One of the more challenging things to do is properly document a maker’s mark from a tool by means of photography. I’m not talking the ones on wood, but rather the imprints in metal. The problem sometimes lies in the metal producing reflections, which are difficult to photograph, or even post-process. One way of reproducing stamps is by using ink to imprint the mark on paper. The problem with this technique is that it can be quite messy. Another technique is to use a smoke print which uses soot from a candle.
Firstly clean the mark. This can be done using a rag to polish the metal, or some 000 steel wool if extracting the imprint from a wooden plane. Light a candle, and hold a piece of fine metal mesh (metal fly-screen) over the flame to interrupt the combustion, and produce black smoke. Let the soot (i.e. carbon particles) from the smoke deposit on the mark.
When sufficient soot has been deposited, apply a small piece of clear adhesive tape, pressing down slightly (I used a folded cloth to apply pressure). The soot will adhere to the tape. Peel off the tape, and press down on a piece of white paper.
The trick is that the carbon is able to cover the surface uniformly, and even if it gets down into the impressions, only the carbon on the surface will adhere to the tape. This makes it perfect to pick up fine detail. The smoke prints can then be easily digitized using a scanner, and cleaned up.
I have tried this technique on plane blades and chisels, and have to say it works really quite well. I haven’t tried it on a wooden plane, but I suspect it will work in the same manner (maybe in the future).