Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Before and After

Recently I had a customer asked if I would be interested in doing some refurb/repair to a Marples shoulder plane he had purchased. He was interested in having the plane re-habbed into useable shape and possibly to enhance the overall look of the tool in the process.


I've not attempted a plane rehab prior to this except for some Bailey pattern planes that I put into useable condition some years ago, but never any re-furb work on an English made infill.

I told the customer if he would send me the plane I would be glad to take a look and see if I wanted to take it on as a new experience.

There is a couple problems with this type of thing.

(1) You don't always know what type of construction was used to assemble the plane and therefore you don't what your limits are in modifying the tool. A little too much metal removed from here and there the plane could well start coming apart.

(2) You also have to judge the expectations of the customer and judge whether or not you can accomplish that level of result with what you have to work with.

(3) What are expectations of cost and can it be done within those limits?

In this case my expectations were maybe more ambitious than the owners. So I agreed to proceed and he agreed to some flexibility in the final cost of the project.

So what was wrong with this plane? The bones were there. It was intact, all the parts were present, however as you can see in the picture above the original iron was used up and no longer extended out of the back of the plane enough for adjustment access. It was not going to be cost effective to make a custom iron for this plane so I set about to source a replacement iron that would work. My preference and the customer's as well was to find an 0-1 iron and I did purchase one from Lee Valley, however it was not long enough to allow adjustment. I then sourced an A-2 iron from Lie-Nielsen. It was long enough it was quite substantial and considering that this is a joinery refining tool most of the surfaces left by this plane with be concealed inside glued joints so the tool steel choice wasn't really that critical.

The opening in the side of the plane would have to be modified to accommodate the L-N iron. Here you can see the layout of the new opening profile.

In the above picture you can see the opening roughed out and the bed angle base line filed precisely to the line.

Above you can see the opening refined to the layout line with careful file work. Most of the work on an already assembled plane body is handwork. You take file in hand and work to precise layout lines.

And here you can see the opposite side with the new profile refined. In truth this initial layout did not allow enough room to insert the iron from the rear of the plane body and rotate it into place. I actually changed this layout two additional times before the iron could be inserted properly.

The rosewood infill in the front of the plane body had shrunk and also had shifted a bit rearward. From here all the way to opening where the wedge went into the plane had to be worked in order to bring the wood flush to the metal and in some areas the metal flush to the wood. Once again the only way to accomplish this was to take file in hand and work carefully. Very few machine tools were used and in every case they were only utilized for rough work.

The sole was lapped flush in preparation for working the sides. I left a very slight low spot just behind the mouth. This would not effect the function of the plane and further lapping would only open the mouth further.

If you look at the picture above and the "BEFORE" picture at the top of the post you'll see considerable damage to the wedge. This was caused by the use of a hammer without proper soft surfaces like for instance rawhide. There were several points of impact damage on the very rear of the wedge and the rounded area where you would strike for retracting the wedge. 

One option was to make a replacement wedge, however when the rosewood in the infilled portion of the plane was refined and finish applied I knew I had to try and save the wedge if possible. It was going to be nearly impossible to matched the old oxidized rosewood in this plane and when I applied a shellac polish it's rich aged looked came forth and it possessed a beauty only acquired with age.

Fortunately I was able to removed most of the damaged areas by performing some subtle reshaping of the wedge. The damaged areas that remained were repaired with CA adhesive and sanding dust.

When I checked the sides of the plane for square to the sole I found something that seemed odd at first. The sides were not square to the sole. The width of the plane body was smaller at the top than at the sole and the taper was equal on either side of the plane. 

 I busied myself with another task and gave this some thought. I finally concluded that this was too much of a coincidence and that this was most likely by design. This slight taper would allow the plane to easily access the bottom corner of a tenon shoulder and would allow a slight undercut when working the shoulder of a tenon cut insuring a tight join on the face of the joint. I did however decide that the amount of taper was a bit excessive and reduced the amount of taper slightly on the surface grinder prior to lapping the sides. I added some slight chamfers to the corners to make the plane nicer in the hand and it was finished.


The plane is ready to go back to work and now looks as if it's capable of doing some fine work. 



  1. Looks Great! I like the way you respectfully brought it back to excellent shape, not babying it, but not hacking away at it either. Many would relegate it to collectible status for fear of the filing work and not having a fresh iron, but you've given it several generations of new life.

  2. Ron, that is just too cool! Looks awesome. Hope you are surviving the heat okay.
    All the best,

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