Restoring Hand Planes




Introduction: Restoring Hand Planes

About: Maker, paddler, outdoorsman, engineer and just about everything in between.

I got my hands on a few old planes, a Stanley No. 110 block plane, a Stanley Handyman No. 4 smoothing plane, and a Millers Falls No. 14 jack plane, which is a clone of a Stanley no. 5. These were more.rust than plane, and I wanted to do something about that. I also came across a Stanley no. 60 spokeshave which didn't really need a restoration.

This instructable will go over all of the steps and methods I used to bring these planes back to life.

Things you'll need:

  • Flat blade and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Plastic bin that can fit all plane parts
  • 1 gallon of white vinegar
  • Brass and steel wire brushes
  • Disposable gloves
  • Water and Baking Soda
  • Drill or angle grinder
  • Steel wire cup brush, brass wire wheel
  • Random orbital sander with 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpaper (hand sanding is okay too, but will take much longer)
  • Enamel paint
  • Danish oil and/or polyurethane
  • Foam brushes
  • Shop rags
  • Local sharpening company, or sharpening equipment
  • 400, 800 and 1500 grit wet sand paper
  • A large and smooth piece of tile, glass or countertop
  • Spray adhesive
  • Water-based rust inhibitor
  • Paste wax

Lets get started!

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Step 1: Disassembly

The first step in restoring these is disassembly. Make sure to remove any part on these you can. If you have multiple planes, take notes on differences between similar components so they don't get mixed up. Often parts may not be interchangable between brands or years, as thread sizing was not standardized, and there may be minor fitment differences. At this time, if you have any cracks developing in wood handles, get as much wood glue as you can in the cracks and gently clamp them shut. Wipe any excess glue.

Step 2: Rust Removal

Bath time! There are many ways and many products that act as rust converters, removal agents or otherwise. I chose good old vinegar. I placed all metal parts in a bin with about a gallon of vinegar, and let them soak for about 12 hours. After 12 hours, I scrubbed all the parts with brass and steel brushes. (You can usually find sets of these for a dollar or two at hardware or discount tool stores).

Next prepare a bath of baking soda and water. The baking soda will help neutralize any remaining vinegar to prevent long term corrosion and damage. These only need about 30 seconds in the baking soda solution. Dry after removing from the bath.

Step 3: Further Rust and Corrosion Removal

If your planes look as bad as mine did, you'll need to do some additional removal. Use a wire cup brush and/or a brass brush wheel to remove additional rust from all surfaces, including fasteners. Be careful not to push too hard and gouge any surfaces.

Using an orbit sander or hand sanding, work from 80 grit up to 220 grit to prep the sides and bottoms of the soles. This is not a traditional method, and to avoid low/high spots, keep your sander moving with even pressure the whole time you're working.

Step 4: Prep and Paint

*Always paint or apply finishes in a well ventilated area*

For the soles and frogs, cover all machined or bare surfaces with masking or painters tape. Spray 1-2 light coats of rust stopping primer and let it dry for a couple hours. Then apply 2-3 coats of the enamel paint of your choice. I stuck with the original colors. Thicker coats with long dry times will result in a very smooth, glossy finish.

The handles just get sanded and painted. For non-painted handles, sand off any existing finish, and apply thin coats of polyurethane or danish oil with light sanding in between, until you have a glossy finish. You can use danish oil and finish with a final coat of poly for some extra protection.

Lever cap painting is optional, but might give it an extra touch. Paint the whole logo. excess paint will be removed in Part 2.

Step 5: A Note on Sharpening

There are many tutorials out there on plane iron sharpening, which is a topic all its own. I recommend saving yourself the time and headache and pay a local professional sharpening company to sharpen your plane irons right the first time.

I have a local company that sharpened all 3 plane irons and 2 spokeshave irons razor sharp for less than $30 USD. Purchasing the equipment, stones, etc to sharpen these irons equally as well would cost upwards of $100+, plus hours of time getting everything just right.

If you're looking for tutorials to do it yourself, I recommend checking out Paul Sellers, Matt Cremona and Rob Cosman's youtube channels, or searching around here on instructables.

Step 6: Clean Up

Using 120 and 220 grit sandpaper successively, carefully clean up any surfaces that paint shouldn't be on. This would include any machined surfaces, the outside of the plane soles, and the lever caps. I used my random orbit sander to remove the overspray and paint on the lettering of the lever caps.

Note that on the millers falls cap, this appears to have have a layer of copper, and may be zinc plated, which sanding will reveal. I also chose to sand the "Made in USA" and Manufacturer/Model casting to leave the lettering contrasting with the paint on the sole.

Step 7: Basic Assembly

Reattach the handles and frog to your planes Some of the fasteners may be worn, so I suggest not torquing anything too tightly, everything should be snug, but easily removable/readjustable if needed. The adjustment knob and lever cap screw can be installed at this time.

Step 8: Lapping and Smoothing

Spray your scrap tile, glass or countertop with spray adhesive, and apply the 400, 800 and 1500 grit sandpaper to it. Wet the paper using the water-based rust inhibitor spray. This will achieve the same effect as wet sanding, but will help prevent rust for up to a year at the same time. Move your plane on each paper in a figure 8 motion until the bottom appears and feels reasonably even. After the 1500 grit, it'll start to shine a bit more. Do this lightly with the sides as well for rust prevention and appearance. This will be a little tricky with larger planes - just try and move the plane side to side as you move forward and back.

Coat all exposed metal/machined surfaces with a light rub of paste wax. This provides some rust and corrosion prevention, and makes the planes easier to work with. Lightly reapply paste wax regularly with use.

Step 9: Final Assembly and Setup

Reattach the chip breaker and iron, leaving just the very edge of the iron exposed. Place the iron and chip breaker back in the frog and resting on the adjustment forks. Install the lever cap. It should be easy to lock into place, but secure. If it's difficult to lock, loosen the lever retention cap screw slightly.

Clamp down a scrap piece of poplar, dry pine or other easily worked wood. Adjust the iron until just enough protrudes that you get thin, consistent curls. If you find it's cutting deeper on one side, move the adjustment arm little by little until your cuts are even. Your plane will require some force to work the material - it won't be effortless, but shouldn't be making deep cuts, chattering and making thick chips.

You're finished! I hope you found this guide helpful for your own plane restoration.

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    3 Discussions


    2 years ago

    This is great! The house I just bought had some old planes left behind, I can't wait to try this.


    2 years ago

    They look nice, I'm glad you could fix them up :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! Me too.