They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

I love old hand tools. I am obsessed with them – planes, chisels, drawknives, squares, braces/bits, saws, I love them all. Despite this I usually pass up on old wooden levels when I find them in the wild. Partly because they aren’t usually very useful at this point – the wood moves and cracks over the years, bringing it out of straight. Partly because the people selling them don’t know this, and tend to price them very high. But when I came across this particular vintage level, I had to buy it.

Stanley no. 30 vintage level

The levels are adjustable and are set in beautiful brass accents

The level was made by Stanley Rule and Level Co., which most likely puts it in the 1850- 1900 range. It was grimy and dirty to the point where the wood was an unidentifiably dull brown and the brass was tarnished, but the build quality of the level still shone through. Also, the glass levels were all intact. It sat around in my workshop for a few months before I had a very unusual evening with nothing to do, so I decided to clean it up. I sanded the whole thing down using 150 grit sandpaper, and used a chisel to carefully pare off the glue that solidified over the last century. I then sanded the whole thing again using 220 grit, and used 400 grit to bring some shine to the brass.

Stanley Vintage Level

Stanley Rule & Level Co. No. 30 Level

At this point it became clear that the level was made of Cherry – but I was definitely not prepared for what it would look like after a coat of tung oil. The tung oil brought out a very intense redness in the Cherry, a redness that comes from over a 100 years exposed to light. The rich, deep redness and the shiny brass accents are just a fantastic combination. It may not be very useful, but it’s a testament to the quality of the old Stanley tools, and it sure looks great on top of my tool cabinet.

Stanley vintage level

The Cherry wood has a beautiful redness to it that goes really well with the brass accents

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Just Tool Things, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
Jointer & Fore Plane Restoration

Jointer & Fore Plane Restoration

It’s amazing how one person’s trash can really be another person’s treasure. This Stanley No. 7 jointer and Union No. 6 fore plane were given to me by my neighbour. He’s a carpenter and a strictly power tools kinda guy. These were collecting rust at the bottom of a toolbox for several years before he gave them to me. For him it was getting rid of some junk, for me it was an early christmas. Also, it meant I had an excuse to spend several hours at one of my favourite activities – plane restoration.

Union No. 6, Fore plane, plane restoration

Union No. 6 fore plane. This one was in pretty bad shape.

I love No. 7 jointer planes – they can be set up to perform so many different tasks. I’ve often used a jointer as a smoothing plane with beautiful results. Setting it up as a scrub also speeds up the scrubbing process a great deal. The No. 6 often gets a bad rap as a pointless plane – not quite as small as the No.5 to be an all purpose plane, but not quite big enough to be a jointer. I disagree. The extra length and width of the No. 6 makes it a perfect jointer/jack combo. But I am a bit of a plane fanatic, so I’d be hard pressed to find a plane pointless.

Plane restoration, Rusted plane, Fore plane

That’s a century’s worth of accumulated sawdust and grime. No wonder the frog screws wouldn’t budge.

Both the planes were in pretty bad shape – the No. 6 in particular probably the worst shape I’ve seen a plane in with all parts intact. It took some work to get the frog off – the screws were jammed in place. It took a lot of soaking in WD 40 to get the screws off after several hours of trying. The No. 7 came apart pretty easy.

No. 6 Plane parts, vinegar

Plane disassembled and ready for the vinegar bath.

There are a number of ways to get the rust off a plane – evaporust, sandblasting, electrolysis and vinegar. I typically use vinegar. It’s cheap and environmentally friendly. I soak all the parts except the tote and the knob in vinegar for a day or two. Yes, I throw the brass parts in there too. I’ve never had any damaged in the vinegar. Adding a bit of salt can speed up the process too.

Stanley No. 7 jointer plane restoration

The No. 7 completely restored!

I then scrape most of the rust off using steel wool and some WD40. For difficult to reach spots I’ll use a wire brush in a drill. I use WD40 to prevent flash rust. After drying the all the parts, I then use sandpaper (180 grit and 220 grit) to remove any darker oxidised spots and to clean up the metal further. I then tape the exposed parts of the plane off and apply three coats of engine enamel. Some folks like to bake the plane in an oven, but I find this unnecessary. There’s always some bleeding of the paint which needs some clean up to look out for.

Union No. 6 and Stanley No. 7 restoration, Jointer plane, Fore plane

The Union No. 6 and Stanley No. 7 ready for another lifetime of service.

