Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A new old home for the Lewin Universal Plane

Some days ago I finished writing an article about combination planes and their uses for the Italian woodworking magazine Legnolab. Was this an occasion for a job I had in mind for some time, regarding a not so common combination plane, the Lewin Universal Plane.
The Lewin plane was a British tool sold around 50s. 
Very close to Stanley 45 and 50, is featured by an aluminium body onto which steel skates are fixed. Another particular feature are the cam bolts; they permit a faster and easier part fixing. 
The plane I acquired was in excellent conditions, complete of all cutters and original instruction manual.
The original wooden box (it came with the plane too), instead,  came in  poor condition.

The plywood bottom was quite irrecoverable as well as the cover was cupped and with its veneers lifted.
The box sides (pine) showed the time signs too, split in more points.

Clearly, the box was been stored in a very wet site and the moisture was an hard test for the wood, causing the inevitable damages
Either the plane than cutters, instead, came in very fair conditions, rust free, due to a thick grease layer I found onto the plane and blades: someone payed particular attention to the precious box content: Thank you!

So, I decided of restoring the box, preserving as well as possible the time signs which give a beautiful lived look.
The first operation was to disassemble parts. The nails were very thin and rusted, so their recovery was quite impossible.
I provided to repair splits and, where necessary, I added pine wood for restoring original dimensions.

Original side joints were pinned rebates but, due to the poor wood condition at extremities, I preferred simple rebate joints. For the purpose I added a little bit of new wood and nails for more strength.

I unglued the cover upper veneer and reglued it onto a piece of 4 mm plywood.

The new bottom was veneered on both sides with a pine veneer on the upper side and a beech one on the bottom side: the original bottom had a similar structure. 

For veneering I used hide glue and pressed the work between two boards for 24h.

The box inside showed some critical points: the cutter box, obtained from a pine block was glued cross-grained to a corner. This probably contributed to the box splitting. So, I preferred to  leave it free on the bottom but stopped by two little wood pieces, glued with the grain in the correct orientation. In this way is also possible to remove the cutter holder and keep it on the bench.

The plane holding system is clever and permits of keeping the plane assembled and lifted, so its  weight does not act on the bottom.
One holder was substituted end increased in thickness for offering more support to the rods. The instruction manual too has its place in the box, protected now by a plastic bag.
On the external side I refreshed the original colour using a water based dye (a combination of cherry and rosewood dyes); a wax coat completed the box finishing.

A particular was still missed:
Looking at a box short side I noticed a little piece of paper, the remaining of the original label with plane description. A lighter coloured area established its dimensions.
On the very good site Cornish Workshop I found a scanner of the label (and a lot of other precious info). I printed it and did a colour photostatic copy (my ink jet printer does not produce colours resistant enough for the purpose). 

In order to give an antique look, I used a diluted coffee solution in which the paper was soaked for several minutes and a microwave (1 min) for drying it. The final colour was right with some (good) stains due to the fast drying.

The Lewin, is now inside its new old box, ready to work again.