I have ordered a Hock replacement iron for my rehab plane. A slight change in course has occurred, in that once the rust came off and I was able to determine the actual model of my rust bucket, it has become apparent that it is a Sargent 409, the equivalent of a Stanley #4, not a #4 1/2. The Sargent does have a slightly wider and longer casting than the equivalent Stanley, so in it should be a heavier plane, but it does have a 2˝ iron, not 2 3/8˝. Oh well, I still can’t quibble with the $7 dollar price tag.
While waiting for the new iron to arrive, I decided to sharpen up the stock iron, using the scary sharp method, utilizing a flat reference surface and sandpaper. In order to keep a consistent angle for sharpening, I bought a Veritas sharpening guide and angle setter. This is the older incarnation of the MK II guide, still very functional, and well worth the investment. I doubt that I will attempt to stay current in the “Tool Arms Race” with this product until I wear this unit out.
I (long ago) purchased a piece of auto safety glass. The exact size escapes me at the moment, and indeed it’s not crucial. If I were doing it again I would likely get a tool grade slab of granite for this purpose, and use the capillary action of water to hold the paper in place. Much easier to clean than dowsing the whole thing in acetone and scraping off the spray adhesive used to hold the paper in place. The paper does last a while, so this relatively unpleasant cleaning experience doesn’t occur that often, and the whole thing is ready to pull out from beneath my bench when needed.
I started out defining a 25° bevel setting the length of iron extended beyond the guide with the Veritas angle setting fixture. Once that is done and a check is made to see that the blade is at 90° to the guide, we are ready to rumble. I had some 80 grit ready-to-wrap strips from my Performax 10-20 and some freebie 180 grit rolls from a 16-32 that I was given. There are at least two applications from each of these rolls. Other folks use PSA rolls, which are easier to mount to the glass than using spray adhesive, but the spray mount works okay for me.
I ground the desired angle with the 80 grit, until a constant 25° bevel was established. You know you are done when a wire edge is felt across the backside of the bevel. Who ever butchered this iron originally did a magnificent job of boogering it up, setting a concave edge, rather than the desired very slightly convex edge.
I ground and ground and ground some more until I could feel the wire edge across the whole backside of the bevel.
Then I switched to the 180 grit paper. Once a consistent scratch pattern was noted, I flipped over the glass and began to refine the bevel.
Then it was a simple matter of working through the grits, beginning at 400 and working my way through the grits to P3000. A brief sidebar is in order at this point to explain why the “P” is used to describe the paper’s grit grading.
There are two standards for abrasive paper. The American system is the CAMI grading standard. CAMI stands for Coated Abrasives Manufacturers’ Institute. The P designation is from the European standard, developed by the Federation of European Producers of Abrasives (FEPA). Above 220 grit there is a wider desparity between the two systems, with the FEPA standard being coarser than CAMI paper. The consistency of the FEPA standard is tighter than CAMI grit paper, and in truth it doesn’t matter that much here. I just can’t find CAMI graded paper locally above 600 grit, and my local supplier stocks Klingspor paper, which uses the FEPA “P” standard. The P2000 and P3000 grit paper is from Japan, and was purchased at a premium from a local Auto-body supplier.
I worked the bevel all the way through the P3000 grit until a mirror sheen was established. Then it was time to flatten the back of the iron. The same genius that worked the bevel side of the iron had his way with the back as well. The iron was actually dished, rather than flat, so considerable grinding was needed to get a flat back surface.
After flattening the back, I polished the back of the iron all the way through the grits.
The Veritas guide as an adjustment that allows the sharpener to establish a micro-bevel at up to 3° by turning a knob on the side of the guide. This is desirable, so that re-sharpening is easier. I set the micro bevel adjustment. Now for a new wrinkle. The newer Veritas sharpening guide has an optional camber wheel available that allows one to put a slightly convex bevel on the iron (Robin Lee and his crew of geniuses, at it again). The reason for this cambered edge is so that there is no digging in of the iron at the side of the cut when attempting to smooth plane the workpiece. There is no upgrade available for my older sharpening set, so I decided to put a piece of clear wrapping tape in the center of the roller on the bottom of the sharpening guide.
This allowed me to put a bit more pressure on each side of the iron as I worked (again) through the finer grits. Here is the result.
We will have to see if there is a discernible difference once the iron meets the workpiece. To test the sharpening, I was able to shave hair from the back of my arm with the newly sharpened iron. Photos omitted to spare the faint-hearted. Once the iron has the requisite 25° bevel, the adept galoot can alter the micro-bevel to a steeper angle, and tighten the throat by adjusting the frog. This helps in smoothing wood with difficult, reversing grain etc.
I will likely do this with the Hock iron so that I have my old Stanley #4 set for regular grain, and the new heavier Sargent at the ready for use with my beloved figured woods. And I still have Tom Angle’s gift smoother ready for work. Now I just have to practice my skills, and transform myself from ham-fisted amateur to experienced Galoot.
-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.