Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sandusky Tool Company - Panel Plow Planes

Folks, the flurry of comments (ok, two) on my blog has inspired the first post of 2016. Robert M., thanks for your question on the Plow planes to get us started.

Today we are going to discuss the joy of owning a Sandusky Tool Company Panel Plow Plane (STCPPP?!?). I picked up a 132 Boxwood, with Handle a few years back and it came with all 8 original irons. Here she is in all of her grubby glory.
Still dirty as I found her, just a light wax...

 I picked up my 132 with 8 irons for a low bid in an online auction - I can't remember if it was MJD or Browns.
Very often I see these with the upside down stamp. Any ideas why?

There are great little details that just aren't found on many tools today. Check out the knurling on the wooden nuts.

These are probably the most well known of Sandusky planes, and the rarer, more ornate center-wheels have fetched a pretty penny. Brown Tool Auctions sold a Presentation Center Wheel for just under$115K.

In both catalogs (1877 and 1925) the plow planes share the range of 116 to 143. The full range can be divided in the following subgroups:

  1. 116-124: Beech planes, 2 threaded arms, some with fancier wood for arms or fence
  2. 125-137: Boxwood/Rosewood/Ebony planes, 2 threaded arms
  3. 137-143: Boxwood/Rosewood/Ebony planes, Center Wheel (AKA Self-Regulating)

From a hand-tool user standpoint, there are great values to be had in the first range, although planes in excellent condition can still fetch more than a new Veritas Plow plane. The second range has a good mix of user planes and collectibles on the open market, again driven mostly by condition. The third range generally run into the thousands for nice specimens.

For a decent user, make sure the threads are still intact enough to be locked down anywhere in their full range. Check the fence for warping; the best case is perfectly straight, although you can work around a bow as long as its toward the blade. A cup towards the blade can mess up the beginning and end of your cut. I also recommend a handled model, as they are a little more comfortable to use for a longer session.

If purchasing for more than just a user - look for all irons to have matching patina, an original and fitting wedge, no cracks in the handle or horn of the handle, free movement of the wood screws/ fittings, and proper patina on all screws - especially those attaching the fence. These can be freshly stripped if the seller pieced things together from different planes. Purchasing an expensive center-wheel is probably best left to expert collectors, and is beyond my hands on experience.

The good news is (for buyers, anyway) is that the market for the 3rd tier of planes had been soft lately, and I recall seeing a few plow planes go for well under their estimated value in recent auctions. There is no time like the present to blow your grandkids inheritance on a glorified chunk of wood.

One very important note - Boxwood can react with anti-rust paper, also known as VCI (Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor) paper or wraps. While this stuff is wonderful for storing your metal tools, it will permanently stain old boxwood.

Here's a more detailed breakdown for the Type A guys and gals out there. Some notes on the table:
  • Where no wood is listed for the Fence or Handle, it matches the main body material
  • Boxed Fences have a strip of boxwood inlaid into the main fence material
  • STC did many custom jobs in the Plow Plane range and sold 5 types of arms separately, so you can run across a harlequin now and then - this will not affect usability but could impact its value as a collectible

#MaterialIronsStopArmsFenceHandleIvory TipSelf Regulating
130Box or Rose8screw
131Box or Rose8screwYes
132Box or Rose8screwYes
133Box or Rose8screwYesYes
138Box or Rose8screwYes
139Box or Rose8screwYesYes
140Box or Rose8screwYesYes
141Box or Rose8screwYesYesYes

Well Folks, thanks for making it through another long winded post. I have a few more in the pipeline, including a full rundown on all the un-handled Filletster planes.

I know, the anticipation is killing you - until next time,


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ye Olde 92-ers

Gentlemen, today is a special day. You are going to meet some special friends of mine.

I could use many words to drum-roll these beauties. Simply put - this is a prime example of what happens when you ask Patrick Leach 'if he has any Sandusky planes laying around'. Welcome down the rabbit-hole, kiddies.

This close, you can almost smell the work these planes avoided.
At this point, there are 2 types of readers (those of you who have seen the page countometer - stop laughing); The type that have no idea what the above photo is, and the type that do. Of the latter, most of you are probably wondering why I have chosen to overlay that odd wailing music over this blog.

I am sorry to inform you, that is actually not my blog, but your own woeful mewlings of desire. Get a hold of yourself man, before the wife spots your Unauthorized Coveting. Better? Ok - one more.

With my very own initials. As if they were destined for me.
 Ok, lets take a break from the Gratuitous Beeching to review what we know about Sandusky Hollow & Rounds. They, as most large US planemakers, followed thier own damn rules about numbers, sets and sizes in relation to European makers (although they are almost identical to Ohio Tool Companys set). Here is what a caliper and copy of the catalogs will net you:

Set # Straight Skew Nom. Width
1      92      93      1/4"
2      92      93      3/8"
3      92      93      1/2"
4      92      93      5/8"
5      92      93      3/4"
6      92      93      7/8"
7      92      93      1"
8      92      93      1 1/8"
9      92      93      1 1/4"
10      94      1 3/8"
11      94      1 1/2"
12      94      1 5/8"
13* 94      1 3/4"
14* 94      1  7/8" 
15* 94      2"
* Shown in 1925 Catalog Only

Essentially, 92s and 93s were the same set offered in Straight vs. Skew; The larger boys were in thier own model number (94) and were not offerred in Skew. Not to say STC never made a set for custom orders but I've not seen a larger Skew yet.

