The Tool that Changed my Life

It was thirty years ago this summer. I was thirteen years old visiting my grand parent’s house on my Mom’s side in Detroit, Michigan when I walked into my Grandpa’s garage and spotted this little drill press on top of his cabinet.

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It’s was a little German-made drill press. It had no manufacturer’s name on it, so I have no idea who made it, but I thought it was the coolest tool I ever saw. I played with it for a few minutes, and my Grandpa seeing I took a liking to it, gave it to me. I was stoked.

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My Grandpa was never really a woodworker. He was a mechanic who restored old cars like Ford Model T’s and Maxwell’s, so he had no use for the press. I just started to work with wood in my parent’s basement, so I was glad to have it.

A few days later, my Mom, Grandparents, and I went to the flea market. While there, I started hunting for more cool tools. I found some old wrenches and a Ohio Tool Co wooden razee fore plane that I still use to this day. The only money I had was a few bucks I saved up from my allowance of cutting the grass, so I bought all my tools dirt cheap. Nevertheless, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the start of my antique tool collecting.

As the months and years went by, I started buying more and more old tools. I’d buy planes, chisels, drills, saws and clean them up. As my tool collection grew, my woodworking skills developed right along with every tool I bought as I learned how to use it. I enjoyed the process of restoring old planes so much that I kept buying more of them and before I knew it, I had collected nearly 100 old tools by the time I was sixteen years old. I used to have white bookshelves in my parent’s basement filled with all my tools. My friends would come over, take a look, and asked what the hell was wrong with me.

At the height of my collecting I had over 600 tools. Then one day, I stared at all of it and decided that enough was enough. I took some of the tools I didn’t care much for and threw them on eBay. I watched the auctions end and realized that I enjoyed that process as well, so I threw more tools on eBay. Before I knew it, I was buying and selling tools on a regular basis.

Today, I’ve figured that I have bought, restored, and sold almost three thousand tools on eBay. It’s become a hobby within a hobby. Something that I would never have believed would have happened thirty years ago when my Grandpa gave me his little drill press.

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Springfield Antique Show

Last Friday, my wife and I, went to Brimfield, Massachusetts for their antique show. This Friday we headed to Springfield, Ohio for their Extravaganza. Even though the amount of vendors attending is a third of who sets up at Brimfield (2000 vs 6000), I was hoping to find better deals as I usually don’t do too bad at the Extravaganza.

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There are a lot of professional dealers at Springfield, however the majority of them are concentrated in the center of the fairgrounds. As you venture out onto the outskirts of the show, that is where you’ll find people just setting up tables to sell some of their junk. These are the places where I find the best deals. It’s always nice to visit the tables with a bunch of tools from tool collectors, but that’s not typically where the deals are.

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On this table were a Stanley BedRock No 604 for $150 and a Stanley No 8 for $100. Not bad prices if you wanted to pay retail, but I’m always looking for a deal.

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Occasionally you’ll find good deals at these tables. Here were a couple of Stanley planes and a Keen Kutter No 5. The two No 5’s were $15 and the Stanley No 4 was only $21. I passed up on these planes as I wasn’t feeling it for some reason. I only had $40 left in my pocket and still wanted to walk around and see what else was available before I spent all my cash, so I walked away.

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I always love checking out old anvils even though I haven’t set up my blacksmith shop yet. The big boy anvil in the front was a mere $1000. Too rich for my blood.

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After we walked around the fairgrounds for six hours, I came home with a few nice tools. Two Stanley miter boxes, two Stanley No 3’s and two Hartford Clamp Co clamps. The clamps are the most interesting thing I bought as after I researched them, they were primarily used for gluing up thin panels. The bars ride on both sides of the panel so the wood won’t bow while being clamped. I’m going to clean them up and see how well they work.

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As far as deals, I believe I did better at Springfield than I did at Brimfield even though I spent a little bit more money. Now I need to go back to the bank and get some more cash for the Burlington Antique Show in Kentucky on Sunday.

