Hand Plane Restoration by the no soak method.

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***Important note* This process is not meant to be a valuable antique restoration guide. This is meant to be a way to get neglected and rusted hand planes ( and possibly other metallic tools) back into nice looking and usable conditions. If in doubt, please see “To Restore a hand plane or to not restore a hand plane”***

And make sure you’ve seen the discussion on the different techniques such as belt sanding and wire wheel cleaning.

Every blog on hand plane restoration starts with some kind of soaking. Evapo-rust, citric acid, electrolysis, all meant to eat away the rust. I go into detail on these methods and more on my full Bench Plane Restoration Guide. But I’ve stopped soaking my planes, finding a faster and a much  safer approach. Most solutions you soak in will change the metal, or worse eat it away.

Anyone experienced enough in restoration can tell quickly if evapo-rust or other solution has been used. The hand plane takes on a whole new hue unless extensive abrasives are used, and if you’re going to use abrasives you don’t need the soak.

I chose to write this blog on this plane i will show because I need to deal with almost any possible scenario you will encounter on a restore. Its got a broken knob and tote, its rusty, its dirty and its needs tuning.

And if you’re looking for some kind of timeframe for how long this should take, I started this project about 10 am on a Saturday morning. At 2:30 I realized I had taken the final pictures.

So here is the plane as I bought it.

the plane as I bought it.

The first thing I tackled was the knob. The pieces needed to be separated so I could epoxy them. Be sure to keep the pieces in sequence so you know how they go back together.

The first thing I tackled was the broken knob.

I drilled some holes as I show in this blog, to help the epoxy find gripping surfaces.

Drill some holes to help the epoxy hold

Clean up the area with a small wire brush on the Dremel tool Stay clear of the edges to prevent rounding them over, which will make it harder to hide.

Clean up the area with a small wire brush   IMG_20160227_095645528_HDR

I use System 3 Quick Cure

Then I Wire wheeled all small parts.

(**NOTE** I’ve read that using a rotating wire wheel on an old tool will create tiny pits on the surface finish, a finish that looks nothing like the original factory finish, I have not found this to be the case, so make sure you’ve tested your wheel and know what it will do.)


Any medium or fine  wire wheel will work, even one on a drill. Please don’t use a course sandpaper (or any sandpaper for that matter). It will scratch the parts. And be careful with the knotted type of wheels, they can be to course. Use the finest wheel that will get the job done.

You will also find that wd-40 or simple green with rust erasers, scotch brite pads or steel wool work wonders as well. The wire wheel is just a little faster in most cases.


I use a medium and soft wire wheel. The soft gets in cracks and crevices better, like on the back of the cap, or around the lever.


Razor Blade or scraper is another great way to remove heavy rust. I often use a utility knife blade held in a pair of vise grips. I also use a scraper like this one.


An old chisel for scraping the old japanning also works well. It will dull the chisel quickly, so make sure it’s an old one you don’t care much about.

After wire wheeling, everything gets a coat of Fluid Film . I like a paper towel in the bottom of the container to. It helps suck any excess oil off.


Next I’ll deal with the blade adjuster. The backside gets hit on the soft wire wheel.


The front I Chuck an old bolt in a drill. A previous post shows this in my drill press. That works as well if you don’t have a spare adjuster bolt from a broken plane.


You will quickly realize the drill needs to be in reverse for the left handed threads.

I use this semichrome polish , but any polish will work.

Next I want to clean the base. I need to know that if I’m going to need to strip and paint, or if it’s OK.


I spay it with wd-40 and use a small soft wire brush. Trust me, if the japanning is in good shape, you won’t hurt it.

After cleaning this one, I’ve decided it was crappy enough that I want to repaint it. (if it’s old enough, or rare enough, the plane will not get repainted) Next step will be to grab an old chisel I have just for this occasion and remove as much japanning as I can.

IMG_20160227_103721946   IMG_20160227_103839123

Also Important:

Always clean before deciding to strip the japanning or not. Who would have though thought that this:


Would clean up with nothing more than a soft wire brush and degreasers or wd-40 to look like this:


But it did!

Now it’s off to the sand blaster with my #5. If you don’t have a sand blaster, don’t give up. Paint stripers, small wire wheels, dremel tools and small scrapers all work. More on other methods in my full restoration blog.

I always wire wheel the sides of users, but make sure you’ve seen the discussion on the different techniques such as belt sanding and wire wheel cleaning.


