Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ye Olde 92-ers

Gentlemen, today is a special day. You are going to meet some special friends of mine.

I could use many words to drum-roll these beauties. Simply put - this is a prime example of what happens when you ask Patrick Leach 'if he has any Sandusky planes laying around'. Welcome down the rabbit-hole, kiddies.

This close, you can almost smell the work these planes avoided.
At this point, there are 2 types of readers (those of you who have seen the page countometer - stop laughing); The type that have no idea what the above photo is, and the type that do. Of the latter, most of you are probably wondering why I have chosen to overlay that odd wailing music over this blog.

I am sorry to inform you, that is actually not my blog, but your own woeful mewlings of desire. Get a hold of yourself man, before the wife spots your Unauthorized Coveting. Better? Ok - one more.

With my very own initials. As if they were destined for me.
 Ok, lets take a break from the Gratuitous Beeching to review what we know about Sandusky Hollow & Rounds. They, as most large US planemakers, followed thier own damn rules about numbers, sets and sizes in relation to European makers (although they are almost identical to Ohio Tool Companys set). Here is what a caliper and copy of the catalogs will net you:

Set # Straight Skew Nom. Width
1      92      93      1/4"
2      92      93      3/8"
3      92      93      1/2"
4      92      93      5/8"
5      92      93      3/4"
6      92      93      7/8"
7      92      93      1"
8      92      93      1 1/8"
9      92      93      1 1/4"
10      94      1 3/8"
11      94      1 1/2"
12      94      1 5/8"
13* 94      1 3/4"
14* 94      1  7/8" 
15* 94      2"
* Shown in 1925 Catalog Only

Essentially, 92s and 93s were the same set offered in Straight vs. Skew; The larger boys were in thier own model number (94) and were not offerred in Skew. Not to say STC never made a set for custom orders but I've not seen a larger Skew yet.

The whole enchilada. Finish on the smaller sets is slightly more worn; the larger of the pairs are near mint with original finish.
Another interesting thing was that the early catalog they went through the trouble to show each profile of the sets 1-12; in the 1925 catalog, everything has been condensed down to a table. This is likely a reflection of them trying to focus on a more diversified offering in the final years; by 1925 if you didn't know what a hollow and round profile looked like, you probably weren't buyin' them anyways.
Some of the older planes don't even look like they were sharpened - it appears they were purchased, stamped, and forgotten.
Gentlemen, thanks for hanging out. I leave you with a reminder of the imperfection of man, and therefore, our tools. The 6 round has a replacement blade that is not perfect width.

Now you must also carry my burden.

 Who would have known that a gap of a few millimeters could have such a profound effect on a mans soul? During a quiet night on the porch, sometimes I think I can hear the irons keening wail as it looks to come home. The original CAS, whoever you were - thanks for keeping these planes so prime for us.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cleaning Old Tools

Hey guys, this is out as a reminder to the Type A in me, and for any new galoots or collectors. I know alot of folks, me included, probably did a bit of over-cleaning to antique tools when we started. Then you find Lee Richmonds site, and feel small and stupid and like a old british tool dealer with a wire brush and a heavy hand. Luckily, I didn't ruin anything too valuable in pursuit for shiny, but you may not be so lucky...

I also know that attempting to enter the 'clean vs. restore vs. argon chamber' debate a few posts in to my very first blog is a reflection of great intelligence. So without delay.

First question: Is it absolutely, irrevocably, unassailably a common product or item? No special marking, patent, tag, cave drawing, double stamp, upside down bi-plane, FDR bitemark, rare earth metal or stone? If you are not 100% sure, my humble suggestion would be you treat it as valuable. There are lots of variations in some common older tools that can take them from ho-hum to special. This is especially true as you get into pre-1900 items. Do your research, and proceed slowly.
If its common tool destined for your bench (and god forbid, within your Queens reach too) - have at ye. My personal favorite is electrolysis to remove rust from larger ferrous items, its painless and completely foolproof when setup properly, and also has the side benefit of softenting old japanning if you're stripping a metal bench plane. Do read the safety info online, do it outside, do use a GFC on the circuit, don't use stainless steel, don't lick the damn thing while its on - basically, dont be an a-hole and get Sawstop involved with my water bucket.