The whole enchilada. Finish on the smaller sets is slightly more worn; the larger of the pairs are near mint with original finish.
Another interesting thing was that the early catalog they went through the trouble to show each profile of the sets 1-12; in the 1925 catalog, everything has been condensed down to a table. This is likely a reflection of them trying to focus on a more diversified offering in the final years; by 1925 if you didn't know what a hollow and round profile looked like, you probably weren't buyin' them anyways.
Some of the older planes don't even look like they were sharpened - it appears they were purchased, stamped, and forgotten.
Gentlemen, thanks for hanging out. I leave you with a reminder of the imperfection of man, and therefore, our tools. The 6 round has a replacement blade that is not perfect width.

Now you must also carry my burden.

 Who would have known that a gap of a few millimeters could have such a profound effect on a mans soul? During a quiet night on the porch, sometimes I think I can hear the irons keening wail as it looks to come home. The original CAS, whoever you were - thanks for keeping these planes so prime for us.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cleaning Old Tools

Hey guys, this is out as a reminder to the Type A in me, and for any new galoots or collectors. I know alot of folks, me included, probably did a bit of over-cleaning to antique tools when we started. Then you find Lee Richmonds site, and feel small and stupid and like a old british tool dealer with a wire brush and a heavy hand. Luckily, I didn't ruin anything too valuable in pursuit for shiny, but you may not be so lucky...

I also know that attempting to enter the 'clean vs. restore vs. argon chamber' debate a few posts in to my very first blog is a reflection of great intelligence. So without delay.

First question: Is it absolutely, irrevocably, unassailably a common product or item? No special marking, patent, tag, cave drawing, double stamp, upside down bi-plane, FDR bitemark, rare earth metal or stone? If you are not 100% sure, my humble suggestion would be you treat it as valuable. There are lots of variations in some common older tools that can take them from ho-hum to special. This is especially true as you get into pre-1900 items. Do your research, and proceed slowly.
If its common tool destined for your bench (and god forbid, within your Queens reach too) - have at ye. My personal favorite is electrolysis to remove rust from larger ferrous items, its painless and completely foolproof when setup properly, and also has the side benefit of softenting old japanning if you're stripping a metal bench plane. Do read the safety info online, do it outside, do use a GFC on the circuit, don't use stainless steel, don't lick the damn thing while its on - basically, dont be an a-hole and get Sawstop involved with my water bucket.

For these projects, Sandflex blocks, made by Klingspor are outstanding for smaller items and light spot rust. Use only the fine and medium, coarse is for restoring 1/2 ton truck panels. I almost always start with the fine, and work up to Med if I have issues, then back down. Very very light rust can be resolved or at least stopped with a proper coating of Rennaisance Wax, which you should use on everything but your dog and mother. All of these methods are abrasive to some extent (even R. wax has polishing compounds), so proceed carefully.

Electrolysis is more gentle, but requires more setup, and can be challenging where un-removable parts exist that would not fare well with the waterboarding shock treatment. You can coat those parts in wax, but are you here to work the wood or fully restore old tools we've already established are not worth bird farts? Your Call.

OK, so we've covered what you can do with the gloves off - what about for the prime stuff? Lee Richmond of The Best Things rule is the best I've heard, due to its simplicity.
'Do nothing you can't un-do' 
Essentially, wipe down lightly with clean cotton or soft microfiber, wax with a musuem quality wax, lightly buff. Done.
Boiled Linseed Oil should really only be used as a last resort, and I struggle with this one. When dealing with wood planes, especially coming from some regions of the midwest (tragically - Sanduksy planes) - these things can be like the desert. Some valuable tools are so parched that an oiling is required to keep them from checking/splitting into oblivion. But it can greatly darken the wood over time, and has been avoided by dealers, collectors and museums for some time now.

So the question becomes, is the tool more valuable in its current parched state, than it will be after the oiling and potential darkening? It alot of cases, its best to just leave it for the shelf, give it a good coat of wax, and protect it from the environment as best as possible. You cant undo BLO - you can undo wax. If you guys know of any museum quality 'reconditioning' type solutions being used other than a BLO/Tung oil, please let me know.

What about rust on the blade, you say? You want to use it? Well - remember, its the patina that makes collectors and dealers tingle like schoolgirls at a winter formal. Big rust should probably be addressed I cover a piece of paper in duct tape, cut out a hole the size of the rust spoty, tape over the item. Hit it with the rust sponge. Most of the rust removed, without destroying all the patina. flat a bit of the back, hone the edge, wax the rest. Don't lap the sides, bottom, top, strippers, santa or anything else.

Thats about it - the best advice I can give you is the 'ounce of prevention'. Try to search multiple online antique dealers before you buy a rust-bucket. There's so many good users out there for cheap, I just wouldn't split hairs and buy a real dog. And I say this as a humble man who proudly snapped up a real bruiser bedrock off ebay and then watched Patrick Leach sell a near-mint one for $22 bucks more.

As its been said; not in my house. Anymore.