A couple of years ago, I was rummaging through a dusty box of vintage tools at an estate sale. My wish list at the time included a Stanley #80 cabinet scraper. I wanted something for wily-grained woods. That’s because my smoothing planes did as much tearing out as they did smoothing of those species. So when I saw this beauty, I dug deep in my pocket for the $3.00 dollars we agreed upon.
It had a few peculiarities. Like this homemade “iron” that obviously came from an old sawplate.
And a sole that clearly was out of flat.
Still, there was nothing to do but clean her up…
…and lap the sole.
After sharpening and burnishing the iron with a screwdriver, I set it in and put a piece of pine in my vise. And got crap results. A shallow depth setting made dust. A thick one left gouges in the wood surface. A bit deflated, I set it aside. Then, off and on for the next few months, I would fettle this abomination some more in the vain hopes of restoring it to working condition.
The not-so-flat sole bugged me. And since I couldn’t lap out the 1/8” of difference between the front and back of it, I figured that I would bend the cast iron sole into flat.
And I must say. This approach worked perfectly…to break my prize.
As Forrest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I think that it took a whopping 0.0005 foot pounds of pressure to snap the sole. And the sound of the iron breaking, that high-pitched “pink”, made me sick to my stomach. And the knowledge that I had destroyed a vintage tool with decades of history etched upon its soul gnawed at me.
I tried to put it out of my mind, but found that the only thing that would ease the feeling would be to buy a new one and start from scratch. So it was to Ebay I went, where I picked up this honey for 10 times what I paid for my original.
I’m fond of Stanley type 11 planes made around WWI. I believe that this time period represents a zenith for tool makers. Those were the days that they combined patented tool features, superior materials, and craftsmanship to give birth to millions of quality tools. Implements of such excellence that three generations hence they still sit atop woodworkers’ benches amidst shavings and sawdust. Well, except for the one I got ahold of…
So when I saw the V-logo on the back blade retention strip, I knew it dated this plane to around 1912-1918. I had to have it.
It didn’t come with a blade, but that suited me just fine because I purchased a LV replacement blade for my now broken tool. And of course, I still have the user-made-sawplate blade that came with the original.
The new #80 sole responded well to lapping.
Excellent. That removed one potential variable from the reasons-I-can’t-get-a-decent-shaving-with-a-cabinet-scraper list. The next variable that came to mind was burnishing. Chances are I wasn’t turning a decent hook. My reading on the subject suggested that I was using burnishers that were too soft to affect today’s hardened steel. So to eliminate this as a possibility, I picked up a harder-than-steel, carbide burnisher.
After using it I was, miraculously and suddenly, able to take decent shavings.
Decent, but not great so there’s room to improve my technique. But at least now, I have a tool to reach for when the wood’s grain gets to tricky for my smoother.