Now that 2015 is finally over, I will say that it was a bit of a tough year for my family. That being said, I will no longer dwell on it.
As far as woodworking was concerned last year, I built less, I blogged less and perhaps grew less as a woodworker than I had in prior years. It was not for lack of desire, but more the culmination of a crumby year. But it’s over.
Thankfully we had a nice holiday season, and hopefully that will serve as a springboard to better times. Being that I’m no longer a kid, I don’t receive many or expect to receive many Christmas gifts (nor should I), but to my surprise my Father-in-Law gave me in a wrapped box some of his grandfather’s woodworking tools: A PS&W 10 inch brace, a set of Irwin augers #4-16, a Tryon’s block plane, and a Sargent no 3415 transitional jack plane. It was quite honestly one of the most thoughtful presents I’ve ever received. Because I had the week off from work, I got to the restoration process.
The tools, having sat in a basement probably for fifty years, were not in great shape, but they weren’t in horrible shape either. The first thing I did was take apart the planes and brace and clean off any grime. The next step was soaking all of the metal parts in a mixture of warm water and citric acid. After approximately two hours the tools took on a clean, even shiny appearance, and the vast majority of rust was easily removed with just some steel wool and a rag. To give full credit, until I had seen Christopher Schwarz do this on a plane restoration video, I would have never tried it. Up until then, I used citric acid to clean the coffee maker.
The brace and bits were particularly impressive after the soaking. Most were still sharp, and the chuck on the brace works as smoothly as the day it was made. I sharpened the #4, 5, and 6, lightly oiled the chuck and ratchet, cleaned up the handle and knob with some steel wool and linseed oil, and with that I was finished. The only unfortunate part is the original box for the augers is beyond salvaging, as it is cracked across the grain. Instead of reusing it I placed the augers in a tool roll.
The Tryon’s block plane looked a mess, but it really wasn’t so bad. The soaking took care of most of the old paint and rust. I flattened it using 100 grit and 220 grit sandpaper, I then did the same to the iron. At first I was a bit worried about the iron, but it actually worked quite easily. It took me maybe 20 minutes from front to back, but it is now razor sharp and works just fine. The only thing left to do is clean up the front knob.
I saved the transitional jack for last, as I knew it needed the most work. The sole was in rough shape, with both warp and twist. It took quite a bit of work to get it at least in the neighborhood of square. I removed all of the parts and gave them a good cleaning and polishing, using brasso on the adjustment knob and the tote cap nut. I sanded and smoothed the tote and knob and used two coats of tru-oil for finish, though they need at least two more. I then turned my attention to the iron.
The iron was in rough condition, not because the bevel was misshapen, but because from the looks of it the back had never been flattened. It took a lot of work, a lot of elbow grease, and to be quite honest I’m still not all that happy with the result. I started off with 80 grit sand paper, went to 120, then 220, then 320. I then used 800 grit diasharp, 1000/8000 grit water stones, and finally the leather strop and I’m still a bit disappointed with the results. Thankfully, the bevel was a bit easier and took far less time. Still, my hand is hurting even as I type this sentence.
With all of that work, I’m not sure if the Sargent will ever be a worker again. It at least looks nicer, and I did get it to take shavings, but the sole is still in need of some major maintenance. and I already had to remove quite a bit of material to get it where it is now, so much so that the iron will not retract into the body anymore, at least not the way it should. Still, the hardware is in pretty good shape, and I could use the body as a template to make a new one.
Whatever the case may be, I will cherish these tools. Just attempting the restoration taught me some valuable lessons, and the brace and bits will last several more lifetimes if they are reasonably taken care of. For me, the greatest gift was not the tools, but the fact that my Father-in-Law thinks enough of me to put them in my hands. As I said, it was not an easy year for my family, in particular for my wife and her dad, and when the holidays roll around difficult times can be even more trying. So for him to be thinking of me when he easily could have and should have been thinking of himself was one of the nicest, most thoughtful things that anybody has ever done for me.