That's a question, not the start of a dateline in-depth report in case anyone was wondering. I have several handplanes I liberated from ebay and I want to get them back in working order. I'm sure this isn't crucial to the plane's functionality but if I'm already working on it I might as well do the whole bit.
Also, when refinishing handles what does everyone suggest as a finish? I was trying to think of something with a nice gloss to it that also provides good protection. I haven't done much finishing so I thought ya'll might be able to help.
The traditional finish for most wooden parts on tools, to include plane totes and knobs as well as handsaw handles is shellac. A lot of time when I am cleaning up an old tool I will use mineral spirits initially to soften and remove the gunk, then maybe some sandpaper to get the stubborn stuff. Then I'll use a rag with some denatured alcohol. This will often dissolve the shellac still on the handle and actually renew it somewhat. Then I'll use a little shellac and a drop or two of linseed oil to apply a traditional French Polish. BTW this is a very easy way to learn some of the basics of French Polish before you try it on a big project.
While I don't harbor any sort objections to cleaning and refinishing the wood on old tools as this helps to protect and preserve the wood, I would not re-japan a particularly old plane or other tool as, IMO, this makes the tool into something that it isn't and does devalue the collector aspects of the plane.
Originally it was a complicated brew inluding asphaltum and carbon black..a search around various sites will provide a number of recipes.
a modern equivalent would be enamel paint but because original japanning will be a thick surface it will need a lot of prep before the chips become unnoticeable..as you say it's cosmetic and I've reached the stage where the chips are part of using old used tools!!
An occasional wipe with something to keep the rust at bay.
As to totes ..this is more of a personal choice and poly varnish looks good I prefer an "oiled " finish that absorbs any perspiration from hands when I use them for anything above a short (5 min) period.
A hard finish quickly becomes slippery and uncomfortable and leads to hand blisters ...with me..
Again the dull patina of a well used handle speaks to me far better than a glossy show tool..your opinion may be entirely different..I speak to the practicality in use :)
Can't really add much to the jappaning question...
But as to refinishing the tote and knob, I'd recommend staying away from shellac or varnish unless you don't plan on using these tools and are going to display them. A film finished tote and knob can cause blisters. I prefer BLO.
As an aside, prior to WWII, the totes and knobs on Stanley planes are Rosewood (during the war and after they went to Birch). My Stanleys date from 1884 (#45) to the mid 30s and all the knobs and totes are in excellent condition. The handle on my D112 Diston "Victory", ca. 1918, is Rosewood, it too is in excellent condition. First thing I did with my Clifton was to remove the finish on it's knob and tote (Bubunga)...Any who, my two cents.
>As an aside, prior to WWII, the totes and knobs on Stanley
>planes are Rosewood (during the war and after they went to
Specifically, it was Brazilian Rosewood, was it not? My understanding is that it's hard to come by nowadays. However, you can find pieces on eBay if you keep your eyes open and are willing to pay that much for it.