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Backwards in time

Back to the days when sanding was considered a "production method" and "real men" used scrapers to prep their surfaces for finish. Of course, it has always been understood that a card scraper in the right hands can produce a superior surface and in much less time than one smoothed with sandpaper. Plus, no garbage to toss out, no piles of exhausted sandpaper cluttering up the floor and benchtops.

I used to be a big advocate of using scrapers wherever and whenever possible to smooth surfaces. One of the first things a new guy in my shop was taught was how to properly sharpen a scraper. But some years back, I had an accident on the table saw that left me with a pretty bunged up thumb on my left hand and anyone who has used a scraper can tell you, you need thumbs to use these tools! So I have been relying more and more on sandpaper.

But last week, I had a really nice purpleheart table top to finish and I really wanted to scrape the top smooth. I gritted my teeth for about 15 minutes before I realized that this was going to be an agonizing process. That's when my eye fell on my old Stanley #12 scrapper plane, something that had been sitting on the desk in my shop for more years than I can remember, serving mostly as a conversation piece. I looked at those nice smooth, comfortable rosewood handles and suddenly, this fine old tool creased to be an "antique" and became, once again, a very important tool.

Within minutes, the #12 was dismantled. Rust was removed with emery cloth and oil, the bottom re-flattened via the same weapons only this time laying on my jointer table which serves double duty as my "go to" flat reference table. The handle got a good cleaning and oiling to make the rosewood shine again. I sharpened up the blade and popped it back in the reassembled plane and I was off to the races. My purpleheart top was soon smoothed and ready for finishing and instead of purple sawdust everywhere, there were piles of beautiful purple shavings everywhere.

The #12 is really the only real antique tool I own. But it is now back in my lineup and is going to see a lot of use in the coming years. As soon as I get this posted, I’m going to order one of those really good Hock blades for it.


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