I sand the tote and knob down in increasing grits, followed by a couple coats of shellac. Rosewood tote and knobs darkens a lot, so oils are not the best option. I then reassemble the plane and flatten the sole and the sides on a granite block with some sandpaper stuck on top. The bottom of the frog and the frog receiver may require some treatment using a flat-file to get them to mate perfectly to reduce chatter. I then buff the exposed metal surfaces with some metal polish and some paste wax. All that’s left is to sharpen the blade, and I have another couple of lifetime tools to add to my collection.



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Restorations, Tools, 2 comments
A Straightedge in the Rough (Moore & Wright No. 311B)

A Straightedge in the Rough (Moore & Wright No. 311B)

I moved in to a new place a little over a year ago. While the garage (which has since become my workshop) was cleaned out quite diligently by the previous owner, there were a few wooden rulers and a 2′ long steel heavy bar of steel still left hung up by the door. The steel bar was heavily rusted on the surface, so I never paid much attention to it, using it as a paperweight once or twice and hanging it right back up.

Moore & Wright Straightedge, vintage straightedge

Halfway through my clean up of the steel

A few weeks ago I was changing the blades on my jointer and needed a long and heavy straightedge, one that wouldn’t move too easily as I spun the cutterhead. The only thing that could meet that criteria was that old rusty piece of steel, so I tried putting it on the jointer bed and found it to be perfectly straight. This surpised me, so I decided to clean it up a bit.

Old Moore & Wright, Vintage straightedge

Moore & Wright No. 311B

After some careful sanding with some 220 grit sandpaper, followed by some 400 grit, I realised it was an old Moore & Wright no. 311B straightedge. Moore & Wright were tool manufacturers based in Sheffield, England, and were known for high quality tools back in the day. I say ‘were’ because like so many other manufacturers, in recent years they’ve shipped out their manufacturing abroad and have lost their reputation for quality.

Restored Vintage Moore & Wright Straightedge

The straightedge cleaned up very nicely

A little metal polish and some buffing later the straightedge looks fantastic and is a definite addition to my regularly used tools. I later found out the previous owner was a retired machinist, and the rusted old bar of steel he left me turned out to be a real diamond in the rough.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Just Tool Things, Restorations, 0 comments
Making a Chisel Handle

Making a Chisel Handle

Look around in an antique mall or visit a couple garage sales and you are bound to find a number of socket chisels. Usually they’ll be in pretty rough shape – blades chipped from years of being used to open paint cans and rough, handmade handles (or even handles that have been painted weird colours). As with any chisel, the blade is an easy fix. What sets socket chisels apart though, is that with some basic turning skills you can get yourself a set of beautiful chisels with custom handles for only a few dollars.

Erik Antonberg, Jernbolaget, Chisel, EA Berg

The E.A. Berg chisel I picked up from a garage sale for 50 cents.

I picked up this beautiful 1 1/2″ chisel for 50 cents at a garage sale, along with a few others. It’s an Erik Antonberg chisel, made in Sweden and highly sought after. I decided it was time to make a handle worthy of the steel. I had a small piece of figured cherry that I decided to use for this. The cherry piece was around 1.5″ square and around 4″ long. The length of the stock uses depends on personal preference, but extra length doesn’t add much to the utility of a socket chisel handle.

Lathe Calipers, Gedore

These are my Gedore WWII era calipers that work remarkably well.

A little tip to get a stubborn handle out of the socket is to grab the socket and whack a solid surface with the wooden handle. This should get it nice and loose. The first step is to figure out the dimensions of the tenon at the top of the chisel. There’s two ways to do this – if the old handle fit the socket well, the dimensions can be taken directly. Otherwise a piece of paper rolled to fit the socket and taped will provide a pretty exact dimension of the inside of the socket. I used the old handle, with a bit of tape wrapped around it – better to make it thicker than thinner, and the sanding stages will reduce the thickness further.

Lathe turning chisel handle

Figured cherry stock for the handle

Another important dimension is the outside diameter of the end of the socket. Ideally the diameter of the handle right below the tenon and the outside dimension of the chisel should be the same. With the dimensions taken on calipers/dividers, it was time to centre and set up the work piece on the lathe, and round the  stock using a spindle gouge.

Turning chisel handle, lathe finishing

Turning complete, finishing the handle.

I like to mark key locations of anything I turn using a pencil first, such as the top and bottom of the handle, the start of any coves, beads or patterns, the starting point of the tenon, etc. I then use a parting tool to bring those lines down to their final dimensions, using the calipers to check. Of course, for the top and bottom of the chisel the idea is just to bring the thickness down to a certain level, not so much as to destabilize the work piece.

