1) your awful plane may be able to be made into a useable one. it'll
be a bit of work, but won't cost you anything and will teach you a lot
about how planes work.
2) planes that you can go out and buy that work right away fall into
A)expensive new ones like:
or other such yummy stuffs.
B)old planes. these come from wherever second hand tools are
found in your part of the world (which I hear rumored is rich hunting
grounds) and are often very high quality at very reasonable prices.
To add a 3) to Bridger's response:
3) Get a copy of "The Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack, ISBN 1-56158-155-0 or
1-56158-317-0. Lots of How-to's, Why's, and Wherefore's to be found in that
Wichita, KS USA
With due respect, do you know how to sharpen and adjust your plane? Even
the most expensive plane in the world will not work well, if not sharp and
set up properly. I bet your crappy plane could be made to work decently, or
perhaps superbly, with a proper tuning and blade sharpening.
I have several old Stanley planes, rummage-sale purchases and the like.
They're all in pretty random condition but complete. Some little, some
big, and a nice 22" or so Joiner plane that would probably be great if I
had the thing in workable condition.
I don't really consider myself much of a neander-type guy, but here's the
question. Should I fix 'em up (lap the soles, smooth the blade, what else?),
or should I sell 'em to someone who would appreciate them more?
If I want to fix these things up, how much investment in time might it be,
and where should I start?
I'm honored that you asked me the questions. I'm not all the experienced
but I learn quickly and perhaps have had some experiences that will help you
draw your own conclusions, so let me give a few anecdotes.
My first hand plane encounter was building a wood plane kit. I wanted to
get into it without spending $400 on a Lie Neilson. The kit was $65 and I
learned a lot by building and using it. It took about fours hours to build
it and two hours to carve the mouth to fit. I almost gave up when I
realized I had to carve the mouth. When I finished I was less than
satisfied with what it looked like but determined to push through to the
end. Then I had to hone the blade. It was a Hock blade that came ground but
needed final sharpening. I'd never done this before. This lead me to the
land of sharpening religions. Hey just spend $700 on a Tormek and all the
jigs and you're done right? No way! I ended up buying a combination
waterstone (1000/8000 grit) and a Veritas sharpening guide. When I
finished, the blade was decently sharp and appeared shaped right. I put the
plane together and tried it. Groan! What a flop. I read some more and
decided the mouth of the plane did not fit right. Three days later I picked
it up and sat at my desk in the house creating a mess, as I carved away at
the incredibly tough Goncolo Alves woodend sole. I made another attempt at
setting the blade correctly. I clamped a piece of wood in my rusty old
workmate and started. Ahhhh!!!!! Wow! Whoosh, whoosh whoosh! I wasn't
making anything, but I was planing, man! At night I before I went to bed, I
would sneak out to the shop and pick up the "Bob Davis hand crafted" wooden
plane and just admire it.
Fast rewind through several experiences to the last one. I bought a Stanley
#8 Jointer plane. It got dropped in shipping and arrived with a cracked
casting and bent blade angle adjustment thingy. I sent pictures to the
dealer, who filed a claim with the shipper and told me to just keep the
plane with a full refund. So here I sat with a free busted, ugly-as-sin
plane. Hmmm. The crack was ugly but the subtantial casting on this plane
still seemed straight to me. I stop-drilled the crack to prevent further
spread. I straightened the bent piece in my vice and put it altogether. The
blade was not ground square enough for my taste. The previous owner had
obviously whipped it by hand it was more of a half moon contour edge.
Well let me tell this butt-ugly half-ass sharpened plane was amazing. I took
the twist out of some planks and flattened some 6" stock in no time. I could
not believe it. So I got serious and re-ground the edge and honed it (2
hours time). I took the plane apart and cleaned everything so that it
worked properly, including the cast iron frog (another 2 hours). Now I have
an oiled, aligned, sharp butt-ugly plane. The performance is stunning. I'm
now considering buying a replacement wood tote for it to get that missing
top piece that helps support your hand.
So minimum care to get it working - clean it and oil the parts and sharpen
the blade - about 4 hours work. If you want do get into the restoration
business to make it pretty, that's more time and not really much more money.