For these projects, Sandflex blocks, made by Klingspor are outstanding for smaller items and light spot rust. Use only the fine and medium, coarse is for restoring 1/2 ton truck panels. I almost always start with the fine, and work up to Med if I have issues, then back down. Very very light rust can be resolved or at least stopped with a proper coating of Rennaisance Wax, which you should use on everything but your dog and mother. All of these methods are abrasive to some extent (even R. wax has polishing compounds), so proceed carefully.

Electrolysis is more gentle, but requires more setup, and can be challenging where un-removable parts exist that would not fare well with the waterboarding shock treatment. You can coat those parts in wax, but are you here to work the wood or fully restore old tools we've already established are not worth bird farts? Your Call.

OK, so we've covered what you can do with the gloves off - what about for the prime stuff? Lee Richmond of The Best Things rule is the best I've heard, due to its simplicity.
'Do nothing you can't un-do' 
Essentially, wipe down lightly with clean cotton or soft microfiber, wax with a musuem quality wax, lightly buff. Done.
Boiled Linseed Oil should really only be used as a last resort, and I struggle with this one. When dealing with wood planes, especially coming from some regions of the midwest (tragically - Sanduksy planes) - these things can be like the desert. Some valuable tools are so parched that an oiling is required to keep them from checking/splitting into oblivion. But it can greatly darken the wood over time, and has been avoided by dealers, collectors and museums for some time now.

So the question becomes, is the tool more valuable in its current parched state, than it will be after the oiling and potential darkening? It alot of cases, its best to just leave it for the shelf, give it a good coat of wax, and protect it from the environment as best as possible. You cant undo BLO - you can undo wax. If you guys know of any museum quality 'reconditioning' type solutions being used other than a BLO/Tung oil, please let me know.

What about rust on the blade, you say? You want to use it? Well - remember, its the patina that makes collectors and dealers tingle like schoolgirls at a winter formal. Big rust should probably be addressed I cover a piece of paper in duct tape, cut out a hole the size of the rust spoty, tape over the item. Hit it with the rust sponge. Most of the rust removed, without destroying all the patina. flat a bit of the back, hone the edge, wax the rest. Don't lap the sides, bottom, top, strippers, santa or anything else.

Thats about it - the best advice I can give you is the 'ounce of prevention'. Try to search multiple online antique dealers before you buy a rust-bucket. There's so many good users out there for cheap, I just wouldn't split hairs and buy a real dog. And I say this as a humble man who proudly snapped up a real bruiser bedrock off ebay and then watched Patrick Leach sell a near-mint one for $22 bucks more.

As its been said; not in my house. Anymore.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sandusky Tool Company Special Planes - Rabbet & Grooving

OK, so we've stumbled across an interesting pair of Sandusky Specials from our friend Mr. Clark at Hyperkitten. Or as they're known a little further south, Especiales. These planes are essentially designed for a single purpose, as many great tools & men were. We get more detail on these planes from both the engravings and description in the later common catalog, 1925. There they are known by the sexy name of 'Weather Strip Planes'. Makes you want to run right out and corner the market, huh?

I bought these because I have a problem, and assumed them to stink at everything other than helping weather strip. It turns out, we've got a couple of real minty planes, and useful ones too. Minty because weatherstripping was probably horrible even back then and people stopped wanting to do it once we were done fighting indians. I know a lot of you are thinking 'this guy is a historical tack driver'.

Whats interesting is that as late as 1925, STC felt they were onto something with these weatherstripping planes, offering them in flavors divinated down by 16th on the rabbets, and 64th of an inch on the Grooving planes.  Yeah, you heard that right. Apparently, weatherstripping in the twenties was less forgiving than a Honduran Dominatrix. All of you are nodding because you know weatherstripping.