Homemade chisel handle

The completed handle

With that done I used my spindle gouge to create the shape of the chisel, and my skew to smoothen it. I then sanded up the grits, from 220 to 400 to 1000, followed by burnishing with the wood shavings. I finished the handle with a coat of tung oil followed by several coats of shellac. The final thing to do (after sawing off the handle) is to chuck the handle in the socket and give it a couple sharp raps on the workbench, and it’s done!

Beautiful Chisel handle for socket chisel

Another view of the finished chisel.

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Restorations, This and That, Tools, 1 comment
DIY Adjustable Jointer Extension Tables

DIY Adjustable Jointer Extension Tables

A couple months ago I restored a Beaver 3800 jointer. It’s worked beautifully since then, but an issue I kept running into was the bed length – at 34″, the Beaver has a pretty short bed. This makes jointing longer boards difficult and downright dangerous. Clearly I needed some sort of jointer extension.

Because of the age of the machine, it was highly unlikely I would be able to find the extension rollers that were made by Beaver back in the day. I also wanted tables rather than rollers, as they provide better support to the workpiece throughout the cut.

Adjustable jointer extension tables

The jointer extensions are made of two layers of plywood with a levelling mechanism

I decided to make some extensions out of some 3/4″ plywood. The extensions are made of 2 layers of plywood, with an additional strip underneath to provide extra rigidity. The tables attach to the bed using three bolts each. Of course, being a jointer, I needed to add some sort of levelling mechanism. I used threaded inserts in the top layer of plywood, and some bolts that pass through nuts in the lower layer. This allows me to level each of the tables at the 4 corners.

DIY jointer extension tables for Beaver 3800

The extension beds are each 24″ long, bringing the total bed length to 82″.

Each of the tables is 24″ long, bringing the total length to 82″ long. This means I can now joint boards longer than 8′ with no fear of tipping. The tables are surprisingly rigid and have very little flex even at the ends. This turned out to be a very cheap, quick and effective solution, and because it doesn’t need any legs, it allows me to roll the jointer out of the way when not in use.


Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, DIY Jointer Extension, This and That, 2 comments
Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 2

Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 2

In part 1 of the jointer restoration I took the jointer apart down to the nuts and bolts. I then washed the larger parts of the jointer in warm soapy water in to remove the accumulated grease and sawdust. This step is important as the primer may not work as well if you don’t remove the grease from the surface.

Jointer restoration

All the parts taped up ready for painting.

Once the parts all dried I set about masking off the jointer for painting. This took a while, and a lot of painters tape. Tip – a sharp utility knife makes all the difference in this step. I was especially careful on any threads that were at risk of collecting paint…that would not be a fun clean up job. With the parts all taped off, I applied one coat of primer, followed by two to three coats of paint.

I debated my choice of colour for a while before settling on black. I was considering the repainting it the original grey colour, but the grey just wasn’t working for me. I then considered vintage power tool green (something like the General tools), but the only other piece of equipment in my shop that colour is my bandsaw, and I plan on replacing that. That led me to my one of my favourite pieces of equipment, my Sawstop cabinet saw. I decided to paint the jointer in a Sawstop inspired theme – black with red accents. black and red is easy to overdo, and I didn’t want it to look tacky, so I settled on only using red on the legs of the base. I used enamel spray paint. Initially I planned on a gloss black paint, but I tried a bit of matte black and absolutely loved it. It reminded me of an anvil.

Beaver 3800 jointer restoration

Fence guide rods

While the paint cured, I got to work on the metal parts such as the fence glide rods, the many little bolts, screws and linkages. I used sandpaper, ascending in grit from 100 to 220 to 400, to work everything up to a shine, followed by some metal polish. Once the paint dried, I removed the painters tape from the bed and fence faces, and used a palm sander with increasingly fine sandpaper to remove rust and polish up the surface. While this may seem like a pretty risky way to do this, it takes a lot of effort to actually create a divot doing this, so you’re probably safe. The pork chop is one of the best parts of the machine – I sanded the paint off the details.

Jointer motor electrical

The death trap power cord and switch

The cutterhead was packed with 60 year old grease and sawdust, as were the bearings. I removed the blades and chip breakers and submerged the bearings and cutterhead in turpentine to dissolve the grease. Turpentine is nasty stuff, so only use it in a well ventilated place! I then cleaned up the rust on the cutterhead, and repacked the bearings with a gratuitous amount of grease. I ordered a new set of jointer blades from Amazon, and they arrived well packed and sharp. I bought a replacement belt from a lawnmower store, as it was the only place that seemed to have the right v-belt size.

