Monday 6 August 2012

Norris Plane Restoration

So here it is in all its glory my Norris A13! I've never seen one of these in the flesh before but it's in a sorry state.

The handle had a crack which a previous owner had glued and added these side cheeks for extra support. They were prised off with a sharp chisel and the old glue scraped off.

The adjuster was bent and a crack was evident in the side cheek, a typical area to get damaged. the adjuster ran smoothly up and down but need some releasing oil to get the sideways movement going.

I straightened the bent adjuster with careful positioning on the corner of an anvil, nerve racking stuff!

The crack at the top uncovered and old repair and a scarfed in piece of mahogany. The colour match was surprisingly good with the rosewood so I cleaned it up and re-glued it with epoxy resin.
You can also see the full extent of the bent adjuster here before it was straightened.

I cleaned the brass up with 400 grit wet and dry dipped in mineral spirit and used the soft brass brush to clean all the gunk out of the heavy name stamp.

The crack was glued with epoxy and clamped leaving it proud so that it could be sanded flush. I also cleaned up the tarnished metal with 400 grit and mineral spirit, the metal was in pretty good shape (thank god something was!)

I sanded everything flush and smooth working from 120 g through 180 and 240g.

I then applied a rosewood stain all over which returned the colour to a more typical shade of an 80 or 90 year old plane. I darkened the rosewood stain for the rear handle with some black oil stain to even up the colour.

I applied gun blue to the metal sides to dull down the sanding and more particularly the edges which had been linished by a previous owner. I also used the gun blue to tone down the lever cap.

The gun blue makes things go very dark so I adjusted as necessary with the wet and dry 400 g and mineral spirit. The result was very pleasing giving a nice 'old' patination of both metals.

The brass brush had over cleaned the lettering so I filled it with the black oil pigment and wiped off the excess.

I adjusted the colour until the lever cap looked natural.

The seal for the wood was 4 coats of heavy cut shellac which was then cut back with Abralon 600 grit to a matt smooth finish. I then applied a coat of hard carnauba wax to lend some added protection and give a soft sheen to the wood as is typically displayed on nicely worn antique handles.

The rosewood was a pleasant surprise and the cracks were almost hidden.

The last step was to treat the plane to a replacement iron and chip breaker from another Norris plane, making sure it was correct for the period as indicated by the 1922 date on the adjuster lever. This restoration had gone well and I was pleased with the result. It took five hours in total plus the £300 to buy the plane in the first place. Time will tell if it was a good investment although I don't intend parting with this one for a long time yet.


  1. Looks like you've got yourself a bargain, hope it performs well. I love that moment when you sand and restore wood, the grain gets a second lease of life.

    1. Hi David, This plane has a nice tight mouth and I'm sure will work very well. The moment you describe is usually the best on most projects, although Brazilian rosewood is particularly special. All the best, David.

  2. Interesting post and the plane look great. You will have to post how it works.

  3. Hi, The plane will work very well, it has a nice tight mouth and is heavy with a thick blade, what more could you want from a plane! However I have so many planes it probably won't see much action under my ownership. All the best, David.

  4. Hi David,
    Very timely post, I am building an A13 kit from Gerd Fritsche and have been doing some research on the front bun design of the A13. It seems that all the current versions of this plane have copied Karl Holtey's updated bun style for this plane. The ugly lump of the original seems to only appear on the, er well, original. After Karl came up with the nice bun style, all the planes built since then have adopted this design. Still not sure if I want the old school or Holtey-school look....

    Nice surprise under the grunge on your A13.


    1. Hi Richard, I have one of Gerds planes, a little 1/2" shoulder. I've never made an infill plane so good luck to you and I would love to see a picture of the finished job. Regarding the front bun it is distinctive and yes ugly but it has grown on me and is comfortable to hold. At the end of the day the choice is yours! All the best, David.

  5. Hello David ,
    hope you enjoyed your bacon bap at the auction,I saw the A13 and pondered ,wish I had not ,you have done an admiral job on a very rare Norris ,infill looks marvellous considering the sorry state it was in on Mike's table .
    I bought one of your bubinga planes from ebay recently.
    Maybe you should try an infill I am sure you could make one .I will watch this space .

    1. Hi Greg, The bacon bap was was very nice thanks. You always take a risk buying a plane needing work, and this one needed plenty! Although it didn't take too long and worked out well.
      I hope you are getting on well with the smoother.
      At this stage I can hardly keep up with making the wooden tools never mind wandering into infill planes, maybe one day!
      See you at the next show. All the best, David.