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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Using a Lion Miter Trimmer

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a Facebook page called “The Collectors of Antique/Vintage Tools” about a Lion Miter Trimmer I just restored. A few people in the group replied to my post asking what the tool did. I was surprised that so many people weren’t aware of this tool, that I decided to talk about it here.

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I’ve owned an AMT miter trimmer for over twenty-five years and love it. They are simple tools that were popular for people who made picture frames back in the day. You use it by swinging the arm pulling the knife through the piece of wood, slicing off perfect little curls precisely at whatever angle you set the fence at.

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The miter trimmer has fences on each side that can be positioned between 90 -45 degrees. There are adjustable stops at 90 and 45 that can be fine tuned with a screwdriver. Once you swing the fence to whatever angle you want, you tighten the wing nut on top locking the fence in place. As you can see in the photo, this machine also has layouts for 60 and 67 1/2 degrees.

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After fiddling with the machine for a few minutes, I positioned the adjustable stops precisely were they needed to be. As you can see, the stop is a little shy from the 45 degree scribe line on the bed. I’m not sure why this is, but the tool is probably over 100 years old, so it’s allowed to be off a little.

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You can see how the tool slices off perfect little shavings. When I was restoring the tool, I took the knives off and sharpened them on my Tormek using the Tormek knife jig. Before I sharpened them, the knives couldn’t cut butter.

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The main reason I love my miter trimmer is that it cleans up the cuts that are made from my miter box and saw. For safety reasons when doing delicate trim work, I like to use my little miter box instead of a powered miter saw.

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However, the saw doesn’t leave the wood with a nice enough cut.

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Not only that, the miter box doesn’t even produce a perfect 45 degree angle throwing the two pieces out of square.

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Here are the two pieces after they’ve been trimmed up with the miter trimmer.

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The proof is in the pudding here. All the joints fit nicely together and the frame is a perfectly square inside. No wonder why picture framers loved these things.

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Another good use of a miter trimmer is doing outside corners like attaching molding to a bookcase or cabinet. Here is a piece of molding that I cut with one of my molding planes.

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If I stick the piece in my miter trimmer and try to trim it up normally, you can see how the inertia of the cut pulls the molding off the bed. There’s simply not enough surface area in the front of the molding to keep the piece stable.

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The cut it produces this way is garbage. Not only is it not 45 degrees, it’s not even a straight cut.

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The way to get around this, is to take the body off a combination square and clamp it to the fence of the trimmer. Use a scrap piece of wood and cut a 45 degree angle to the end with the trimmer. Then use the cut as a gauge to accurately place the combination square under it. It’ll take a little time and a few test cuts, but once you have the combination square properly position, you’re ready to go. Note: You can buy an attachment from Grizzly for about $30 which does the same thing as this, but I’m not sure if it will work on old Lion Miter Trimmers.

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Now you can use the bottom of the molding to rest against the fence for support and make a perfect 45 degree cut.

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Repeat on the other side of the trimmer for the other side of the molding and you’ll get a super clean and accurate joint.

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Unfortunately, the website for the original Lion Miter Trimmer no longer works which makes me believe they are no longer in business. http://www.lionmitertrimmer.com It’s a shame because the tool is truly an awesome piece of machinery.

Sharpening a Pitted Plane Blade

I bought a Millers Falls No 7 Jointer Plane a few weeks ago that had a pitted blade in it. While most people would look at a blade like this and immediately think that it belongs in the trash, I decided to see if I could get it to work well enough to slice thin shavings off a piece of cherry.

The first thing I do when I sharpen any of my blades is to whip out my Tormek sharpening wheel. I’ve owned the Tormek for several years now and have never regretted the coin I paid for it. I set the machine up to grind a 25 degree angle on the blade and go to town.

A few minutes on the Tormek puts a real nice edge on the blade. The problem is the back of the blade is still pitted causing the blade to cut ridges in the work piece while using it in the plane.

I used the side of the wheel of the Tormek to try to flatten the back of the blade, but after a few minutes I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It did help, but it would have taken hours to remove all the pits.

I decided to give the old ruler trick a try made famous by David Charlesworth and remove only the metal at the front of the blade. I stick a thin ruler at the back of the blade and sharpen the backside of the front of the blade by moving it back and forth on a piece of 320 grit sandpaper. This in theory changes the cutting angle of the blade by a few degrees, but honestly, who cares? There is very little difference between a blade with a 25 degree angle and one with 24 or 23 degrees. It may make a difference with hard exotics, but I normally use poplar, cherry, maple and southern yellow pine. I’m too cheap to buy hard exotic wood.

As you can see if you look closely, the ruler trick worked. The very front edge of the back of the blade is clean of any pitting and will hold an edge better.

I then switched to my water stones and hone the edge created on my Tormek. I use a combination stone of 800/4000 grit and a final 12000 grit stone. I use water stones as opposed to oil stones simply because the Tormek is a water stone. Oil and water don’t mix.

Here is my final sharpening of the blade. Pretty good if you ask me.

Here’s the blade in action cutting cherry. After a few adjustments with my plane, I was able to produce nice clean shavings. The cherry underneath was glass smooth after it was planed with the blade.

How thin were my shavings? About .003″ thin. Not too shabby for a piece of crap blade that most people would have never even given a second chance and would have just thrown in the garbage.