Most Efficient Ways to Lap The Sole of a Handplane

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 03-09-2013 09:51 PM 2657 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1957 days

03-09-2013 09:51 PM

... so at the moment I’m using normal 80g AlO paper with the occasional rinse under a tap to remove the swarf…

but it feels like it still takes forever to flatten my planes. I’m sure my paper blunts too quickly despite it being expensive friable Oakey paper.

I’ve been at it over two hours and I’ve still not flattened all the way across my Stanley 71 router plane.

And after three hours I never got to the dead bottom of my 1970s Record jack plane as well.

So although sole lapping will never be a quick job, I was wondering what you guys had found to be the most efficient way to flatten the soles of your planes…


-- Ben, England.

13 replies so far

View ShaneA's profile


6956 posts in 2624 days

#1 posted 03-09-2013 09:56 PM

I use the adhesive backed Mirka ( I think ) 80 grit, clean the dust debris often. When the paper looses it sharpness, it really drags out the process.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2593 days

#2 posted 03-09-2013 09:59 PM

I get it close with a belt sander first. I have an old craftsman with a flat steel bed.

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

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3385 days

#3 posted 03-09-2013 10:03 PM

Is it a 78 (rabbet plane) or a 71 (router plane)?? If its either one of those, it shouldn’t take anywhere near 2 hours. What I do is glue a 60 grit sanding belt, a 120 grit belt and a 220 grit belt to a piece of melamine that’s about 15” wide and 4’ long. I stay on the 60 grit until I get a consistent scratch pattern or have removed the Sharpie marks on the sole, then spend about 30 seconds on the 120 and 30 seconds on the 220. I also use a ShopVac about every minute or so to remove the debris and keep the sand paper clean. For smaller planes like a 78 or 71, I’d just glue some 60 grit on one side of a piece of glass and 120 on the other.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View needshave's profile


175 posts in 1985 days

#4 posted 03-09-2013 10:09 PM

I do pretty much the same as shane. it just takes a while, I normally do it the last thing in the day, I leave when the arms get tired. Leave it for another day.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1957 days

#5 posted 03-09-2013 10:13 PM

Hmm, it sort of sounds like I’m doing what you guys are doing.

as a rough ball park, how long would you guys take to prep the sole of a:


also, have you chaps had any experience of lapping compound? I’m not quite sure how it works – as I understand it it’s abrasive compound suspended in a lubricant that abrades the iron surface as it’s rubbed against the lapping surface. But will that not just wear out the granite tile? Also does lapping compound get blunted in the same way that abrasive paper does??


-- Ben, England.

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2283 days

#6 posted 03-09-2013 10:17 PM

I might as well bring it up, Some planes do not need to be dead flat and the whole bed of the plane does not need to be co-planer. Check the article at

I will lap a smoother, but a jack is a waste of time. It is designed to take thick heavy shavings, not fluffy ones. There are many other things you can do to a plane to increase its performance that are more meaningful and take way less time. That’s just my 2 cents. As for lapping a joiner… I would rather buy a premium joiner so I don’t have to spend days doing it. My labor is worth more to me.

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2283 days

#7 posted 03-09-2013 10:19 PM

I have tried lapping compound and the lapping plate from lee valley… Giant mess and you can get it just as flat with the above methods. A good quality sandpaper will take you much further.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1957 days

#8 posted 03-09-2013 10:28 PM

Deycart – I agree with you about the jack (maybe even the jointer) but I’m inclined to use my low angle jack on the shooting board so I’m keen to get that flattened

-- Ben, England.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3011 days

#9 posted 03-09-2013 11:05 PM

The other night I lapped a jointer, a jack, and a smoother. Took probably 3 hours for all of them. The jointer needed some work, as it had a little hollow right in front of the mouth. I did that on 100 grit, as I didn’t have anything lower.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2806 days

#10 posted 03-09-2013 11:24 PM

Save some muscle, especialy if it’s a ways off (regardless of what type you’re doing, block, 71 or whatever) like Don W. said
belt sander, then move to the bench methods, whatever one you choose..same technique, scuff 1st to see where it’s off, sharpies marks, sand then when you’re near hit the bench.
I use a stationarly sander after very carefully blowing and vacuming any sawdust out, and same proceedure for going back to wood sanding. Work load VERY much reduced.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2977 days

#11 posted 03-10-2013 12:01 AM

I have lapped a jack plane, but only the one I use for my shooting board. I personally see no reason to lap anything above a smoother.

Benvolio, it sounds like something is amiss with your efforts. It should definitely not take that much work to get those two planes flat. You are probably correct in identifying the sandpaper as the problem. I do not use a belt sander, I use a large piece of plate glass with sandpaper adhered to it. I found that belt sander paper works the best for me. I just cut it and spray adhesive on the glass and paper. The belt sander paper seems to last quite awhile and the lower grits, 80 and 100 seem to be aggressive enough but don’t leave such a rough surface that it can be smoothed out pretty quickly once it gets a plane sole flat.

-- Mike

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1957 days

#12 posted 03-10-2013 12:26 AM

this is the paper I'm using , now I know it is good stuff because I’ve had great results on wood, so the question is why does it keep blunting??

the only thing I can think is that I’m using too small a sanding piece. Next time I’ll use the strip style of sandpaper that comes on a roll and hopefully be able to get longer strokes from it. maybe that’ll increase the efficiency of the cut?

I’ll let you know how that goes but until then I’m lovin the imput, guys.

-- Ben, England.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2080 days

#13 posted 03-10-2013 12:53 AM

if you use belt sander paper and cut it and lay it flat you can use longer strokes which will speed things up.

-- Joel

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