Failures #1: Plane Sharpening

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Blog entry by Spur posted 11-08-2012 01:37 PM 1662 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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So I got a wild hair up my nose and decided to again try and sharpen/shorten my plane blade (think it is called the iron). I have already tried many times but this time I grabbed a piece of mdf, some spray glue and some sandpaper and got to work. Used a marker on the flat side and started there first. Holy crow that was not flat, took ages to get it right, but finally had it mostly mirror like (this is a cheap groz plane, my first plane besides my old buck brothers block plane which is awesome).

I am digging this mdf idea, so I continue with the bevel side now. I sand out the nicks in the blade (found a staple on a prior project, first time I used it, many hours of attempts at sharpening have been wasted thus far). I sand it down, knock off the burr, sand it down, until I finally have a straight edge. I move up to 400 grit and start to see a nice reflection, and then finish on 2000 grit. I take a pass across my arm and have a clean bald spot now, awesome. I can brush my teeth in that reflection!!! Time to test it. Being I am pretty dang inexperienced with planes, I must have put that chip breaker on too loose because when I went to adjust the depth, it came over the blade. Uh oh. I readjust, and try again in some really dry old pine I had laying around. I got some beautiful curls!!!, but on closer inspection, the wood is not flat. I look closely at the blade (admiring my teeth) and notice, I have nicks in the blade again…

Time to shorten my blade some more, but now that I know the mdf thing works I may try to make it easier than placing a 2 ft by 3 ft hunk of mdf on my coffee table in the living room. I am not getting a quality plane until I get the hang of this planing and sharpening thing.

-- Henryk, South Carolina

8 comments so far

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17477 posts in 3056 days

#1 posted 11-08-2012 01:46 PM

Hnery, good on you to try your hand at sharpening and getting it to the point of shaving hair. There are a few other things that will help you along on your quest to make a plane work.

First is flattening the frog’s mating surface to the plane iron. I do it on sandpaper just like flattening the backside of an iron. This will give you a mating surface to the face (bevel side) of the iron with no gaps. If it has uneven pressure points you might get some chatter and other unpleasantries.

The second is the mating surface of the chip breaker. Where it meets the backside of the iron there needs to be no gaps for chips to get stuck in. Once again using the sandpaper on MDF will get you where you need to be. I usually go through 220 then 320 and thats enough for me. Some people will shine em up real nice all though. I angle the chip breaker down beyond flat, lets say 10 degrees-ish.

Also, those Groz irons might not be the best steel. Ive got a #5 Groz i use as a scrub. The iron doesnt hold an edge very well and nicks fairly easily. By no means am i saying that you shoudl go out and buy a replacement but just realize it has certain limitations to it. You will need to hone it more often that other irons with that said.

Ive also gotten better results when honing on a leather strop with green honing compound. It can be done on MDF as well. A stick of that stuff will last you basically forever for around $9 from WC or the like.

Keep asking questions and you’ll be smoothing hardwoods in no time.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2826 days

#2 posted 11-08-2012 01:46 PM

The blade you are using is not hard steel or you are going over wood that is full of staples. If your blade is really worn down, some of the blades only had hardened steel on the ends. Might want to get a new blade or reharden this one – after you sharpen it a few more times (great practice). Learning to sharpen on soft steel is a whole lot easier than hardened A2 steel. This can take hours.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Spur's profile


87 posts in 2077 days

#3 posted 11-08-2012 03:06 PM

Thanks guys, good ideas. I am thinking it is a combination of lower quality steel and a plane that needs some tuning. I am hoping, once I get the whole tuning thing worked out and sharpening becomes easier, I will then upgrade the blade.

First up will be taking Chrisstef’s advice and tuning the plane. DBRay45 has a good point about me possibly wearing off the hard edge, since I have been trying to sharpen this for a long time, and would not be surprised if I had taken off about 1/4 of an inch of the edge by now. I am not sure how I would reharden it however. I think practicing sharpening a few more times and then just getting a better, thicker blade may be the route to go. Flattening that sucker took a lot of metal off.

-- Henryk, South Carolina

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2196 days

#4 posted 11-08-2012 03:46 PM

Your problem is that Groz plane, man. I had one of those. It’s a POS. The “steel” that they make the iron out of is pathetic. You can sharpen it till the cows come home, but the second you try to use it on wood, no matter how soft, the edge will break and chip. Get a better iron or a better plane. A vintage Stanley from ebay will run you about what you wasted on that Groz.


View Spur's profile


87 posts in 2077 days

#5 posted 11-08-2012 04:00 PM

Yeah, I wasn’t about to take a nice plane, new or vintage and mess it up because of my ignorance! The Groz was 15 bucks and great as a beater. Of course the drawback is the headache dealing with it, but I figure that will give me more practice and a greater appreciation for the replacement when the time comes :) Hopefully it also gives me practice to have a better eye when buying vintage. I can then continue the process with each son when they are ready before they graduate to any better planes I will hopefully own by then!

-- Henryk, South Carolina

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2535 days

#6 posted 11-08-2012 06:55 PM

You should be able to get a vintage Stanley anywhere between $20 to $50 bucks. Some may need more tuning up than others, but it’s a far cry from dropping a couple hundred on a Veritas or Lie Nielsen.

There’s the old adage, “a poor craftsman blames his tools”, which may be true to an extent. But the reality is some tools just aren’t fit to use. The really cheap stuff just turns peoples’ interest off.

(Random tangent time) Take another interest of mine, astronomy, for instance. It’s the exact same way with telescopes. Kids get interested in space and their parents who don’t know any better get them cheap toy telescopes from Walmart that barely have any aperture, flimsy mounts, and plastic optics. So even an easy target like the Moon looks awful. It just ends up disappointing the newcomer and they stop trying to use it.

So don’t mess with the super cheap stuff! Invest a few more dollars. Doesn’t have to be super nice, just useable. Otherwise it’ll feel like banging your head against the wall, and only relief you feel is when you stop.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Don W's profile

Don W

18788 posts in 2617 days

#7 posted 11-09-2012 12:30 AM

You can pick up a buck bros. Replacement blade at home depot for a couple of bucks. They are not bad and would be better than what you have. It would make your plane work better.

If you get that Groz to work, a vintage of a reputable manufacture will be a sweet upgrade for you.

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

View Spur's profile


87 posts in 2077 days

#8 posted 11-09-2012 03:05 AM

You know Don, that ain’t a bad idea. Kinda fits my philosophy of easing my way up the skill ladder on cheaper stuff, and I was thinking my next iron would have to be one of those woodcraft ones, and the idea of ruining that makes me pucker in odd places.

-- Henryk, South Carolina

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