I am reading Leonard Lee's book "The complete guide to sharpening" and I
have a couple of questions:
1) I have acquired an old rusty plane. It is 14" long and has No5 in relief
just ahead of the front handle and no other markings. The handles are wood
and the sole plate is ridged. Any ideas on age, quality etc.? Is it worth
sharpening as a beginner project?
2) I have a Craftsman chisel set complete with 3 chisels, a very small plane
and a sharpening stone. Is there any way to tell if this is an oil stone
or a water stone? Can oilstones be used as water stones?
Any help much appreciated,
It's probably a Stanley, by sheer law of averages. It'll be a very
useful first plane and is certainly worth restoring to usable condition.
Restoring and using it:
Google for "electrolysis" if you want to take rust off it.
Almost certainly an oil stone. Probably not desperately good quality, or
particularly fine either. Worth using, but if you're at the level of
reading Leonard lee, you might start looking at better stones too.
Clean oilstones can. Once they've been used with oil you pretty much
have to stay with it. Neither are "waterstones" in the Japanese sense,
as they're much harder and don't form a slurry. However water works OK
as a lubricant, especially for finer stones.
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
Thanks for the links and the information. I appear to have a Stanley No. 5
plane circa 1932. I have taken most of the rust off with muriatic acid
(HCl) and Evapo-Rust. Now I have to start to "tune" it.
By the way, I've never sharpened anything. I'm reading L. Lee to find out
Several years ago someone far wiser than I posted this and I found it a
"saver." I don't remember who, but if the original writer wants to take
credit, please do.
Get yourself a cheap battery charger, a stainless steel rod, some
(Arm&Hammer "washing soda" (can be found in the laundry section of most
stores is sold as a "detergent booster"), and a plastic pail full of
non-abrasive nylon scrubbing pad, a roll of paper towels, and a tin of
carnuba paste wax.
Throw some washing soda in the water and swish it around to dissolve
it. Connect the rusty object to the - Terminal of the charger and place it
in the water, connect the steel rod to the + terminal and submerge it in
the water (make certain the two objects _cannot_ touch each-other... turn
the charger on and witness the bubbles. after a few hours the water should
be pretty disgusting, wherever there _was_ rust will now have a black
it. Wipe the film off w/ the nylon scrubber and dry it _immediately_,
apply the paste wax according to directions on the container.
I have had a couple of requests for this recently and there are a lot
of new subscribers, so here 'tis again. I hope I have covered all the points
so we don't start the thread again.
Q. What is the method?
A. A technique for returning surface rust to iron. It uses the effect
of an small low voltage electric current and a suitable electrolyte
Q. What advantages does the method have over the old standbys, like
vinegar, Coke, muriatic acid, Naval Jelly, wire brushing, sand blasting
A. These methods all remove material to remove the rust, including
un-rusted surfaces. With many, the metal is left with a "pickled look or a
color and texture. The electrolytic method removes nothing: by
returning surface rust to metallic iron, rust scale is loosened and can
removed. Un-rusted metal is not affected in any way.
Q. What about screws, pivots, etc that are "rusted tight"?
A. The method will frequently solve these problems, without the need
for force, which can break things.
Q. Is it safe?
A. The solutions used are not hazardous; the voltages and currents are
low, so there is no electrical hazard. No noxious fumes are produced. The
method is self-limiting: it is impossible to over clean an object.
Q. Where did this method come from?
A. Electrolysis is a standard technique in the artifact restoration
wrote this up for the Chronicle of the Early American Industries
few years back. Most of the tool collectors around here use it:
Q. What do I need?
A. A plastic tub; a stainless steel or iron electrode, water and
(NOT baking soda!!) and a battery charger. About a tablespoon of soda
gallon of water. If you have trouble locating the washing soda,
will work just fine. It's a tad more nasty--always wear eye protection
sure to add the lye to the water (NOT water to lye!!!) The solution is
is not harmful, though you might want to wear gloves.
Q. How long does the solution last?
A. Forever, though the loosened rust will make it pretty disgusting
while. Evaporation and electrolysis will deplete the water from the
Add water ONLY to bring the level back.
Q. What about the iron electrode?
A. The iron electrode works best if it surrounds the object to be
cleaned, since the cleaning is "line of sight" to a certain extent. The
iron electrode will be eaten away with time. Stainless steel has the
advantage (some alloys,
but not all) that it is not eaten away.
Q. How do I connect the battery charger?
A.THE POLARITY IS CRUCIAL!! The iron or stainless electrode is
connected to the positive (red) terminal. The object being cleaned, to
the negative (black). Submerge the object, making sure you have good
contact, which can be difficult with heavily rusted objects.
