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Bob’s Stanley #3

I have a special fondness for the Stanley #3 handplane. I inherited my father-in-law's English-made #3 at a time when I was still solidly into powertools, and so it disappeared into the back of a shelf. About 15 years ago (circa 1995), having built a new house, I was deep into attaching doors and using a noisy, messy, powered Makita plane to trim the edges, suffocating under the usual earmuffs and eye protection needed for this tool. At some stage the blades on the Makita became too blunt to use and, being a weekend, the store that stocked replacements was closed. Then I recalled the little #3 at the back of the shelf. I'd never used one before, and only had a general idea what to do with it. Indeed, my FIL had passed on several years before the #3 came to live with me, and so the blade had not been sharpened for a couple of decades.

I must have done something right, or Bob was smiling down and had a hand in it, but the moment I place the sole on the edge of the door and pushed forward, I got this "schhhhiiiiiiikkkkkk", and a long ribbon of wood appeared in the silence of the workshop, getting longer and longer as I pushed the plane forward. There is no way to forget that moment - I was hooked!

The #3 is small and intimate. I just loved using this plane.

Now here's the embarrassing part. My confession is that I am a compulsive modifier, and have been ever since I could walk (so my parents tell me). I read about tuning planes. One of the tips was to file a chamfer inside the mouth to aid the flow of shavings. But I clearly misunderstood the directive ... and filed the outside of the sole .. effectively opening the mouth! I didn't recognise what I had done for a few years (as I only really used the plane on softwoods), until I became educated by Badger Pond. And then I felt awful! How could I have done this to Bob's plane?!

I never told anyone in the family. I very much doubt that they would have understood the issue anyway. Years went by with the #3 on the shelf again. Every now-and-then I searched eBay for another plane as a donor. Finally I found one that was identical to Bob's. I was not interested in a better #3. I just wanted the same English casting, one in the same condition - but the #3 is not easy to find ... Onto the "new" base I placed Bob's frog, blade, knob and tote. I sharpened the England-made blade for the first time in many years and ran it over a piece of Karri Pine. It went "Schhhhhhiiiiikkkkk". 

The jazz on the shop stereo never sounded sweeter.

Regards from Perth


February 2010