Re-finishing Plane Handles & Knobs

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  • #4349
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I’ve possibly far too much spare time on my hands nowadays, but for those of you who may need to re-finish tool handles (And as I’m currently addressing tool maintenance during my present flareup of Rheumatoid Arthritis)  I thought I’d provide a brief rundown of the methods I use and hope it helps in some way.

    With a view toward improving the general feel of a hand plane during use I tend to strip worn handle finish using paint and varnish stripper, therefore exposing the bare timber beneath.  A quick scrub under running water helps neutralise the stripper while removing residual varnish and this in turn takes a short time to dry in readiness for the next steps.

    I de-grease parts using methylated spirits/mineral spirits.

    I tend to avoid sanding/filing handles unless re-profiling them, but do use varying grades of steel wool and finish to 0000 grade.  Divots can be filled using CA (Superglue – high viscosity) and splits are repaired using the same means, but you can just as easily utilise PVA for split repairs.  I find a better and less visible repair is achieved by fitting and clamping the joint together and relying upon capillary action to draw adhesive into the crack, whilst puddling CA into divots provides sound results which can be sanded/scraped level with the surrounding surface.

     

    Once the handle has dried/glue has had time to cure overnight I apply 1-2 coats of stain (I use Colron Wood Dye “Indian Rosewood”) and allow to dry thoroughly before applying the first coat of Danish oil (Shellac can be used as a sanding sealer and be applied as the finish).  I apply additional coats of Danish oil at 24hr intervals and generally find 3 coats suffice, but your mileage may vary depending upon desired finish and whether you prefer satin or a higher gloss finish.  The end results has a very tactile feel to it and can be rubbed back using 0000 steel wool and waxed (Using steel wool as an applicator) if desired.

     

    #4354
    JONATHAN WARREN
    Participant

    Sorry to hear about your rheumatoid arthritis, Gary.  I have just done something similar while refurbishing a Stanley No 3 – the knobs and tote were in a bad way, so I sanded them down (the varnish was quite brittle and damaged) but wanted to use the plane that day, so I just used a little white spirit and woodwax.  I will do as you suggest and use Danish oil and leave to soak and set.  Thanks for an informative post, and hope you feel better soon.

    From Warrington, UK. Making stuff in my front room.

    #4355
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Thank you for your good wishes Jonathan. 🙂

    I used to use shellac for re-finishing handles, but found it could “melt” a little if accidentally splashed with mineral spirits/meths (Which I use when cleaning wood sap plane soles) unless shielded by wax.

    #4356
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Great post Gary, some nice Info thanks. I hope you are on the mend soon buddy, take care

    Ken 😉

    #4357
    jonkilleen
    Participant

    Hi Gary,

    Nice post!  In a similar vein, the rear handle on my No. 4 is a little loose.  The screw works just fine, but the forward hole on the handle has worked itself a bit too open/big over the years I guess (it’s a fleaBay special), so the fit on the little nub that sits up from the body of the plane is too loose. I’ve tried using wood filler to reduce the size of the hole, but it’s not really worked so I’ve now removed that.  Have you any tips?

    Cheers

    Jon

    Yorkshireman currently living in Hampshire

    #4358
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Many thanks Ken and Jon 🙂

    In answer to your question, I’d opt for the woodfiller approach, but would lightly wax the iron nub and 3/4 fill the receiver hole with filler before offering the handle up to it’s fitted position and tightening down for 24hrs.  The resulting fit should prove positive. 😉

    A tight fit between nub and handle base isn’t really a necessity and I’d expect the handle has shrank a little over time and led to the handle feeling a little loose during use.  To correct this problem I’d shorten the threaded bolt by 1/8″ maximum and this typically resolves tightening issues.

    Another cause could be where the handle has distorted slightly.  This normally leads to a gap at the leading underside of the handle’s foot and the means of correcting this problem is by either removing a small quantity of material from the heel, or by adding a soft leather washer to the handle base which compresses when the handle is tightened into place. 🙂

    #4359
    John Poutier
    Participant

    Gary,

    Please clarify your technique of repairing splits. Is it accurate to say that you first clamp the joint tight and then apply the glue to work through capillary action?  Do you simply work a bead of glue along the crack several times until it soaks in?