Q. How do I know if it is working?
A. Turn on the power. If your charger has a meter, be sure come
flowing. Again, good electrical contact may be hard to make-it is
Fine bubbles will rise from the object.
Q. How long do I leave it?
A. The time depends on the size of the object and of the iron
electrode, and on
the amount of rust. You will have to test the object by trying to wipe
rust. If it is not completely clean, try again. Typical cleaning time
moderately rusted objects is a few hours. With heavily rusted objects
left over night.
Q. How do I get the rust off after I remove the object?
A. Rub the object under running water. A paper towel will help. For
rusted objects, a plastic pot scrubber can be used, carefully.
Depending on the
amount of original rust, you may have to re-treat.
Q. My object is too big to fit. Can I clean part of it?
A. Yes. You can clean one end and then the other. Lap marks should be
the cleaning was thorough.
Q. After I take it out, then what?
A. The clean object will acquire surface rust very quickly, so wipe it
dry further in a warm oven or with a hair dryer. You may want to apply
light oil or a coat of wax to prevent further rusting.
Q. Will the method remove pitting?
A. No. It only operates on the rust in immediate contact with unrusted
What's gone is gone.
Q. What will it look like when I am done?
A. The surface of rusted metal is left black. Rusted pits are still
unrusted metal is untouched.
Q. What about nickel plating, paint, japanning and the like?
A. Sound plating will not be affected. Plating under which rust has
will usually be lifted. The solution may soften some paints. Test with
solution in an inconspicuous place. Remove wood handles if possible
Q. How can I handle objects that are awkward to clean?
A. There are lots of variants: suspending an electrode inside to clean
in an object; using a sponge soaked in the electrolyte with a backing
to clean spots on large objects or things that shouldn't be submerged
lots of wood)
Q. How can I dispose of the solution?
A. The bath will last until it gets so disgusting that you decide it
a fresh one. There is nothing especially nasty about it-it's mildly
disposal is not a concern, except you may not want all the crud in
Q. Can I use metal containers?
A. This is highly risky. Galvanized metal can introduce zinc into the
If you have used lye, it will attack aluminum. You may have problems
electrical shorts, etc. Stick to plastic.
Q. How can I clean odd shaped objects?
A. Be ingenious. Plastic PVC pipe and eave troughs, wooden boxes with
poly vapor barrier.
Any "old" hand tool is worth restoring, in my opinion, especially if
you do the work yourself. Plus the satisfaction of bringing "it" to
life and experiencing the thrill of using the plane after who knows how
long it sat idle or how many previous owners used it?
Clean it up! Tune it up, (Fine Woodworking, issue July/Aug '87, Shop
Notes #36 or best "The handplane book" by Garrett hack!) Pick up some
nice monocrystaline diamond stones, (I prefer DMT's, available from
most good catalogs) and a honing guide, ( the "Sharpening Sled",
www.alisam.com), and sharpen the iron.
Good luck, and have fun!
I have been learning about sharpening and some of my notes might be
helpful about what others have said about choosing sharpening tools
Should be well worth the time to clean/tune it up.
Place it on paper in a warm (110 degree) oven. If the paper shows an
oil spot, it's an oil stone. But you can use oil or water. I use my
small stones as "oil" stones and reserve the large round stones for my
Makita waterston sharpener. I would not put oil on a waterstone, but
would put water on an oil stone.
it's definitely worth doing a good tune up and sharpening to. it'll
teach you a lot about how a handplane works. if nothing is seriously
wrong with it it will probably be a fine working tool, well worth
keeping sharp and at hand.
I hardly ever use oil on a stone. if water is too thin a fluid I'll use
a drop of dish detergent. if the stone has been used with oil already
the detergent will over time clean it up.
the stone that comes with a set of sears chisels is likely too coarse to
Everybody else has covered most of the questions, so I'll ask you this
one. What kind of "very small plane"? Block plane or bench plane.
PLEASE don't clean it before we find out. It *could* be a horrible
Dave in Fairfax
Please note, the plane I am cleaning is a large old No. 5 bench plane. I
only described the plane in the Craftsman chisel set to help you identify
the set and therefore the stone that comes with it. The chisels and plane
in the set are brand new and I am not cleaning or restoring them. I may,
of course, sharpen and hone them once I am smart enough to do so.
I hope this sets your mind at rest. Again, thanks to all who responded with
advice and encouragement.
Too much is barely enough! 'Course SWMBO looks at me funny sometimes.
I like to have my planes set up just slightly differently in each group
so that I can switch easily without having to change settings. LOTS of
planes are a requirement, not an option. 'Sides, if you're slightly
larger than average a #6 feels like a #5 so #7s & #8s are a gimme.
Dave in Fairfax
reply-to doesn't work
daveldr at att dot net
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.