Plan To Practice On A Plane


All are jobs any novice can handle, without risking messing up his gun while practicing.

The blade cleaned up, then I trued, sharpened and polished it using diamond stones,
then diamond paste on a leather pad.

“Hey, um … uh … you’re talkin’ about a wood plane on a, um, you know, uh, like a gun website, you know?” Yup, and for a number of very good reasons. We like to encourage you to get your hands dirty and work on your own guns. In this very column I’ve covered lots of fun “do it yourself” gunsmithing and simple gun fix projects. Heck, we’re even doing another DIY Gunsmithing Special Edition as we speak.

But I’ve also had a few of you reach out when you sort of “got into trouble” on a gun project. I helped you through some rocky spots involving sight adjustments using a cold chisel, one propane torch “situation” as he called it, two “But I only looked away for a second” Dremel adventures and one belt sander incident I still have bad dreams about. So I thought I’d show you a good way to get some good tool skills practice — without risking one of your “future project guns.”

Enter the unassuming junk store wood plane. The 1930s-1970s were the heyday of the whole “Real men do it themselves!” period and you couldn’t pick up a Mechanics Illustrated without seeing smiling, pipe-smoking, hat-wearing “dads” working in the “home shop” or garage. “Handy household projects” got made, and millions of Americans bought wood planes and other tools from the likes of Sears, Montgomery Wards or various “wish books” they wistfully studied. I miss those days, in all honesty.

The upside about this is there are zillions of these old planes rusting away, for sale in antique stores and garage sales. The slick thing about them is they’re all sort of like guns. They have wood or plastic “stocks,” steel, brass, nickel and even some chrome pieces, threaded bits, flat and round parts and most of the pieces are carefully fitted and machined to work together. Hey, that sounds like a gun to me.

Wire brushing and some polishing tidied things up nicely. A touch of black glossy
paint helped in a few spots too.

The sole flattened agreeably and good old floor wax keeps it slick as well as protecting raw steel from rust.

Good as new, or maybe better since the blade is actually sharp now! A simple project
but great for building your tool skills.

And The Idea Is?

Even cheaper, older models are usually well made, come apart easily and you can “fix” most broken parts. If you keep your wits about you — and document it with your phone’s camera — you can detail strip even a complicated hand plane. Just like a gun.
You can practice refinishing wood, polishing metal, silver-soldering, brazing, maybe even a bit of welding, cleaning up threads, tweaking, timing and adjusting — then put it all back together. The really good thing is if you really, really mess things up you’re only out the $20 you spent on a rusty plane — and you still got to practice. But if you do well, then you have a very cool tool you restored. You can use it in your own shop, give it as a gift, or — be still my heart — sell it to buy gun stuff.

The plane in the pics is an old Craftsman I paid $15 for. It was a bit rusty but not too bad, and the blade’s edge was in terrible shape. The various threaded parts needed cleaning up and the sole (or bottom) was nicked and rusty but I could tell it’d freshen-up. Overall, a good project plane.

The Process

First, you should photo everything in-place, just as you would if working on a gun model new to you. Photo as you take things apart and even use the video feature to show how things fit or move. Once disassembled, inventory the work to do. In this case I used a bench-top wire wheel to clean the rust and tarnish, and a tap/die set to clean up the threads. This was originally a price-point plane so the handle and knob are hard plastic and were in good shape. I just polished them up some with Simichrome. If they’d been wood, I’d have stripped the finish, sanded and refinished them.

The blade took a bit of work to square and sharpen but I soon had it popping arm hairs. I used 220-grit to 400-grit wet-or-dry paper with WD40 on a bit of old marble counter top, running the sole over and over to flatten and clean it up. I ended up with a nice, smooth finish. I also polished the sides and a few other metal bits as-needed. The wire wheel and then a buffer with some polish on it did the job.

Re-assembly went smoothly. I adjusted the blade settings until it cut pine shavings good enough to bring tears to any seasoned wood worker’s eyes. Even cheap planes work well if you tune them up right. This particular project now lives in the shop of a dear friend of mine, which is extra-pleasing.

The feeling you get taking a rusty hunk of junk and turning it into a gleaming, working tool can’t be beat. You feel great, and want to do it again — and again. It’s a dandy way to build your skills with abrasive paper, wire wheels, Dremels, taps and dies, sharpening stones (also good for flattening and polishing metal), wood finishing, screw drivers and even making small parts if needed. You end up with a good tool, and you’re many steps closer to your first “real” gun project. Suddenly that restoration of your grandpa’s old .22 rifle doesn’t seem quite so scary now, eh?

Ruger Super P100

This 9mm Custom Shop, Model 5066, raises the bar of “Just how many features can we get into this?” Essentially a competition revolver chambered in 9mm, the 8-shot cylinder assures you of plenty of shooting time, and the 6″ barrel, good grips and smooth action helps assure great handling. Note how the short cylinder is met by the barrel forcing cone. There’s no need for bullets to make a death-defying leap through empty chambers as in a normal cylinder, and the smaller size cuts mass, allowing fast, smooth operation. The cylinder and extractor are cut for full moon clips, and the barrel is cold hammer-forged. We have one of these so stay tuned for a feature and video on it. MSRP is $1,549.

