I've just picked up a used Bailey #4 thats in dire need of some serious
flattening. Instead of spending the next year with sandpaper on granite is
it possible to have it professionally machined flat?
Yes, but it doesn't take THAT long to do it yourself and the
results will probably be better. If you have a machine shop do
it, it will make the plane worth much more than it ever could be
worth, and they'll probably take too much off the sole. How out
of flat is it and what area is not flat. Is it twisted or
Dave in Fairfax
reply-to doesn't work
daveldr at att dot net
I was thinking of the thread we had on this about a year ago in
which the person had exactly that problem. It depends on the shop
and their understNding of how thick the sole needs to be. That's
why I asked how far out of flat it was, and where.
Dave in Fairfax
reply-to doesn't work
daveldr at att dot net
: I've just picked up a used Bailey #4 thats in dire need of some
: flattening. Instead of spending the next year with sandpaper on granite
: it possible to have it professionally machined flat?
After this it might not be flat enough to meet the needs of the most
Please consider the material on my web site - Planing Notes - Fettling a
Cast-Iron Plane Improving a run-of-the-mill plane .
Jeff Gorman, West Yorkshire, UK
Email address is username@ISP
username is amgron
ISP is clara.co.uk
I sprinkled carbide powder (from a rock polishing supply) on a piece of
plate glass with some light oil. Didn't take very long at all to flatten a
big, old Bailey jointer. Just make sure the entire sole is in contact with
the abrasive and glass at all times. Unless the sole is badly warped, this
method works pretty well and is really inexpensive.
The beauty of flattening on sandpaper is that you will do it with the plane
in the condition in which it will be used, meaning the frog in place, iron
and cap in place (but backed off), and pressure applied with your hands just
like you will use it. A machine shop will clamp it in place, and a good one
will know how to clamp it without imparting stresses, but in the end it will
not be the same.
What guarantee do you have that you're not letting the plane tip to even
the slightest degree, resulting in a domed rather than flat sole? Use a
surface plate / scraper and Prussian blue if you're a *true* fanatic.
And don't forget to flatten the the frog and receiver.
Unless your granite plate has already been abused to point of being
useless, please, please, please keep abrasives away from it. A piece
of 3/4 inch glass isn't that expensive. I haven't done all that much
sharpening on my piece of glass, but it's quite scarred. The surface
plate is reserved for measuring and testing.
Do it yourself and the results will be better.
A number of years ago I had a very good machine shop mill a groove
down the center of some planes for building bamboo fly rods.
Apparently the clamping added enough stress to the base that it bowed
a bit and I ended up having to reflatten the sole & recut the grooves
Keeping the sole free of outside stress when flattening or modifying
is essential and the best way to get good results is to saddle that
puppy up as you use it but with the blade backed off.
Its very satisfying making modifications yourself and if you're
careful the results can be quite good.
Doubtful it had anything to do with clamping. Most machine shops deal with
this kind of thing on a regular basis (not planes but thin, flexible
workpieces). Cutting the groove would relieve internal stresses that cause
Why ? Planes are just about a worst-case for clampable items.
They've a long and flexible body, with a little more stiffness around
the centre, except where the mouth weakens it. And the #10 design is
even worse! It's all too easy for them to behave as two stiff boards
with a hinge between.
You _can_ clamp them down safely for accurate machining, but it needs
a proper packing jig making up - especially on a magnetic chuck for a
surface grinder. Unless you have the luxury of a real magnetic sliding
/ step jig (if you don't, then make one. They're complicated, but
after all you are a grinding shop!). Jigging up properly just isn't
something that the average grinding shop is going to do for a one-off,
unless you insist. Discuss what flatness tolerance you're expecting
with them - these guys know what they're doing, but they won't expect
a mere woodworker to really care about accuracy, unless you make it
Some plane bodies are simply unclampable. These are the ones where the
action of clamping the frog into place is enough to bend them. Before
you even think about machining a plane body, investigate this. Measure
sole flatness (both axes), both with and without the frog fastened in
place. If it also changes when you attach the iron, then you've simply
set the frog too far back - the iron should always float _in_ the
mouth, not against the back edge of it.
If you have a frog-bender plane, then you have to machine it with the
frog in situ. This is even worse for clamping up, but you can do it.
And how can grinding it without the frog in place than be doing
anything other than expensively grinding the sole to be the wrong
And don't grind your Norris. If you do grind your Norris, don't make
it the first plane you do.
Don't take a bronze plane to a grinding shop and expect them to be
happy about it either. Magnetic chucks are a great convenience, but
non-magnetics will need a magnetic jig making up to hold them.
IMHO, the whole flat plane thing is about as sensible as the flat
earth thing, but if you're going to try it, then best do it well I
You would be amazed at what an hour on a course Easy-Lap hone will do. You
can buy a 10"x2 1/2" (?) hone for not much more than the machine shop will
The hone is made on a very flat piece of stainless steel.
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