The title of the email read, I want you
to test drive something.
It was from Charlie Driggs, and he was
being secretive. I couldn’t get another word out
of him. Except that it should have already been here.
With fierce curiosity burning I waited
another couple days for the Pony Express to finally
When stating the proscribed shipping
times from out of Happy Camp, the standard line they all
must recite at the shipping counter? Well, no
postal clerk has ever been able to manage a straight
Those of us who have lived here long,
smile just as broadly over the ridiculously optimistic
delivery times ourselves. Exactly 2 more very long
days passed, and a small box appeared.
Inside was a treasure. At least it’s a
treasure to me.
Oh, the follow up note from Mr. Driggs
says, "You just test drive it for oh, say, the next 25
years??" Yeee-Haw, music to my ears!!!
The Stanley #80 gets no respect in tool
collecting circles. None at all. And yet, more
were made and sold, over a longer period of time, than
any other scraper design ever made. More than all other
designs put together! They are lightweight and
simple to set up. Easy to use, even for a newbie.
Almost bulletproof really!
It is a terribly underestimated tool in
my experience. I would never want to be without
Factory made tools of any period are
often minimal to my way of thinking. Usually they
are accurate enough to get a job done, and little more.
Every factory's overall goal is to produce as much
sellable goods as possible, in the least amount of time,
for the lowest price, that will still be acceptable to
the general public. 9 to 5 factory work at modest wages, what can you
Homemade, or custom shop, benchmade or user made
tools (all meaning the same thing) often fall into one
of two categories. Either totally splendiferous
take-your-breath-away, or crudely made and unfinished.
The scraper inside was well made, but unfinished.
Rough sand cast by a real expert patternmaker, but never
finished. For the previous 100 or so years, nobody had wanted
to take on the challenge of making it work and making it
Until Charlie... Charlie, who got this from eagle eyed, tool dealer
extraordinaire Tony Seo, btw, had already flattened the base and the blade bedding
Plus he had added his trademark balancing weights to
the screws. Big jobs on a rough casting like this! But it still didn't work well. Not for me that is.
To work well, there were still a couple of "gotchas"
about the tool. First, someone before Charlie had drilled the all
important adjustment screw in the wrong place.
Having the hole drilled this high meant the screw was
just pressing against the hold- down bar that secures the blade in
place. So it had no operational adjustment.
I took a torch and brazed the original hole closed,
and drilled/tapped it lower. I drilled my hole as low as practicable for maximum
blade flex action.
The other killer for best performance was the absence
of a back bevel in the blade mount. There are 2 ways to make a scraper work. 2 entirely
different schools of thought.
One way is to use as flat a blade mounting as
possible for the most blade support, and then use a very thick very hard
blade. This works and good work can be done this way. But
it’s a pain. The blade has to be meticulously prepared and razor
sharp. Chatter and tearout is a heartbeat away at any given second. The forgiveness factor is nearly zero.
For the rare occasion all this is necessary, having a
tool to set up this way is fine. But I like a much more casual approach to life. I
like a thin flexible scraper blade. Everything is so much easier and more
forgiving this way. The thin blade flexes backwards a bit in use,
presenting the hooked edge to the work in a soft manner.
Apparently Stanley liked thin blades too. Every
scraping tool they ever made was set up for a flexible blade. The #80 has a clearance bevel filed in. The last 1/4"
of blade intentionally hanging in free air, in order to have
flex room. The #81, ditto. The #12 and #112 adjustable angle scrapers
have a knuckle joint at the bottom that leaves the last portion of the
blade floating free as well.
The only plane they made with a possible rigid blade
mounting was the #85 and that was a user preference ordeal. As
supplied, this plane comes with a thin bed liner that ends before the sole of
the plane. If you wanted, you can remove this liner and have a rigid
bed. I have never seen an 85 with this liner removed, btw.