This explains to me while silicone caulk cornered the market as fast as you can say 'GOOD GOOGLIE MOOGLIE I MEANT eleventeen sixteenths not thirteen', chucking down your Special Plane as your weatherstripping flopped embarassingly in the breeze.

Anyhoo, a whole page was dedicated to them, at the expense of Coopers tools which must have been flying off the shelf in 1925. 3/11/12 Update: In reading the beyond excellent history by Schwer & Risley in EAIA Chronicle 1993 III, which will be deserving of at least twelve-teen of its own future posts, this was likely due to new management (fall of '24) focusing on remaining specialty business & some new iron-bodied planes and steel spindled clamps; a recognition that the basic wood plane biz was on the decline at this point.

Whats interesting is that in that catalog, they are given stock numbers 182, 183, 184, representing the following:
  • #182 - Special Rabbet or Meeting-Rail Plane
    • 1/2 to 13/16 by 16ths
  • #183 - Special Grooving Plane, with Adjustable Metal Fence
    • 7/64 to 1/4, by 64ths
  • #184 - Special Grooving Plane, with Adjustable Metal Fence, and Solid Handle
    • 7/64 to 1/4, by 64ths
They also offered 'Extra Special' Grooving bits for all the above, to match their 'special' nature.

In the 1877 Sandusky catalog, the only mention I can find is one of them, grouped in at the end of  some pricey self-regulating sash planes and one cheaper model called a Tuscan:
  • #170 Sash Plane, Brass Screws, Self-Regulating; Boxed, Beveled or Ovolo
  • #171 Sash Plane, Brass Screws, Self-Regulating; Boxed, Gothic or Ogee
  • #172 Sash Plane, Brass Screws, Self-Regulating; Dovetailed, Boxed, Beveled or Ovolo
  • #173 Sash Plane, Brass Screws, Self-Regulating; Dovetailed, Boxed, Gothic or Ogee
  • #174 Sash Plane, Tuscan, In two parts
  • #174 1/2, Meeting Rail Plane, for Sash
Enough Cataloging, lets meet the stars today. We have what appears to be a 182, or 'Special Rabbet/Meeting Rail Plane', Our 182 has the following stats: It cuts a 3/4 wide rabbet 3/16 deep, a quarter-inch in from the board edge (that the fence runs on).
woodworking, smoodworking - this thing is a piece of art however you slice it. A nice view of the lower edge of the escapement flattenning as it completes it curve back towards the blade.

This plane escapement can't figure out which way to go. Its center cut, which makes for pretty lines, but when you are running it rank on softwoods, it can bind quickly and easily. A lighter cut may seem go slower at first...

...but if you find the right balance, the plane cuts wonderfully, and spills out goldielocks curls. The worker was a bit off the mark on the last two fence screws, allowing them to drop into the top of what is essentially this planes depth stop. You can see the more potruding one on the left has been filed/sanded to not interfere with clearance.

No trick photography here; this plane was sharp enough and the pine so straight grained, I was able to run the plane in both sides/directions. You may not always be able to do this. A single pass would give you the same depth, but only 3/4 width.
Last but not least, a 183 'Special Grooving Plane with Adjustable Metal Fence'. It's a peach, with original finish in some spots and an odd red hue, some nice striping as opposed to flecking on the finial makes me unsure it is beech. It cuts a 5/32 wide groove 3/16 deep, 3/8ths in from the board edge.
By the way, neither of these are numbered, but both match the engravings in the 1925 catalog.
5 screws for the plow fence, the 2 higher screws penetrate the plane and have wingnuts to hold on the...

...Outside Fence. This can be raised, lowered, or removed and flung about wildly. Appears Aluminum, or a very lightweight steel. definitely not turning that into a blade.

