Finish for Wood Hand Plane Handles

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Forum topic by Chris Campbell posted 06-05-2012 12:08 PM 3041 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Chris Campbell

27 posts in 1658 days

06-05-2012 12:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane finishing refurbishing millers falls

So, I recently purchased an old Millers Falls hand plane, I think it’s a 14 (14” long, like a #5). Paid about $30 for it at Tried and True Tools in Fridley, MN (great store!) One side is a little off-square, but I figure that if I use it primarily for smoothing, that shouldn’t make too much difference.

I’m going to try to rehab it – I think I have a good idea of how to proceed. Will purchase a new blade, etc.

My question is this. The handles are wood with some old paint on them. I would like to strip the paint to have a natural wood finish on the handles.

What finish would you use on the handles? I hope to get some use out of this plane, so it would have to be one that can stand up to use. I am new to this, so do not have a lot of (any) experience with these old planes.

Also, if anyone has experience with this brand and has any particular insights, it would be appreciated.


-- Chris, Minneapolis

4 replies so far

View dhazelton's profile


2284 posts in 1715 days

#1 posted 06-05-2012 12:14 PM

I just sand with fine paper or use four aught steel wool and give a coat of linseed oil and maybe paste wax. I don’t mind seeing some history so I don’t strip things down, I just smooth them so they feel nice in my hand. If you want the tote and knob perfect you could use a liquid stripper and start from scratch.

Why do you need to buy a new blade? Try sharpening what you have first and use the money for another size plane.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17872 posts in 1986 days

#2 posted 06-05-2012 12:49 PM

I use a small cabinet scraper to get rid of the varnish on the tote, then sand (I go to 500) and BLO. The knob I chuck in the drill press. I blogged the restore.

I also agree with Chris on the blade. The one you have can be made to plane just as well as anything. (I’m not knocking Hock at all, they make a good replacement, but if a replacement isn’t needed, why spend the money)

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View BubbaIBA's profile


383 posts in 1795 days

#3 posted 06-05-2012 01:00 PM

I will usually sand the old finish off (not a fan of stripper), reseal the wood with shellac, smooth the shellac with fine steel wool and then finish with BLO. Makes a very nice tote and knob to the touch and looks good.

On the bright metal I use a Klingspor product called “Sandflex”, it comes in course, medium, and fine. It’s messy as all get out but you use it like an eraser to remove rust and crud, does a great job.

While I usually add a new iron and chip breaker, if the back of your iron is not pitted near the cutting edge it will work just fine, the old steel is very good.

Be careful out there, before you know what has happened you will be standing in front of a group saying “My name is Chris and I’m a planeaholic”.

View RussellAP's profile


3059 posts in 1705 days

#4 posted 06-05-2012 02:20 PM

I just sand the old paint and varnish off and use BLO I have one that I decided to just leave sanded and let my hands provide the oil. The wood is 80+ years old and it looks fine.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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