Last Sunday I went to the San Jose flea market to see if it was a place I could pick up any old tools. Also, I hadn’t been to a flea market in years. As a tool source, it was pretty lame. Way too many new (crappy) tools, oodles of old power tools, and a few vendors thinking that you’re a gullible collector and that you’ll pay a million dollars for a beechwood knob on a transitional plane.
However, one guy had a Stanley #6 selling for less than a million dollars. Most of the parts seemed in decent shape (the tote being intact rosewood and the knob in okay shape, a small chip in the nose, but very little rust). Patrick Leach (one of dem dar intarweb experts) says that this isn’t a particulary useful size of plane, but I decided that it seemed like a good enough place to start on learning how to disassemble, reassemble, and use bench planes.
(My general plan is to get Millers Falls smoothing and jack planes from eBay, because these seem less collectible and just as well-made. I have a MF #9 smoother on the way, in fact. But I’d rather first mess up a questionable Stanley from a flea market, especially because I mess up almost everything I do on the first try.)
Turns out that the plane is a fairly humdrum Type 16 made between 1933 and 1941. The lever cap is definitely Type 16; the rest of the features seem to match those for the Type 15, but who knows (and who cares). It’s important to date your plane in order to figure out what you might need to do to tune and restore it. For example, because I know the vintage of the lever cap, I know what it’s made of, and I can look up how to clean up the nickel plating on top of it.
As you might expect, it was pretty grimy. Some bug was living inside of it at one point. When I removed the frog, there were quite a lot of softwood shavings jammed up there in the bed. So it seemed like I’ve got a task ahead of me here, but I’m in pretty good shape because nothing is really broken and there’s very little rust. Keep in mind that I have never ever seen, much less used, a bench plane that’s tuned and sharp. I’ve read about them (I’ve read an awful lot about them, in fact).
One thing that worries me is that the tote is intact and therefore something that I really ought not to mess up (cracked totes are very common). So I’ll try to be very conservative when working with it and the knob.