I’ve been in the market for a rabbet plane of some sort, and tried to buy a Stanley #78 from Patrick Leach earlier this month. I was too late to get the Stanley but Patrick sent me a moving fillister plane instead. It was made by “prolific plane maker” John Bell of Philadelphia circa 1845:
It’s a beautiful piece of work, and tempts me to become a hand plane collector, but I really intended it to be a working plane. But it certainly wasn’t in working condition when I received it.
I spent a long few hours on a Saturday flattening the iron and honing the edge. It’s a skew blade, and I don’t have the fancy Veritas honing guide that accommodates skew blades, so I had to do the honing by hand. I’m not terribly good at that, but by dint of lots of Sharpie managed to get a decent edge on the iron.
Sadly, the plane still didn’t work very well, so I turned to the wisdom of the Lumberjocks over in the forum. I got some very good advice from lwllms and RGtools on how to tune up the plane. (And the useful tip “Don’t set the wedge too hard, it’s probably the most common mistake made by people learning to use wooden planes.” from lwllms.)
I took the plane apart last night, flattened & trued the fence, flattened the sole of the plane and lightly flattened the plane bed (which was convex). I used my #5 Stanley set for very light shavings, but the sole needed a fair amount of work. I flattened the bed with a file stuck into the throat (I couldn’t think of any other way to do that) and worked it pretty lightly for fear of opening the throat excessively, change the bed angle, etc. I also sharpened the nicker a bit with a file, cleaned the depth stop with steel wool, and gave the whole plane a coat of linseed oil & furniture wax.
I’m not sure which of the tweaks was most needed, but whatever the combination, the plane now works 100% better. It glides along the wood and spits out thin spiral shavings and cuts a nice square rabbet (as shown above). I could be more delighted!