spot for the spine to fit into, so I marked it out and used a narrow mortice chisel to take out some of the wood around the top so it would fit.

Then came careful marking of the holes by laying the blade on top, drilling the holes and then drilling them out with a countersink bit so the screws fit in. It still needs a little more work to seat the screws properly and some more sanding before I finish it, but it’s looking good and fits my hand nicely.

Once done I will mix some stain into some boiled linseed oil and try and match it to my other saws, then give it a good sharpen before putting it to use.

I was quite scared at trying a saw handle as they look quite complicated but I found it was only a few hours work and it was very enjoyable seeing it take shape. Cutting the handle for the blade was the scariest part and it’s not quite perfect on this one, but it isn’t going to effect it in use. I’m going to try another handle soon because I had a lot of fun doing this one.

Restoring an old tenon saw

I picked up a tenon saw the other day, look a few posts back for that story if interested, and today I’m stuck at home while the car’s being serviced so decided to start work on it.

Here it is just after work on cleaning up the blade has begun. I can’t find my drill chuck so did it all by hand for now, once I find it the wire brush will make it a lot faster and a fair bit nicer to look at.

First step was to unscrew the handle and pop it off

If there’s been a lot of the old finish left I would have tried and restored it, instead I sanded it lightly to get rid of all the old stuff, then cleaned up any edges that were badly worn as well. I would normally sand to 1200 grit on handles but I’m out of it so went to 320, and I’m still pleased with the results.

I’d been trying a variety of finishes on my saw handles and right now I’m liking plain old boiled linseed oil. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly, doesn’t make the garage and attached house smell for days, and is easy to reapply whenever the handles start to need it.

Wipe in on, wipe it off, then repeat until you get a bit of a nice shine. Here’s the saw put back together until I find the drill chuck and clean the blade some more, it will get a few more coats of oil once it’s dried. This one will get shapened up and may replace my other tenon, though it’s just been professionally sharpened so not for a while!.


I love old tools. I especially love it when I know the history of them, like with my dad’s tools or when someone gives me something and the backstory to go with it. The word to describe where something has come from is “Provenance” and it isn’t as simple as meaning “to come from”, it also imparts the underlying story of an object.

There’s something I find slightly magical about using a tool that has been loved before you got it. Take for example the Stanley #5 plane in the banner at the top of the blog or shown below. Frequent readers may have noticed the damage to the tote and that it had been put back together with a normal bolt. This wasn’t my doing, it was a fix made by the original owner and I’m loathe to replace it even though I have a spare tote now as it’s part of its history and character.

I got this number five earlier in the year when I was just starting out from a generous member of the Australian Woodwork Forums (Thanks again Ern!). He’d been showing a friend around his workshop and the friend told him that he had some of his father’s planes sitting around unused and offered them to Ern for either his own use or to pass onto someone who could use them.

Ern gave this #5 a bit of a tidy up and offered it free to a beginner, and I was the lucky person to get it. I’d been using my #3 size trojan plane for everything including jointing board until that point and so using this plane was a revelation. It was also special because I got the backstory with it

“This was used by a good friend’s father to make cupboards and kitchen cabinets for the family home.”.

Later conversations revealed that it had helped build a house full of furniture and the owner’s son wanted this to continue. Every time I use it I think of what it’s done and try to give it the respect it deserves.

The reason I’m thinking about this today is that I’m working on restoring the little $3 tenon saw I picked up on Wednesday and have found an owners mark inked into the handle. It reads “J.L.Ford”. I don’t know who he is or was, but it looks like he loved his tools and cared for them well as besides the surface rust there is no sign of damage, just of good honest wear. I plan to leave the mark there rather than sand it out. It does me no harm and I think it’s a sign of respect to the previous owner and adds to the provenance of the tool. Who knows, I might even add my own someday and someone 50 years down the track might be wondering who I was as well.

The results of being lazy

I’ve done a lot of tool restorations by now, and a lot of that is restoring handles. I got lazy with the last saw handle I did though and the results show.

What happened was that I decided to brush the stain on and try and sand it at the end, instead of building up thin coats and sanding in between with 1200 grit sandpaper like normal. You can see the results for youself. Instead of a nice smooth coat that looks great, there’s a thick uneven coat that looks terrible. Now I’ll have to sand it right out and start over.