Jointer motor grounding

Motor rewired and grounded

The only thing left was to rip out and replace the power cable, add a safety switch and ground the motor. The motor sat directly on the steel frame, so it was especially important to ground the body of the motor to prevent accidents. With the switch wired into the motor and the new power cable, the jointer was ready to be reassembled.

Putting the jointer body back together was fairly straightforward. I expected some confusion but it was surprisingly intuitive. The only difficult part was inserting the cutterhead back in, as the belt has to be inserted beforehand, and the cutterhead needs to be held up while the bearings are tightened in place. It was only me, so a number of failures later, I had them all in. The fence was anything but simple to reassemble, but luckily I took photos beforehand and used them as a guide.

Beaver 3800 Jointer pork chop

Beaver 3800 Pork Chop

With the jointer fully reassembled, I spent a few more hours getting the infeed and outfeed beds coplanar and level (before setting the cutting depth, of course), and a couple more hours setting the blade heights in the cutterhead. Both these adjustments were pretty complicated, but there are plenty of tutorials online outlining the processes so I won’t go into details here. A few more minutes to set the fence square, and the jointer restoration was finally done. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – it’s a breeze to use and it works really well. For half the price of the cheapest 6″ jointer on the market, I now have a lifetime-quality tool, ready to work for another 60 years before I sell it on to a future woodworker who hasn’t been born yet.

Beaver 3800 fence system restored

Beaver 3800 Fence System

Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 1

Beaver 3800 Jointer Restoration Pt. 1

A few months ago I purchased an old Beaver 3800 jointer. I bought it from an old gentleman who used to be an ironworker in the 50’s and 60’s. It was last used in the 60’s to joint doors for a hotel, and sat unused for the last 50+ years. As you’d imagine, it wasn’t in the best of shape, and while it still ran, it definitely needed some work. Which brings us to this jointer restoration.

Jointer, Beaver 3800, Restoration

The jointer before I started working on it.

The Beaver 3800 was made in the early 1950s in the Callander Foundry, in Guelph, Ontario. The Foundry was established in 1916, and had great success with their woodworking machines after the end of WWII. Their machines were known and prized for their excellent quality. Unfortunately, as is often the case with local Canadian businesses, small and large, in 1953 the owner sold the foundry to Rockwell Manufacturing Co. (Rockwell had bought Delta Manufacturing previously). The foundry was renamed Rockwell Manufacturing Co. of Canada, and the power tools were renamed Beaver-Delta tools. Gradually the Beaver power tools were discontinued in favour of Delta-Rockwell designs. The company changed hands a number of times since then, until in 2011 the Delta brand  was sold to a Taiwanese company, and the Guelph Foundry sadly closed its doors.

Beaver 3800, vintage jointer restoration

Taking the jointer apart.

I find myself drawn to tools (and indeed products in general) that are made locally, whether in Alberta or Canada, followed by those still made in the States. To me that’s part of the attraction of the Veritas tools…but that’s a different story. Anyways, of course, when I found this old piece of iron for a decent price, I had to purchase it and bring it home.

The 3800 is 6″ jointer, with a short bed, around 34″ in length. For a relatively small jointer (in terms of length) the 3800 was very heavy – we needed a chain and host to raise it into the truck, and pulled back muscles to pull it out of the truck. Everything on the jointer appeared to be made of cast iron except for the pork chop (Blade guard) which was machined beautifully out of aluminium. The fence system on the 3800 is a wonderful and complex feat of engineering. But more on that later. Lets get back to this jointer restoration thing.

Jointer bearings

The bearings.

The jointer was in pretty good shape for it’s age. The bed and fence had some light rust and a few spots of deeper rust. The entire jointer was crummed up with 60 years worth of dirt and oil. The blades were all chipped and would need replacing. The paint was mostly intact, but was flecking off in a few spots. The motor that came with the jointer was as old as the jointer itself, and the wiring was an absolute deathtrap. The cable was old and splitting in a number of places, held together with black cloth tape that pre-dated electrical tape. The switch was an old light switch that was bolted to the underside of the bed, and there was no clearly no ground wire. The belt was never changed and was well past its best before date. Of course, this was all above the hood, and there were probably more issues under the hood. All these things considered, there was no way I could start using the jointer without a complete restoration first.

Jointer fence

Taking the fence contraption apart.

