Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Renewed Stanley 25

Everything Old is New Again

My old decrepit Stanley 25 smoothing plane might as well have been thrown into the parts bin, as worn out as it was. In particular, the body was so roached out to the point that it was essentially unusable. I even went far enough to find a nice piece of hop hornbeam to resole it. That was several years ago.

Then, a near mint body appears on flea bay for much less than the price of a decent used plane (these haven’t been made in about eighty years). I added my four parts from the old plane, and this rebuild is back in action, even with the original lacquer finish.The 8″ length makes this a great grab it and get it done plane.

Partners in Smoothing

Both the 25 and 35 (above) have the same 2″ wide blade, and these two even have the same patent applied for date of 1892 stamped on them, so I assume they are of a similar vintage. These will never do work as fine as a Gage plane, but there are thousands of them floating around, which means they offer great value for the dollar. And then there is the legendary Stanley 34 jointer, known as the big one, which is a full 30″ long. No. 34, meet No. 25, aka mini-me.

The Roman Workbench is Finito Mussolini

Zeus Protecting Emma the Aussie from Donner, the German God of Thunder

Workbenches are multi-taskers, from holding stuff off the ground, to sheltering the pooch from harm during a thunderstorm outbreak. This Roman design turned out even better than expected. Just ask Emma.

Eight Legs are Twice as Good as Four

Here are only three of the holding devices that can be used on the AD 79 bench, traditional and modernized, though all are useful if not essential. The middle metal one, a forged bent piece of cast iron, is know known as a holdfast. Strangely enough, this wall tile from the Roman city of Herculaneum, buried in ash by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, has a Roman version of the same holding implement, securing the board on the right.

Cherubs are Handy Helpers

Used in combination with a bench top dog (stop), as opposed to the dogs under the bench, the holding ability equals any modern set up. The Romans likely used wooden pegs, which can easily be made in any length or form. The modern version is the metal dog, and the little Veritas made dogs on my bench are called “surface dogs.” They will likely last longer even than this bench. Combine the old or modern dog with a modern version of a holdfast, a Sjobergs “hold down,” the one with the screw down mechanism, and your work isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to.

Anyone wanting to know how to build this style of bench should buy Ingenious Mechanicks by Christopher Schwartz. It is better researched than many scholarly texts, without the mind numbing academic terminology. And it has pictures.

Speaking of academics, I once had a student who acted in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, while she was still in high school (she played one of the merry wives who dumped Falstaff in the river). She also enjoyed jokes about punctuation, pointing out that without the comma, “Let’s eat, Grandma,” becomes “Let’s eat Grandma.” True enough.

Something similar is true with “finito Mussolini,” in that a comma makes it “finito, Mussolini.” Little Mussolinis can be found in parts of congress, various state houses, and truck stops everywhere. They should be reminded of what happened to the real Mussolini, and the importance a comma can make.

Leftover Cedar End Table

Table or Stool?

The giant stack of cedar we were given is essentially gone, with the remainder good for nothing but pegs, wedges, and fire starter, although the shavings make a superior smoked salmon flavoring, when thrown on the fire in the smokehouse–think Virginia juniper instead of red cedar, as the tree is technically a juniper instead of a cedar. This piece is a gift to the in-laws who gave us the truckload of lumber to begin with.

I actually made this to be a stool, but once possession changes hands, it is up to the discretion of the new owners, who have always been thinking end table. The legs are made in the same fashion as “stick” chairs, as in the very old style of Windsor chair known as “Welsh stick chairs.” The usual Welsh Windsor is normally made without stretchers between the legs, as opposed to an English style chair. The piece, chair or table, therefore is considerably lighter than one with stretchers.

I have also finished my Roman workbench, and a picture of it will help to explain where all that red cedar went.

Favorite Turning Tools, English Edition–Ashley Iles Tools for Foot Powered Lathes

Word for Today–Heaviosity

These may just look like two overgrown turning tools, and in fact, they are. The roughing gouge in the foreground–#6 sweep–is 1 1/2″–and the straight chisel is 2″. Their size is suited for their purpose, which is turning green wood on a treadle lathe, be it reciprocating, or continually spinning in one direction (“Treadle”-think foot powered version of the conventional electric lathe).

To my knowledge, Ashley Iles is the only major tool manufacturer to offer a complete set of turning tools for foot (human) powered lathes. I already had a set of four carbon steel turning tools, and these two, a couple of small spindle gouges, and some adapted straight chisels, rounded out the set. I bought both of these from across the pond, and the service offered by English tools sellers ranges from excellent to magnificent.

A Well Made Bevel

What distinguishes these tools from conventional turning tools? The bevels for one. The roughing chisel’s primary bevel is around 25 degrees, similar to a bench chisel. The edges of the bevel are ground into a triangle to keep the tool from snagging on the work as it turns. This is a cutting tool, not the typical turning scraper.

