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Sharpening #4 and 4 1/2 bench planes

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Blog entry by Paul Sellers posted 02-08-2012 07:57 PM 6955 reads 6 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

At the risk of bringing further controversy into the field of woodworking I thought we should build on the successes forged in the chisel sharpening YouTube video. You might be interested in this method that I use because it was also used by craftsmen for at least two centuries.

I have written several blogs, posts and forums previously about the #4 bench plane, the best of which in my view is the plainest of planes, the exceptionally humble and most underestimated and undervalued Stanley #4. I own plenty and use the #4 and the #4 ½ in my workshops. I used to have the heavyweights available but students found them to heavy and awkward to use so I just stayed with what they were most likely to use in the field, so to speak. Eventually they will want a low angle Veritas for refining aspects of their work, but a good old bevel-down Stanley does almost everything they really need.

 

 

The first stage with fettling any bench plane is sharpness and so here I am showing how to sharpen the bench plane. I am using my old #4 ½, but the technique is the same for any and all bench planes used for levelling and smoothing, regardless of plane length or width. It’s very fast and follows the same method I use for the chisels in the previous YouTube video from last week.

To begin with you must first lap the flat face of the cutting iron on a dead flat surface to give a clear and polished face for about the first 3/8”- 1/2” from the cutting edge. Then polish this face on the strop to a mirror finish. This is the last time you will need to do this as this face does not wear. I go through the grits on my 3” x 8” EZE Lap diamond sharpening plates as you can see. I don’t use cheapos for this because I like my plates to stay dead flat and the diamond particulate to be consistent in size. I also use car polish to get a final mirror finish. Dig the cutting edge into a board for safety and polish the face with a soft cloth. Once you have done this, it can simply be maintained on the strop as shown.

Now set up the sharpening plates and hone following the video. This is very fast. A matter of minutes only.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog



16 comments so far

#1 posted 02-08-2012 08:07 PM

Paul your series made me pull out my number four and put it to use. I had been using a number 5 more, but the 4 is a great plane when tuned correctly.

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

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stefang

13019 posts in 1986 days


#2 posted 02-08-2012 08:26 PM

Thanks so much Paul. Easy to do like the chisels plus cambering the corners. I will try that next, but I have no doubt that the results will be as good as for my chisels. Whenever I learn valuable new methods like this, I feel like I’ve just found a treasure. Now I can pass these skills on to my grandkids. I appreciate your efforts, especially considering all the heat you took for you last blog.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#3 posted 02-08-2012 08:28 PM

That’s great. That’s Real Woodworking Campaigning in action. The #4 is an incredible all around plane. I remember buying my first #4 back in 1965. Between that and my Stanley 4 1/2 I am very contented. #5s and 5 1/2s are great planes for truing work, but the workhorse of planes for me is the shorter smoothing plane. Love yer #4s everyone.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#4 posted 02-08-2012 08:36 PM

This information should be freely available for everyone wanting to develop real skill and technique. That’s all I care about really. Together we can make a change and get woodworking back in the hands of our children and grandchildren just as you are thinking now.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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CalebMexquite

9 posts in 1088 days


#5 posted 02-08-2012 08:59 PM

Hi Paul,
I wanted to get some chromium oxide like you have and so I looked up the chromium oxide bar and this is what I found out. http://straightrazorplace.com/honing/28088-consumer-alert-chromium-oxide-bars-not.html
It seems like there is only 30% chromium oxide in the Veritas and 60% Aluminum oxide which is about a 300 grit. I guess that wouldn’t work, what brand do you use? Any info is appreciated.

Cheers!

Caleb

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stefang

13019 posts in 1986 days


#6 posted 02-08-2012 09:26 PM

Hi Caleb, When polish I use auto rubbling compound I buy at my local Shell station, mainly because I can’t get the other stuff here locally. it works well too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#7 posted 02-08-2012 09:42 PM

To be frank, I have never advocated a particular brand. I have used most of them including Grizzly, Veritas and many more. They have all polished my chisels to a pristine edge. There are some I use from Switzerland that give me 25,000 grit but what the micron size is I don’t know. Green has always suited me and i have used the same stick for ten years now.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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BerBer5985

424 posts in 1072 days


#8 posted 02-09-2012 01:16 AM

Paul, before I saw you at the show in Baltimore I had purchased a worksharp 3000 and all the accessories and I wish I had seen you first bevause I wouldn’t have purchased that machine at all. I started using your method and every plane blade and chisel I’ve sharpened has turned out amazing in only a few minutes if time. Thank you very much for the info and inspiration to be brave and get rid of the honing jigs and machines. You’ve also done that with a lot if my other wood working as well. I’d love to get up to
New York sometime and attend your classes.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com

#9 posted 02-09-2012 04:56 AM

If you keep going, you’ll have your whole dvd series on youtube….. That said, I must say that there is a lot more information on Paul’s dvd series. If you look at my posts, I am a Paul Sellers fan. I can’t help it, his works and methods speak for themselves.

