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Lie-Nielsen #140 Skew Rabbet Block Plane Restoration

I was the happy owner of a Stanley #140 but somewhere around the beginning of 2008 I noticed this Lie-Nielsen Skew Rabbet Block Plane on eBay. No one was bidding on it and the price was very low, which I put down to the condition it was in.

It was not just the oxydation/discolouration, but there were missing parts: the steel side plate was MIA (a common feature with the Stanley #140, upon which the LN is based). The fence was also history, and the rod that connected it was frozen/welded to the body. Lastly, the lever cap screw had been replaced with something that looked like it should be holding down MDF.

The blade did not look so good either. It was rusty but restorable.

Obviously I won the auction for the plane, but what may be said is that the selling price was very low, perhaps less than a third of the new price (keeping in mind that LN planes often sell for near-new prices on eBay – although this one was never going to approach that level).

I spent a couple of weeks trying to free the fence rod, without any success. It was Stuck Fast.

In the meantime I contacted LN in the USA, and Thomas Lie-Nielsen personally arranged to send me a new side plate, fence and blade. These parts arrived within 10 days (which is excellent for transport across our Pond). But … on trying to fit the side plate I discovered that it was too short .. or the plane body was too long. …and … the blade was too narrow … ????

So I contacted Thomas L-N once again. Thomas suggested I send the lot to him and that he would sort it out. I agreed.

One last look before the #140 was returned to LN …

It turned out that this was the first skew block plane made by LN and it dates to1985. I had wondered why the colour of the bronze was less yellow than my other bronze LN planes. The answer was simply that the bronze used was not the same formulation.

The original #140 was slightly longer and wider, which explained why the steel side plate (and blade) did not fit. A new plate was manufactured to fit this plane.

For a blade Thomas returned to the original steel used in 1985, which was W1 (water quenched steel). This was thicker than the one that came with the plane, which was obviously the original blade. Well, slightly thicker is better.

The crud and oxidation came off very easily with a wash-and-polish. Re-assembling the plane with all the new parts left this …

Did you notice the new nicker that was also added?

Shiny brass … glorious bling!

The fence now received a sub-fence in Tasmanian Blackwood.

Does it work? Well, what do you think?

There’s a little more to add. In late 2008 I was “working” (a child let loose in a lolly/candy shop) at the Perth Wood Show on the LN stand (demonstrating the use of handtools – this is “work”?!). Phil Dixon (LN Australia) made me a gift of a beautiful Cocobolo knob for the plane. These knobs are now unobtainable in this wood.

I think the combination is stunning!

And there you have it - transformed.

More importantly, on each occasion I use the plane I am reminded that this was made possible by the assistance of Thomas Lie-Nielsen. Thank you Thomas.

Regards from Perth


March 2010