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Tips from Old Millrat - James D. Thompson


 
 

Making Faux Rosewood Totes and Knobs

 

I just found a late model Craftsman #3 plane at a garage sale. It looked rough, but the tote and knob were intact, so I bought it for a user.  It is a late model, and so it has non-rosewood wood.

While I was de-rusting the metal parts in an acid bath, I used a cabinet scraper and some 150 grit sandpaper to remove all the finish and stain on the tote and knob. I left the finish on the tote in the next picture so you can see how Stanley does faux rosewood. It ainít pretty. The grain is totally obscured by the dark pigment finish.

I set to work stripping off all that crud on the tote. Now they were down to bare wood.

I have no idea what kind of wood these are made of.

Now comes the fun part. Mix equal parts of red and blue aniline dye to make a deep purple. Apply generously to all surfaces.

In the next picture you can see what the wood looks like after it has been treated with the purple dye and allowed to dry. It actually looks like rosewood. And the best part is that the grain of the wood is not obscured by this dye. It looks very natural.

The purple color comes alive as soon as you apply a thin coat of garnet shellac. That is the key to this process.

I mix 1/2 ounce of powdered aniline dye with one pint of water. My red is almost gone, but I have used very little blue. I mixed up these anilines more than 10 years ago, and they still work just fine.

I know that aniline dyes are expensive, something like $10 an ounce, but one ounce mixes with one quart of water, and usually I dilute that way down to get a color I want on wood. Donít worry that they will go bad if you donít use them. They wonít. The 2 that get used up first are always Van dyke Brown and Red.

Now it is time to start applying the actual film finish.  I believe that the original finish was shellac, so I am also applying shellac, blonde variety.  Here is what the tote looks like when finished.

And here is the plane with its freshened wood.

The late model totes are not so elegant as the older ones are. They are thicker and clunkier.  This method of refinishing totes and knobs produces a tool that is much better looking than the original. And it is easy to do.

Jim D. Thompson
October, 2008


 
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