what's wrong with some pitting?

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Forum topic by HokieMojo posted 09-24-2008 06:30 PM 6124 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2104 posts in 3962 days

09-24-2008 06:30 PM

I’ve seen some comments in the past that say to stay away from planes that have pitting. Why would this matter? As long as the entire surface isn’t uneven, wouldn’t the effect of those small pits be neglidgible? I’m trying to reconcile how huge grooves (corrugation) milled into the bottom of a bed are ok, but a dozen 1/4” pit marks can adversely affect performance.

I don’t doubt that pitting is bad, I’m just trying to understand why this affects performance but other irregularities in the bed don’t.

10 replies so far

View Critterman's profile


601 posts in 4044 days

#1 posted 09-24-2008 06:55 PM

Jo, I’m not an expert, but my understanding is the pits collect sawdust/chips/gunk and can change your plane sole from flat to skewed. Now, the groves in some planes run length wise the full length of the plane so the chips/sawdust/gunk collect the go out the other end with out sacrificing the flat sole to wood integrity. To fix the problem some pits can be taken out of the bottom of a plane through refinishing and there are several articles floating around on how to do that (FWW, and I think someone did one here somewhere). Anyway, that’s my understanding hope it helps.

-- Jim Hallada, Chesterfield, VA

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3962 days

#2 posted 09-24-2008 07:09 PM

That certainly makes sense. I guess I’d be less concerned with pitting on the sides of a plane body, than if the pitting was on the sole. Great explanation. Thanks for the insight.

View modestmouser's profile


42 posts in 3781 days

#3 posted 09-24-2008 08:42 PM

Could you drop some epoxy or something into a pit and then smooth it out to repair it?

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3882 days

#4 posted 09-24-2008 09:02 PM

Pitting means poor condition to a collector. A deeply pitted plane
may be in danger or cracking or breaking but I don’t see how pitting
alone would affect a plane in use badly.

What matters is that the part that slides on the wood is smooth enough…
if the sole is grimed up with a lot of oxidation that’s no good.

I would avoid paying more than a few dollars for a bench plane that
had more than moderate surface rust though… and a badly pitted
iron is not worth the work to make it usable.

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2104 posts in 3962 days

#5 posted 09-24-2008 10:17 PM

I’m trying to start a small plane collection (collection of planes to be used, not admired for appearance). I bought a #5 and #7 so far. Now I’m looking for 3 and 4. I think those should give me a good start to my bench planes.

Sometimes the pitting seems to be worse on the sides because the planes may have sat flat on a shelf, which maybe protected tthe sole from oxidation a bit more (just guessing).

From an asthetic perspective, I’d like them to not look like they are held together with duct tape and chewing gum, but for the most part, if they function, I’ll be very happy.

Thanks again and it anyone else has more thoughts, I’d love to hear those as well.

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3907 days

#6 posted 09-24-2008 10:31 PM

#3 and #4 planes are plentiful, so don’t sacrifice quality.

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3957 days

#7 posted 09-25-2008 04:31 AM

If you are buying these planes to use, minor sufrace pitting shouldn’t affect the operation. If you are buying the plane as a collect: don’t waste your money. If the pits really bother you, fill them with any method mentioned here or even add some weld to the holes and re-surface the plane wher it has been welded.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3788 days

#8 posted 09-25-2008 06:34 AM

Yes, as a user of old planes, I can tell you that the pitting will get worse over time if you don’t fill them. I will mine with epoxy and sand flat, otherwise, the wood dust accumulates in the pits, which attracts moisture and makes the pitting worse.
I found this out thje hard way when I took about 8 months off of woodworking (my wife was pregnant). When I started woodworking again, I noticed small bits of rust had formed in those pits. I wax my planes (along with all other cast iron surfaces) on a regular basis too.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3882 days

#9 posted 09-25-2008 02:39 PM

Anyhow, you don’t need a flawless tool to do good work. I have
a lot of old planes and it has never occurred to me to fill them with
Bondo. I guess several of my planes have some minor pitting here
and there but I’ve never had sawdust get caught in pits.

If you live in a humid part of the world pitting might be more of an

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3788 days

#10 posted 09-26-2008 06:56 AM

I leave my planes on a shelf I made for them. Initially, I thought it was cool but as I wood work, everything exposed gets covered with sawdust. I’m pretty sure that’s how the saw dust get caught up in the pits. An enclosure has been on my todo list (for the last 5 years).

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