But first you should send pictures of your old planes to me so I can offer
to buy them from you! Its addicting to take a piece of junk and make it
Bob's minimalist sharpening kit:
Jeff Gorman style homemade jig $3.00 + 1 hour
Combination waterstone $39.95
Old Hand grinder bought on ebay $3.99 + $10 shipping
New grinding wheel $22
Bronze bushing to adapt new grinding wheel to old hand grinder $1.70
Vertitas grinding tool rest and jig $62 (local retail store)
Sorry Dave, they're in much worse shape than you think. I'll give
you $10 for them all, plus shipping, sight unseen. %-)
How much work depends on the condition each plane is in. I can't
remember, where are you? Take a look at Jeff Gorman's website,
fettling, and if you need more help write me. It's important to
do the work right or you can "fix" a good plane into being a paper
Dave in Fairfax
You've gotten good advice from a couple of other folks on this
subject, but let me toss in one little tidbit: You don't necessarily
need to spend your time flattening the sole of your plane. Once you
sharpen the iron, fit the cap-iron properly, check the frog, etc., give
the plane a test-drive. If it works well, don't worry about lapping the
sole. If it doesn't work well (i.e., it either digs or doesn't take a
shaving at all; there doesn't seem to be any middle ground), then you
may want to consider lapping it.
The sole does not have to be totally flat; it basically needs to be
co-planar. As long as there is no major depression right in front of
the mouth, you'll probably be OK.
For example, my trusty type 17 #6 (my favorite plane until recently)
has never been lapped. I took it out of the box, sharpened the iron,
tweaked the cap-iron, adjusted the frog and started making shavings. I
guess I could have lapped the sole for cosmetic reasons, but it sure
didn't need it in order to work.
So, there's a site out there to identify these old Stanley planes. I
think the next step is figure out what I have, find out if they're
super-desirable to someone who would appreciate them more than me, and if
not, to at least get the blades into decent shape. I do have access to
a Tormek (my father-in-law's shop), which I think I'm seeing is
Look for a good recent article by David Charlesworth on tuning up a less
than perfect handplane of recent manufacture. I think it was in Fine
Woodworking, within the last several issues. The principles and techniques
are appropriate to many of the metal-bodied planes made over the last 75
years or more.
And then sharpen it well. Google "Scary sharp"
Read Jeff Gorman's web site
Buy some sharpening equipment
("Scary Sharp" can be your first port of call)
Find a Stanley #4 (in modern cities, you're never more than 100 yards
from an old Stanley #4. Try to find them nesting under old benches,
abandoned in sheds or junk shops) If you're really stuck, try eBay.
There's one view that says you should never buy a #4, because they
will naturally appear anyway. You might learn to do electrolytic
Get an old one, because it costs nothing and they're better made than
the new ones. They'll both need tuning. There are no usable,
affordable bench planes being made new at present. Avoid Anant,
Rolson and BlackSpur! Stanley and Record are better, but still not
good. Clifton and L-N are excellent, but expensive. Lee Valley /
Veritas are excellent (and not so expensive), but you have to buy them
mail order from Canada.
If you do have the money to buy a brand shiny new plane, spend it on
the Lee Valley low-angle block plane. This is a truly excellent piece
of work. It's also easier to find and restore a usable bench plane
than it is to do this with a block plane.
Fairly soon you should try to get two or three planes:
- A block plane. An old Stanley, ideally a low-angle (or the L-V).
You will use this more than any other plane, especially if you're
mainly jigsawing and routing.
- A smoothing plane (a #4, a #3 or a #4 1/2) The #3 is best, if you
have small hands. Set this up so that it barely cuts, but leaves a
good finish behind.
- A jack plane. A #5 is nearly as easy to find as a #4, but a better
length. Set this one up with a more aggressive cut and do your
finishing with the smoother.
Remember that planing uses two tools; a plane and a bench. Trying to
plane on a Workmate is most frustrating.
And pretty much negates most of the plane tuning that you might have done.
The work HAS to remain steady for the plane to do it's job.
Unless you pull the plane, in the Asian style. But that's another story.
Benches needn't be pretty, expensive, or of heirloom quality (not that it
hurts), but they do need to be rigid. And mass helps.
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