Wooden Smothing Plane – H.G. Stilley

Some of you may remember the rotten tool chest I found on the side of the road a few weeks back and the smoothing plane I found inside.  Well this week my elbow was giving me some trouble so rather than milling up the maple for my leg vise I decided to get it up and running.  Here is the starting point:


After taking everything apart it looked like the components were mostly intact so I started following the process the Slightly Confused Woodworker used on his English plane but instead of using a plane to flatten the sole I used heavy grit sandpaper glued to a marble slab (I encountered some serious tear-out when I tried to use my sharpest plane).  The sole needed a fair bit of flattening.


The blade and cap iron got a bath in my electrolysis setup and came out looking pretty nice.  A previous owner had take the time to flatten the back of the blade so it really only needed polishing, but the chipped edge was going to require some grinding.


While I was waiting for the BLO to cure, I decided to look up the maker H.G. Stilley since he was a local.  There was little online other than he moved to San Francisco during the gold rush and that his planes were rare. I also found an old posting from a collector near Carmel, California looking for any planes made by this maker so I emailed him a picture to see if he had any info.

What I was able to find online:

  • Born in Delaware
  • Moved to SF during the gold rush and at one point lived a few blocks from my office
  • Census records show him living in SF, Oakland, and the gold fields
  • Was a member of the Yerba Buena society of Odd People (S.F. has always bee a bit different, look up Emperor Norton sometime)
  • Lived to the age of 85

IMG_0924 IMG_0923

After asking me a few questions he ended up offering some money for the plane so he could add it to his collection so unfortunately I will not get to finish the restoration and actually get to use it, but it will be going to someone who appreciates it.

IMG_0926 IMG_0928

It still needs a coat of wax and to be sharpened but it looks pretty go to me.

IMG_0930 IMG_0931

3 thoughts on “Wooden Smothing Plane – H.G. Stilley

  1. Looks great!

    Too bad about not being able to use it, but… hopefully you can put the reimbursement towards a smoothing plane you can use yourself. And you really have to appreciate a collector dedicated to a specific maker like that.

    The only thing I would be concerned with in using sandpaper to flatten the wooden sole is embedding sandpaper grit into it, which would then telegraph into your planed surfaces. Maybe a light scraping with a non-flexed card scraper would be enough to fix that (after you got it jointed properly)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • that is a good point that I did not consider. I used the black “wet dry” stuff which tends to shed less and I only used the heavy grits so any bits should be easy to notice.

      I will mention it to the buyer in case he plans on using it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t really know if it would be a problem or not; I’m not terribly familiar with woodies. The only wooden planes I use are moulding planes. But it is something to consider.

        I agree, though, that using the black wet/dry paper might be better than using standard wood-purposed sandpaper, especially cheap stuff, like what my dad buys at the Dollar store (a terrible habit I’ve never been able to turn him from); that sheds grit like nothing else.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s