Restoring a Stanley #51/52

December 22, 2006 Message posted on Old Tools

OK, this is a teensy weensy gloat. The opportunity was there, I could not resist the temptation, and now a Stanley #51/52 (1896) has come to live in my workshop. I plan to restore it over the Christmas break.

I did get it for about half the market value as it needs some work. The frog was welded some years ago. I was re-assured that it will not fail, but I can see that the bed is slightly off and needs to be trued. And the hold down is missing ... anyone have a spare? :>) (Yeah, I know ... like hen's teeth). Otherwise it is structurally sound.

January 2007

The journey begins...

I have already posted a couple of notes about the Stanley #51/52 shooting board I recently purchased.

The #51/52 was an addition to the workshop that I have long wanted, having eyed and coveted the one owned by a good friend, Peter Byrne (a lurker on this forum for several years).  You would have met Peter in the review I wrote on the Marcou smoother.  A most gracious gentleman, who has entrusted his #51 to me during the time I restore my own.

Let's start with a few pictures of the #51/52 in question.

This combination is dated 1-21-96 on both the #51 and the #52.


So, what work needs to be done?

Overall, I would rate the japanning present at about 40-50 percent. Maybe
less. I am considering redoing it. Proper japanning, not paint. I would certainly like to hear the views of the Porch about this, as well as methods and recipes. On its own that should make for good conversation.

Of course the tote reads to be redone. lightly sand, a coat of shellac and then wax.  More importantly, I am going to try my hand at constructing another frog. 

The existing frog was repaired (no doubt one of the reasons why I managed to win the 51/52 well below market value).  The previous owner described it as welded", and it may be so, but it has the look of brazing to my eye. He assured me that he used it this way and that the re-construction is strong.  To be blunt, I am not sure how much he used it as the angle of the frog connector is a tad off, not much, but enough to move the frog out of the original alignment.  I plan to build it up using a little epoxy as a shim.  Here are pictures of the frog and the welding done. Peters' frog is on the left, mine on the right:

Here is where the alignment problem lies:

My plan, as I mentioned above, is to use a little epoxy to square up the frog. Just a thin layer where it beds against the bed is all that is needed.

The idea of constructing another frog was at first dismissed out of hand. I lack all the tools and knowledge to cast another frog (anyone out there willing to try, or lend a hand here?!). Damage to the frog is probably the most commonly reported fault (outside of the lost hold-down - another area for a rebuild. To come later).  There are no replacements available (no one makes them - the reproduction #51 of Russ Allen used a different system altogether.  He based his on a #6 frog).  And I was told that none of the other Stanley frogs can substitute.

Well, saying it cannot be done to me is like waving a red flag at a bull! I don't know if I can pull this off, but I'll give it a go. It struck me that, for a #5 1/2 -sized plane, the #51 has a small frog. I was thinking about #4-size, but in fact it turned out to be a #3-size - and guess where the spare #3 frog came from? - I just happened to have one off the #3 infill smoother I recently built:

I compared the two frogs (using Peters' sound version) from different angles:

Side-by-side and from the rear.  I started to get interested.  ...mmmm!

The angles are looking to be the same!

... and another view.

And the dimensions and positions of the parts appear to be in the same place.

So my plan is to cut down this #3 frog. First to remove the portion under the yellow line, so that the bed angle is the same as the original, making sure that the area around the centre screw is untouched.

Then I need to add material below the cut off section. This is the next dilemma - what to use and how to attach it?

I am not even sure that this is necessary, but I assume that it provide support, preventing stress in the cast iron caused by the frog rotating against the bed during the shock in planing. So extending this section will spread the load. How to attach? There is sufficient room to drill and tap holes for the screws for the frog. I am not sure if there is more room for other holes to be drilled. It looks like another brazing job.  Mmm?

That is where I am up to. I will do the epoxying of the frog first, and await ideas about building the frog before I attempt this.

January 20, 2007

Time for an update.  A few decisions have been made, a new direction or two taken, and a little work has begun.

First of all, remember the brazed, misaligned frog?

