I finally got around to repairing the loose toe boxing on my left snipe's bill plane. The boxing was loose at the toe so as the plane cut it would ride up out of the cut as the heel would engage the wood.
To begin to free the boxing from the plane I applied denatured alcohol to joints of the boxing, particularly to the areas where the joints were open. As I was doing this I wiggled the boxing to work the joints open and applied more alcohol. The alcohol breaks down the hide glue that has been mostly holding the boxing in place for the last 130 or so years. After a little while the boxing joints opened enough that I could fit a thin card scraper into the joint. I rocked this back and forth a bit while still applying alcohol to the joints to continue the breakdown of the glue. After several minutes and applications of alcohol the boxing came out.
Once the boxing was out I cleaned out any glue and dirt that accumulated in the slot. After that I tried the boxing back into its slot. It didn't fit back in easily, it was actually going to require a good bit of banging to get back in place and I didn't want to go there. After checking out the slot for a while I found that it was tight, probably from the beech body shrinking over the years. Using a shoulder plane I took a couple of passes off the inside of the tongue on the boxing, where it wouldn't change the front boxing position relative to the rear boxing, which would create problems. This helped but the boxing was still tight in the middle.
After examining the plane body it became apparent there was a knot-like area in the wood right where the boxing was tight. It seems that this area didn't shrink in quite the same way as the rest of the body and I believe it's what started to wedge the boxing out in the first place. I mounted up the body of the plane in the vise and pared at this area on the outside of the boxing slot, again the side that wouldn't change the boxing position. I carefully pared at this with a thin paring chisel and then cleared the debris with a 1/10 inch mortice chisel. Once a snug hand pressure fit was achieved it was time for glue.
I prepared to glue by collecting 2 cauls, three c-clamps and 2 f-style clamps along with a glue brush. For glue I used Old Brown Glue, a liquid hide glue. I warmed up the glue in a cup of hot water since it had been in the fridge to keep it from spoiling. Once the glue was warm I applied it to all of the contact surfaces on the boxing with the brush, applying a thin coat. I also applied glue to the slot in the body as well as I could with a popsicle stick. Working quickly I put the boxing in the slot making sure it was seated all the way, tapped it flush with the toe of the body, and applied the f-clamps to pull the boxing tightly into the slot. I then put a caul along each side of the plane body and applied 3 c-clamps to squeeze the slot against the tongue of the boxing. Once this was done the joints were tight and it was allowed to dry under clamp pressure for 12 hours.
This morning I removed the clamps and everything was good. I put the iron and the wedge back in, checked the alignments of the boxing, which was great, and put the plane in the tool chest with it's right hand partner and it's ready whenever I need it. Excluding the glue drying time the repair for this plane took about 45 minutes.
If you have a boxed plane that has a loose boxing I'd be happy to help you get that repaired. Feel free to contact me via comments or via email. My email address is under my profile.