I love the #4 (or in my case a Millers Falls #9). I know this might get controversial, as most of my posts seem to be, but if you had to choose two or three bench planes what would you pick…. (I’m referring to planes that would fall into the Stanley 1-8 range). I’m 99% sure of my choices, but I look forward to a little feedback.

I ask, because I am working on my toolbox(es) to work out of. I have some size and weight restrictions I’m trying to stick to on this project.

Also, I am working on my version of your workbench, it will be done in 100% red oak. (It’s what I have available) I have to say that I love the design of it since it is so modular by design.

P.S. Thanks for allowing the velociraptor picture on your blog….

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#10 posted 02-09-2012 05:12 AM

Probably three and possibly four will do it for me:

The #4 and 4 1/2 are always closest to me and I think that because of physical strength I reach very much for my #4 1/2, which is slightly wider than a #4. I have sued this plane since I upgraded to the extra width as a younger man. Now that I am older and have more sense I find that the narrower work benefits from the narrower width plane sometimes and so I now interchange between the two throughout the day. I also have a #5 and a 5 1/2 and do exactly the same with these. I like the extra bit of weight in these planes for edge jointing which is my most particular need for this plane size. I own the very rare I Sorby #5 1/2 and also a Record and a Stanley too. These are my personal choices. In the school we use Record and Stanleys. I have tried retrofit cutting irons and found the minimal difference insufficient to justify double the effort in sharpening. Thin irons take the same edge as thick irons and the thin ones do everything the thick ones do which is all I want.

My last plane is a surprise to everyone and it’s a #3 Stanley. I find that my grandchildren fare much better with this small sized plane. Whatever gets them in the shop with me is fine with me.

I have made the bench with oak as well and it’s very nice. I hope that you enjoy it for years to come.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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WoodworkingGeek

181 posts in 1344 days


#11 posted 02-10-2012 05:43 PM

Paul
Thank you for the video, I’m having a hard time with sharping. I use a four sided cheap diamond, It goes from 200 to 600 grit then I switch to sand paper that is 1050 grit then I strop it on leather. It takes a lot of force to push the plane across hard wood even after sharping. I’m wondering where I can get the diamond plate you use? I don’t know if its my planes or my sharping method that I need to change. My No. 4 is four pounds It is a older sears.
Ill be at the Atlanta Woodworking show, I’ll be at your seminar!
Thanks
- WoodWorkingGeek

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9888 posts in 1270 days


#12 posted 02-10-2012 06:00 PM

Paul, it’s great to see sharpening in action. Thanks so very much for sharing your knowledge, it WILL be put to use. And yes, I love my old #4 too! :-)

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

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#13 posted 02-10-2012 06:04 PM

I have always used EZE Lap. I think DMT work well too, but not the ones with coloured polka-dots. Solid plates only work best as these will also work for narrow chisels and cutting irons such as 1/8” and 3/16”. EZE Lap will do everything you need and more. They stay flat, have consistent particulate size and will last you throughout your woodworking life. I use them at both New Legacy Schools here in the UK and the US and I have done so for at least 14 years now. That’s thousands upon thousands of sharpenings. Someone on the previous chisel post I did gave details for DMT plates so you might ant to look there for details. I think that both are pretty much of a muchness.

Best for now,

Paul

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1222 days


#14 posted 02-10-2012 06:18 PM

Today I had a class when two eBay Stanleys came in from this weeks purchases (I bought six this week). I unwrapped a #4 as the class was about to learn about this little princess of planes from the 1800s. inventor Leonard Bailey. Taking it from its wrapping and box had that Christmassy feeling most of us have when someone else is unwrapping their present. Within an hour the plane was totally fettled and in use producing pristine surfaces and shavings consistent with the best of planes. I think I paid £9 – $14 USD, so not very much for a plane that will last at least a hundred years of daily use. I have my planes form 48 years ago still in good stead.

BTW, all the rubbish about #4 Stanley planes chattering flys out of the window when people learn to sharpen and fettle their planes well.

I think that these planes are quite incredible and so we have a couple of new YouTube videos to help you to fine tune them for daily use. They will be ready soon.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

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BerBer5985

424 posts in 1072 days


#15 posted 02-10-2012 06:58 PM

http://www.sharpeningsupplies.com/DMT-8-Dia-Sharp-Diamond-Kit-P405C24.aspx

This is set that I purchased and they have worked well for me. The DMT set of 8” by 3” wide. I orignally purchased the 6” set and found them to be a little on the small side for full size plane irons and I exchanged them without question to the company. They sent the new ones out right away and just charged me the difference. No extra shipping or anything. I highly recommend them, plus their prices are decent.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com

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