Restoring my old Dunlap #4 bench plane

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by NateX posted 11-09-2011 05:59 AM 16057 reads 2 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I finally took my great grandfathers #4 Dunlap bench plane out back and cleaned it up this afternoon. The original forum post is here

First I made sure that I had everything ready and all the protective stuff I would need to safely work with phosphoric acid. I soaked the small parts in a tupper ware and scrubbed stuff in my oil change catch pan. Gotta love a multi-tasker! And of course some tunes on the iPhone.

The Krud Kutter Rust Buster really worked quickly, the rust was pretty easy to scrub off.

The rust remover leaves a rough etching on the steel’s surface. I was surprised to see just how rough it left all the parts of the tool. Some of the parts that were not rusty were still a bit discolored.

I was able to remove most of it with some car care products I had laying around. I wished I had some Mother’s brand metal polish, but this stuff worked in a pinch. The Blue Magic is similar to the metal polish from the same brand but thinner and has no silicon. You can see the before and after on the blade leaning against the blue magic bottle.

I used a spray adhesive to attach some black sand paper to a piece of 1/8 steel plate. It was conveniently shaped to hook over the end of the bench. I learned pretty quick to attach it flush to one edge so that you can work what you need to.

After a few minutes I realized just how wonky the sole really was. I was in for a long afternoon.

A while later:

And done! Its pretty darned flat but not mirror polished. I figure another hour would make it mirror flat, but its nice and smooth. I cant detect any pits or ridges with my thumb nail, it feels incredibly smooth.

I also filed down the casting marks on the mating parts of the top of the sole. I lapped the mating part of the frog, chip breaker, and blade as well. everything seems to mate up pretty darn flat. I guess old great-granddad never really set his plane up!

The mouth of the plane had machine marks which also needed to be filed.

I still have to redo the knob and tote, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I am really happy with the results, I slapped it back together and got whisper thin shavings immediately.

Edit: I changed the title and some of the blog to reflect the definite identification of this as a in fact a #4 style plane.

20 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3699 days

#1 posted 11-09-2011 06:07 AM

very nice progress and restore.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3002 days

#2 posted 11-09-2011 06:30 AM

Great restoration! I enjoy the pics. Just curious, what are the dimension of that plane? I have an old Dunlap, but it doesn’t match the Stanley sizes—-it’s as thin as a #3 but as long as a #4.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2529 days

#3 posted 11-09-2011 07:29 AM

see Nate I told you it was a diamond in the rough it is coming out good but that color damn id paint it black but don’t it came that awful color so leave it can you add the before pics to the top of the pics so we can compare

-- Please check out my new stores and

View NateX's profile


98 posts in 3047 days

#4 posted 11-09-2011 08:19 AM

Brandon: I actually measured the thing, its 9¾ inches long and precisely 2 7/16 inches wide which makes it a bastard plane. The blade is 2 inches wide and runs bevel up. I was just eyeballing it, but I found a page with all the dimensions laid out and I apparently have a weird little non-standard smoother here. If anyone knows what the heck to call it I would love to know! Oh well, it works great.

Thanks for the pointers Dude!

View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2728 days

#5 posted 11-09-2011 11:03 AM

It’s the equivalent of a Stanley number 4. The number under the handle is just a casting mark, not necessarily the plane type – maybe used to identify the cast supplier or the part number in the assembly process.

To me, there is basically 0 chance this runs bevel up. It is absolutely illogical to use chip breaker on a bevel up plane. I think someone at some point took the blade assy apart and put it back together wrong.

Also, the residue left behind in this kind of process is not an etching per se. It is just rust that converted to ferric phosphate and “painted” the rest of the parts. That’s why I tried (and failed probably) to say in the other thread that you have to watch the solution and agitate frequently so the converted rust doesn’t dry on the part. I also found it is not too difficult to get the residue off – but it is persistent. In the future you might want to segregate your super rusty parts from your slightly rusty parts.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3002 days

#6 posted 11-09-2011 01:13 PM

Dr Funk is right. This is a standard size 4 plane. Technically, when you measure the length of the plane, you’re not supposed to count the bump in the back for the overhanging tote. So the length would be closer to 9”. See here. And no, the blade would not be bevel up.

I only asked because my Dunlap smoother has a 1 3/4” iron width, but the sole length is 9”.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2831 days

#7 posted 11-09-2011 01:22 PM

Had the same bevel up issue with an 04 Record my mother in law wanted tuned up..
Somewhere during her father in law’s time with it the blade got flipped..she couldn’t figure out why it chattered and bounced

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Don W's profile

Don W

18788 posts in 2618 days

#8 posted 11-09-2011 02:55 PM

whisper thin shavings, nuff said!

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View NateX's profile


98 posts in 3047 days

#9 posted 11-09-2011 02:58 PM

I did some more looking around and found that #4s run with the bevel down. Lie Nielsen’s website says their bench planes all are set at a 45’ angle with the bevel down. I tried both on this plane and bevel down gave me much better results.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18788 posts in 2618 days

#10 posted 11-09-2011 03:06 PM

bevel up planes have a much lower angle on the frog. Something like a #62 is a bevel up. Yours is definitely a bevel down. Block planes are typical bevel up.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3838 days

#11 posted 11-09-2011 04:51 PM

NateX; It certainly is a bevel down. Excellent restoration!!!
I actually like that color, it’s unique.
You are probably headed down a slippery slope of plane restoration like I did:

Hey, where is the gratuitous and obligatory pic of the whispy thin shavings???

View ShaneA's profile


6965 posts in 2649 days

#12 posted 11-09-2011 06:12 PM

Looks great so far, keep up the good work

View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2728 days

#13 posted 11-09-2011 07:48 PM

Forgot to say good job! I love the color myself!

One quick note: As far as my observations go, other than blade width, there are no exact rules to the length of a plane. My Stanley Bailey #5 type 7 is a full inch shorter than my type 15.

Other manufacturers were certainly under no obligation to copy Stanley Bailey dimensions, though most did – or were close.

View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2728 days

#14 posted 11-09-2011 08:11 PM

Also to explain the bevel down – chip breaker thing:

Obviously, making a plane blade and body in the 1800’s is very different from today. When Bailey invented the modern iron bodied plane around 1850, bevel up planes did not yet exist – or were extremely rare. A wooden bodied “bevel up” plane would have disintegrated rather quickly. 200 years ago, plane makers had to strike a balance of making a plane easy to sharpen in the field and the blade edge as stiff and long lasting as possible. Enter the chipbreaker.

The chipbreaker on a bevel down plane allows the use of a very thin – therefore easy to sharpen – blade. The blade and edge are then stiffened and supported by the chipbreaker. Giving the user the equivalent of a very thick blade without having to sharpen a huge hunk of hardened steel.

A bevel up plane needs no chipbreaker (in fact, it would be superfluous) and is historically not used for aggressive cutting because the tip of the blade is weak and thin at the edge.

With modern steels like A2 and O1 you can have bevel up planes with long lasting edges, but have any of you tried to sharpen a new full bevel on a Lie Nielsen 62? (Hint, even with modern sharpening devices you are in for a long afternoon.)

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15373 posts in 2669 days

#15 posted 11-09-2011 09:06 PM

Love the restore and the color, too. Nice job, and congrats on the progress.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

showing 1 through 15 of 20 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics