I got this little gem years ago at a yard-sale. The man who sold it to me bought it in Japan when he and his wife were on their honeymoon (early 1960’s??). According to gentleman you soak it in water for a few days then set it on a plate. Soon it starts to pee. Wha?!

I got him home, and soaked him. The pottery is very very thin. It’s unglazed but high-fired and barely still porous. There is a tiny hole right where it should be.

Eventially “drippy” soaked up enough water to be about 1/2 full.

I put him on a plate. He blew a couple of bubbles and then just puddled a bit.

I gave him the best amateur prostate screening I could manage and it seems that the seam along his crotch is cracked. So he was dripping from there.

Lousy photo – sorry.

Has anyone out there ever see one of these? I’m interested in a couple of things. 

Can you still get things like this? If so, put me down for half-a dozen.

What were/are they called?

How does it work?- something to do with evaporation, most likely. This little bugger must be a distant cousin of the dunking bird and that goofy terra-cotta wine cooling sleeve.

Would surgery (glue) work?

 COMING SOON…Japanese “Fertility” Sake Set.

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I have been collecting planes for years. I try my best to stick to “useable” tools rather than “collectable” tools. Mostly I’m a yard-sale buyer. The thrill of the hunt is at least half of the joy.

Until now I have never been able to locate a Stanley Bedrock plane. There are plenty out there. It wouldn’t be much trouble to bite the bullet and just buy one (ebay or elsewhere). I eventually ran out of patience looking for a Stanley #45 plane. I just bought one.

But, a #45 molding plane is really a different item than a Bedrock. A Bedrock would be just another smoothing plane – better made, rarer, more interesting – but a duplicate of  something that I already have plenty of.  Not really worth 300$.

The Lie Nielson planes are based on the Stanley Bedrock design. But to me these make even less sense. More money than genuine Bedrocks and no history, no mystery.

On the way back from the supermarket I see a little hand-written sign saying something about tools. Its stuck onto one of those yellow plastic sandwich boards that says CAUTION WET FLOOR. It’s in front of a little garage. Probably a fools-errand. Some guy trying to sell off 20 gross of crappy Chinese sanding disks he got stuck with, broken air tools,  or shoeboxes full of orphaned 3/8″ sockets – like 90% of the yardsale tools out there. After a few traffic violations I pull up and wander through the garage.

 A man comes out of the house and we start chatting. He has some tables set up. On the tables? There are the usual sockets, the usual air-tools. No sanding disks however.

I ask about wood working tools and I ask about molding planes. Eventually he walks to the back of the garage. Things are looking up.

“You mean like this?

He points to what looks like a rusty Stanley 5 or 5 1/2.” I take a quick look. I think to myself…”Um not really” But I see the word BED ROCK in front of the knob. 

“…yeah…sort of like that.”

 I wander around a bit and finally pick out the Bedrock. The insignia from a 196o’s Ford Mustang, a Japanese dial caliper with the back off. A Brown & Sharpe micrometer and some weird gadgets that look like pressure measuring devices or tools to inject tiny amouts of gas into a gas-chromatograph?  More research needed on those puppies.

I feel a twinge of guilt about the Bedrock, but I only have $9.00 in my wallet to offer for the pile. He quickly accepts.

I get the plane home and take a good look. It’s a flat sided 605 1/2. Pretty rusty. Later model: tall knob, STANLEY cap, “sweetheart” iron, 1910 patent date. In collectors terms it’s a “user” or a parts plane. I take out the cutter and the frog has a bad chip. The lateral adjuster went south with the chip (good riddance!), but the depth adjusting tooth is still intact. There are no structural cracks in the frog and plenty of frog left to keep the blade stable. For me this is perfect!

The cutter and cap-iron are bent where the plane was hit (the same blow that chipped the frog) It looks like something very heavy was dropped onto the plane rather than the plane being knocked off a workbench onto the floor? Sadly the plane looks like a very a low mileage plane, and the break is recent. The mark on the chip-iron is still shiny and the broken face on the iron frog hasn’t colored yet. I toy with the idea of going back to the man’s house and seeing if he has the broken piece. 

 The tote and knob are nice. A small chip on the tote is the only problem. The rosewood is nice too. Lots of weird stripes through the Brazilian Rosewood on the tote. You can see the port wine purple color of the rosewood on the knob shining through 50 years of dirt. The plane will clean up very nicely.

t.b.c.

 

In the hectic last few minutes of a visit to my fathers farm in Maine – we go through the usual ritual. The giving of the stuff.  

“Do you need  any of this”? My father asks handing me a large coil of stainless wire.

 I think of stuff already in the trunk of my car. I think of the Panavise, the sheet brass door kickplate, the tiny tin opaque projector, the fat bindle of dull files…chisel-making stock, the plastic duck decoy, Kodak Duoflex 620 camera…

“I’m OK on stainless wire – thanks”.

We are in the “hoop-house”. A plastic sheeting greenhouse which has been turned into an impromptu storage shed.  The floor — old wood pallettes — is getting spongy. The plastic sheeting is holding up admirably.

