Hand planes of my nightmares.

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Forum topic by skatefriday posted 08-14-2014 10:07 PM 1494 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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379 posts in 902 days

08-14-2014 10:07 PM

Man I think I’ve fallen way down the rabbit hole.

I needed to square off some corners in a rabbet I routed
a few weeks so went off the semi-local Woodcrafters and
purchased a Stanley chisel. I asked if it was usable out
of the box and the sales agent spotted a sucker and said,
“No you need a sharpening stone.” Turned around to look
at the stones behind me and had no idea what to buy.

He said I could get away with a King 4000 stone and the cheapo
honing guide.

So I walked out with a $36 chisel, and $50 or so in honing

Came home, cut the corners, worked pretty well, but
decided after reading about chisels and sharpening that I
needed to flatten the back and that 4000 stone wasn’t
going to cut it. Bought a King 1000 stone off Amazon.

Flattened the back. Working ok. Fast forward a few weeks
and I have hand plane lust and am convinced I need one
to do some minor leveling and smoothing on a slab drawer
front I have glued up.

I look at LN’s website and when I’ve finished scraping myself
off the floor, go to Amazon where they have the Stanley Sweetheart #4
for $119. Click the buy button. Wait two days. Damn that
Amazon Prime.

Arrives and I figure I”ll test it out out of the box. For the
last two days I’ve been viewing YouTube videos which show
people making these absolutely wonderful shavings with so
little effort. I adjust the blade so it’s slightly protruding, put
it against some 4/4 poplar and I might as well be pushing against a wall.
Will. Not. Move.

Back out the blade a bit and repeat, same thing. I continued this
until I was actually able to take a shave and the shave was
way thin. Any further backed out and I was just rubbing the
sole over the poplar. These shaves while thin, and maybe
desirable or correct for certain circumstances, weren’t the
nice curly shaves I’d seen people doing on the YouTubes.
Damn those YouTubes!

So I break out my stones. But wait, I can’t touch this metal
to the stone as it hasn’t been flattened since purchased, so
off to buy some glass and 220 wet/dry. Flatten stones and
put the 1000 stone to work.

The back seems pretty flat after a few passes over the 1000,
so I pull out the 4000, and attempt to hone the bevel. Spend
way too much time with a watery mess, reassemble the entire
thing, and repeat the shavings test, and I can detect no
discernible difference in performance.

Do I spend good money after bad on an 8000 stone? Do I
go back out and spend more time with the 4000 stone? Do
I buy one of the more expensive honing guides? Or do I
just call up Amazon, say this thing doesn’t work. It won’t
take shavings and return it as defective?

Note besides all of the above, I’m really disappointed with the
Stanley instructional booklet that comes with the plane. There’s
nothing in it (about 5 pages of text) that would help hand plane
newbs overcome any problems such as this.

34 replies so far

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 1500 days

#1 posted 08-14-2014 10:22 PM

I’m not understanding what is really wrong. You’re getting thin shavings…are they too thin, or are you thinking they should be thinner? What would be the problem with using your plane and taking the shavings you’re getting?

-- Billy, Florence SC

View 7Footer's profile


2523 posts in 1368 days

#2 posted 08-14-2014 10:29 PM

Got any pics of the shavings your getting ? I haven’t used any of the new Stanley SW planes, but I’ve heard mostly good things about them… Have you checked the sole on it? Also do you have a strop?


View divingfe's profile


14 posts in 1602 days

#3 posted 08-14-2014 10:46 PM

I have a couple of systems that I use. I got a WorkSharp 3000 for Xmas. I’m very happy with it, and get most of the paper refills of various grits at HD, the Diablo papers, but there are many other choices. I’ve used this system to flatten the backs of my old plane irons and chisels (many in the most deplorable starting condition), and give them a nice constant front bevel angle of my choice, and usually a secondary bevel as well. And they end up very sharp and square. I also use two 1-foot square “granite’ tiles from HD, and lay wet/dry paper on them and use them for flattening my plane soles. I also have some Norton waterstones. These systems are certainly not the be-all-end-all of sharpening instruments, but I get plenty sharp results. You have an excellent starting system, and depending on the tools you are sharpening, and their initial condition, you’d want a coarse, a fine, and an extra fine, to get you off to a great start.
Unfortunately, my friend, you have opened up Pandora’s box of sharpening adventures, and there is no turning back. :-)))))———- :-((((((( !!!!
However, I find a sharp edge on a chisel and plane is most satisfying, no matter what kind of wood or project I’m working on. And, BTW, the salesman was correct; almost NO plane or chisel, cheap or expensive, is as sharp as it could/should be, out-of-the-box, and a really sharp edge can do wonders for your WW skills, even as a “beginner”. A most excellent book, called THE PERFECT EDGE, by Ron Hock, covers the basics, the details, and the science as well as the magic behind all of this, and is an excellent way to balance all the other excellent, but showy info on YT. Regards. P.S. When sharpening/flattening, remember, BOTH edges; the flat sole, as well as the bevel, are EQUALLY important. And, don’t fall into the mental trap that: “Well, its not quite sharp/flat enough with this grit, but I’ll make up for it with the finer grits.” Never happens, just more useless labor. Do most/all of the ‘hard’ flattening/sharpening work on the basic, rough, grits; the finer grits, just refine and polish, the finer grits cannot correct earlier “mistakes”. I spend many hours proving this to myself. —Ha-Ha.