We are busy down here in the south, we dont have time to find scrap wood in a wood shop. Or Special is Cajun for SawSet. Choose your pick - our guy got on the bad side of a saw, way back when.
Heres some details on the blades; interesting to note that it looks like the rabbet blade came factory hand ground from slightly oversize stock, seen below. I guess thats what you gotta do when you start offerring planes in 16ths and 64ths!
Camera angle makes it look like 23/32s, its a true 3/4 though.

A scant 5/32 groove. at its deepest, it gets a little bindy in all but the straighest grain softwoods or lighter hardwoods. As always, the sharper the better.

Two really nice planes, a special thanks to Josh for them. I got to use the grooving plane on some beech and cherry this weekend, letting in a groove for a thin quartersawn oak lid. It'll be a little keepsake box for Christine. That plane is really a blast to use! I hope you guys can find these, and a use for them, in your shop.

Thanks for sticking around for the ride. Back to the bench,


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sandusky Tool Company - Jack Hand Plane #13

Today, if you make it through the blather, you will find a beautiful-to-me #13 Sandusky Tool Company Jack Plane prancing around for you.
First, lets talk unlucky number 13, and Sandusky Tool Company. The nickel tour of these guys is they were in the big five American toolmakers in the late 19th century. For a more nostalgic telling of their good years than even I could spin, see the following: wkfinetools
They fell on tough economic times, and by the roaring twenties, things were bad. As is often the case -when it rains, it pours. On Saturday, June 24th in '24, a huge tornado (or tornadoes, depending on the tale) struck the town of Sandusky and then Lorraine. It was a very bad tornado by all accounts, possibly F4, and all downtown businesses in Sandusky were damaged to some extent along with the port facilities on Lake Erie. Wikie knowz all sees all.

The great book 'A Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes' (hereafter AWP 4, thank god) can shed a little more light on their story and marks. As a side note, the purchase of this book can also signal your descent into a world that will have you writing a blog about a tool company that not even your mother would read. If she was from Sandusky. I'm just saying.

Back to our tale of Sandusky Tool Company, from the land of Callahan Auto Parts. Tragically, they (STC) were sold to a bunch of Hoes shortly after the tornado - American Fork & Hoe Co. in 1926.

Back to why we are here - well, closer anyway. The jack's place is somewhere between the Scrub plane and the jointing or smoothing planes. This aligns with many folks recommending a slight curve/camber to a jack plane blade, or at least nipped corners. You don't want to leave bigger gashes than the gullets you're cleaning up from the scrub (or adze, or broadaxe or froe if your Galoot is really hanging out of your shorts) by dragging the irons edges. I also find the Jack handy for the quick trims in the shop; knocking down unruly bench corners for end vise clearance.

So lets get to know her and the Sandusky Jack family! 13 was a middle kid in the house, 10-15 are her siblings. The differences are mainly about whether they have single or double irons, a regular or bolted handle, and a razee flavor. An upgrade was apparently available across all of them to get a closed handle, a nice upgrade. The also came in 3 widths of iron, starting at 2 inches.

With very minor variations in Blade and handle upgrades - the Jack line of Sandusky planes remained consistent from 1877 until  the 1925 (from a catalog perspective).  While hunting - remember, this is back when companies didn't suck and you could pick up the phone (ok, write a letter) and get them to whip up a custom Jack. So if you see a slight variation that is patinated to match you could have an original setup. Don't pay a ton for it unless it comes from a real dealer who guarantees thier product.

Ok, ok - here she comes:
 16 inches, bow to stern. You see that black nubbin peeking up there? Back in 1877 that was called a 'start', and it was made in lignum vitae. You hit it when your wife was acting up but the deacon was around. Or to adjust your plane.

2 7/8th amidships. 2 1/8th blade, the middle of 3 blade width offerings (2 and 2 1/4 being the other).

It looks like it may have been restruck, but why the lower 'warranted'? A later Iron post-1926 acquisition?
Irons could be single or doubles, and even those could be upgraded (they had us guys figured out, even back then). In 1877 a blade upgrade was 'full polished silver steel clipper irons', breaking the bank at 15 pennies. By 1925 inflation had brought the cost of  'extra sized double irons' to a whopping 20 cents! Long gone were the sexy polished silver steel clippers of the 1800's, sniff.

