View Full Version : question on plane handles and japanning

Stephen Sebed
04-12-2003, 11:55 PM
I just received a Stanley Bailey #4 from my grandfather. I plan to clean it up and make it useable. The plane has wood handles that appear to be painted black. The paint is chipped quiet a bit and I would like to remove it and refinish the handles. What is the best way to refinish them? There are also several places where the japanning has come off. Is it possible to remove the rust and paint the spots again or will it look bad? What would you recommend? I have already looked at the step by step article w/pics on tuning hand planes and also RJ's 19 steps; I have one question though. Should you be able to use the lateral adjusting lever when the blade is locked down?


John Wadsworth
04-13-2003, 9:44 AM
Oh man, Stephen--there are probably as many ways to reply to your questions as there are Neander types.

So, here is my two cents' worth:

On the handles--if it's really black paint, the original varnish finish must have been shot and the wood possibly discolored. It may, on the other hand, just be really dirty/darkened varnish. If the latter, you might want to try a furniture finish "refresher" to dissolve and wipe away the dirty part. If the former, it will do no harm to strip; if the wood underneath is OK, you can refinish with a few coats of whatever you like--a wiping varnish (I like Waterlox) or shellac.

On the japanning--parts that are really loose--usually with rust underneath--have to come off. Black paint will look like hell; japanning is really a baked-on, pigmented tarry compound (asphaltum) and takes a good deal of messing around to redo decently. You may prefer to just live with the patchy look.

On the lateral adjuster--both lateral and depth adjustments on a Bailey design bench plane should be usable with the cap iron snapped down--that's one of the beauties of the design. If they don't, you may have the cap iron screw too tight; you can often tell it is if the cap iron is hard to operate--it needs to be snug but not really tight.

Stephen Sebed
04-13-2003, 10:50 AM
Ok, I might just forget about repainting the body. I looked at the dating chart for stanley planes and I think it is a Type 17 made from 1942-1945. The chart mentions that the handles were sometimes painted black. So, the wood under the paint may be good. I want to try to varnish the handles and if it doesn't look nice I may paint it black again. After I strip the handles should I stain the wood? If so, what color? Then I should apply the varnish or shellac. Thanks again

Jim DeLaney
04-13-2003, 1:51 PM
Since it's a WWII era plane, the wood is probably birch or maple, or some other generic hardwood, and will be fairly 'featureless' once stripped. That's why they were painted in the first place. You may be able to use a rosewood or red mahogany stain to bring out a little color or detail , but probably not.

Does yours have the hard rubber adjuster, or the steel or brass one? Hard rubber is most common, but Stanley used up leftover parts so steel and brass are often seen, too.

What about the frog adjusting screw? Is there one? Most WWII planes didn't have them, but again, often leftover parts were used.

The best thing about the WWII planes was/is that the castings were much heavier then pre or post war planes, giving them a much nicer 'heft.' I've never figured out why, since there was supposed to be a steel/iron shortage during the war, that Stanley made their castings heavier instead of lighter. No logic to it, but that's the way it is...

<Center><FONT FACE="Comic Sans MS" COLOR="Blue">Jim D.</FONT></Center>
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Bart Leetch
04-13-2003, 4:21 PM
I have a Baily #4 that has real fine pitting nothing that effects the usability of it. When I got it it had been spray painted over the oily surface & the japanning didn't exist.

John I know you don't advocate this, but I cleaned & scrubbed this plane up till it almost glowed & then using black primer I primed the inside area of the top of the plane then put it in the oven on about 150 degrees & baked the primer on 2 coats & 2 coats of black spray paint & it turned out real nice for a user. I ended up with a real nice user & only a purist like you would ever know the difference.

Oh yes I forgot I clean my knob & tote & sand them down to a fine grit & the take them over to my buffing wheel & buff in several coats of Johnson's wax & then put it all together & it works fine & looks good.

Stephen Sebed
04-14-2003, 4:37 PM
This plane has the hard black rubber depth adjuster. It doesn't have a frog adjusting screw on it. I think I will either varnish the handles or wax them, I think that even plain wood looks better than to have them painted black.