Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Uncovering faint markings on tools

Since I had the USB microscope at my desk, I played a bit with it, it's so much fun :-)

I thought I shared with you some of the methods I used to uncover markings on tools, besides my calibrated (when wearing glasses) Mark 1 Eyeballs.
Seriously being very near sighted, I see better and bigger without glasses but only up close.

For many years, markings were stamped, even on saw plates before they switched to an acid etch.
Problem always been, some of these markings were faint to start with, because of a worn out stamp or just not struck properly.  Add about a hundred years or so of uses and abuses and some of these markings practically faded away, being abraded or, HORROR, on moulding planes had their nose cut off an inch or so to store them with the remainder of the herd which got standardized to 9-1/2 inch later on.  That meant chopping off 1/2 in or a good inch :-(

And to add even more with the difficulties of reading them, metal rusted and wood get abraded or worn by repeat handling.

I used all the following tricks to help me out uncover markings.

One of the oldest trick in plane collecting is to used Talcum powder to enhance the contrast of the stamping against the darker colored wood.  Take a pic, turned it into a black and white pic, clean up the pic a bit and you have the classic markings imprints you often see in books

Rubbed on Johnson Baby Powder (talcum powder)

Classic examples shown
From Guide to Canadian Plane Makers & Hardware Dealers 3rd Edition

There are of course a few ways to take pics, a camera (preferably digital), the camera in your phone and the scanner... YES, your scanner

As is

Talcum enhanced
Both scanned in the scanner

The remnants of the powder afterward.  Will easily washed away.
Pic from USB microscope

The letters before the talcum powder

You can see a faint depression where the makers stamp should be.
J. Welton being the owner stamp.
Having a hard time getting it to stand out. Start with a "B" or "H"  I believe.
It is in two lines BTW

Talking of whom, the gentleman J, Welton grew up and lived on my street back when we were living in Tremont NS.  He passed long before we bought a house on his street, but his house was still own by Weltons.
I got these by attending the Welton's house estate when the last one passed.  There was a serious tool collector in attendance and he quickly overbid me several times.  I got the crumbs ... But I was happy to get some.

There is a small cemetery at the end of my street I went to it to look up his tombstone to make some pencil rubbing on paper.  It started to rain when I was doing that but it did not curbed my enthusiastic research, I just went back home to fetch my special note pad paper which let you write in the rain :-)

Once you have a digitized picture you can manipulated it to enhance or reduce light, contrast, colors etc.  No special software required, I simply used MS Paint and Window pictures.
Yes, you could tweaked it even more and probably better using specialized software such as Photoshop Elements ($$) or Gimp (free download)

That piece was recently de-rusted Evaporust, wire wheel, Autosol etc
I simply used the built in photo editor in Windows 10
You can clearly see 94 in this pic.

That is the mouth adjusting lever on my No 19 Excelsior Block plane.
Being an easily removable part, it can be swapped
Shown prior to de-rusting. Nickel plated flaking off and rusty

In a previous USB microscope view I thought I saw a 94??
And sure enough that would be part of the patent date 
PAT. FEB. 20. 94.

Proving my lever is original to the Type 3  I have.

The real tricky part is the lighting.  How much light and from what angle will obscure or reveal small indentations.  That "94" for example, I had to really tilted the microscope around and varies the light to get it.  And even after all that, by varying some parameters with the software made it stand out even more.  Pretty sophisticated and inexpensive method for uncovering markings if you ask me.

Part of the success is knowing where to expect to find markings.
On wooden planes, the maker stamp will more than often be found stamped in the nose of the plane (its front), sometimes along with its Model No 


No 29
Image from my scanner, and yes it is a Fore plane

Versus picture from camera.
You get a more even illumination from the scanner
which makes it easier to manipulate later.

But more often the Model Number and or size would be found on the heel (the rear of the plane)

Hollow & Round


No 180

On braces, you will often see the stamping's, Makers and Model No on the upper arm of the bow.

STANLEY BTCo (Bell Telephone Co)

No 923-8 IN

Brace bits have their sizes (No 4 to 16) stamped on their tapered butt, while the makers would be between the butt and the start of the twist, cutting edge etc.  Look for it nearer the butt end.
It never cease to amazed me what Evaporust has revealed to me thru the years.  

10 (10/16, or 5/8)



The Number 7 size under the microscope

It is a twist nose bit

The business end. The thing at the end is a bit of wood left
Its a working bit :-)

Plane blades have their maker's marking clearly (?) stamped near the top.
But they are often obscured in rust.  Evaporust is a god sent in those cases since it only dissolved the rust, will not attack the good metal.


Recently cleaned

Close up on the DA in ADAM.