I was contacted by Jim Davey (in Nowra, New South Wales): "I could probably fix that Frog.  I did one recently for a guy in Melbourne, His was brazed same as yours. I do cast iron fusion welding using CI filler Rod, and would unweld, realign, weld, clean-up and retap the threads with 12-20 tap".

I have seen examples of Jim's wonderful infill planes, so this appeared to be a great opportunity to get a proper fix.  Further, Rob Brophy was of the same mind as myself when he wrote: "Building the bed up with epoxy might just be an exercise in frustration because I suspect it will compress in a short time".

... So I have sent the frog to Jim to let him work his magic on it.

Now I think it is important to backtrack a little at this point.  In another thread I had reported that the #52 had come minus a hold down, a common malady with this shooting board (as I suspect that they are rarely used), and that I had managed to track down a reproduction from Russ Allen.

An original hold down looks like this:

The second decision was made in regard to machining the hold down that I obtained from Russ Allen. There were two influencing actions. The first was receiving dimensions from Peter McBride (in Melbourne) of an original hold down,

Peter wrote:

Width - 1"

Height - 3 19/64"

Foot length - 2"

Screw slot for square under the head of the 1/4 inch 20 TPI coach bolt-..

Width - 9/32", length - 2 9/16" and isn't recessed at the front, but there is a recess at the back 1/8" deep leaving a 1/8" wall thickness. The wing-nut is the same casting / forging ?? As that on #46 arm, and the blade holder on the #46 and #45..BUT...both of those have larger diam threads. #45 Same TPI, #46 higher thread count. (plug and re-thread ?? Since surprisingly it's a standard thread on the hold down screw)."

He also sent a few images of the hold down, which I have edited here:

It was very clear that Russ' was a rough casting and would require a fair amount of machining to get it to the correct size. Shortly after I began reporting my intentions, Russ wrote: "The pattern I made was based on the casting I got from Rob Kempinski. After seeing Peter's dimensions I see it s far from the original".

As I began stocking up with 40 grit belts for the belt Sander, a bunch of gas masks in the expectation of clouds of grey dust, and increasing my health insurance policy, I received a note from Peter Robinson:

"I was in Hans Brunner's Stanley parts page looking for some cutters for my small plough plane, and I noticed he has a copy of a hold down for a '52 like yours. Depending on how much it's going to cost you to get the milling done, this one might be worth a look".

One look at the hold down on Han's web page and I sent an email with an order. The second reproduction hold down was delivered by the postman today.  While there is some machining to do, this looks to be a simple matter, and one that is within my own range of expertise.

Here are comparison pictures (the larger one is Russ' casting of Rob Kempinski's pattern, the smaller is the one from Hans):

I have put the hold down aside to work on at a later date. At present I have begun cleaning up the cast iron frames, and I shall report on these next time.

February 2008

After the absence of about 12 months, I returned to the restoration of the Stanley #51/52.

I had left off with the need to rebuild the frog. Well, it took me all this time to figure out what to do.

The lugs holding the frog had been broken at some time and poorly welded. As a result the frog leaned back very slightly – by a couple of degrees. I had hoped that the frog would be re-welded. Unfortunately this was not possible, and so I was back to square one.

So I sat on it. The months went by. Other projects dominated. Then the light bulb went on over my head… the solution lay not in the frog but in the mouth.

One of the aspects of restoration I find so interesting is the detective work. We probe here, explore there.  Uncover a little data, link it to other evidence … and suddently the truth emerges…. The butler did it!

Here is the picture of the mouth of the plane. The gap highlighted is under the back of the blade. In other words, the blade is unsupported.

Here is the picture of Peter’s #51’s mouth. It is unspoilt, completely original.

The first thing that caught my eye was how tight the mouth was. Then I realized that the design was not different from mine, and that mine had instead been modified. The part I am referring to is the relief cutout.

Here is my plane:

It is now apparent that my relief was also round, but the mouth had been filed away and the “round” had been converted into a semi-circle. Clearly, this was the previous owners’ “solution” to the blade rising up when the frog rocked back.

Here is the line of the frog to the mouth. You can see how the backward tilt lifts the blade clear of the mouth by about 3mm.

I had been trying this and that in an attempt to reseat the frog in its original position. I added epoxy putty to the lower edge. This allowed the blade to rest on the mouth – but now the mouth was even wider.