“The wood is over here”.

I climb over a couple of tangled compressors, mysterious looking tanks, stainless pipe, the chrome skeleton of some long frogotten piece of lab equipment. Coils of thick copper grounding cable, un-startable looking chainsaws. The wood is buried, but not too deep. We pull a pair of beautiful figured mohogany planks with weird glue-up on the edges. Some fat white maple sticks.

“The big one is under here.”

Honduras mahogany cut-offs. Cherry strips. Bark edges that were cut from some 8/4 birch planks. A strange paduk block – looking like a botched structural piece. Mortise holes at weird angles – partially carved and cleaned-up, but still with obscene looking drips of glue-snot on one side – a massive lump of readymade cubist sculpture.

 We get the plank standing up. It really is a “big one” just under 6 feet long, about 16 inches wide and around 3″ thick. Its a dark dense wood. Old growth mahogany most likely. I brush some crud from the plank – mouse shit? chipmunk shit? or some other mystery- critter shit. The huge saw that rough cut this plank from the log must have been 3 feet in diameter.  I feel a twinge of pain for the tree. 

The wood was all liberated from a spiral staircase shop. One of my fathers ex-girlfriends ex-boyfriends had worked there. A laborer working on unbelievably-expensive custom spiral staircases crafted from exotic woods. He wasn’t the laborer type. He wasnt really the boyfriend type either.

The couple had a falling out. He eventually got fired from the shop and moved away. The purloined wood was cluttering her garage. By that time my father was on the scene it was a case of…”please take it away!”  This happened at least 15 years ago.

I rub my hand over the rough board and try to clear some puffs of mystery fuzz out of the rough fibers. I already know that I’ll never be able to cut this board into pieces. Yeah sure…there are bigger mahogany planks at Yankee Pine. People buy them and cut them into bits every day.  But I don’t think I can personally do the deed. This plank has ducked so many bullets. It has come a long long way. Probably a tabletop.

We hoist the plank over the compressors and chainsaws and out of the greenhouse. We lean it against a tree.

“Nice one”!

“I’ll never use it. You should take it”

“I’m not even sure that it’ll fit in the car. Actually I am pretty sure that it won’t fit in the car”.

We duck back into the greenhouse.

“In that corner over there. That box.”

I see a vaguely familiar handmade wooden carpenters tool chest. It has cast brass victorian hinges looted from some defunkt piece of furniture. The top of the box is half missing – smashed or came unglued 50 years ago.

“There is a plane in that box – I think it was your grandfathers plane.”

Inside the box I pull out a Sargent VBM #5 plane.

I have never owned a Sargent plane. I know that they were sort of second fiddle to Stanley, but I dont know much more. 

“It’s a bit rusty”

I hold it up. “Naaaah – just surface rust. Not that bad at all”  I pop out the cutter. “Its almost sharp, only one tiny chip on the edge”.

Sargent  VBM means Very Best Made – which seems like a bit of hyperbole. It is a decent replica of the Bailey patent style plane. Castings are solid to the point of being a bit clunky. There is no screw to adjust the frog – which is might actually be smart, because when was the last time that you needed to adjust the frog on one of these? The tote and knob are birch or maple rather than the more swanky rosewood used on many of the Stanleys.

Of course none of that matters. It’s my grandfathers plane.

I don’t have much from my grandfather. Actually I’m not sure that I have anything from him – other than this plane. My father was the youngest son – so my grandfather on his side was a lot older that anyone else I had known as a little kid. Also, we lived in Maine and the old homestead was just outside Chicago.

My earliest memory of my grandparents is their 50th wedding anniversary. After that about all I remember of him is that he really enjoyed watching baseball while sitting in his lay-z-boy.  

My Grandmother went first – stroke – she recovered a little so we visited. I wanted to talk to her, but at that point she could only say the word “house”.

I really dont remember when grandpa died. A while afterward. I was wrapped up in some crisis of my own. I just don’t remember.

The plane has a corregated sole. This is another first for me. Supposedly this reduced friction when planing. Especially on oily wood or wood with pitch in it.

The tote is a work of art. It was smashed to pieces several times and reglued. There is even a filled spot. Grandpa the tinkerer. Grandpa the busy guy. I can feel the connection.

The repaired handle feels good in my hand. Warm and smooth – despite it looking demolished and fragile. It seems corny, but the tote feels especially comforting against my palm. This plane means more to me than the half a dozen photos of my grandfather that I have.

Most of the photos of my grandfather were taken late in his life. I can see the ghost of those photos in my fathers face a bit today, but unfortunately the pictures don’t really capture anything grandfatherly for me.

Whenever I look at the pictures, I catch myself thinking. “Hey…that guy looks like you dad.”

 I tuned the plane up a bit. As a plane, it isnt an artifact, so I give it a once-over with some 220 grit sandpaper to knock the worst of the rust down. I hone the cutter, but I don’t hone the tiny chip out. I hope that the chip will leave tiny lines in the wood wherever the blade passes.