Ah spring! When a young man’s fancy turns to auctions.
For some reason I woke up around 4:00 am (It does exist! Who knew?!) Saturday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Can’t run the planer at that hour. (At least that’s what the nice policeman told me last time.) So, nothing for it but to quietly surf the net so I don’t wake the fam. First stop: the classifieds section of my local newspaper to see what auctions are on for the day. I was not disappointed. An old tool enthusiast was liquidating his collection which included perhaps a hundred old Stanley hand planes. I had a lot of time and anticipation to kill until 10am—the start of the auction—so I spent it on a little plane lore research … Then some shop time. Then a trip to the home center. Some more shop time. A little more research. (Note to self: When you find yourself awake at 4am, go back to sleep). Then a nice little drive through the country. And finally, this:
Score! My hand plane collection is one part (among many) of my tool collection that is sorely lacking. More and more I’m learning the frustrations of a purely power-tool approach. When all that’s necessary is a simple shave here or a little smoothing there, it’s annoying (at least in my small garage shop) to have to haul out a heavy benchtop tool, hook it up to the dust collector, set it up, calibrate it, test a cut on scrap, explain to the policeman why you’re running power tools at 4am, etc. … when a quick, quiet “whisk” of a hand plane would have taken care of it with no fuss.
Fortunately, a brief rain storm before the auction dampened the spirits of most of the competition, but cleared out just in time to be a gorgeous morning for a day in the country. A small crowd, a great collection, and a good auctioneer made for a fun and profitable day. (Sorry, I’m an auction junkie. I reckon the disease is similar to being a casino addict.) There were a couple fellows there that were tool collectors like the estate owner, so I tried to stay out of bidding wars with them. I’m looking for working tools, not decorations or rarities (There was one Bedrock 604-1/2 that went for about $150. I started to raise my paw on that one, but it was out of my budget before my fingers twitched.)
I’m by no means an expert or aficionado, so I don’t know how well I did, but I was certainly happy with my purchases. I feel like my bench plane collection went from pathetic to more well-rounded in one morning with a small assortment of planes for smoothing tool marks, jointing edges, and general-purpose end- and edge-grain work. How much did I spend? Well, just in case the cute little brunette is reading, let’s just say that, all told, I spent a bit less than you would pay for a single modern Sweetheart 60-1/2 low-angle block.
Now. Here’s where it gets tricky. When it comes to hand planes, I’m diving head first into the deep end of the pool and hoping my trunks stay on. Scary and embarrassing, but here’s my thought process: What better way to get to know a tool, inside and out, than to start by reconditioning it before practicing with it. Of course, I’m on the lookout for all the help I can get. Our very own featured blogger and tool geek–the one, the only–knotscott (Scott Spencer) did a wonderful blog post on hand planes that was a great help in my 4am research this morning. Also, you’ll notice I’ve been linking to the site The Superior Works, the website of Patrick Leach. Patrick, a self-proclaimed computer geek writes in a tongue-in-cheek-style but includes a wealth of info and informed opinion. It’s been a great resource for purchase information and I wish I would have brought along printouts of some of his things-to-look-for-when-buying. But for the next few weeks I’ll continue to scour the Internet, poke through the WOOD library, and bug my colleagues (I’m looking at you, Jeff!) for info on reconditioning, flattening, sharpening, calibrating, and using these planes. In the meantime, I’m open to any suggestions and help from your end, and I’ll share my progress here.
In closing, a couple of questions for my new hand-tool fraternity brothers out there (please no hazing):
1. Any suggestions on resources for getting started on conditioning these old planes? Lapping, sharpening, adjusting, etc.
2. What other planes would round out the collection? Again, I’m not looking to become a collector with a nose-in-the-air hand-tool solution to replace every power-tool operation. I’m driven by laziness, so I’m more of a most-expedient-tool-for-the-job hack. (Note: I already have a low-angle block. There were a couple of 60-1/2′s at the auction that I had my eye on, but they went pretty high. There was also a router plane in good condition that I thought would be fun to have, but by that time, I was low of cash and red of sunburn, so I settled up and headed home.)
3. What do I need to buy to complement these? Lie-Nielson irons? A $700 sharpening system? Or should I just jig up for sandpaper on glass?
4. This isn’t really a question, but I invite your opinion or expertise. Below are a couple closeups of the two jack planes, the Bailey #5 and the Bedrock #605. From what I gather, the main difference on the premium Bedrock was a slightly modified frog for easier blade adjustment and marketing. As near as I can tell, the stippled lever cap on this Bedrock is a replacement (possibly from one of Stanley’s wood-soled planes). Also, the tote is pretty worn (not a huge concern), and the knob has some small chunks busted out around the base. I bid on both because I was worried that I might want to move parts from the Bailey to the Bedrock or vise-versa. If that’s sacrilege for some reason, let me know.
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