Monday, March 24, 2008

An Ad Hoc Hock Addition

A while back, I picked up an older Stanley #6C fore plane off of eBay for a good price ($25 or so). I got it cheap because it wasn't complete - the chip breaker went missing at some point in its life. The chip breaker is a necessary piece in the "whole plane pie", providing for the functions of keeping shavings clear of the mouth (to some extent) and reducing blade chatter. But its absence doesn't mark the end of the world for this plane.

Once I received the plane in the mail, I gave it a thorough check-up to make sure everything else was in order. The knob and tote were tight, rosewood, and chip- and crack-free; the sole was flat (enough); the frog adjustment in good working order; the body casting was solid. It does have some minor issues with the japanning, but I wasn't looking to restore the plane to its former glory; I just wanted something I could use in the shop.

I began searching for a replacement chip breaker. I found a few people on-line who dealt in replacement Stanley plane parts, but in every case, the price of the replacement chip breaker was as much as or more than what I'd actually paid for the plane! That caused some hesitation, if you can imagine; enough hesitation, in fact, that I put the plane aside, incomplete, and forgot about it for a while.

A few weeks ago, on my way home from work, I found myself thinking about my workshop and the steps I needed to take to move forward with its renovation. That got me to thinking about my current space and what a mess it is. In my mind's eye, the "table" the previous owner called a workbench came into clear view and I scanned its contents.

Guess what jumped out as I took a mental inventory of the bottom shelf on that bench - that's right, the old #6 I'd picked up a year ago and never got around to fixing up. Right then and there, I made a decision (that's the "ad hoc" part of the story, in case you're wondering). I added a 30-minute commute to my drive home and pointed the front of my truck towards Woodcraft to pick up a Ron Hock replacement chip breaker.

"What the heck," I says to myself, "I'll get a Hock blade for it, as well."

The Hock blade is going to add some nice performance points to the plane and, as I already stated, I'm not looking to restore it - I just want to make it useful.

As is the case when one thinks about a tool purchase for the 15-minute drive to the store, I was pretty excited by the time I pulled into the Woodcraft parking lot. Alas, instant gratification was denied; they were out of the size I needed for my #6, so I had to make due with ordering it, instead. The good news is the manager said he would give me the 15% sale price discount from the previous weekend if I paid for it that day. Of course I did.

And then I headed home and waited. And waited. And sure enough, after a week or so, I forgot about it. But really, that isn't the worst thing in the world - because when it showed up in the mail last week, it was a complete surprise - like a present!

Now I have a plane with all its parts, but it will still take a bit of work before I have it in good working order. At least with this purchase I can see the light!

With two or three other planes waiting for a bit of TLC, I’ve decided to set up a play date with my friend, Alex (that’s what his wife calls it when we get together for anything related to woodworking), to do some hand plane fettling. He has a few that need some work, as well, so we'll get together in my garage some warm spring weekend and make a day of cleaning them up.

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