Brimfield Antique Show

Last weekend, my wife and I drove to Massachusetts to go to the Brimfield Antique Show. We heard about Brimfield for years, but finally decided to take the plunge and drive out there to see it for ourselves. With 6000 dealers attending, we were excited to see the show.

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We drove to Connecticut the night before and woke up Friday morning at 5:00 am to drive up north to the show. We arrived into Brimfield around 7:30 am and the first thing we noticed was that it reminded us of a very large stop on the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Dealer tents were set up on both sides of the street which stretched down for nearly a mile. We came up to a gate where a few people were waiting until 8:00 am for it to open and noticed that there was a $5.00 entry fee to get inside. Given we had a half an hour wait, we walked across the street trying to see if any ther dealers were already open, but only a handful were.

About a half an hour later, we came back to the gate where a large group of people were now waiting. We thought to ourselves that this area must be the place to be, so we handed the attendants $5.00 and waited for the gates to open. As soon as they did, we saw people literally running in like it was a black Friday sale. Anita and I started laughing thinking what in the world could be inside the show area worth running for.

Once we got inside, we looked around to see what all the fuss was all about. There were plenty of dealers selling quality antiques, but they came with dealer prices. After about an hour of buying a few things inside, we went out to see what the other areas had to offer.

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The majority of tools that I saw were being sold by collectors, so there was little opportunity to snag a good deal. I was hoping that since I was on the east coast, I would see a lot of good deals on old Stanley planes, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

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I used to think that all the old tools were on the east coast since that is where Stanley plant was located, but I now think tool collectors have all the old tools, not the east coast. It’s just getting harder and harder to find them in the wild for a good price. Most of the planes on this table were $40-85 in price. Even the broken casting block plane was $30.00.

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It’s impossible to see the whole show in one day, but after spending seven hours all over Brimfield we saw 80-90% of it. Unfortunately, these are all the tools I came home with. An old razee smooth plane, a Stanley No 4, a Ohio Tool Co No 4, a Wards Master No 7,  a Sargent block plane, an egg beater drill, and a turn screw. Not terrible, but I’ve done better. Anita faired better than me as she ran out of money and had to borrow mine. It was still a lot of fun and is definitely worth it, if it is on your bucket list.

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Saving a Millers Falls No 9 Plane

Last month my wife and I were at an antique show in Columbus, Ohio when I passed by this Millers Falls No 9 plane. I looked at it and decided that the rust on the right side was too much to deal with, so I walked away. About ten minutes later, something told me to go back and examine the plane better to see if it was worth saving. I thought to myself if nothing else, it could be used for parts as the handles and frog were in good shape. I asked the dealer how much he wanted for it and he told me $10.00 so I handed him a ten-dollar bill and walked away.

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The first thing I do when restoring an old plane is to take everything completely apart spraying PB Blaster on the parts if necessary to break free the rust.

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Once apart, I soak the plane in a citric acid bath for a few hours. I use an old planter box as my tub and fill it half way up with water. Then I’ll scoop out about a cup of citric acid and spread it over the water. Sometimes you can buy citric acid at the grocery store in the spices section, but I buy mine by bulk on eBay. I buy about ten pounds worth for $30.00 which is much cheaper than the grocery store which is usually about $7.00 per pound.

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After a few hours, I take the parts out of the bath and use a wire brush to scrub the residue off the parts. The acid does a great job of removing the rust from the tool.

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I then polish all the parts with sanding sponges and apply my own homemade rust protection solution which contains, mineral oil, orange oil, and beeswax. I also steel wool the handles of the plane and apply a couple of coats of shellac to them.

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Once everything is cleaned and polished, I put the plane back together to see how it looks.

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If all the plane was to do is to sit on a shelf and collect dust, then I would be done. However, I want this plane to be used again, so I needed to focus on the blade. As you can see in the picture, the blade was roasted and desperately needed a new edge. Some people feel a blade that is in this bad of shape would automatically need to be replaced, but I like to see if I can get it to work again first.

