by Al Bennett

Fools walk in where angels fear to tread. Even my closest tool friends of many years haven't seen fit to restore their treasures ala Bennett. Even so, 'it works for me' so here goes.

All restoration is based on one simple premise, namely DIRT IS BAD. Dirt includes rust, oil, grease, paint splashes and dirt. To remove dirt from wooden parts, scrub them in a half and half mixture of shellac thinner (alcohol) and lacquer thinner. Use medium steel wool on plane bodies and fine steel wool in rulers. Most paint will be loosened by the process, but some embedded specs will have to be removed with a pen knife. Store the cleaning solution in an airtight container or it will evaporate off. You're on your own as to whether this stuff will turn your left elbow inside out. That is, wear whatever skin protection you think appropriate.

After drying out for a day, smooth down wooden fibers with steel wool, then apply a heavy dose of penetrating wood sealer. My long time favorite is WATCO, especially the 'heavy' variety made for use on teak and rosewood. Unlike linseed oil, WATCO polymerizes (hardens) in a day or so. Tung oil hardens too fast, especially in the partly empty container.

Metal parts require more judgment. Unpainted steel parts like blades are best cleaned with a wire wheel, but with just enough pressure to take off the rust, but not the patina. Buffing on a cloth wheel then smooths out the surface and more importantly, leaves a rust resisting coating of wax. A coat of WATCO over iron or steel also tends to prevent oxidation, and a coat of paste wax over the WATCO does even more. Realistically, nothing will completely stop rusting and periodic recleaning and waxing seems the only solution.  

Painted metal parts (Japanned) are the toughies. The paint is generally missing in various amounts leaving bare or even rusty metal showing. My current favorite treatment is to scrub off all dirt with a strong solution of liquid detergent and dish washer soap. Paint flecks and rust "bumps" are scraped off with a knife blade. Flush the piece in cold water, dry off, and place in the oven or other warm spot. The rust will dry off residual moisture before rusting can begin. Now apply black TREWAX or paste shoe polish over the whole piece and buff with paper towels. The resulting gloss of the wax will obscure to a great extent the paint defects.

Where japanning is completely gone, buffing on a cloth wheel seems the best alternative. The buffing compound fills minute crevasses and gives a uniform patina to the bare metal.

Here are a few trade "secrets" that might help.

Baking oil coated new wood in the oven, like a cookie. can provide needed patina to replacement parts.

Freezing plow plane parts has been known to loosen the threaded nuts from the arms.

To remove a broken off wood screw, drill down around it with a piece of hollow steel tubing. Notch the cutting end with a file. Snap off the embedded screw and plug the hole with new wood.