Hard to see but you can somewhat discerned the arched logo

Logo unearthed after de-rusting

I could go on and on, but to be successful you only required two things.
A cleaned object, de-rusted and some prior knowledge of where you would expect to find markings.
After that the method you used is up to you, personally I am sold to the digital domain.  Much easier than the old pencil rubbing's on paper and talcum powder enhanced prints. 

Bob, with a seemingly accumulating pile of tools around his PC, Oups :-) 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Why were the backs of the cap iron originally treated

First a quick recap.
I mentioned a few times that the back on some of my cap irons looked like they had originally some sort of coatings on them.  Black on the older English irons then some sort of blue on Stanley cap irons until roughly Type 12, which saw the introduction of the high knob.
I have no idea what that coating was or is, let alone if it is an additional coating or the results of the thermal treatment of the blade thru its manufacture.  After all you can buy steel today to make handsaw which still has a blueish coating on one side, for the user to remove, via abrasion.

My thinking was, this extra step was to mitigate rust formation between both metal plates (irons), but then they stopped that practice around the great depression 1929-30s.
Extra costly step??

So one of my reader, Steve and I have been discussing back and forth trying to solve that mystery.
I am of the opinion it must be a coating, he is more incline to think its a result of the manufacturing steps (EG heat treatment).

Here are the two blades I picked., both Stanley.
You can definitively see the remnants of something blueish.
But what is it??.

It really spike my curiosity, so in a  effort to see if we could narrow it down or establish what it probably is, I took out my USB microscope and had a closer look.

My elaborate and scientific method of doing stuff.
In this pic, I am looking at the dressed edge of the cap iron

There are many version of this microscope, resolution, both in optics and chip size etc.
But you can buy a cheap one like mine for about $30 delivered to your door straight from China (just do a quick google search).  AMscope, call them kids microscope simply because they can also sell you much higher quality and prices.  But don't let the low price fool you, they can be very handy for taking a closer look at practically anything.  I use it when sharpening to inspect problem edges.

Mine is like the one on the left.
Its only drawback is the very finicky focusing,
the stand being flimsy.
You have to hold your breath when taking the pic :-)
What do you want for $20? 

So have a look at what I found.
If anyone can help us identify it, please leave a comment.
First up, the infamous Blueish coating from Stanley

Near the top of the cap iron

Where the cap iron meet the blade.
Often the inside of the curvature is clear steel (bright).
but this one definitively shows signs of it till the edge

Then lets look at the plain steel one on a more modern Stanley Type.

The edge that meet the iron.
Can you see shavings jamming in there? Yes

Around the big hole to clear screw that tighten every thing together on the frog.
You can clearly see evidences of stamping to cut the hole

The inside threads cut into the cap iron to attach the cutting iron

 And again here they are together with and without the flash.

No flash

Flash on

The top sides.
Flash on
I moved them around in an effort to show the change in curvature at the edge.
The oldest one (blue) has a more pronounced curvature and hump.
The newer one is mostly bent at the edge

Finally lets look at the English black coated ones
Hummm on closer look, they sure look very similar to the blueish Stanley...

The blades in question


English maker?  It got a 
SHEFFIELD cap iron

The back no flash

The back with the flash on

To give you an idea of the magnification I'm using,
this is what the smooth grey looks like on my paper

Near the start of the curvature on the cap iron.
looks a lot like Stanley

The inside threads cut on the brass nut

How the brass nut is swaged (tight compressed fit)

Near the top of the cap iron

The brass nut seen from the other side, the show side

Next one up


The back flash on

Yes we have pockets of rust. 
Barely visible to the naked eye

See how the scratch lines seems to skip?
It is because you are looking at a crater of a pitted area.

Strangely this rust is only attached to the blue coating??
It sacrificed itself to protect the steel?? :-)

The show side of the bras nut

Finally lets have a quick look at one of my prior working edge blade, Hint the Thomas Turner

In its defence that edge has been thru the wire wheel
The bevel side

The back side.
I had to turn down the LEDs illumination it was too white out (shiny)
Yap, nicks

The back side.
Notice the hollow in the back, near the edge

Hard to see the bevel.
Notice the remnants of an hollow edge

The other blade Thistle, has not been sharpened yet

One thing I did not looked at is how a blued edge from heat  or a gun bluing treatment would look like under the microscope, having none of the above.  If you do have access to those and one of those microscope, would love to see how it looks abraded

And just because, lets have a look at some wood.
Can you identify the species?

OK there you go.
If that did not convinced you how useful this "kid" toys is, I gave it my best shot :-)
Seriously, it is a very handy tool to have. Oh and the kids and grand kids can have fun with it too.
There are of course versions who plug directly in your phone (IOS and Android), making them more portable.  Mine is attached to my PC via USB.

Bob, the grand kid at heart.  Never cease to explore your world.