How should I finish the sole of a wooden hand plane?

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Forum topic by gepatino posted 10-26-2012 02:28 PM 5533 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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217 posts in 2124 days

10-26-2012 02:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane finishing

I’m trying to restore and old handplane we’ve found in a toolbox from my wife’s grandfather. It’s a nice (at least for me) Peugeto Freres plane, but it needs some work to make it look a little better.

The wood has several marks, scratches and even paint droplets. I was thinking in sand it to remove the old finish and scratches (at least from the sides and top, not sure about the sole).

Doing a quick test up to a 600 grit sand paper in one of the sides, a very nice wood was revealed so now I’m decided to properly clean it and refinish.

So the question is which is the right finish for a tool like this. I would go with shelac (I love how easy it’s applied) but if I also clean the sole I think it could stick to the piece of wood being planed.
What about tung oil? is that enough to protect the wood for some years?

Thanks a lot.


20 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4931 posts in 3960 days

#1 posted 10-26-2012 02:58 PM

Oil and wax only on the wood planes.
I have about 30 wooden planes. Hollows and rounds, dado, beading, etc. I just oil ‘em with BLO and wax with Johnson’s paste wax.


View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2951 days

#2 posted 10-26-2012 08:17 PM

I second Bill’s advice: boiled linseed oil and wax only. I have several wooden bodied planes and a couple I refinished. Only BLO and then some wax on top.

Good Luck!

-- Mike

View gepatino's profile


217 posts in 2124 days

#3 posted 10-26-2012 09:11 PM

would it be the same to use tung oil?
just because I’ve already have some, and never used BLO


View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 2173 days

#4 posted 10-26-2012 09:16 PM

Yes . You can use oil . But if you’re not contented with just an oil, you may finish it also with wax on it. :)

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View knockknock's profile


446 posts in 2172 days

#5 posted 10-26-2012 09:43 PM

I only use wax on my wooden planes (I have never bothered to refinish one). Also, I do not wax or put any finish, on the wedge or in the slot/hole where the blade and wedge go (wedging grips better on bare wood).

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2286 days

#6 posted 10-26-2012 09:52 PM

If you’re going to use oil, it really doesn’t matter which.

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

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2951 days

#7 posted 10-26-2012 10:14 PM

Sorry, I should have been more clear, I only use BLO, but certainly tung oil and such will do just fine.

-- Mike

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3281 days

#8 posted 10-26-2012 10:57 PM

It makes a difference what oil you use, especially if you expose fresh wood. You want an oil that doesn’t expand as it polymerizes. Most do expand and boiled linseed oil expands a lot. The oil will penetrate the rays of the wood and, if it expands, cause checking. To test this pour some in a glass dish and let it cure. If it wrinkles up, it’s because it expanded as it cured. The oil I’ve found that avoids problems with checking is MinWax Antique oil.

View ITnerd's profile


263 posts in 2599 days

#9 posted 10-27-2012 12:07 AM

I only use oil on a plane if it is an extremely parched and dry plane – I find the BLO will quickly darken the wood, especially old wood it seems. I hunt Sandusky planes, and every now and then I’ll get one from the Midwest that is dryer than the desert (the color of driftwood), in which case I use light coats of BLO.

But if its in good condition, I like 1 or 2 coats of buffed Renaissance Wax. For slightly parched planes or grungy ones, I first use Briwax natural creamed beeswax; it contains Beeswax, Turpentine & BLO – I put it on with a microfiber cloth which seems to do a slightly better job of cleaning than a cotton rag. After its sat a week or two, I follow up with the Ren wax.

The can of Minwax Antique Oil I have is 34% Linseed Alkyd Resin and 66% Mineral Spirits; I do not have the knowledge to know exactly how Linseed Alkyd Resin differs from plain Boiled Linseed Oil (likely has some additional dryers in it), but I’m thinking you could get a similar effect by making a 1 part drying oil (BLO/Tung/Walnut), 2 parts Mineral Spirit mixture, if you decide upon an oil finish. This could help offset any expansion checks from using pure BLO, like Larry mentions.

-- Chris @ Atlanta - JGM - Occam's razor tells us that when you hear hoofs, think horses not zebras.