As always, the first step in the restoration was to take the 3800 apart. I started by raising the motor to loosen the belt. Taking the bolts off wasn’t too hard with a bit of elbow grease and a couple squirts of WD40. Always keep some WD40 on hand! I almost damaged one of the bearings trying to take it out without removing the set screw first. The cutterhead was quite difficult to get out, and I definitely was not looking forward to putting it back in.

With everything taken apart I put all the little parts on my bench and labelled all of them – I ran out of ziploc bags and figured this would work. It just meant accepting the fact that I wouldn’t get anything done until the jointer was put back together.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the jointer restoration, where I do the actual restoration and try it out!



Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Beaver 3800, Restorations, Tools, 0 comments
Restoring a 1890’s Disston D-8 Panel Rip Saw

Restoring a 1890’s Disston D-8 Panel Rip Saw

The other day I met an elderly gentleman looking to sell the contents of his garage and move south of the border. Amidst the automotive tools, china figurines and old license plates, this panel saw caught my eye. I knew immediately that evening would be spent on this handsaw restoration.


Would look like any old saw of it weren’t for than the thumb hole

The extra hole you see on the handle is for the thumb of your left hand for two handed ripping. I picked it up, and could just barely make out ‘Disston & Sons, Philada’ on the medallion. Disston saws are quite common here in Alberta, but 90% of the time they tend to be newer Disston Canada/Disston US/Disston HK Porter. Problem is, the saws look just as old, and it can get hard to assess the value and restoration-worthiness of the saw. I had never come across such an old Disston here, so of course I had to buy it. The blade was straight, although heavily rusted, and the handle was in good shape, no cracks and no nuts missing.

The first thing to do in a handsaw restoration is, of course, to take it apart (or try to). I restore old tools to put them back to use – not to put them on display. A tool collector will tell you to research what saw you have  in your possession for rarity before taking it apart, so if that is your thing, it’s worth keeping in mind. The old saw nuts have very thin slots, so you need a thin screwdriver to fit. Be gentle, the brass strips easily.

Once you get the nuts off, keep them in a safe place and gently shimmy the blade out of the handle. I clean the blade with some alcohol to get the surface grime off, before getting to work with a cabinet scraper to get the majority of the rust off. Take it easy, don’t gouge the surface of the blade. Once most of the rust is off, I use 150 grit sandpaper to take care of the rest, followed by 1000 grit. Make sure you only sand in the direction of the blade, unless you want unsightly bright spots (and they will be highly visible, trust me). Go easy on the middle of the blade on the side of the medallion – old saws might have beautiful etches that are well worth keeping. Once I am done sanding I will usually give the blade a light polish using some metal polish, followed by a buffing with some paste wax, to protect the blade and lubricate the cut when I use it.

IMG_0277 (1)

The blade, all cleaned up

Don’t expect to get the blade to look like new – that will require a lot of sanding and will likely result in an uneven blade, not to mention losing the etch. The idea is to get the rust off to get the blade into working condition.

The etch on this saw says ‘The beauty, finish and utility of this saw cannot be excelled. Henry Disston’. The etch and the medallion would place the saw somewhere between 1890 – 1910. The thumb grip type is a rarer version of the D8 too, so quite a find for $10.

IMG_0276 (1).JPG

The apple wood handle sanded down – notice the patina is not entirely gone

There are two ways to go about restoring handles (there are more, but two main ideas anyways) – simply clean up the handle and give it a coat of BLO, or sand it down and refinish it. The first method leaves the patina, while the second takes away a little from the patina. I prefer the second – I find it a better way to protect the handle, and I think the saw looks better this way. Also, 100 years of use results in patina that really doesn’t come off after sanding unless you go crazy with the sandpaper. Another purpose of sanding is to get the paint flecks off the handle, which old saws seem to inevitably have.

I sand the handles down with 150 grit, followed by a couple coats of BLO. Old saw handles tend to be quite thirsty, so give it several coats. The BLO really brings out the beauty of the wood. I then like to finish off with a coat of shellac, just my own preference – the BLO would be sufficient really. For the brass nuts and medallion, I just used some 1000 grit sandpaper to get the tarnish off. And here it is – a beautiful Disston D8, over a 100 years old, ready to be sharpened and put back to work in a woodshop. This really is a beautiful and well made saw.


Restored to glory and ready to work

I hope this handsaw restoration helps you out the next time you come across a beautiful saw suffering from neglect. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you!


Posted by Prairie Artisan Woodshop in Disston D-8, Restorations, Tools, 2 comments