Stanley #6 Tote and Knob

I’ve been working on the knob and tote of the Stanley #6 for quite a while now. Here’s how they looked when I got the plane:

The original finish was pretty much shot; chipped off in many places, cracked all over, and generally lousy. I guess that’s not too bad for 70 years of wear, but it wasn’t going to be very comfortable for a tool that I actually wanted to use.

Being very conservative about this, I first tried rubbing only some mineral spirits around the wood to see if the finish would crack and fall off easily, as it’s purported to sometimes do. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. The weak parts of the finish fell right off, sure, but a little less than half was really stuck on there. Here’s how it looked after the mineral spirits:

I don’t know if this was better or worse than before. However, even though I relish driving around in a beat-up-looking car, I do not want the same to be true of my bench planes.

So I waited for an appropriate time and place to get out the ol’ paint stripper. That stuff always gives me the heebie-jeebies, because it usually melts your gloves to a point where you generally throw them out after a strippin’ session. Scary or no, it is effective, as this photo shows:

I should make one note about paint stripper–make sure that you clean and rub the wood over with mineral spirits when you’re finishing up. Don’t use water. You see, wood expands and contracts based on its water content, and you risk cracks, raised grain, and all sorts of awful stuff. Wood won’t readily absorb mineral spirits like that. It will evaporate slowly over time and leave the wood in a fairly even, dry state.

So, with the paint finally off, I had a decision to make: what to use for a new finish? Traditionally, varnish or lacquer is used for this stuff, but I’m not much of a fan there. I’ve always really liked the oil finishes, but I wasn’t too sure about this because it is rosewood, after all, and it’s a pretty dark wood already. Not to mention that the tool collectors would scream bloody murder.

Eh, screw those guys. The wood was nicked up anyway, and I really like the way that oil finishes feel in the hand:

This is after two treatments; one more tomorrow and it’s ready to go. It’s hard to tell much because of the glare from the flash, but this is really looking good. The knob is darker than the tote (you can tell this pretty clearly from the stripped photo above), and is now a very rich hue, with the growth rings adding a subtle accent. This should hold up fairly well. I guess if I’m unhappy about it later, I could always draw the oil out with the yummy paint stripper and go at it again with something else. But it’s unlikely that I’ll do anything else except maybe replenish with a different oil.

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