Waxing the soles of your planes

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Forum topic by paratrooper34 posted 12-28-2011 03:23 AM 6067 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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915 posts in 2915 days

12-28-2011 03:23 AM

I read in another post about applying wax to the bottom of a plane’s sole to help it work better. I’ve read in a couple of books where it was suggested to use some type of wax on the bottom of a plane’s sole to make it work easier. Plane manufacturers made corrugated soles to make them work easier. Yet every reference I read on that suggests the corrugations do not make a difference. Personally, I have never waxed the sole of any of my planes. If a blade is set correctly, the plane works as it should. I don’t think I need to wax them. I have only one plane with a corrugated sole; a Bedrock 4 1/2. I have no problem pushing that plane either and don’t see any difference pushing that plane over say a number 8. I guess I never thought the planes needed help in going over the surface of a board. If it is too hard to push, I lighten the depth of cut and get to work. A poster in another thread brought up exactly why I shy away from putting wax on the sole, because I don’t want wax or whatever interfering with the final finish. I think it is also important to have a nice, smooth surface on your sole, which I achieve by lapping with sandpaper up to 220 grit.

Since I never used wax on a sole, can anyone attest that your plane is actually easier to use with some wax on the sole? If so, how often do you have to apply it to keep it working at the same level? Do you have issues with leaving wax residue on a board?

-- Mike

20 replies so far

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3072 days

#1 posted 12-28-2011 03:47 AM

I use Johnson’s on my planes. Not just for ease of use but to protect them from any rust. I have a basement shop so tend to be fairly liberal in application on all metal surfaces. Frequency depends on use. When you notice more friction or resistance, just put on a dab. Never really had a problem with residue. When I wipe off the wax, there is just enough to provide a coating on the surface of the object but not enough to leave any goop behind.

Wax does make planing a tad bit easier. It isn’t a situation where one can’t push the plane or the plane gets stuck in the wood. As you mentioned, those are issues related to tuning or adjusting blade depth. It is about the rythym you pick up when surfacing. You get a bit of a glide going that is only noticeable when you plane for awhile. When surfaces meet, it builds up friction, friction causes resistance. The wax lowers the resistance but doesn’t fix bad planing technique.

I hope that helps clarify,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3072 days

#2 posted 12-28-2011 03:51 AM

btw – If there is concern in regards to finishing, lightly use a card scraper after planing. It will smooth the surface even more and will take off any wax residue that may inadvertantly be left behind.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2586 days

#3 posted 12-28-2011 03:55 AM

Putting a squiggle of wax on the plane sole makes a remarkable difference. My wife used to sell candles so we have lots of these little “tea lite” candles around. They are paraffin wax. I read and heard about this from various sources like you. I tried it and it makes a difference. I’ve never had any problem with the finish.

Try it. No harm.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#4 posted 12-28-2011 04:02 AM

I use a stick of beeswax and give my plane soles a quick swipe from back to front every 20-30 plane passes You can usually tell when you need to reapply it, and I just do one quick swipe so it’s super fast to reapply. it makes a VERY noticeable difference. Be careful the first time you do it, don’t use as much force or you’ll go flying across the room lol. It makes a huge difference honestly. Try it once and you’ll see how much easier it makes it, especially when doing deep planing.

From what I’ve heard, paraffin wax is the best to use as it doesn’t leave a residue affecting finishing but I’ve never had an issue with the beeswax stick

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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207 posts in 3434 days

#5 posted 12-28-2011 05:05 AM

It makes the unbearable bearable. That may be an exaggeration, but not by much.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

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11 posts in 2327 days

#6 posted 12-28-2011 06:26 AM

I use a piece of raw carnuba wax and make a running figure 8 across the width of the sole from end to end. You could really feel when the wax was gone. I consulted at a shop hand-planing wood flooring (taught both planing techniques and sharpening techniques). Hand-planing 20 or 30 square feet an hour makes you look for anything that makes pushing the plane easier.

-- Bill Zerby

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139 posts in 2829 days

#7 posted 12-28-2011 06:33 AM

It’s funny to see this thread tonight. Last night I did some work with my hand planes and I noticed a little surface rust spot on one of the planes. I wiped a light coat of camelia oil on the sole, and sides of the planes. Camelia oil is recommended by Lie-Nielsen and others for protecting planes and other tools.

I picked up my jointer plane tonight and on the first pass over a board, I almost threw the plane into the wall! It was remarkable how much easier the plane moved over the board. I didn’t find it difficult to plane last night, but a light coat of oil really makes a difference. The fact my planes don’t rust helps, too :)

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223 posts in 2640 days

#8 posted 12-28-2011 06:48 AM

I use beeswax on the sole and never had a finishing problem (Chris Schwarz just did a blog post about this: I find it makes a very noticeable difference and use it constantly.

I also wet the endgrain of super hardwoods with mineral spirits when shooting (and wax the sole and cheek there too).

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15280 posts in 2582 days

#9 posted 12-28-2011 07:13 AM

Thank you, dr… Everything I wanted to add, you just did. Suffice to say, the wax you add to your plane is shaved off in subsequent passes. I do it, love it, wouldn’t plane without it…

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

View derosa's profile


1572 posts in 2799 days

#10 posted 12-28-2011 08:28 AM

I have an old can of turtle wax in the shop, started using it when I noticed small signs of rust just forming.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

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Don W

18685 posts in 2531 days

#11 posted 12-28-2011 02:08 PM

I started to us Fluid film instead of wax. Paul Sellers recommends 3 in 1 oil, I use fluid film on all my tools, it works well, protect agains rust and can be easily sprayed on.

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

View NJWiliam's profile


32 posts in 2531 days

#12 posted 12-28-2011 04:31 PM

I wax my planes to protect them – currently using trewax – and use beeswax on the soles while working with them. No finishing problems, but you could not wax your smoother if you’re still concerned about finishes.

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2844 days

#13 posted 12-28-2011 11:15 PM

I didn’t think wax would make a difference but after I tried a little beeswax on the soles of my planes I realized it makes a great difference… Its never effected my finish.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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13521 posts in 2657 days

#14 posted 12-28-2011 11:43 PM

Paraffin for me; in the canning aisle of the grocery. The beeswax I have is pretty sticky. I figure I’m probably going to hit it with a scraper anyway, though.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18685 posts in 2531 days

#15 posted 12-28-2011 11:59 PM

you need to try it to believe it. Lube on the sole makes a pretty big difference.

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

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