View gepatino's profile


217 posts in 2124 days

#10 posted 10-28-2012 06:48 PM

Thank a lot to all of you.

I’ve started with tung oil and so far it looks pretty well. After a second coat, I’ll finish it with some wax.

Then I’ll have to figue out how to restore the blade.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3115 days

#11 posted 10-28-2012 07:25 PM

Larry Williams
I know you are little of an expert when it comes to wooden planes

I have to ask why you say BLO or just LO makes checking in the wooden planes
becourse that what the old masters used alot of on wooden planes here in this
part of the world Germany/Scandinavia and I still have to come around a plane that
have cracked
I have seen queit a few on museums they are all good as new beside the colouring
over time when using a linsed oil


View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3281 days

#12 posted 10-29-2012 12:22 AM


By the time I was making planes, I’d already had some bad experiences with linseed oil finishes being an ideal medium in within which to grow fungi. I never actually used it on planes.

When I started I was using a Benjamin Moore product called “Scandinavian Oil” and I bought it by the gallon. A gallon would last a long time. One time I went to get more and they didn’t have any. Benjamin Moore, I was told, had replaced “Scandinavian Oil” with what they called “Antique Oil.” It was the same thing the paint guy at my local supplier told me. It had just been reformulated to meet the new VOC regulations that were coming in.

I bought a gallon and put it on a set of 18 planes at the end of a day. When I came in the next morning all the flat sawn surfaces of the wood were covered with little checks. I magnified the surfaces and could see that each of the checks originated at the end of a medullary ray. The finish had soaked in and expanded.

I started reading a lot to find out how to prevent this and learned I needed a finish that didn’t expand as it cured. I bought a set of glass dishes at a local second hand store and as small a quantity of each of the finishes I could get locally. I poured equal small amounts of each finish in a dish and let it cure. That’s how I ended up using the MinWax finish, it didn’t expand like all the others I tried. Because I had some boiled linseed oil at the time I also tried it in one of the dishes. It was one of the worst for expanding.

I don’t know about Continental planes but British and American planes were usually sold unfinished. For an extra charge, some makers would provide planes with a “polished” finish. This was a shellac finish. Most of the old planes I’ve actually cleaned up had shellac finishes. Those that had been soaked in linseed oil have a tell-tale crust on the end grain surfaces. I’ve never tried the linseed oil soak so many say was often used. My business partner, Don, did once and only once. He says he regretted trying it, it was a steady oozing mess and he didn’t even want to touch the plane, let alone use it.

I don’t recall seeing the tell-tale crust on the Continental planes I’ve seen. Though the newer ones I’ve seen may have had a linseed oil finish. The Jorgensen hand screws I bought about 35 years ago did have a linseed oil finish. They left an oily smudge on everything I used them on for years in spite of trying to clean the oil out of them.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2567 days

#13 posted 10-29-2012 01:14 AM

Some day I hope to discover the answer behind the love hate phenomena of blo. I’ve used blo for probably 30 years, and never seen any of the problems described. And since I see this discussion time and time again, there is certainly something to it. Is it technique, type of wood, humidity, or extra terrestrial forces.

I had a conversation at a woodworking show with a tool guy selling a bunch of wooden planes. He said he never used blo. I asked why and he said he once had a 100 year old plane he was restoring. He said he gave it a light sanding and set it in the sun. He came back about an hour later and the oil was oozing out of it.

I said, so after a 100 years, blo is still doing its job protecting the wood, and you choose not to use it? He just shrugged his shoulders and walked away. So did he not have an answer, or think my questions was so far off it didn’t deserve an answer?

I’ve tried alternate oils, not because I don’t like blo, but I am always looking for something new. I’m certainly going to see if I can find some Minwax Antique Oil to give it a try, but its unlikely the blo will ever completely leave my shop.

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

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2951 days

#14 posted 10-29-2012 01:30 AM

Amen, Dennis. I’ve read in books that BLO is what was used and I’ve read in restoration books that BLO is an oil that can be used. I have never experienced any checking issues with BLO at all. I like the stuff.

Larry, are you the guy from the video making the side escapement planes?

-- Mike

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3281 days

#15 posted 10-29-2012 02:18 AM


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