Comb. Planes

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Plow Planes


Restoring Planes: Metal and Wooden

  Recreating Patina on a Plane by Rob Brophy   1 of 2  

I love to repair old derelict or broken woodworking tools. Cracked castings can be welded, rust can be removed, japanning replaced, but they always look naked when old tool with bright, shiny metalwork. Patina gives the tool 'the look'; a visual warmth and a feeling that a craftsman has been taking special care of it for many years.

There are many ways to add patina to cast iron... this method has worked for me for quite a while. Please be careful if you try this method, it has it's dangers. Wear safety equipment and work in a fume hood if possible.

Prepare your victim by sanding to the desired finish and degrease with soap and water or brake cleaner.  NB: brake cleaner is really bad for you...use it outside or in a fume hood.

Don't forget to -slightly- break sharp edges for a worn look. Drop a handful of nuts 'n bolts on it a few times to simulate small toolbox dings.

Heat the plane evenly with a propane torch...not too hot, you don't want to harm the japanning. Just nice n' warm.  Use an acid brush to apply gun brown or any number of liquid patinas available in stained glass shops. 

I like to use 'Plum Brown' first and a touch of black patina after.  Use the torch to dry the solution...repeat if necessary.  It looks ugly at this stage, but don't worry, the only way you can mess up is if you fry the japanning.

Scrub the plane gently with a fine Scotch-Brite pad using a light oil as a lubricant.  I like to heat the plane up with the torch again at this point... the oil helps mellow the patina. 

If you don't care for the way it looks, add more patina acid and heat... keep repeating until it looks good.  Apply a light coat of wax to preserve the patina... I use Antiquax manufactured by James Briggs Ltd in the UK.  It is readily available here in Canada.

Some helpful hints

Remember that you are simulating wear and signs of use.  Think about how the tool was used, where hands would have touched it and how this would affect the finish. Hands leave acidic fingerprints and/or grease... this eventually turns into the patina we seek.

Repetitive actions will wear certain edges over many years.  A solid, even patina looks as wrong as no patina, get creative and have fun with it... if you don't like it, start again.

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