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Be sure to see the Expanded version as well
You’ve Just Bought a Bench Plane. Congratulations. You have made an excellent investment in your woodworking future. If it’s brand new, you will be the first to build its history. If it’s one from an earlier time, you have helped to preserve its woodworking past and now become part of it. Either way, your money was well spent but it’s an even wiser investment to keep it well maintained so it will be serviceable for generations to come. This brief guide will help you do just that. It’s not necessarily the “end all” bible of plane maintenance and use but it will get you started and help you develop your skills. Over time, you will undoubtedly discover your own process and procedures to get the job done. The authors have developed their own ways of doing things and you may find some useful, others perhaps not so much. But whatever process you do end up with, be consistent using it. Developing your skills as a woodworker include developing your skills in tool maintenance. If you take care of your plane, it will take care of your needs in the shop.
Flat bottoms and sharp edges are typically the most important aspects to making a plane work well. A lower quality plane of any make will perform adequately and as well as one that costs a lot more if the bottom is reasonably flat and the iron sharp. You will learn later how to accomplish each of these tasks. With a newly manufactured plane the need for flattening and establishing an edge on the iron will be mostly mitigated at the factory, though you may wish to “tune it up” a bit. A plane that’s had a working life may need some effort, but once accomplished the first time, maintenance is pretty easy and quick.
How you accomplish your goal is less important than actually getting the job done. Just remember, if you keep your car maintained it will provide good service and long life. Same with the tools on your workbench.