Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Old Tool and a New Feeling

A couple of days ago I was trolling the tools section of Craig's List as I tend to do every couple of days and came across a listing for a Stanley #80 cabinet scraper. Having enrolled in Hand Tool School under Shannon's tutelage (AKA The Renaissance Woodworker), and having read Chris Scwarz's blog on these particular scrapers, I decided to buy it for $30.

Today I picked it up. I was expecting it to not be in the greatest of shape. My expectations were met.

The japanning is quite flaky, there's quite a bit of visible rust and one of the screws was not turning by the force of my fingers.

When I got it home, I disassembled it and wiped down what looked like rusty oil trapped between the blade and the clamping bar. A thorough inspection of each of the components revealed a tired (as Dyami of The Penultimate Woodshop put it after posting this pic on Twitter) and frankly not well cared for implement of wood working.

The sole was almost completely covered with rust and pitting; The blade was likewise in rusty shape, but not as bad due to the hardening maybe. I was able to make out a stamping on the blade and to my delight, the blade is Canadian made.

The clamping bar was pretty clear, but I was unable to find the patent numbers to determine the estimated manufactured time.

What really worries me however is the rust within the threaded holes. I'm not sure how to clean them up. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know. I'll also be trolling the forums for advice as well.

After giving everything a wipe down, I proceeded to take my Dremel with wire wheel to deal with the any loose flakes of rust. It also proved to be quite efficient at cleaning up the threads on the 3 thumb screws.

Laying out a piece of glass, I looked at the body of this tired old scraper and wondered. What stories could you tell? How were you held? How many hands have you passed through? The scraper remained silent. Almost as if in a sullen despair saying, "Don't waste your time on me. I've been given up on and I've given up."

I started with 120 grit to start flattening the sole and realized that the pits were not going to go away that easily. "See?" it whispered, "I'm not worth the effort."

Undaunted, I removed the sheet of abrasive and replaced it with 80 grit. A squirt of oil, I went back to patiently working the sole back and forth. Taking my time so as to ensure that even pressure was maintained. Checking my progress, I found that the pits were gone! I began working my way up through the grits - 120, 180, 240, 320, 400, 600 and 800. Oiling each sheet before starting and wiping off the sole between each grit. Maintaining the slow deliberate pace of strokes across the abrasive.

It was at about this time that I almost felt a quiver. As if the scraper was slowly realizing that it had found a caring home once more and would be put once again into the service for which it was designed. Finishing with 1000 and 2500 grits, it (and I) was satisfied that the sole was sufficiently flattened.

A touch of paste wax for protection elicited a secure sigh of relief for the protection from further rust.

At this point, I had been working for about 2 hours and was quite satisfied that I was making good progress. I carefully laid the parts into a neat arrangement on my workbench and had to break for the evening as I was getting hungry and wanted/needed time with my wife and daughter. 

My tools have never spoken to me in the past. They always seemed content to do the task for which they were designed. Now I have this scraper that almost seems to be begging to get named. I exchanged some twitter messages with Brian. His tools have spoken to him for some time and you can read about it on his blog Extremely Average. So I asked if tools communicated over distances to which he replied that they did and that the scraper is deserving to be named.

I have to say that I am honoured to begin this restoration process (and hope that eventually I return it to its former glory) and am at a bit of a humbled loss on what name to bestow upon it.

Brian, if you're reading, ask your clan of tools (particularly Guy, Wayne, Mario and Maurice as they may be distant relatives) if there is already a name attached or if they know of him.

Tomorrow afternoon I tackle the blade. I hope it's salvageable. Oh, if anyone knows how to look up the patent numbers on the clamping bar, please let me know as I would like to know how far back this scraper's history goes.

P.S. I forgot to link to Brian's Blog. Although it is on the right side, it's still a faux pas that I've now corrected! Sorry Brian!


  1. Nice work, looks great.

    The rust in the screw holes might be something you can tackle with a tap and die set. You don't want to change the threading, just use the tool to clean the threads (inside and out).

    I don't know if hand tool restorers would agree or not, they might be plotting my death now that I've suggested that...or not.

    Great job though, that's one nice looking sole now.


  2. Nice clean up job, Mike. I hope the blade goes well for you tomorrow.

    By the way, I've got an old Stanley #4 I'm trying to flatten. I'm down to 36 grit paper, and still have about 1/3 the sole to go. After your scraper success, any interest in flattening it for me?

  3. Thanks Ian, I'll check into that.

    Dyami, I think I was lucky in that it was pretty flat to begin with. Not sure I would have much success on your plane. Still developing my technique, if I were to try, you might get a banana back!

  4. Use the electrolysis method, I use it all the time with great success. It gets into all of the little areas if you place the electrode right. You can google it or send me a message. Basically all I use is washing soda in water, a $10 flea market battery charger and a chunk of rebar.



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