Flat Surface for Restoring Hand Planes

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Forum topic by pete79 posted 02-20-2011 03:57 PM 4896 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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154 posts in 3339 days

02-20-2011 03:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: refurbishing sharpening

Hey all -

So I’m venturing into the world of restoring hand planes for my use instead of buying new ones (for now).....

So now i’m at the point where i need to get set up to begin the process. I have all the supplies that i need for the process (I think). My question is what is a suitable flat surface to tape/stick my sandpaper to for flattening the bottoms of the planes? I’m trying to go the lowest cost route that will still produce a very good result. I’d prefer not to have to run out and buy a small slab of granite, and I’m not fond of the idea of taping/sticking the sandpaper to my table saw top. I’d like to set up a dedicated area/surface for this purpose. A couple ideas I have are as follows – i’m not sure if these are adequate:

1. MDF – I have a lot laying around and it seems to be perfectly flat – is there something i’m missing here?
2. Granite tiles glued together with epoxy and glued down to MDF – seems like a suitable idea as long as i’m sure the two tiles are level with each other? This seems a lot cheaper than buying small slab of granite, but a step up from just MDF – is this necessary?

Any others that people are using that don’t cost too much?

-- Life is a one lap race.

18 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3113 days

#1 posted 02-20-2011 04:08 PM

I bought a <$4.50 black Granite flooring tile from HD. Holds a full sheet with extra space on all sides. Works great. Not sure if trying to use two next to each other is worth the hassle/headache, IMO.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View chrisstef's profile


17761 posts in 3205 days

#2 posted 02-20-2011 04:11 PM

I use a scrap piece of laminated safety glass, got it for nothin from the local glass company. If you are using a honing guide the little wheel may indent the MDF over time.

I just spent 5 hours yesterday sharpening 6 plane irons and now i have a bald patch on my arm … sharp enough for me!

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

View SergioC's profile


82 posts in 2866 days

#3 posted 02-20-2011 04:11 PM

Granite tiles are available in decent sizes where you wouldn’t need to glue several together. I wouldn’t use multiple surfaces. You would have to level the tiles to each other (like laying tile) but they would need to be perfect. I just saw 18”x18” granite tiles for under 10 bucks online from several places.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3049 days

#4 posted 02-20-2011 04:11 PM

MDF can be pretty darn flat. And you can work with it, being a woodworker. The thicker the better.

Granite pieces seem to be pretty easy to come by in our corner of the country, but to my surprise I’ve found some that weren’t flat. Can’t explain that. So don’t, as they say, assume.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View knotscott's profile


8146 posts in 3574 days

#5 posted 02-20-2011 04:19 PM

MDF can be very flat, but it’s not overly strong and needs support. I’d put the sandpaper on MDF, then set the MDF on your TS as a substraight….keeps your saw clean but you still benefit from the flat surface. You can even put a cleat on one end of the MDF to help keep it in place.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3273 days

#6 posted 02-20-2011 04:38 PM

Plate glass costs $6.00 per square foot. I bought a 1’ by 2’ piece and mounted it on a piece of plywood. Works great.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View poopiekat's profile


4385 posts in 3933 days

#7 posted 02-20-2011 04:46 PM

I use the tempered glass insert, approx 24” X 28”, from an old aluminum storm door. It was the only part that survived when the door was blown off in high winds. Nice aluminum frame with a ridge that butts perfectly against the workbench, too! And it was free!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View pete79's profile


154 posts in 3339 days

#8 posted 02-20-2011 05:51 PM

Imagine my surprise an hour ago when looking for something completely unrelated in the basement I came across a 1/4” thick, 4’x2’ piece of plate glass from an old table my parents gave us 8 years ago! We threw the bases of the tables out (wicked ugly) and kept the glass. My wife always said “what are you going to do with that, you should throw it out”. Well for once, keeping something pays off!

-- Life is a one lap race.

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3685 days

#9 posted 02-20-2011 06:36 PM

I caught a sale last month on this granite plate for $19.95. I was shocked at the quality and weight. I believe if anyone is serious about sharpening and flattening over the long term, this is a good deal even at the standard price of $31. By the way, the surface is certified dead flat. I mean absolutely dead flat.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View rance's profile


4266 posts in 3359 days

#10 posted 02-20-2011 07:55 PM

David, Did you notice the nice data sheet that comes with it that tells you how flat it checked out to be? A half a thou. high in the upper left corner, a quarter of a thou. high on the lower right corner… Well, I opened another box to compare. Low and behold, it said the EXACT SAME THING. I’m not saying that these are not useful for flattening a plane, they are VERY useful, I still recommend them, but I would not put much stock in the included data sheet.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View wb8nbs's profile


164 posts in 2891 days

#11 posted 02-20-2011 07:57 PM

I use a couple of glass shelves from a garage sale.

I have a Frank Klaus video where he uses a slab of melamine covered particle board. Doubt if you can beat the price.

-- The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3487 days

#12 posted 02-20-2011 08:11 PM

I went to a place where they sell counter tops and floors that are made from marble granite that type of thing and asked for a piece about 24”x24” and they gave me a piece about 3”x 24” not my measurments I gave but the thing is they gave it to me for free the only draw back was the sides were not smooth but he did ask if I needed them smooth I said no so you get what you ask for sort of.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View canadianchips's profile


2613 posts in 3196 days

#13 posted 02-20-2011 08:25 PM

I use tempered glass from an oven door that was no longer used. 1/4” plate glass.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Lochlainn1066's profile


138 posts in 2976 days

#14 posted 02-20-2011 11:01 PM

I got 2 granite sink shaped cutouts from a local installer. The shape isn’t ideal but they were free.

-- Nate,

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5123 posts in 4159 days

#15 posted 02-22-2011 06:08 PM

The float glass (that’s what everybody is meaning when they say “plate” glass) is as good as you will ever need for plane irons or soles. If you can scarf up a piece of safety float-go to local glass company-you’ll be ahead of the game.


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