Block Planes

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Restoring Planes: Metal and Wooden

  Restoration of an Old “Pope” #4 Smoother by John Manners 1 of 8  

This is the Pope No 4 plane as it was acquired on 7 April, 2007 for $20.00, a bit too much, in my opinion.

It was fairly rusty, although I have acquired such planes in much worse condition and in much better condition for considerably less.  Overall, it was quite sound.


I  am indebted to an article by Rod Thomas of the HTPAA for outlining a brief history of “Falcon Pope”, later, merely “Pope” planes. 

Rod writes: “Falcon planes were developed between 1944-1945 and began selling to the public in 1946.  The name was changed from Falcon to Pope in the early 1950s and it is most likely they ceased manufacturing in 1955/57... 

During the war and the immediate post war period the demand for these tools (in Australia) was considerable but as soon as the supply from overseas was resumed, with perhaps a quality/price edge, the local manufacturer with a limit on quantity could not compete.”

Most of the Tools for the Job

Simple enough.  A block of wood, planed flat, on which to place abrasive paper so that rust may be ground off above the bench’s clutter; a couple of pieces of abrasive paper; an old tooth brush - the most hard-worked item of equipment;

Screw driver for disassembly - the wooden handled variety are cheap at the fleas, usually sport high quality steel blades and, most importantly, are much more comfortable (for me) to use than their plastic handled cousins; a pencil and engineers’ square for getting things square in due course; and an India stone mounted in a 4" x 4" block of hardwood, 1' long (again, to keep the work above the clutter) and its accompaniment, stoning fluid consisting of a bit of motor oil and a lot of kerosene.

Keeping the fluid container in a tin avoids getting the stuff all over the bench. The dog’s paw towards the bottom left hand corner is optional but that which is attached thereto can be relied upon to impart the benefit of his deep philosophical insights regarding the progress of the work.

The sole and side of the project plane, showing its deep attachment to rust and paint.  My hypothesis is that the plane once enjoyed respectable proprietorship but that, on Dad’s demise, it fell upon evil times in the hands of Dad’s heir and found, as its sole employment, the removal of paint and nail-heads from the tops of sticking doors and windows.

The word “Restoration” is deliberately chosen for the title to this piece.  The plane is to be restored to the hypothesized state which it would have attained at the time of its last thoughtful use before neglect and abuse took their toll.  It is not intended to refurbish it to an “as new” state.

There lies the poor thing disassembled into most of its constituent parts.  The lateral adjustment lever and the depth adjustment yoke are, thankfully, in reasonable working order and remain, as their maker intended, attached to the frog.  The depth-adjustment wheel was corrosion-frozen to the stud and its attempted removal merely resulted in the stud’s being removed from the Frog. 

The wheel and its stud are threaded left hand which is a little surprising in circumstances where the cheaper U.K. and Australian planes of early post-war vintage opted for conventional threading of these components.  It has the conventional full set of tackle for frog adjustment.

Note the blue painted, die-cast frog.  I’m pretty certain that the alloy contains aluminum but it is, nevertheless, quite hefty.  I have no problem with die-cast frogs which are a real joy in terms of plane restoration compared with the few, badly machined cast-iron frogs which have come my way.

Necessitating hours of filing to take the machined wind out of them, in most cases necessitating the tedious and tricky removal and replacement of the iron’s adjustment mechanisms.

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