Hand Plane Restorations




Introduction: Hand Plane Restorations

Vintage Stanley planes are great restoration projects. They can be found in all manners of deterioration, and often come at a very reasonable price.

Step 1: Vintage Planes

The following website will help identify what year plane you are dealing with by some of its features. http://www.timetestedtools.net/2016/01/27/stanley-bench-plane-typing/

Step 2: Disassemble

Disassemble the planes and keep track of all the parts. Photos are a good way to document the assembly process.

Step 3: Remove Paint

Two of the planes I purchased were spray painted all over, with a good helping of rust underneath. I used aircraft remover to remove the paint and japanning.

Step 4: Vinegar and Salt

I used a vinegar salt solution for rust removal. The process acts much faster than vinegar alone. You have to be careful how long you soak the parts for and the strength of the metal because this can cause deterioration to the metal.

Step 5: Baking Soda

Soak the parts in baking soda while you clean them with a wire brush. This will neutralized the acid from the previous solution.

Step 6: Dry

Dry the parts so they don't flash rust. You can do this in the oven or hot sun.

Step 7: Polish

Use a buffing wheel with compound to buff any parts that can use a shine.

Step 8: Tape

Tape off any parts that you do not want painted.

Step 9: Prime

Prime the parts to give a solid base for paint.

Step 10: Paint

Paint the frogs and bodies.

Step 11: Assembly

Attach the frog to the base.

Step 12: Irons

Shape and hone the Irons. I used a grinding stone, water stone and leather with green compound. I will not go into the intricacies of blade geometry here, but the primary bevel, micro-bevel, relief bevel and back bevel are all important aspects of the cutting edge.

Step 13: Chip Breakers

Reassemble the iron and chip breaker. The distance the chip breaker sits from the edge of the iron is important. The following article is worth a look if you are interested in chip breakers.


Step 14: Front Knob

Turn some front knobs on the lathe to fit the different bases. Then apply your desired finish.

Step 15: Tote

Fashion a tote from a block of wood. Drilling the center hole can be a bit tricky. Make sure you test the alignment before you complete the piece.

Step 16: Rough Sand

Use a belt sander to roughly shape each tote.

Step 17: Finish Sanding

Use finer sanding instruments and hand sanding to complete the totes.

Step 18: Finish

Apply a coat of Danish oil and when dry buff on some wax.

Step 19: Adjust

Complete reassembly and make adjustments.

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21 Discussions

I restore planes quite frequently and I use the 'Washing Soda' (Carbonate of soda) unlike baking soda (Bicarbonate of soda) method. It seems to get the rust out of divets and other crevices better than brushing etc. I have used a battery charger but prefer a variable DC power supply that I have access to. One thing I did not see posted is that the -(minus) connection goes on the part you wish to derust and the + (positive) goes on the sacrificial iron (piece of rerod, bolt, piece of angle iron etc) Polarity is easier to remember if you think of it as you want to - (minus) the rust from the part you are restoring and you want to deposit + the rust on the piece of iron.

Hey there and a big Thanks for your thorough instructions! I have found Chelating with Molasses a fantastic way to remove rust and paint in one go. (5-8%molasses in water, hang the tool in the liquid and aerate a couple of times a day for a week or two depending on the rust level. Also works for car parts). This also leaves the metal with a nice patina and a little more "old" looking if that's what you want. I get the molasses from the agricultural store or a mate with a horse as it is a bit expensive in the shops.

I teach Woodwork at a high school and have come across some woeful wood-tool wastage - a box of 50+ planes in various broken and disassembled states I was asked to bin being amongst the worst. I could only keep so many but re-assembled nearly 30 for a class set. I would have liked to restore them better but didn't have time for multi stepped rust removal. Thus the Molasses.

Hope this helps.

1 reply

Thanks for the tip. Ill give that a shot on my next rust removal project.

Another way to remove rust is using a battery charger and wash soda and I've used it with success. There are many articles about this process. When I've restored planes I flattened the sole, many planes are not flat and it's a great way to get back to a smooth sole at the same time. Highland Woodworking caries some parts for some planes if you're missing parts. All this stated I've not done the painting and yours look very nice. And the making totes and knobs speaks highly of your dedication to a complete restoration.

6 replies

what is wash soda / how high do you set battery charger ?

honestly, it's been awhile. But I just went online and found this: pU/uploads/Rust-Removal-with-a-Battery-Charger.pdf

It took more than twenty four hours but other than checking progress required no effort on my part.


Here in the UK they are called soda crystals. It's as cheap as dirt. I use around 50 grams for three to five litres of water. The car battery charger should be at its lowest setting. I don't know why, but it works better like this. I've used it several times with great success. You do have to remove any other metals that are not steel/iron and anything galvanised too. Do watch some of the many videos out there first though because there are safety aspects you need to be aware of but once you have set it up it's easy to repeat.

Do this only outdoors or a very well vented area...the process produces pure hydrogen and pure oxygen gases. You do NOT want them to accumulate, and risk an explosion!

Washing soda (Arm & Hammer is one brand) should be found where laundry soaps are sold, or try the hardware store. https://www.lehmans.com/product/arm-hammer-super-w...

Any automotive type battery charger should work, 2 amps or more. You also need a plastic tub or bucket large enough to submerge your part, a steel or iron electrode (a piece of rebar, a large bolt or an old junk wrench will do) and some solid copper wire to make connections. Basically, you are electrolyzing the rust from the part to the iron electrode.

The quality of paint that is being used is very important. Or rather the type. Enamel, epoxy, alkyd, single component or two. There was no mention of this....

1 reply

Rustoleum Hammered Finish enamel in aerosol cans makes a decent paint in this application

I recently acquired a vintage Craftsman 14" Jack Plane and a vintage Stanley #91/4 Block Plane at a garage sale. They are both covered in rust, house paint spatters and cobwebs from long years of neglect. I'm now planning to use your instructions to restore them both. I plan to refinish the knob and tote on the jack plane if possible.


1 year ago

I have done some of this on planes that are not as far gone, but now I know the steps I have missed. I have furniture that came with alternate knobs so I could switch out the look, and I may use one of those to replace the knob, since I don't have a lathe.

1 reply

If you do not have a lathe you can thread a block of wood onto a bolt and chuck it in a drill. From there you can rasp/file/sand down to the shape you want. It takes a while but you get to have eactly what you want

Great job! You really went all the way with this restoration. I never bother to repaint, but I did make totes and knobs when necessary. You don't flatten the sole? I found it makes a huge difference. I have a blade with pitting on the back, so I can't get a good cutting edge on it anymore. How would you solve that issue?

They look too shiny to me (I have grown to like the patina that the metal gets with age) - beautifully restored. I have several very old planes in my work shop that I love to use. My favourite is a small pocket plane. When I picked up that pocket plane, I also got several other planes in very rough shape. I eventually gave them to a fellow who restored planes - I know they had a lot of value by the look on the guys face when I offered them to him for free. If I had seen this Instructable, I might have tried to restore them but I would never have thrown them away as I was aware of their uniqueness.


1 year ago

Stanley tote templates are available from Lee Valley. These can be used for other branded planes but check the angle of the screw hole, some are not the same DAMHIKT.


Make sure your drill press table is 100% perpendicular to the drill bit then first start the counterbores, then drill the through hole, then cut out the shape.

Very nice instructable! Restoring old tools is very satisfying and you did a great job!


1 year ago

Very nice work. I love refurbishing older tools and can see you do as well.