Who Are The Shootists?

The Shootists is a nonprofit organization formed in 1985 by our own John Taffin, as a gathering of like-minded enthusiasts, meeting yearly to fellowship and exchange ideas. It has, in the 35 years since, grown to a membership of about 100, with members ranging from industry professionals, gunwriters, and law enforcement officers to teachers, lawyers and physicians. Membership is by invitation only, with criteria based upon the concept of one suitable to “ride the river with” or to “stand in the gap for the land.” The Shootists meet each June for a week at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico, where its “home range” is the Hunters Pistol Range.

Activities of The Shootists are focused on education, safety, fellowship and charitable works. A number of children are part of the group, learning to shoot everything from buffalo rifles and long range precision rifles to cowboy action — something adult participants benefit from as well. Range and firearms safety are a focus. Fellowship is important, as Shootists from across the country look forward to reconnecting each summer with what typically become their closest friends. The Shootists Holiday is also a time to remember — a memorial service is held each year to honor members who have passed away in the preceding year.

As its primary fund raising effort, The Shootists sponsor children to attend Adventure Camp, held each year at the NRA Whittington Center. Recently, The Shootists have begun holding a second, charitable raffle in the winter. The participation and funds raised were phenomenal this past event, raising $6,350 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Of particular note with regards to the latter raffle, every item or service in the raffle was donated. The Whittington Center donated the base gun (a 51/2″ first generation Colt SAA in 38-40); Tedd Adamovich donated a set of hand-fit burl maple one-piece grips; Bobby Tyler and Tyler Gun Works donated the restoration and refinish of the gun; Dale Bass donated the full coverage engraving and Mike Barranti of Barranti Leather donated a floral carved leather holster every bit the match for the spectacular gun.

I know many of The Shootists and they’re a great group of people!

EAA Girsan 1911

I’m always on the lookout for a good value. EAA’s new Girsan line is made in Turkey and like the vast majority of Turkish guns I’ve seen, exhibits excellent quality, especially for the money. Think of this model as a simple 5" all-steel 1911 but with upgrades turning it into a “competition” or a sort of “custom” model — all for an MSRP of $901. Added value items include a fully adjustable rear sight, extended thumb shield, ambi-safety, beavertail, EAA’s G10 grips, long hole hammer, front and rear slide serrations, competition trigger at 2.5 lbs., mag well, competition barrel, checkering — and the list goes on. I handled one at the SHOT show and was very impressed with the feeling of good quality. We have one coming for a closer look soon.


I’m pleased to show you another in this series of high quality cast metal miniatures. This latest is one of my all-time favorite handguns — the Hi-Power. What always strikes me about these little guns are their heft and excellent detail. Unlike many miniatures, the makers here are very careful to get things right. I’ve helped them with specifics, even supplying high definition photos of guns to help them with their designs. This is number 10 in the series, with the classic S&W Model 36 Chief’s Special due next. The past models are still available on their website. MSRP is $21.95.

Taurus Revolver Renaissance

It’s hard to pick out one “best” new revolver from any of the makers today, but at least with Taurus it was easy for me to like the Defender 856. Essentially a classic 856 small-frame model with some enhancements, the Defender stands out with the VZ grips and 3″ barrel. In .38 Special, with a 6-round cylinder, it’s also got an orange front “Night Sight” and fixed rear. At 35 oz. it’s not a lightweight, but I’ve long found the combination of a few extra ounces and a 3″ barrel can turn a small-frame revolver into a track-driver. Outfits like Galloway Precision can work the actions to smooth them, and you end up with a very nice revolver. MSRP is $477 for the Taurus.

Ranch Products 10mm Clips

Mooning means an entirely different thing when you’re talking about revolvers — as opposed to intoxicated college students. Ranch Products, makers of “moon” clips of every sort imaginable for more years than I can count, is offering the 10mm clips for the new generation of S&W Model 610 10mm revolvers seeing a resurgence. I like these clips because you can load them with your human-being fingers rather than a fancy mooner or de-mooner.

MTM Handgun Storage

Gun safes can get crowded, especially if you’re collecting rather than just “gathering” guns! Putting them on shelves or on racks risks dinging them and having them get knocked about. I know that’s how they live in my own safe. MTM’s idea is simple and brilliant. They offer 3-packs of clear plastic cases in two sizes to fit most handguns (up to 12" long). Each case has a closed cell foam liner and a transparent top. You can stack them and still peer inside to see what’s sitting comfy there. They can hold up to two smaller handguns, or other collectible things like coins, jewelry, papers, watches or you-name-it. I gotta get some of these! MSRP is $16.95 (9" 3-pack) or $18.95 (12" 3-pack).

Les de Asis Passes

A dear old friend and a true industry icon, Les de Asis, the founder of Benchmade Knives, passed recently. Les started, literally, on a bench, and since the 1970s grew his company into one of the most respected knife making establishments in the world. Les had a magnetic personality, always having time for a visit, a laugh, to share a good dinner and especially — to take care of his customers and staff. He wanted the knife and shooting sports industry to thrive, and left a legacy of quality and innovation which is sure to continue — and grow. Darn it all anyway, it seems it’s always the good ones who leave us too early.

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