Snell & Atherton Heel Shave Restorations

Some days when I get home from work I just don’t have the time nor the energy to really go out into the shop to do anything. There are days when I just want to come home and plop down in my chair and wind down with some videos… but leaves my hands idle and we all know what happens next…

When it comes to keeping busy with little to no energy or desire to go into the shop after a long day at work I have a wide selection of projects I keep near my desk for just those days. One of those has been the restoration of the two Snell & Atherton Heel Shaves I picked up a bit ago.

These heel shaves are actually a cobbler’s tool for trimming and shaping the heels on shoes but they have also been adopted by woodworkers so for me they are a double use tool that will fit nicely into my growing collection of old hand tools.

The Snell and Atherton Heel Shaves were made no later than 1905 as near as I can tell, but could be as early as the mid to late 1800’s. There’s no real date or markings I’ve been able to compare them to aside from the round Snell & Atherton logo on the blade and the star on the handle as well as the number of the shave on the opposing handle, in this case a 6 and 7.

As far as collectibles go, they’re not exactly high in demand and most people don’t even know they exist or what they even are. In just about every market setting I see them in now they run about $2.00 to $8.00 and all seem to be in about the same condition. The most common are of course, the #5, #6, and #7 as I’ve seen most everywhere. There are some other Snell and Atherton tools that fetch quite a bit more such as the gauges but the heel shaves seem to be on the low end of the spectrum which is great for me.

Both of the heel shaves I possess are cast iron, the blades are incredibly sharp to this day and I’ve almost knicked myself a couple of times cleaning the one so that should be some testament to the nature of these hardy tools. These were made back when tools were actually made to stand the test of time and last a lifetime or more… in this case, several lifetimes.

One thing I should probably mention is that these are not exactly collectible and can occasionally be found and they aren’t very expensive. The restoration I am doing on them is not to preserve their value or restore them to a mint state condition but more to return them to an appealing yet usable condition.

Most of what I am doing is removing the decades of rust and grime on them and just getting them cleaned up so when I use them they don’t muck up anything I’m working on.

So there’s where I’m at so far with the pair I have… I’ve been mostly working on the #6 which is in the back of the picture. The #7 has just had the front of the blade cleaned off a bit to reveal the branding on the blade.

It dawned on me that some people might wonder what I am using to do this restoration and it’s really simple and doesn’t require any expensive tools or investments other than time.

In the picture below you’ll see three little bits of sandpaper, 220, 300, and 400 grits. These are more for polishing than anything else. I’m not trying to remove material with the sandpaper as I don’t want to get rid of any of any of the mill marks or character, dings, scratches, etc. that may be present. You can also see a selection of small bristle brushes I picked up from Harbor Freight for $2.99 ( free if you catch the right coupon ) and these are what I use for removing the bulk of the rust and corrosion from the parts and these will get the parts pretty much down to the bare metal with almost no effort, just a bit of time. And finally an old rag to wipe the parts off with and keep the dust from getting everywhere. This will also come in handy later when I rub things down with oil to help keep the rust monsters away.