I bought a very nice pair of rule joint planes from Lee Richmond at the Best Things a number of months back. I picked these up specifically for the drop leaf table. If you are looking for good quality moulding planes check out Lee’s offerings. He has top quality stuff. I bought a pair of fenced planes made by Josiah King a prolific New York City planemaker. These planes are stamped Josiah N. King, 373 Bowery, New York. Emil and Marty Pollak (Guide to Makers of American Wooden Planes) notes that King worked at that address from 1858-1887. In 1870 the business became Josiah King & Son. This suggests that the planes were made sometime between 1858 and 1870, making somewhere between 145 and 157 years old!
These planes were in fantastic shape when I received them, and may have been used sometime in the near past, however they needed a bit of tuning up. I’m sure there are many ways of tuning vintage wooden planes, but I’ll show you what works for me. The most important aspect of a well tuned plane is making sure that the iron profile exactly matches the sole profile. Over the last century and a quarter, the bodies of these have shrunk jut a bit so the profiles no longer perfectly match. They were close but not perfect. In the photo below; looking down the sole of the round-over plane you can see that the iron does not project an even amount all along its profile. Material will need to be removed from the edge of the iron everywhere except where the red line points. If I backed off the iron a smidgen for a reasonable cut, the iron would not project past the sole where the red line points, and the plane would stop cutting within a few strokes.
The red line points to the low area on the profile of the iron.
The cove plane is even worse. In the photo the iron is set rank so it projects pretty far on the fence side of the plan, but not at all on the depth stop side as illustrated by the red lines. This plane would start to cut, but would stop well before the entire cove was cut.
The red line illustrate where the plane would stop cutting as the iron does not project past the sole in that area.
The irons need to be re-profiled to exactly match the soles, in order to use these planes. I’ll show you how I do it with the cove plane. If you don’t have a bottle of DYKEM in your shop you need one. As you can see I have painted the back of the iron with the layout fluid so I can scribe the sole profile on it.
I put the iron back on the plane set the wedge and made sure the was positioned properly up against the blind side of the mortise. I used the scribe you see on the photo to scribe the sole profile into the layout fluid.
Here is a shot of the iron with the sole profile scribed on it.
Now its just a matter of grinding to the scribe line. This one is easy, because it can be dome on the grinder. For concave curves such as the round over iron I will use slip stones or mounted abrasive points in a Dremel tool. I ground the iron to shape at 90 degrees on the bench grinder, then ground the bevel angle at about 30. From there its just a matter of checking to see that the profile matches the sole, adjusting as necessary, and sharpening. I flattened the back of both irons, as a previous owner had put a back bevel on to sharpen the irons. Please don’t do this, it just makes sharpening them properly even harder. I turned a burr on a fine India and finished on a translucent Arkansas.
The round-over plane iron did not need much reshaping, so I was able to do that with slip-stones. Had it been worse I would used mounted points in the Dremel tool to reshape and grind the bevel.
I cut a test joint in pine, which worked out quite nice. I love those tortured shaving moulding planes produce.
Not bad for a tool that is a century and a half old. Mounting the hinges seems to be the hardest part! I’ll be leaving a couple extra inches of width on the table top and leaf in case I screw that up!
Thanks for visiting, and I hope this helps someone to tune up their moulding planes.