Note: This was the first webpage I did on restoring an old
tool back in 1998 and was one of the
first on the web to deal with the subject. The photos are pre-digital camera days.
The subject of wooden plane cleaning comes up
on a regular basis, and has been debated numerous
times at all levels of the tool collection community. Some people want their tools to look just as found,
most will tolerate a resonable amount of cleaning, some guys do off the deep end, right down to the
I take the attitude that while the actual patima of the plane should
be preserved, grime, dust, mud, etc
are not patina. Take for example the following plow plane. This is a Sandusky #119,
orginally sold with 8 irons (the #118 was the same plane but came with 4 irons). Fairly common piece.
This one still has a Sandusky iron with it. The body is beech and the arms and nuts are boxwood.
The second photo didn't come out as good
as I wanted but you can see the overall condition
and coloration of the plane. I used the wax formula, Beeswax Formula with an extra fine paint stipper pad
(I cut this into smaller pieces about 1" wide and about 2" long). Just dipped the pad into the mix and
started scrubbing. Note: I try to scrub with the grain to start, if I have to go against the grain to get
something really clean, I do it very carefully. First couple of passes lots of gunk comes off and I keep
wiping the body off with paper towels, so I don't work too much of it in. I just keep working it
down until I get the plane to where it looks nice. The arms I carefully worked the same way and and
just use paper towel and my thumbnail to chase the extra wax out of the threads. I use a very fine, but
dull, awl to lighly clean out any detail areas like where the arm joins the body or scribe lines.
I normally don't remove the skate, but this one was rusty in spots so I did, and cleaned it
the same way.
I usually let everything sit overnight, then wipe it off good with
clean paper towel or a old towel
the next day. The results are as follows
You can see how much lighter the wood is, but yet it still has a
nice patina'd look.
The next photo shows this plane (on the left) with another #119. This one came in varnished.
Some planes were varnished at the factory, however, this one had stains underneath the finish, so I
knew that it wasn't original. (I've got a special spot in a very warm place for plow plane varnishers).
This one required stripping, but came out fairly nice. (Due to the limits of the lighting when I took this
the plane on the left looks darker than it should).
Originally created April 1, 1998
Last Updated 3/6/2007
Copyright 1998-2007 Anthony V. Seo