Restoring A Wooden Plane

 The plane. Rough dimensions:   3 1/8" width, 21 3/8" length. 

The plane. Rough dimensions:  3 1/8" width, 21 3/8" length. 

As a woodworker interested in traditional methodology and history, I often acquire tools that are at least a century older than myself.

While I am far from a "tool hoarder,"  I have occasionally been fortunate to find an old tool that piques my interest, and while I was in Virginia on scholarship, I found this wood bodied jack/fore plane at an antique shop for next to nothing.

Hand planes make up the largest monetary investment on my part in woodworking, and the ones I use are almost exclusively of modern manufacture (Lee Valley/Veritas are my preference). That being said, I have always had a strange attraction to the straightforward design of antique wooden bodied planes. This is not a how-to, but a showcase of a plane that I fell in love with, and once I got home from my trip to the east coast, I decided I wanted to get it working to the best of my ability.

A little bit of information regarding the genealogy of the plane... it was made by Mockridge & Son in Newark, NJ. Abrahm Mockridge was making planes in New Jersey starting in the 1830's, and continued to do so until his death in 1873. Beginning in 1868 Abrahm employed and began a partnership with his son Oscar, and the imprint "Mockridge & Son" was used up until 1902. With this brief history, it's safe to say this plane was made this plane was made somewhere between 1868 - 1902. Unsurprisingly, this plane has seen some good use and wear. 

Old planes should look old, and so in "restoring" this plane, it was my goal to leave as much of it in the condition that I found it as possible. Wooden bodied planes are almost always going to have soles that are damaged and/or far from flat, so that is where I began.

The sole of this plane had some fairly large fissures/cracks, but none of which I saw as being a problem to the planes functionality. While being extremely "not flat," not a lot of material needed to be removed to get through the offending material. A few light cuts with a modern jack and try plane got me through some powdery rot around the cracks, and while checking my progress with winding sticks and a square, I was seeing the original beech wood that had been buried under the grime of the planes life thus far.

 Wedge, chip-breaker and iron.

Wedge, chip-breaker and iron.

  "Mockridge & Son, Newark NJ" (1868 - 1902).

"Mockridge & Son, Newark NJ" (1868 - 1902).

 Owner's Stamp:  JOSEF FISCHER.

Owner's Stamp: JOSEF FISCHER.

 Flattening the sole with a try, jack and smoothing plane.

Flattening the sole with a try, jack and smoothing plane.

  "Make friends with time."  The original beech wood making an appearance.

"Make friends with time." The original beech wood making an appearance.

Once the sole was flat, I cleaned up the surface with a smoothing plane, and moved on to the iron, chip-breaker and wedge. With antique planes, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst is pretty common practice.

In this case, I didn't have as much work ahead of me as I have had in the past restoring similar planes. The back of the iron wasn't flat (of course), and the chip-breaker didn't make the contact I wanted. However, a great deal of modern planes have the same issues when you take them out of the box for the first time. So, the process for prepping the cutting edge was not anything new or unexpected. It would just take a little bit more time and focus than what you normally deal with in modern planes.



Those who know me personally know that before I was anything worth giving a "professional" title to, I was an avid reader... and I will never be happy without books. My life is devoted to manual labor and aesthetic research, but in tandem with those things I have always been a "literary man."

I grew up in a household where television was more or less forbidden (before the internet was even available), and I come from a long line of Germans who read and think deeply. My maternal grandfather August passed on the habit to me of reading several books at once, and when I'm not working, or at my bench, there is a good chance I'm reading.

Recently I have been revisiting poetry, and in particular, poetry with an emphasis on the natural world; usually poets who were also "woodsmen" of some form. This is a recommendation of book and a Norwegian poet who falls into this category.

His name is Hans Børli (1918-1989), and the collection of poems of is We Own the Forests and Other Poems, published by Norvik Press (2015).

It's a collection of a phenomenal body of poetic work, some almost haiku-like, printed side by side in the original Norwegian and the translated English. It spoke to me, and my hope is that if/when you read it, it will speak to you as well.