In the summer months, there is a flea market near my home that opens every other Saturday. I like go and have a poke around to see what old tools show up for sale. I’ve had a bit of luck in the past and have found some great deals. Of late, I have been getting more and more selective about what I buy. I recently passed on a N0. 7 of good vintage that was being offered for only $35. It needed a good rehab, and I just didn’t want to spend the time doing that when I already have one. I have way more hand planes than I need and still have about 5 in the queue for restoration. For me, buying an old tool means that I will completely restore it and this takes time. I have limited time in the shop, so time spent restoring tools is time that I’m not building anything. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy restoring tools, in fact it’s a major part of why I started this blog. I just feel that I have to strike the right balance between woodworking and tool restorations.
A couple of months ago, I went and did a little rust hunting at said flea market and stumbled upon this hand cranked grinder. The paint was almost completely gone, but all of the parts seemed to be there and it turned very smoothly. I picked it up, and saw that it had a $65 price tag on it. I put it back down and was walking away when the seller told me that he was tired of lugging it around to flea markets as it was heavy. He said “give me $20 and it’s yours”. That sounded like good deal to me, so I quickly handed over the 20, and beat feet before he had time to change his mind.
A hand cranked grinder is a tool that I have wanted to add to the collection for some time. I’ve never put a lot of effort into acquiring one as they are heavy and shipping is usually more than the cost of the tool. I just figured that someday, I’d come across one while poking around garage sales and flea markets.
Well, now that I have one, it’s time to completely disassemble it and restore it to its former glory.
Removing the nut that held the grinder wheel on the shaft was a nightmare. I wrapped the toothed (geared) portion of the shaft in rubber and cardboard before using mole grips and a wrench to loosen the nut. That didn’t work and even through the rubber and cardboard the grips chewed up the shaft a little. I used a blow torch and penetrating oil, but that didn’t help either. In the end, I had to clamp the assembly in a bench vise and use an impact driver to release the nut.
To smooth the shaft back out, I installed the threaded end of the shaft in the chuck of my drill press and used a fine-cut file to clean up the metal.
I won’t show you every single part before and after, but as an example, here is one of the bolts.
All of the cast parts that needed repainting were cleaned at the wire wheel and then sprayed with caliper cleaner. This is a very strong solvent that removes any oils or greases and prepares the metal for priming.
The grinder originally was red all over. I decided that I would keep the same color for the body, but that I would change the toolset, handle, and spindle to black.
The paint that I use is Dupli-Color Ceramic Engine paint. It is heat safe up to 500°F. Not that any of my tools will ever get that hot, but I find that the paint is incredibly durable once it has been baked on to the tools. I sprayed three coats of paint onto all the parts and left them to dry for about 24 hours.
Then all the parts get put into the oven. Before proceeding, either make sure your wife has an incredible amount of patience (or has gone out for the day). In short, this stinks up the house pretty badly. Here’s my baking schedule:
- 170°F (the lowest my oven goes) for 30 minutes
- 200°F for 20 minutes
- 225°F for 20 minutes
- 250°F for 20 minutes
- 275°F for 20 minutes
- 300°F for 1 hour
- Turn off the oven, but leave it closed and allow it to cool slowly overnight.
I do it this way, to avoid damaging any of the cast parts or inducing them to warp. Raise the heat slowly, and then let it cool slowly. So far, I’ve had no problems with this method.
The grinding wheel on the tool was in pretty bad condition. For a replacement, I needed a 6-inch diameter wheel, 1-inch thick, with a 1-inch arbor. I looked on amazon, and saw that a new wheel was going to cost me about $27 dollars. That’s when I remembered that I bought some random grinding wheel at a garage sale about two years ago. I think I paid a dollar for it and then stuck it somewhere in the black hole that is my shop. I couldn’t remember where I put it, but searched my shop and found it. Lucky Day!!! It was the exact size that I needed.
I lubed and reassembled the grinder, then used a wheel truing tool to clean the surface of the stone.
I then put some Watco Danish Oil (mahogany color) on the wooden handle.
Some polyurethane finished off the handle nicely.
Well, for about $21 and the cost of some paint, I think that I have given this tool a new life.
My blog has been getting a little infrequent lately. I seem to be having some difficulty finding the time to put these posts together. For my next post, I hope to show my process for restoring a hand plane from start to finish. The plane in question is an English Stanley No. 4 ½. The project is already finished and there are about 200 photos on my camera that I need to sort through. I might have to break it into a couple of posts. We’ll see.
– Jonathan White