Picture of Restoring a vintage hand plane
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  On a recent trip to North Carolina my wife and I had stopped at an antique store where i found a few decent Stanley Bailey hand planes. For those of you that don't know, a hand plane is a woodworking tool that's been around for a few centuries and is used to flatten and smooth wood.

  I absolutely love these tools. Their design has been virtually unchanged for over a hundred years now. They're aesthetically pleasing, ergonomic, long lasting, and exceptionally good at what they do. All around, it's an amazing tool. So, how could i pass up the opportunity to restore one of these to their original glory?!

It's a pretty simple procedure that anyone can get into with very few tools/equip. Keep in mind that with any tool restoration, you get out of it exactly what you put into it. If you like the look of semi-oxidized metal then you don't have to buff it to a mirror shine; you can make the tool look as "antique" or as new as you want.




  • scotch brite pads
  • wd-40
  • steel wool
  • various grits of sandpaper (i went as low as 100 and as high as 2000 wet/dry)
  • evapo rust or krud kutter (you can find this stuff at any lowes/home depot for about $10 a bottle)
  • plenty of rags/paper towels
  • machine oil
  • boiled linseed oil
  • buffing compound (i think i used mother's brand compound i bought at auto zone)
  • screwdrivers
  • drill press would be ideal, but if not a hand held drill works fine (that's all i had)
  • all the elbow grease you can muster

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reynolpe5 months ago

Thanks for such a thorough and awesome write up. I will be doing this on a new plane I picked up for $3 dollars at a garage sale this last weekend. Interested to see how it turns out.

warehouse32 (author)  reynolpe5 months ago

I'd love to see how it turns out! If you have any questions let me know

Yeah, I can see a gallon-size plastic bag for a No. 4, but what am I going to do with my No. 8? ;-)

(For those who don't know, a No. 8 is two feet long and weighs in at just under ten pounds.)

warehouse32 (author)  EoRaptor0131 year ago

haha, ya a plastic bag might be a little small! you could always get a big plastic tub and try out electrolysis for rust removal...that's probably my next step

papagun1 year ago
Nice job. A couple of comments. As an antique restorer, I rarely ever sanded the finish off of a piece I was restoring, including hand tools. To some, removing the original finish devalues the piece. I would ususally clean the finish with fine steel wool and a mixture of 50% mineral spirits or turpentine and 50% boiled linseed oil.

Also, to replace the "Japanning" on the plane (the black finish) if it needs it, strip ff as much of the old Japanning as you can and polish as with the other metal. One doesn't need a mirror finish, but one does want the metal to be smooth as possible as it was originally. You then paint a thin layer of asphaltum where the Japanning is to be. I used roofing tar (available at any home center) thinned to a paintable consistency. It should be free of any and all lumps. After painting the tar onto the metal, let it set overnight, then bake in a dedicated toaster oven. Unfortunately, I don't recall the temp or time required, but it was like 220 degrees for 20 minutes. Some experimentation on your part is recommended. Try some tar on pieces of pieces of hardware to get the finish correct. Do this outside. The process has a distinct odor. One can also mix varnish with the tar (2:1 tar: varnish or so) to get a brushable consistency. Both mixtures will eventually dry and harden without the oven but we're talking days and weeks of curing time.
warehouse32 (author)  papagun1 year ago
thanks for the good advice! I'll usually check the age, condition, and rarity of the piece to try and get an idea of it's value before i do anything because, like you said, removing finish and and changing too many things can devalue the piece. In this instance tho, it was a pretty common plane that i fully intended to use so i wanted the wood to be soft and smooth.

As far as removing the japanning, i've never heard of using roofing tar. I'll definitely have to try that! I was planning on using electrolysis for my next restoration to remove any rust under the paint, brush off any remaining paint, and use a spray on lacquer to replace it.

thanks again for the feedback!
I also have a Stanley bailey plane I found mine at the dump and I also been restoring mine.
GerryMcQ1 year ago
Hi, fantastic outcome! Quick question; could the same technique for removing rust be applied to an old handsaw?
warehouse32 (author)  GerryMcQ1 year ago
ya. as long as you can fully submerge the blade in the solution (you may need to take the handle off) it should loosen everything up. Then just finish up by scrubbing it by hand with wd-40 and a scotch brite pad to get all the loose stuff off.
jbrauer1 year ago
Nice write-up.

While you have that sandpaper and flat surface, the frog can be lapped flat to get better contact between the iron and frog, and reduce chatter. Same goes for the washers, a little flattening makes the adjustments a bit silkier. And I like to buff the top of the chip breaker to a mirror finish to help the shavings slide off easier.
warehouse32 (author)  jbrauer1 year ago
Thanks! i never thought to polish the top of the chip breaker. I'll have to try that next time around
warehouse32 (author) 1 year ago
glad i could help! i'd love to see that blowtorch when it's all done!

same goes for you randall sly, i haven't seen too many sargent's
wobbler1 year ago
Thanks for this. I've just got my dad's old brass blow torch that is well rusted and gunked up, so this will prove a good way to restore it for father's day. I've also got his old Stanley plane that will need some love and attention after I've done the blowtorch. I hope it ends up looking as good as this one.
Good job, I was just about to post my entry restoring a late 40s' Sargent, your far more thorough and I was totally going to skip sharpening.
pfred21 year ago
Hey I just got another No. 4 Stanley bench plane myself last weekend. People are just giving them away anymore. I got mine for a dollar. I also picked up a #2 along with it for the same price, but the #2 is in really tough shape. I won't be able to restore it. I should be able to repair it though. The #4 I got is like new. Well, there are some chips out of the finish on the front knob, but I'm not going to fuss over that.
warehouse32 (author)  pfred21 year ago
it sounds like you got your hands full! cheap planes are hard to come by in my area...i found the one for this instructable in VA
I have the exact same Stanley plane and mine could use some love. Thanks for posting this!
I have two. Perhaps because a #4 is the most common plane in the world? Shame it isn't the best plane. My personal favorite bench plane is a Stanley #5. They're still pretty common too. I have two of those as well. I really need three of each, so I can have close set, wide set, and a scrubber of each. Just because it is a plane doesn't make it simple.
warehouse32 (author) 1 year ago
Thanks everyone! Glad you guys like the 'ible...mikeasaurus, i'd love to see some pics when your planes' all done!
Nice work! It turned out beautiful!
tsa'ad1 year ago
Ooh childhood memories!
Raigmoul1 year ago
Very ell documented and photographed 'ible, well done sir for rescuing those beautiful planes. Electric ones do make life easier (sometimes), however - IMHO - hand planes in the right hand produce a better finish and allow you better control and feel of the wood you're working with.
Thanks for sharing,
warehouse32 (author)  Raigmoul1 year ago
Thanks! I completely agree. For bulk work a planer is indispensable, but for an almost glass finish with minimal work...a smoothing plane is your best friend.