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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
G'day all,

I've been lurking around here for a while now and have found this place a great resource. I'm still very much in the stage of building up a collection of tools so that I actually have the ability to shape wood instead of making rough shapes that sit on the bench uselessly.

In light of my newbieness, it would appear that I have made some ebay-related blunders and bought myself two hand planes that may turn out to be useless, and was looking for some advice from the experienced people around here.

It appears that the two planes I bought are a Miller Falls, 60s era 900B plane, and a Stanley #4 dating from the late 70s/early 80s. Of course, I had no idea what all this meant at the time that I bought them, but in the ensuing days I've been looking into them and it looks like they might be clunkers.

Do I have any hope of making these useful, or have I just saddled myself with two rather bulky paperweights?
 

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In History is the Future
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Pictures of the actual planes would be helpful.

Planes are simply jigs for chisels - the plane is centered around the chisel, ie the iron. If it is decent then you look at the jig or holding aid and ensure that it is solid. If those two elements are present it can be tuned till you little heart flutters about with the gossamer shaving it produces.

You know those crappy buck brothers planes that Home Depot sells? They can be tuned up for use with about as much work as restoring a vintage Stanley or equivalent. There is no real reason to as they cost what a vintage plane does and the irons (blade) are even poorer that of Stanleys.

What the difference between say a LN and those - well there is a thicker chisel made from better steel and there is a heavier bronze holder machined to high tolerances hence it's an all around better plane - but the difference is only appreciable at a high level of tuning. All things equal the difference becomes apparent. A LN plane can be just as much of a dud to use as a BB if neglected and unsharpened.

You have nothing to lose by tuning up the planes you bought if for nothing other than the experience gained.

Edit:
And welcome to the forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
The first two images are the Miller Falls plane, and the bottom two are the Stanley.

Is that pitting on the base of the Stanley, or more just scratches? Not really sure what I'm looking at there.

Thanks for the help so far! Much appreciated.
 

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The Millers Falls, although not pretty, is actually a fairly decent plane. It shouldn't take a whole lot of work. Just follow my blog I linked to. I've tuned a few of the Stanley's like you have and made them work. They have an aluminum frog, which isn't the best material for a frog, but they can be made to work as well.
 

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The one you call Millers Falls looks like a Craftsman plane with a no-name lever cap. The blade on this one has been sharpened a lot.
The rust on the casting will clean up with e.g., 400 grit wet-dry paper and water or WD-40 as lubricant.

The Stanley No. 4 looks like dings in the sole. Pitting would be small / dark holes. The dings may be annoying, but should not impact using the plane. The blade on this one does not look bad.

As Timetestedtools said, these can be good users. I prefer the Stanley over the Craftsman.

I expect both planes will need the blade to be sharpened. In all my restorations the blades have needed to be sharpened.
 

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The grey lever cap one is marked in the side, its a true Millers Falls made in the 50's or early 60's. It had a V logo sticker on the cap at one time. As a user, I'd prefer the MF's over that particular Stanley. The MF has a cast frog, steel in the base is decent. The lever cap was never milled finish and was just painted, so it didn't look as good, but functions as well as the vintage MF's or Stanleys. You will probably find the steel in the MF's to be better than that particular Stanley as well.

I keep saying "that particular Stanley" because its a newer Stanley, past the type 20, and quality had really dropped at that point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The one you call Millers Falls looks like a Craftsman plane with a no-name lever cap. The blade on this one has been sharpened a lot.
The rust on the casting will clean up with e.g., 400 grit wet-dry paper and water or WD-40 as lubricant.

The Stanley No. 4 looks like dings in the sole. Pitting would be small / dark holes. The dings may be annoying, but should not impact using the plane. The blade on this one does not look bad.

As Timetestedtools said, these can be good users. I prefer the Stanley over the Craftsman.

I expect both planes will need the blade to be sharpened. In all my restorations the blades have needed to be sharpened.
Yeah, I have been sharpening my chisels over the last week or so, so I think I have the general hang of it and am expecting to be spending a decent amount of time with these planes getting them sharp.

I should be getting them in the mail over the next few days, so perhaps I will have some more solid details on the condition and so forth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The grey lever cap one is marked in the side, its a true Millers Falls made in the 50's or early 60's. It had a V logo sticker on the cap at one time. As a user, I'd prefer the MF's over that particular Stanley. The MF has a cast frog, steel in the base is decent. The lever cap was never milled finish and was just painted, so it didn't look as good, but functions as well as the vintage MF's or Stanleys. You will probably find the steel in the MF's to be better than that particular Stanley as well.

I keep saying "that particular Stanley" because its a newer Stanley, past the type 20, and quality had really dropped at that point.
I've been trying to find info on 'that particular Stanley' because all of the type studies on Stanley #4s end at 1967, and everything I have seen and read makes me think this plane is newer. Even the Type 20 doesn't have a very good reputation, so this one being a decade or more older doesn't fill me with confidence. I suspect hardly anyone actually owns one of these or uses it, otherwise I'd expect to find a little more info.
 

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Expensive planes, you are paying for the look and being usable right out of the box. Put a nice blade / chip breaker in a tuned up old body and you'll have just as useful of a plane as the expensive ones.
 

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I've cleaned up and used a Millers Falls 900; it's a good tool. Neither of those appear to need all that much work. Here's what I'd do.

1) Dismantle each plane, and clean all the rust and gunk out of the crevices. I like mineral spirits and a toothbrush for this phase. You're not trying to polish anything here: just get the worst of the crud out. There's frequently a lot of old sawdust, sometimes mixed with various lubricants, under the frog.

2) Sand and polish the sides and soles. Unless they're worse than they appear in the photos, I'd probably start with 220 grit paper glued to plate glass and work up to about 600. I like to use wet/dry paper and lubricate it with WD40; possibly not ideal, but it seems to work very well for me. Do this with the plane assembled and the blade retracted.

3) Do the same for the irons, though they may only need it on the inch or two closest the edge. I've had a few irons that needed to be scoured over their full area to get a flat surface to fit to the frog. When you're done cleaning them up, sharpen them with whatever sharpening method you prefer.

3) Make sure everything that is supposed to move does, and everything that's supposed to stay still does. This may involve some more cleaning, oiling, and so on. I like either paraffin wax or motorcycle chain lube for lubricating moving parts on hand tools: both work well, dry enough that chips don't stick to them, and don't tend to drip.

4) Put everything back together, and try it out on some scrap wood. Is the blade even, side to side? Does it advance and retract easily when the wheel is turned, and not shift when I'm using it to cut wood? Are the tote and knob stable? Does anything catch or scratch the wood? If those are all good, I put it in my toolbox for the next time I need it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I received the Stanley plane yesterday. The base appears to be a bit convex - a good bit of light shows through when I put a straightedge along it. So it looks like I have some work to do to straighten that up.

I'll take the rest of it apart later on tonight and take a look at the smaller components.

What would be the best grit to start at to straighten up the base? I would guess there's about 1/16" hollow.
 

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start with a belt sander and finish with sandpaper on a flat surface. Glass, granite, or jointer or tablesaw top will work. Mark the base with a marker and sand until it comes off even. I'd recommend sanding up to 220 or more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
start with a belt sander and finish with sandpaper on a flat surface. Glass, granite, or jointer or tablesaw top will work. Mark the base with a marker and sand until it comes off even. I'd recommend sanding up to 220 or more.
I don't have a belt sander right now. Would I be better off just waiting to purchase one, or is it doable with what I have now?

I have plate glass and sandpaper of 120/220/320 grit and higher (the higher grits I've been using for sharpening chisels, and now, I guess, the plane iron).
 
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