As is the shallow sweep roughing gouge. It has a similar bevel angle, and the size and sweep distinguish it from other similar gouges–my 1″ roughing gouge has a #11 sweep. I just purchased the shallow sweep one, and though the tools originally were available unhandled (my chisel has a rough and ready home made maple handle, which I scarfed out when the only turning chisel I had was a skew), this one arrived with a fine beech handle.

Finally, these tools are made from easily sharpened carbon tool steel. One reason is, that they need to be good and sharp, to avoid creating mostly sawdust. A extra bonus is that carbon steel is much less expensive than the usual high speed steel of high end turning tools.

The entire line of these tools are available from Classic Hand Tools in England. They can be purchased a la carte, or the entire set of six can be had for about $205. Several of these tools, including the shallow gouge, are unavailable in the States . Shipping is fast, and airmail is reasonable. In fact, my total for the gouge was less than it would have been for an equivalent tool here, if such a thing existed (the Iles deep roughing gouge, which is sold here, would be 5-10 dollars more if bought in the US). On top of that, no one knows how to package a tool like the Brits.

Maple Fry Fork

Maple and Walnut

I wasn’t familiar with the Swedish term “fry fork” until this year (Google translate says that the Swedish is “stek gaffel,” for what that’s worth). I ran across it in the new English edition of Carving Kitchen Tools, by Moa Brännström Ott. I was so intrigued by this book that I made sure that it arrived on the first day of publication, 2/1/2022.

Spoons, Fry Fork, Butter Knife

I made my fry fork before I knew there was such a thing. It excels at flipping bacon, and most of all, making soft scrambled eggs. Here’s how to make them, from a French farmhouse, to the great writer Elizabeth David, who learned the technique there, to her student Jane Grigson. That’s how cooking works.

Soft Scrambled Eggs

Eggs (One per person)

Sea Salt

Olive oil

That’s it. The trick is in the cooking. I like carbon steel pans for this, as they heat up fast, and cool off quickly.

Give the eggs a thorough beating, and heat up the olive oil in the pan at high heat. As soon as the oil begins to spread out, starts moving around and forming thin layers at the point of the heated surface, and thicker layers elsewhere, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and take a break. When the oil has returned to an even surface, pour in the beaten eggs. Then do nothing.

What, no running around like in a cooking competition? This is more Zen than that. When the eggs begin to set, slowly separate and turn the curds to the desired size. Serve the eggs while they are still moist–no rubber eggs here.

The fry fork is just the tool for this dish. Carved from green Maple, I call mine the trident style for obvious reasons. If Neptune wants to banish me to ten years of roaming the eastern Mediterranean in an Odyssey, eating great seafood, kicking butt and taking names, and generally playing ancient Greek James Bond, I’m down with that-especially if I get to slaughter all the local scumbags, who are eating my food and drinking my wine, when I finally get back to my home city. No wonder that poem is still so popular.

Making Oil Wax Finishes

Cooking the Finish

First, to clear up a common confusion between paste waxes and oil wax finishes. Strangely enough, a paste wax is a surface polish, and an oil finish is a drying oil based finish that soaks/penetrates into the wood, and eventually dries into a polymerized surface. Two examples follow.

When wax is melted with a solvent, say terps, mineral spirits, or citrus solvent, it becomes a paste wax, or a pure wax held in solution by a solvent. When wax is melted by a heated oil, sometimes in combination with a solvent, it becomes an oil wax finish. Time for some specific examples.

Melting away in my Trangia 25 cookset (still less than $100, alcohol stove included), is some oil finish composed of 4 oz of Walnut oil (highest oil content of any drying oil), 2 oz Beeswax and Carnauba wax, and a teaspoon of Citrus solvent. This is definitely the best smelling finish I have ever cooked, and should be durable as well. Here’s the Roman workbench with a couple of coats on it.

Still needs Four More Legs

The Citrus solvent idea came from Christopher Schwartz, who uses a 3-1 ratio of oil to wax. I tend to go with 2-1, but to save time, I should have dissolved the Carnauba wax in the Citrus solvent before adding the oil and beeswax. I applied the finish with a high tech applier, an old smart wool sock that has a big hole in it.

The possible combinations are almost endless:

Oils I have used–

Walnut Oil (my favorite)

Polymerized (heated) Linseed Oil

Oils to experiment with–

Sunflower seed oil

Tung oil

I have made mass quantities of paste wax with Tung oil, to the point that I have run out of it, as well as the Citrus solvent. Time to make a shopping list.

Waxes I have used–


Carnauba wax

Note to self–Dissolve the Carnauba wax in Citrus solvent first, then add the oil.

Waxes to experiment with–

Candelilla wax

Bayberry wax

Candalilla wax fascinates me, as it is not as hard as rock hard Carnauba, but harder than soft beeswax. One day I will look up the technical specs. I once owned somewhere between a few hundred to a few thousand wax myrtle bushes, growing wild on a twenty acre farm in south Alabama. The seeds are the source of Bayberry wax. If I had known what I was doing back then, my whole house could smell like a Bayberry candle now.