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I took the blade over to my high-speed grinder and ground a new edge making sure not to overheat the blade making it lose its hardness.

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After the major grinding was done, I switched to my slow speed water-cooled grinder and worked on the edge some more. I also flattened the back of the blade on my grinder at the same time.

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After I was satisfied with the grinding process, I switched to my water stones to hone the edge. I sharpened the blade with a series of 800, 2000, and 5000 grit water stones.

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I set the cap iron about a 1/8″ from the edge of the blade and put it back in the plane. After adjusting the blade up and down, I was able to get the plane to cut off a nice thin shaving.

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I took one of the shavings and measured it with my calipers. The shavings produced were .002 of an inch thick.

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The shavings are nice, but the real proof is the way the plane leaves the wood with a nice sheen. No sandpaper needed. Not too shabby for a rusty $10 plane.

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The Skinner Irrigation Co Hand Drilling Device

I’m not sure how unusual tools find me, but another has landed on my lap. This time it was an odd-looking drill press. I spotted it in a local antique shop and knew it was some sort of drill press with its flywheel and depth handle, but it was a drill press like I had never seen before. I could tell it was for drilling through pipe because of the claw like clamping pads that could wrap around pipe after adjusting the bottom arm.

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I brought the drill press home and after cleaning it up, I clamped one of my bar clamps across my workbench and attached the press to one end of the pipe.

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After studying the press a little bit, it dawned on me that I actually clamped the drill press upside down. The arm clamps down on top of the pipe, then the user turns the flywheel while pulling up the depth adjustment arm drilling a hole.

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I realized it was upside down because of a small level on the bottom of the press which guides the user to place the tool level.

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Here’s another view of the press in its rightful state.

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Luckily, there was a maker’s plate on the back. The tool was made by The Skinner Irrigation Co in Troy, OH. I googled the company name and found they were a turn of the century company that specialized in laying irrigation systems. Apparently this tool was used to tap into pipes to attach some sort of nozzles in a direct line with each other. Also, on the plate there was a patent number 893667 so I googled that as well. I found out that the tool was patented July, 21, 1908. You can read about it here. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/0893667.pdf\

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The bit that came with the tool looks like a broken threaded tap. You can see that the collar doesn’t have a chuck so this must be a very specialized tool to do one specific job.

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Who knows how many of these hand drilling devices were made, but I’m glad this one found me.

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Restoring a Stanley No 10 Carriage Maker Rabbet Plane

Several months ago I picked up a Stanley No 10 Carriage Makers Rabbet plane with a welded sole at a local auction. I wanted to restore the plane and make it usable again so I took it all apart and soaked everything in a citric acid solution for a few hours.

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Even thought the weld was done fairly well, the plane’s sides were no longer straight. Not the best situation for a plane that needs straight sides in order to cut a clean rabbet.

Fortunately, because the plane cracked only on one side, the bed was still relatively flat when it was welded back. If the bed would have been out of whack, I may have resorted to the garbage can as it would have been too much work to fettle flat.

I wanted the black removed from the sides as the previous owner painted the sides to cover up the weld. I spread some paint remover on it and let it sit for a few minutes before removing it with a putty knife. I then needed the sides to be straight so I started to fettle them with sandpaper on a marble base. Rubbing the bed back in forth, I could see the high and low spots on each side.

There was a lot of metal to remove, so I decided to take the bed to my stationary disc sander and carefully grind the bed using 80 grit sand paper.

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Using the disc sander saved a lot of time, but it scratched the hell out of the surface. I made sure I moved the bed back and forth so that I wouldn’t do more damage than good.

Because the disc sander made a lot of scratches on the sides, I took the bed back to my marble base and used a variety of sand paper grits to remove as many scratches as I could.

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I then focused on the bed, fettling it flat. I used a variety of sand paper from 150-400 grit. I worked on it for a few minutes until I was satisfied with the results.

