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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all.

I picked up a Craftsman combination plane at Liberty tools a month or two ago, but it only had one iron (about 1 1/2" across), marked "O". That said, it was almost entirely complete (it's missing one of the two depth gauges), and the price was comparable to what I was seeing on eBay. With some research, I figured out it was essentially a Sargent 1080

Well, last week I found a reasonable deal and bought a set of cutters, in their original tool roll. The arrived last night, and despite some rust they're in remarkably good shape: almost no pitting, and none of it near the cutting edges as far as I can tell.

So, on that note, the questions.

Question 1. The straight edge cutters (1-11) are easy to tune up: sand them to remove the rust, re-grind the ones that aren't actually straight anymore, and then sharpen as usual. For the beading irons, I can polish the back and touch up the flat cutting surface, but how to I touch up the deep curved part? Some are OK, but some are a little rough, and probably won't leave a clean bead.

Question 2: As near as I can tell these are supposed to be measured in fractional inches. However, they don't actually seem to be. They appear to be metric. The #3, for instance, is actually more nearly 7mm than 1/4 inch. What gives? Do I have a set of custom irons that someone made? Did Sargent ever make metric-sized irons for these things? Any theories that are either probable or entertaining are welcome.

Question 3: I picked the cleanest beading iron there was (I think #15) and tried it out on a scrap of pine. It worked, despite my questionable technique, but there was a lot of tearout. Is that just the fact that I was using pine, or do I need to do something else that I didn't understand?

479 Posts
Warning long post.

Sorry Loooooooooong post

Hi Andy congrats on picking up the Craftsman combi and the Sargent irons,just three questions you said but there is a lot in those three answers. I`ll do by best I`am not an expert but own two Stanley 50`s so any thing I say really relates to them.

I`ve been reading lately that the straight irons should be ground and honed at 35 degrees I`ve always ground and honed mine at 30 degrees maybe that is something to try in the future.

Here is a link to a thread I posted earlier showing how I hone the shaped irons.http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f11/combi-plane-43362/

You could do it with slip stones or a dowels wrapped with wet and dry sand paper, I just think the stick is a simple solution.

As to the size of the irons 1" =25.4 m/m so 1/4" =6.35 so that makes a difference of .65 of a m/m without my specs I don't really think I could see that.
I can not talk about the 1080 irons but both 50`s that i have where made in England and I`ve had both from new the oldest one from the 60s the irons are all imperial sizes.The one from the 80`s has both imperial and metric sizes but odd sizes in the metric IE 4m/m,9m/m just odd sizes?

So on to using it,the biggest and best favour you can do for you self when using a combi is the selection of stock.

Anything that looks like curly grain or a knot discard it straight away.The idea is to give yourself the best chance you can.

As an apprentice the old guys that taught me my trade most of them would have at the very least in the bottom of their boxes a half set of hollows and rounds,a left and right hand snip bill,rabate,plough and filester planes.Armed with these planes they could form almost any profile you could think of ,they didn't intend making miles of the stuff just the odd piece here and there.
The combi was soposed to do all these tools out of a job. Well as we know any tool that is portrayed as doing many things will have a hard job just doing one, well.

When I got my first combi I tried to use it but at that point in time put down to my lack of skill the failure to achieve any adequate results.Packed it up and put it away,frustrated.

Years later I came back to it and was determined to make it work and here is what I found.
I had to observe the plane to actually see what it was trying to do.
The fist thing I noticed is the plane iron is all on its own just hanging there.What do I mean by that well on a bench plane you have a backing iron and a locking cap to keep every thing in place,on a rabete plane there is a cap iron locking the iron down but on a combi nothing.

The iron fits into a grove on the main body and the side body the side body is then locked to the main body with a through bolt the iron is then adjusted with a threaded nut at the top of the iron or a lever one of the two.

SO you set the depth adjuster to how much you wish to take off,you do need the depth adjusters because the plane has no sole and the depth adjusters become the skates that the plane runs on.
Run the plane along the stock and take a slither of wood off of it.

At the end of the stock lift the plane away from the stock and take it back to the start don't slide it along the stock back to the start,why because the plane iron is loose in the groves and when you slide it back it lifts the iron up.

So you adjust the plane to take a bit more off on the next run but because the iron as been lifted on the next run it takes nothing off,so you adjust it a bit more and then half way through the run the iron moves down in the grove and rips into the stock followed by a large explosion of expletives and the temptation to fling this thing across the shop.

Answer well the iron must be held in place at first I made a wooden wedge to hold the iron down it worked but I thought it was ridicules I had taken the plane back to the wooden planes,what I came up with in the end was to bend the iron slightly just a gentle curve so the iron was held in place and dos not move around in the grove
add to this the plane must be plumb when being used and the side body and the fence must be parallel to the main body and the skates perfectly level from front to back,get all that together and its easy.

It takes some getting use to but it can be done enjoy you hobby.Billy.

1,533 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks for the long response!

After more careful measuring, I think I may have been wrong. It looks like this set of irons tapers slightly in two directions: through the thickness, and, very slightly, edge to end. So measuring anywhere but the very cutting edge gives a bad indication of how wide the iron is. If I get to the point where I've sharpened an inch off them, all of them will be the wrong size... until then, there are just a couple that look like they're metric, and they just happen to be some of the ones I picked to measure. The 1/4", thankfully, is not one of them, and that's probably the one I'll use most often.

I also managed to get the screws for the cross-grain nickers loose without breaking anything, and while they need sharpening, they work reasonably well.

As to use: The depth adjustment and locking mechanism on this plane are fantastic. They really lock the iron flat and parallel to the body, which is something I had been concerned about with some of the other models I looked at. So that's really nice, and should make my life a lot easier.

The other really nice thing about this model is that I don't think it's possible for me to get the fence out of parallel unless it warps. The two guide rods are really solid, and the points where they pass through both the second skate and the fence are large enough to ensure that neither one can twist relative to the main body.

I think a lot of the problem I was having was just that I'd grabbed a random piece of 2x6 for testing, and between the terrible grain and the fact that it was pine, I was doomed to failure. I pulled a scrap of red oak out of the bin yesterday, and both the straight edge and beading irons worked MUCH better.

I agree on the multi-tool comment, though. Changing irons is kind of a nuisance, and I'll definitely want to buy or make, for instance, a set of match planes. I just can't see it being worth the effort to use this for something like that in the long term. For now, though, I absolutely could not have gotten a set of dado planes AND a set of beading planes for what I paid for this, so I'm content. I have something that will do, and that's really what I needed.
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