Favorite Woodworking Planes, Part Honorary 14–Gage #14 Fore Plane

The Original

My collection of Gage planes is now probably complete. I have two Stanley Gage planes, and now one of the original Gage planes, the first two a smoothing and a jack plane, the latter being an 18″ long Fore plane. This one is probably in better condition than the first two.

My plan is the following, and I have a schedule of about a year for it. I have all the windows for a good sized detached workshop, all of which cost between $1.50 and $2.00 each (long story). Each has never been used, and just need a good home. Thanks to the recent tornado, I have enough lumber for said workshop, that only needs to be milled, including pine, white oak, black (a form of red) oak, and assorted other hardwoods. Logical conclusion–new workshop, with Gage planes.

Here are the two different styles side by side:

19th v. 20th Century

The differences between the two manufacturer’s planes are mostly stylistic and cosmetic. The handles are beefie, on the old Gage, while the more stylish handles on the Stanley Gage were prone to breakage, as one of mine has a decent sized chip out of the tote. This handle is not likely to be broken:

Now that’s a Tote

I’ve thought of these as cabinetmaker’s planes, as opposed to the Stanley philosophy of the jack of all trades planes. The Gage could easily stand up to everyday use in a production cabinetmaker’s shop. Apparently that was their main market.

But not this specimen. It may have been used, but the blade had never been sharpened, as it still had the original hollow ground bevel on it. That sharpened quickly, but then the back had never been flattened. Flattening the back of a nineteenth century plane blade is not my favorite pastime.

I said my collection is “probably” complete. If the price is right, and the condition is as good as this one, it quickly becomes an investment instead of a collection. Maybe I should become a plane flipper, instead of just someone who has a bunch of flipping planes.

Outdoor Kitchen, Part Catastrophe–Destruction and Reconstruction


On 2/23, Melanie Jane’s birthday, we were hit by a small tornado. Our house had negligible damage, but the outdoor kitchen got whacked by a 60+ year old pine. Notice that the brick oven was strong enough to break said pine in two. Alas, the pine took down the roof and about one half of the oven. All this means is I get the chance to rebuild it even fancier than it already was.

Three weeks later, the scene is different. No pine, except for firewood, and no debris. I have over a thousand new bricks, and literally a ton of sand to make mortar with. I have an unlimited amount of yellow pine to cut into lumber, and the new roof is going to be made of pine shingles, split out by yours truly. I even pulled out my old broad axe to make pieces parts with.

Cross Section of a Brick Oven

I re-laid the fire bricks, and even found a spare one. So this was only a part catastrophe. I’m going to be such a busy man that I should probably make a list–rebuilt oven, new enclosure with pine shingles, and then world culinary domination. Maybe I should relax and read some Walden instead, like the magnificent conclusion to the chapter “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For:”

Time is but the stream I go afishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first let- ter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors, I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

HD Thoreau

Like HD, my head is hands and feet. It’s time to put them all to work.

Stay Away from Farmers Insurance–Very Far Away

According to Farmers, This May or May not be a Building

Building or outdoor equipment? You can decide, but our insurance adjuster said this could be considered either–depending on what his boss says. Outdoor equipment means much less money for replacement. Go figure.

The good cop-bad cop ploy was as transparent as plastic wrap. Here’s what he saw:

Definitely not a Building Now

Five days later, after the storm/tornado laid one tree on this and one on our house, we have nary a penny out of Farmers. We have no timeline for when they might cover our property. We hired a tree service and paid out of our pocket for the two trees to be removed. No notice on when we might be reimbursed.

Our policy from Met Life–excellent insurance–was bought out as Met Life Home and Auto was sold to Farmers in a corporate takeover last fall. A tree service owner said his two worst insurance companies to deal with are-drum roll-Farmers and Allstate. As Groucho would say, make a note of that, Jameson.

Farmers. Anyone who stays with them is dumb-dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb-dumb, DUMB.

Axe Me Again Tomorrow

A Bad Axe Swedish Hatchet

I have been blessed and/or cursed with a lifetime supply of wood, and it only took about fifteen seconds. To make it a very short story, I now have around fifty storm damaged trees to work with.

2/23, Melanie Jane’s birthday, a loud WHOOSE sound woke us up around four o’clock, followed by some heavy rain. We had heard the same sound in the tornado outbreak of 2011, and it meant only one thing–blown down trees. Sure enough, there is a leaner on our house right now.

The brick oven got the worst of it, with the chimney knocked off, the dome cracked, and the enclosure destroyed by a mature pine tree. However, Jose and his crew of landscapers are coming by tomorrow to get rid of the two trees, and the insurance adjuster is scheduled for Monday. And as usual, I have plans.

If I were the character from the movie Bull Durham, who had to work on his cliches, I would say I am going to give it 110 percent and make some lemonade, but I don’t even like lemonade. My new pine chopping block came from my driveway, and I have multiples candidates for the second one. Then there is the plan for an even fancier brick oven, with an enclosure with pine shingles, and a roof covered with pine shakes. When life gives you wood, make shingles.

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