    Your comments add great value to these forum.

    All the best for your health,

    John

    Yorktown, Virginia

    #4360
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your comments.

    The method I use for split repair primarily involves clamping mating pieces together before flowing high or medium viscosity superglue/CA into the crack.  The glue literally flows into the joint and is best done in stages by adding glue, zapping with accelerator and then adding more.  The resulting fit is extremely tight and I find superglue bonds better when joining pieces are pre-clamped.  A squirt of accelerator cures the glue almost instantly and the repair can quickly progress to clean up and the finishing stages.

    ————

    TIP:  If superglue clouds when dry, simply add a drop more glue and the clouding will dissipate/disappear as the fresh glue amalgamates with the original glue.

    ————

    Handles most often break on grain lines, so most broken handles can be repaired with little trace remaining of any previous problems/breaks.  Low spots where material may have flaked/splintered away can be masked off and filled (again using superglue) before making good the area with file/scraper, abrasive paper and steel 0000 wool.  Because superglue dries transparently, such repairs can be made to take on the appearance of dark grain lines as the timber beneath provides colour for the glue “filler”. 🙂

    Missing parts – such as damaged handle horns – can readily be replaced and blended to match the original timber, but plain beech or apple handles can be most tricky to repair invisibly due to the need for accurate colour matching and airtight jointing.  Dressing across freshly glued cracks tends to conceal such repairs as elements of wood dust from filing bonds to the glue and becomes a form of filler matching precisely with the surrounding timber. 🙂

    ————

    Quite often you’ll find splits will close if a handle is re-humidified and then the simplest form of repair can be resolved via re-finishing, but should a split prove too large to fill via humidity (Typically an old split) or gluing, I tend to prepare filler strips using matching timber with grain oriented to match.  These strips are mated tightly to the opening and then fitted into place (Left slightly proud of the existing surface) and then flushed to the surrounding surface once the glue has dried overnight.

    In cases where repairs involve the use of water based glues, you’ll find the timber swells, but recedes as moisture evaporates during curing.  This is why (As well as bond strength) we allow the repair to cure overnight before re-dressing filler pieces to their surroundings. 🙂

    #4368
    John Poutier
    Participant

    Gary,

    Thank you; very helpful explanation.

    John

    Yorktown, Virginia

    #4376
    Brent Ingvardsen
    Participant

    Good stuff Gary. Thanks for sharing.

    Meridianville, Alabama, USA

    #4380
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    You’re more than welcome Brent 🙂

    #4386
    Redtail
    Participant

    Gary,
    Hope you feel better soon. I hear alot of reference to CA glues with an activater. What is this stuff?

    West Virginia, USA

    #4387
    Brent Ingvardsen
    Participant

    One brand in the US is called “Hot Stuff”. Its a type of super glue, cyanoacrylate ( prob not correct spelling). In most craft stores, you can buy different viscosities of CA and then buy a bottle of  accelerator. This accelerator I  have seen comes in a small pump spray bottle.

    Meridianville, Alabama, USA

    #4388
    Redtail
    Participant

    Thanks Gary. I have worked with a product named 2P10 that sounds like what you are talking about-a little spendy though. I have always used PVA glues for woodworking, but will have to try using the CA.

    West Virginia, USA

    #4391
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    You’re more than welcome Kevin 🙂

    In all honesty I tend to pick up superglue / CA from bargain basement stores and find the cheap stuff works perfectly well and makes for especially fast repairs when partnered with an accelerator.  A little goes a long way and – usage-wise – I tend to vary between high and medium viscosity depending on the project in hand (Medium as a filler and high viscosity for close fitting repairs).

    One word of warning is that CA/superglue heats up while it sets/cures (Primarily on contact with moisture) and has – in some instances – been known to ignite paper towels, etc., so please be careful when discarding towels, etc.

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