And the edges get the deburring wheel treatment. (this is the exact one I am currently using )

I don’t typically use the deburing wheel on the sides of the plane unless I have a reason I want a higher polished finish than normal. (Again, on a rare piece, stay clear of the deburring wheel)

Next I’ll work on the frog. Here we want flat. Flat, not pretty. Keep the file flat and file until it’s reasonably flat. Don’t sand or polish from here, leave it. You want the friction for holding the blade.

(you need to decide if you plan to use the plane you’re restoring. If not, you can skip the tuning steps)


when the file gets full, use a file card to clean it.


This shows it’s not quit ready


But this is good now.


Next I’ll flatten the sole.


And I know, I hear the screens, “wait Don, the plane needs to be together”! Everybody in almost every restoration blog says the plane needs to be together. Guys and gals, that’s what I thought when I started. Then I read it really didn’t matter and started trying it. I always check it again when it’s together, and so far I’ve never had to reflatten it.

If you do put it back together and find it needs reflattening, I’d suggest checking the frog seat first. It could be the frog seat is off and binding the sole as you tighten down the frog bolts.


If you’re not sure how flat you’re sole needs to be, just click here.

Next I’ll mask it off, both the frog and base were sandblasted and stripped, so a quick cleanup with the soft wire wheel and mask anything that doesn’t get painted. Use engine enamel for an original looking finish. Any place metal touches metal should be masked and not painted.

Note the top edge is masked. This is kind of a pet peeve of mine. This edge doesn’t get painted. Don’t paint it!!!


Then first coat. I use Dupli-Color DE1635 Ceramic Ford Semi-Gloss Black Engine Paint – 12 oz.

I give a coat every 15 minutes. I usually do 4 or 5 coats. Maybe more if I feel it needs it.


Now I want to get the Tote epoxied up, so it will be dry enough to work when I’m ready.


Flatten out the top and find a piece of wood to fit for the fix.


Marking it off makes sure the piece is right. There is nothing more annoying then getting it glued up and finding out it’s to small.



Next I’ll grab the chip breaker. I will clean it up on the wire wheel and polish the business end. First on the the deburring wheel  then the felt polishing wheel .


Next make sure its flat on the stone, (for more on the chip breaker, click here)


Fine sandpaper will do the same trick if you don’t have the above equipment.

Then make sure there is a slight back bevel and its flat where it contacts the blade.

Next the blade. Wire wheel the rust and some shine on the deburring wheel.

IMG_20160227_120415988 IMG_20160227_120516017

Next flatten the back. I’m using my course DMT but sandpaper on something flat will work as well.

I’m then going to polish on the deburring wheel.


I will polish the back with the deburring wheel but be careful not to round over the edge or you will need to grind it past the round.

This can be done on a fine stone or with fine sandpaper. How it gets done doesn’t really matter.


Next i will sharpen the blade. I hollow grind at 25 degrees. The stone is a wheel like this one,


Check for square once in a while.


Then sharpen on my hard Arkansas stone


I added a second picture here to help anyone who wants to free hand. You will find, when you rock the blade, at the top, the oil pools at the front. Note in the first picture the pool doesn’t exist, the it does. At that moment, you are at the correct angle.



Again, this is how I do it, but chose your own method to get it sharp.

I then pull the burr by running the blade over the strop. Its just leather, I don’t charge it, the blade is perfectly flat, and I simpley pull it backwards a few times.


The put the chip breaker and blade together.


Now back to the knob


The popsicle stick was just to keep things even. I will sand that off with the belt sander.

IMG_20160227_124951665IMG_20160227_130328733Catching sawdust  IMG_20160227_130513839

And then the tote. Both are sanded to 2000 grit. Both of these will get finished with spray laquer. I have found I like the Rustoleum the best of everything I’ve tried.


Note the vacuum hose in the vise. I find rosewood dust rather annoying, so the dust collection is a must when I’m sanding it. It’s a combination of the handle makers rasp, the float and the sanding.


Then back from the beginning pictures, you may have noticed the brass nut was sunk way down in the rosewood. This sis a problem a lot. This is a little deeper than normal, but it’s a common problem to some degree. Here is how I fix it.


Take a 10-24 nut ( Machine Screw Nut, 10-24 ) , and Drill the 10-24 nut with a 7/32″ drill to make a thick washer.

IMG_20160227_135132834 IMG_20160227_135417643

Then slide it over the bolt like a washer. It usually only takes one, but for this plane I needed two.

That’s about it. This plane is ready to go back together.

So now we can put everything back together, and look at the final product.

No action shots yet. I’ll let everything dry over night first.




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