While the mouth size is not important when planing end grain, it is important when planing edge grain … and I would say that a small mouth makes it easier to determine the blade’s projection. So I was looking at a way to reduce the mouth.

It was the need to alter the mouth size that lead to the solution in regard to the frog. It is amazing that the solution was so simple in the end.

There is a silly cartoon I recall from about 20 or 30 years ago. The TV repairman writes a bill for $99.05 which the TV owner queries as all the repairman did was replace a 5c screw.  The repairman replies, “it was 5c for the screw and $99 to know where to put it!".

In the end all I did was bolt up the frog nice and tight, and then add a reinforcing shim under the back of the blade.

The frog was filed to remove any irregularities.

These had the following effect on the blade:

This I can live with.

A test cut … Here is the #51/52 doing its first test shoot on end grain and side grain.  For reference, I am using a Japanese Smoothcut (laminated) blade along with a Clifton capiron.

And the results are terrific!

I am ready to silver solder the mouth shim, and then move on to the re-jappaning.

March 2008

We are finally nearing the end of the journey …

Although I have still to finish the holddown to officially complete this rebuild, I thought that I would post these progress pictures.

Firstly, I completed the mouth with a new shim that was epoxied in place (heavy duty epoxy). I expect this to last a good few decades. So why did I not use silver solder as I had originally planned?

Silver solder certainly would withstand the heat of the oven (better than, say, epoxy) when curing japanning. However I was concerned that the required high heat to melt the solder may cause the bed/sole of the plane to warp. The trouble was that if I did instead use epoxy to be safe, I could not use a traditional japanning. Bit of a Catch-22.

Then I came across the japanning recipe of Stephen Shepherd - half asphaltum and half marine varnish.

"I use roofing tar, but first let the volitiles evaporate, then mix it up with the McCloskey's Marine Spar Varnish (Gloss).

I put the stuff on both wood and metal and it seems to be very durable. It is important to prepare the surfaces, I use alcohol on metal to clean the surface of any grease or oil. I may wash them with soap and water first, surface prep is important. As far as baking the stuff, I of course don't bake the wood, but I will set the piece in direct sunlight, it helps cure the finish. On metal I do occasionally bake it but not at a very high temperature, 220 degrees F. I have done this for Ferro-type or tintype plates for a friend that does historic photography. If you don't bake it it is a bit soft for a while but in a few weeks it hardens up. I am sure Stanley and the other makers of metal planes used Japan Driers in their recipes, which I believe mine is close. As for the look, it is spot on, deep black with tinges of brown showing through on edges, this is the real look, which can not be achieved with any kind of modern paint or powder coating. It also works well for inpainting missing japanning on metal objects. I restore a lot of tin ware, which is where my experience is, as I do not own any modern metal planes."

Stephen confirmed: “Here in the US roofing tar is asphaltum. Asphaltum is available from a variety of sources and can be spendy, roofing tar is cheap, I have actually never bought any as when you tell someone that is tarring a roof, they will usually give you some.”

It was exactly what I was looking for. Having used it now, I can confirm it looks the Real McCoy. One word of advice - it is self levelling if used on a flat surface. If may leave runs if used on a vertical surface. So do one surface at a time.

So we have what may be seen to be a cold cure japanning. That is, it does not require the high heat of an oven. And this makes it feasible to use epoxy on the mouth.

Note that the mouth is not a area of stress, and I very much doubt that this non-traditional fix (the only one in this project) will weaken the structure in any way.

Here is the original mouth …

Here it is with the new (shaped) plate epoxied in place …

And here it is re-japanned …

Yesterday and today I spent re-japanning everything. I heated and baked the parts in the sun out in the garden. It was hot and the cast iron warmed up nicely to part-cure the japanning. It will be a few weeks before it is fully hardened.

Stephen wrote me after this was completed: “Depending on temperature and humidity, the spar varnish will dry in 8 to 24 hours and will continue to cure for a few weeks. The asphaltum element adds some time to the drying process and hardens up as it cures. It will take more time, but you get the right look by using the right materials.”

Now just the holddown to complete machining. I have a rough casting in the works.

Regards from Perth