Stanley Defiance #3 Smooth Plane - Before and After: A couple weeks ago, I picked up a pair of old planes for a couple bucks apiece. The lower photo shows the planes (disassembled) as they looked when I bought them. I’d already removed the handles in preparation for removing the rust.
Back in the day, we used to use a product called Naval Jelly for tasks like this. It was pretty effective, but it was nasty stuff: it was highly caustic, and if you got it on your hands, it burned. This time, I tried a product called Evapo-Rust, purchased at Auto Zone. It was pricey — a gallon was about $19 — but damn, it worked really, really well. It’s environmentally friendly, and doesn’t hurt your skin; you can dip things in it with your bare hands.
The smaller of the two planes is a nice little Millers Falls skewed block plane, and I haven’t rebuilt it yet. The other plane is a #3 Stanley “Defiance” plane. In truth, it’s not a particularly nice plane; the fit and finish are mediocre, and the lever for laterally adjusting the blade is a little flimsy. Nonetheless, it’s a very nice size for working on smaller pieces, and now that it’s sharp again, it cuts beautifully.
If you’re interesting planes, there’s a nice article on old Stanley planes here: http://www.supertool.com/StanleyBG/stan1.htm. There’s one thing that many people don’t understand about woodworking planes: A well-sharpened, well-tuned handyman plane — like this little Defiance — will work better than a dull, poorly-tuned top-of-the-line plane. It takes a little while to learn how to properly sharpen and adjust a plane, but once you know, you can turn something mediocre into a very good tool.
That said, it took a lot of work to get the blade back into shape. When you’re removing rust, you’re also removing part of the original metal. The back of a plane’s blade ought to be flat, and if it isn’t, you’ll have a hard time getting a good, sharp edge. (Chisels and plane irons should be sharp enough to shave the hairs off of your arm.) Because the exposed portion of the blade had rusted badly, the last 1/8” was basically trashed; that meant regrinding and then re-honing. That’s a lot of work to put into a plane that wasn’t all that great even when it was new. Still, for reasons that can only be understood by someone who truly loves tools, it was worth it.