Did I hear a niner in there? Yikes, its a beefcake.
Whoever made it, they were not facing a steel shortage. Drop this guillotine on your toe, and you will be revisiting a scene from Harlem Nights. Tuned on a slab of granite down to some 1 micron 3m lapping paper... whoo hoo. I know it can get sharper, I'm just kind of afraid to get it there.

Sawdust time folks, and I think I heard the old lady say that steaks are marinating for dinner... Yum.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The plane that started it all - Sandusky Tool Company, #47 Edge Bead

For the purpose of historical accuracy, we should probably document the descent from the very beginning.

The Best of Times
At the beginning of 2012, I bought a home. With my Queen. Made in 1914. We thought it was renovated.

The Worst of Times
We were wrong. I could describe in gory detail the initial estimates we were quoted for various projects; as a visible IT nerd, I gain a 3.4x modifier on all contractor quotes. Let me just say the shed I call a home office was quickly filled with power tools of every shape and size.

In the beginning, I measured my manliness according to how the lights dimmed on my street, and if the whine of the tool biting into the wood was sufficient to loosen fillings. I once routed a stack of twelve  3/4 ply boards for a set of box jointed boxes (original, I know). It gave me a nervous tic for three days. I also ripped 3 full size panels of the same ply on my portable Bosch table saw. That tic is still present, along with a Titanium plate on vertebrae C6 & C7.

I was a happy, simple Man.

The Hook...
On a business trip to Virginia, I stopped by my sisters new home. She's running late getting from the daycare with Little Man. I stop in at a nearby antique store, with no intention of doing anything other than wandering for a while. Maybe find a cool old sign for the office or her place...

I'm heading back to the front of the store after a text from Little Sis. I see a coal bucket, with a bunch of auger bits and other tools sticking forth. I see two beautiful rosewood handles on a clean Stanley bench plane - 'tote & knob' I later learn- and I see The Plane. Now I know a lot of you are thinking I found one of those sexy plows encapsulated in an argon bubble etched F.D.R. But you can be disappointed now - it was a simple, basic molding plane, an edge bead in particular.

When I picked it up I didn't know what it was, or what it did, or who made it. I just knew it was from the most fantastic cut of wood I'd seen, golden with bright flecks throughout. I initially thought it was oak (shows you how little I knew). 5 dollars? Done.

Into the bag, into the car, into the suitcase, and once home - into a box in the shed, forgotten for weeks. After a long day, I decided I wanted to make a little sawdust, and remembered the two hand planes. I took them out of the box.

 ...Gets Set.
The Stanley was hopelessly dull, and it would be weeks before I learned about sharpening... but the molding plane was still razor sharp, and with the help of a couple YouTube videos, i clamped a 2inch square post of oak into my Jawhorse (stop laughing, damn you all) and had at it. A pile of sawdust, curse words and some tappy-tap-tap later, and I had a nice bead running about 2 feet in the oak...

That was 57 Sandusky planes ago. Watch that first step...

Too much talkie talkie
I figure you didn't come to the Internet for words, so if you've made it this far, you've earned a couple of Gratuitous Beech Shots:
A later (based on makers stamp) and very common S.T.C. #47 Edge Bead, of the 3/8ths variety.

More on this bead and others, in disgustingly boring detail, forthcoming.
Well thanks for stopping by, and if you made it this far I thank you doubly. In the future I plan to add details about the less popular planes and tools made by the Sandusky Tool Company, along with any info I can find about their history. I know its out there, and that others have tread here before me - I hope to centralize some of this information and keep it fresh for new Galoots to discover.

God forbid, I might actually make something and show you that too, but the shock would probably be more than my Queen could bear. Let me know if you have any specific yearnings or questions about Sandusky Tool Co, and stay tuned!

From your rookie galoot,