Hand Plane Revival #1: Restoring a bench plane on a budget

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Blog entry by Willeh posted 01-31-2012 12:58 AM 5136 reads 2 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Plane Revival series Part 2: The clean up process »

I’ve seen a number of postings and blogs on LJ about restoring an old hand plane the very thorough way, taking an old plane that looks haggared from years of use and restoring it to new. While that is a great way to do it, if you have the time, money for all the required parts etc, and I wish i did, because that’s a great way to get good results. This is not one of those posts.

This is a great method for those who have a small budget but are willing to put in some elbow grease. It is a simple and straightforward process that will give good and repeatable results. Total cost, including the plane is less than $40 and will result in a great user plane that will serve you for years to come. It may not be show-room perfect, but it’ll look good and work great!

Plan a budget for the following:
Plane – You should be able to pick up a workable old Stanley Bailey for 10-20$
Lapping Plate – a 10×12 piece of 3/8 plate glass can be had for $10
Sand Paper – You’ll want atleast a sheet of 80, 100, 220, 400 grit paper $5-10
Spray Glue – to keep the paper down, 3M Super 77 Spray adhesive can be found for around $5

That should do it for the materials you’ll need, other than whatever you use already to sharpen and hone blades. If you are lacking in that department, you can go a long way using the sand paper to get your blade pretty close. Best part is, once you have this stuff, you won’t have to buy it again.

Step #1, The victim: Obtaining/picking a plane.

If you have an old plane, whether a hand-me-down or an old one that has been used and abused for years and needs sprucing up, that’s great, otherwise, try and find a good old Stanley Bailey (or similar Record etc.) in the size that you need.

For the purpose of this example, I will be using a Post-war Stanley Bailey #4 – These are as common as dirt and will make a pretty good user with some work. I found this example in a barn sale for $5. Make sure to check for any visible cracks (Especially around the mouth)missing parts etc. The rest you can work with. To limit the amount of work that you need to do, you’ll want to look for one with a reasonably flat sole. Use an engineer’s square to check that the bottom is relatively flat down the length and not too concave or convex across the middle, and check the sides for squareness.. if they are REALLY out, chances are the plane may have been dropped and might be one to avoid.

The process involves stripping down and cleaning the plane, removing rust, lapping (Flattening) the sole and sides, tuning up the movement, and putting it back together to get to work. All in all, the process will take a few hours depending on how flat the sole of your plane is and is a pretty simple and easy process.

Next post will get into the cleaning/disassembling part of the process, more to come soon.

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

5 comments so far

View hhhopks's profile


651 posts in 2427 days

#1 posted 01-31-2012 01:32 AM

It is a challenge.
I too on a tight budget.

I look forward in seeing what you come up with.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View chrisstef's profile


17477 posts in 3056 days

#2 posted 01-31-2012 02:37 AM

It can certainly be done, i think my first 2 were done on the cheap, but youre gonna earn it! I like the way youre tackling this one Willeh, ill be following along. You got a nice crusty one there too.

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

View Sylvain's profile


708 posts in 2549 days

#3 posted 01-31-2012 05:51 PM

Read the blog of Paul Sellers

the episodes with # 4 in the title

The lapping must be done while complete with the nomal tension on the lever cap
(but of course wtith the blade retracted.)

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2743 days

#4 posted 01-31-2012 06:02 PM

Got a battery charger? I save a bunch of money on chemicals using electrolysis to get the bulk of the gunk off. Like you, I’ve never seen the need to spend a ton of money on a refurb. Looking forward to this!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2389 days

#5 posted 01-31-2012 08:15 PM

Sylvain: That I agree and have always done. The sole does somewhat distort when the plane is under full tension. I set it up like i’m about to use it before i lapp the sole.

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

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