Friday, May 22, 2009

A little bit of old, in a little bit of new.

This is how the rest of my first Friday and Saturday at the new house went. We had our first home-cooked meal on Friday, pork chops...mmm. Sadly there were no pancakes on Saturday morning. (It's your fault Joe. You forgot to text her to make breakfast) Instead I made breakfast and apparently made enough noise in the kitchen to wake an army. ( I forgot the kitchen shares a wall with the master bedroom. I'll know better before singing aloud when I think I'm alone in the kitchen.)

Most of Friday afternoon and Saturday was spent in the garage working on the various projects I wanted to complete. I can't do anything big until I get a work bench built and I need to get the extra cash to build the bench, so it's gonna be a bit before I get to making desks and cabinets anytime soon. Anyway, on to my projects:

This is a 1930's Stanley breast/belly mounted drill (Shown below). It's been in my family since, well, the 1930s I suppose. Stanley didn't even make tools until 1928 when they opened and bought out another company, but this particular adjustable breast-brace didn't appear until the 30's. The reinforced and strengthened shank came even later, so I'm ball-parking this drill at 1936. Dad left this to me when he passed away. There are two of them, identical in size and shape, and in serious need of tender love and care. I remember seeing these in the wood shop growing up. I played with these things for hours as a kid. I've also got some braces (another kind of drill) but I haven't worked on those yet.

There is a conscious battle I fight when considering whether to leave the tools in their old rusty condition, because that's how I remember them and how they looked when Papa used them, or refinishing them to a newer glory and preparing them for another generation of Jordan men to craft with and enjoy. In the end I reconciled myself to the fact that Daddy and Papa wouldn't have taught me how to refinish and care for them if the didn't consider it worth doing, so I began in earnest with the restoration.


I started with simply breaking them down, lubricating the parts, and examining for signs of rust. Unfortunately some of the working parts had seen better days. Taking off the 80 year old saw dust revealed some serious rust. The chuck was overly rusted as was the grip. The teeth of the gears were a little rusty but in fairly good shape. Most astounding was the bearings inside the shank that allow the chuck to spin; they were immaculately sealed so I didn't open the bearings up, figuring there was no point in messing with something that wasn't broke.


A few tools from Lowe's (Air Compressor, Bench Vise, 440 grit sand paper, and wire wheels for my drills) made surprisingly quick work on getting the rust off. A wire wheel on a drill will do much less damage to metal than sandpaper, which actually scratches much deeper, so I was able to reveal the original manufacturer's stamp without damaging the metal.


Disassembling the chuck was interesting. I've never seen this kind of chuck design and it was seriously corroded with rust. I had to be really careful not to hit this too hard with the grinder or I'd just toss the pieces across the room and they'd scatter apart. I can't exactly order replacement parts for thing thing...


A little bit of farm tractor paint, stove paint, and a LOT of sanding and wire-brushing later and we have a really pretty drill again. The level is still good inside the housing and the maple handles are in great shape, though they need a little linseed oil to protect the wood.


And here is the finished product. Now all I have left to work on is getting my bit set cleaned. I've actually got the original bracing bit set that was made for this drill, created back in the late 1920's. The adjustable drill style itself, shown above with the two cogs, is (from what my research tells me) from a design patented in 1915 by the company that later became known as Stanley tools.


So don't ever let anyone fool you that Stanley tools don't stand the test of time. These drills have been in my family, and been used not just stored on a shelf, for almost a century and are still in wonderful shape. Are they a little bulky? Yes. Are there "better" ways to work with wood today? Probably so. There is however a bond you can only get with your wood working when you're working with old tools like this. You can feel each bite of the tooth in the wood, know how the wood is reacting to your touch or your pressure. These things aren't possible at 2400 RPMs on a drill press. The feel and tactile response you get from sliding a hand-planer down a boat joiner can't be recreated in my electric Makita. It's just different.

In staying with my desire to work on some project related things, I went to work on Amy's cast iron. Her Dad gave her these and they'd already been outside for quite awhile when she got them.


As bad as that looks, it's not really as bad as you might think. Though the rust is dominant all over the surface of the pan, you can still see the sheen of the oil trapped in the pores of the iron. This means there's too much grease cooked into the pan for the rust to be able to take hold deep within the iron, so there's probably no pitting of the surface inside.


Talk about sweat; holy crap I was tired and covered in rust when I got about halfway through this turkey. I locked it in the bench vise, turned on my iPod and set to work with a passion to see this thing come clean again. Most of that rust you see on the side is cast off from the wire wheel as it turns through the hard thick layer of crud that builds up on cast iron pans. You can, however, see a few places where I've had to eat through to the iron itself to get clean, especially near the edges of the bottom.


Getting the inside this clean took about 30 minutes, but you can see that I was right in my first guess; there's no pitting on the inside of the cook surface. That's the good news. The bad news is that there's no longer any oil inside it either to condition the iron. Trying to cook with this pan right now like it is would ruin it in a matter of minutes. It's amazing how temperamental cast iron can be.


I forgot to get a picture of the pan when I finished it, but there are a few steps between the photo above and the finished product. First I took 440 grit sandpaper soaked in vegetable oil and fine-sanded the inside of the pan. Why would you sand in vegetable oil you say?

Cast iron gets hot when you grind on it for an hour with a steel brush at high speed, which is good. I needed the pores of the iron to open up a little bit. Ideally wet sanding is great for metal, but again we're working with iron, so if I get the pan hot and apply sand paper soaked with water then I'm reintroducing the option of rust to all the places I just got the rust out of. After wet sanding it, I let it dry and then hand-washed it with soap and water after it was cool, the slathered it in oil and baked it at 300 degrees for an hour to temper the pan again. The first run through darkened it back up a little but it took on a bronzish color, so I coated it again and baked it again for another hour later on that evening. It's probably going to take 4 or 5 sessions with each one to get them to have a good slick non-stick surface again. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

This picture was me, after 5 hours mowing grass, but before I got covered in rust and iron. Amy will tell you I whined like a baby about my sunburn, but I deny it vehemently. I took my sun burn like a man! Besides, I always get burned one time each year. It seems I need that to get a good base tan. Now I'll be good to go by next weekend when I have to go mow the grass again.


All in all it was a good time. Amy already thinks I spend too much time in the garage and not enough time in the house with her. She told me if I get a couch to put in the garage where she can sit and read her books, she'll hang out with me out there, so that's next on my agenda of garage items to pick up. It would be worth it to be able to spend more time with her and still be able to get things done around the shop. So far I have a work bench, a desk for her office, and a tool rack for the gardening tools to work on for her. My self-imposed tasks are installing a retractable drop-cord in the garage ceiling so she can charge the truck's generator at night and a parking ball for the hood.

To say it simply, I had the best weekend I've had in a really long time this past weekend. Spending time with a woman like her is a blessing. She, like most women, deserves better, and I deserve less, so I'm happy to be as blessed as I am.

Now, I'm off to bed. I've got a job in Farmville tomorrow for a tobacco company and that's going to take all day. Then I have to spend Saturday at the beach for the NCBBA Annual meeting, and the probably try to come back Saturday night so i can catch up on the work I haven't yet been able to do this week. Monday is a holiday so that's going to mean my staff is off and I have to take up the slack, which will mean absolutely NO time to get anything caught up because I'll be too busy handling day to day stuff.

Nite all. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

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