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Once the bed was done, I sharpened the blade using my Tormek sharpening wheel and water stones.

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Since I ground some of the thickness of the sides away, you can see where the blade protrudes farther out of the side than normal. I could grind away the sides of the blade, but I wanted to wait and see how it performs first. If I was able to cut a clean rabbet with the way it was, I would just leave it alone.

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Here she is after all the work has been done. It looks a lot better than the way I bought her, but I still needed to see if she works.

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After setting the blade to the right depth, I tried it out on a scrap piece of wood. It cut nice little shavings with ease and can now be put in my arsenal of planes for use. Even though I spent a good day tuning this plane up, it gives me great satisfaction resurrecting an old tool back to life. Plus it saved me a ton of money versus buying a new rabbet plane.

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Another Tool Auction

If you follow my blog, then you know I have an addiction to going to tool auctions and buying a boatload of planes. Well, not much has changed over the years except this auction was online a couple of nights ago. Today I went to the house to pick up my winnings to see what I won in person. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the tools I bought.

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When looking on the lots, the auctioneer was very vague with their descriptions. They just grouped about ten to fifteen tools together and listed them as “Stanley Metal Planes”. One of the lots was nine Stanley Bed Rock planes with only four pictures of the total lot. I took a chance that they were in good shape so I placed my bid until I outbid all the other bidders. When I picked them up, I noticed that six of the nine were corrugated which put a big smile on my face.

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The other planes I ended up winning were a couple of Stanley circular planes. Theses planes work really well and come in handy when properly tuned.

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They had this Stanley No 77 Dowel Making machine as a “drill”. These machines are sweet to use. I only wish I could afford the extra heads they came with as they usually sell for over $100 a piece on eBay.

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I also picked up this Stanley No 150 miter box with a Cincinnati Steel Saw Co back saw. I’ve owned one of these for twenty years and work great cutting small moldings.

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Here are a couple of Stanley No 112 scraper planes. Another tool that you’re glad you own when you need it.

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A couple of Stanley No 10 Rabbet planes. The one in the back has been welded as that is a common repair for these when they break in two.

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I ended winning six pre-lateral Stanley bench planes. One of them has the wrong lever cap and a couple others have the wrong style of tote, but all have the proper blades which is good as usually these are found with an improper blade.

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Most of these tools will eventually be restored and sold in my eBay store. http://stores.ebay.com/mvflaim. The pre-lateral planes are too collectible to be restored. Just a light cleaning will do. The tools in the bottom photo are the tools I’ve been working on the past few weeks and will be listed for sale soon.

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A Saturday Afternoon at an Estate Auction

Not much has been going on lately with woodworking, but I have been picking up some more tools. Yesterday I went to a local estate auction and scored some serious tools. I saw the auction on AuctionZip a few days ago, but they only had a couple of pictures of a few tools. When I arrived at the auction and took a look around, I nearly crapped myself when I saw all the tools that were sitting on the tables.

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I have a blast at auctions as you can see with my winnings. I always try to remain reasonable and not get too carried away with my bidding. Fortunately, there weren’t a lot of tool collectors at the auction, so I was able to buy a whole bunch. In fact, most of the time I was bidding on several tools at once in one box.

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At the end of the day, I brought all the tools down to my basement and tried to calculate how many tools I actually bought. I had to separate the good tools from the junk that was packed in the boxes. I won a about a dozen junky block plane beds that ended up in the garbage can.

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In the end, I bought over 150 tools with nearly 100 planes. I’ll be busy over the next few months cleaning all these babies up.

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My first winning bid was for a box of steel wool for $8.00. I use a lot of steel wool when cleaning tools and I’m sick of buying those little packs for $5.00 at Lowe’s. I should have enough steel wool here to last me a couple of years.

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Probably the best buy of the day was this old BedRock 605 plane. It should be cleaned up and for sale in a few weeks.

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