-- Shortest distance between two points - a straight line. Longest distance - a shortcut.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17875 posts in 1987 days

#4 posted 08-14-2014 11:29 PM

my opinion would be this. The Stanley you bought probably isn’t the best quality. I’ve heard they need work, but we can get you through this.

First, for really nice wispy shavings, 4000 isn’t fine enough. You can bite the bullet and get to 8000, or just grab some 2000 grit sandpaper at the auto parts store for now. Find a flat piece of glass or granite (or use your table saw top)

The cheap honing guide is fine. Its all you need for a smoother.

Get us some pictures so we know how bad “bad” really is.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View skatefriday's profile


379 posts in 902 days

#5 posted 08-14-2014 11:38 PM

I think they are too thin. I am not able to take anything above dust without
a lot of muscle. Although I am able to get some .002 to .005 shavings although
that’s again with much effort and occasional jamming leading to gouges in the
face of the poplar.

View skatefriday's profile


379 posts in 902 days

#6 posted 08-14-2014 11:41 PM

lol. “we can get you through this”

So if I “flattened” my 4000 stone and then went to
work on my bevel and I see black streaks on either
side but not in the middle is safe to assume either
the bevel or the stone is concave?

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


15459 posts in 2426 days

#7 posted 08-14-2014 11:44 PM

Try coloring the bevel with a sharpie. Thatll give you some good feedback on where youre sharpening.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Don W's profile

Don W

17875 posts in 1987 days

#8 posted 08-15-2014 12:00 AM

dust means “not sharp’

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4405 posts in 3380 days

#9 posted 08-15-2014 12:57 AM

Welcome to the never ending world of exotic sharpening. Some will tell ya there is never an end to the collection of bazzilion grit stones, machines, guides, strops, surface plates, and magic.
Choose your system. Stick with it, and “wispy” (whatever the hell that is) shavings will follow. :)


View richardwootton's profile


1698 posts in 1375 days

#10 posted 08-15-2014 01:00 AM

+1 to what Don just said.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View G5Flyr's profile


51 posts in 1152 days

#11 posted 08-15-2014 02:16 AM

Welcome to the deep part of the rabbit hole. We’ve been waiting for you…

Don is right re 2000 grit paper vs 8000 stone. He’s also right about the honing guide.

I have more money than brains so I own a Veritas Mk II (two wheels – straight and cambered). It does its job but the $10 – $15 side clamping guide is good enough. Deneb Pulkalski of LN does a real nice vid on how to tune up one of the inexpensive guides. It is in the education pull own on the LN site.

Chris Schwarz did a vid on how to tune a hand plane. It is on YouTube. He focuses on the vintage hand plane but I think it fits your application too. I’ve heard the new Stanley planes are lacking but it is probably a good tool for honing your skills (pun intended – no apologies either).

Good Luck.

-- G5Flyr

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1351 days

#12 posted 08-16-2014 07:47 AM

Save yourself the cost of an 8000 stone and buy a bar of red (jewellers) rouge. Rub it on the back of a cereal box and use it as a strop. It’s a cheap and dirty trick but it gets you razor sharp for less than ten bucks.

Also don’t forget to lubricate the plane sole. If you hvent got any any wax, use light machine oil like 3 in 1. Again – it’s a cheap work around but it’ll get your plane making shavings quickly without too much extra cost.

-- Ben, England.

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 1416 days

#13 posted 08-16-2014 08:45 AM

Dont waste your time flattening the back of the plane iron. Just use the “ruler trick” (does not work for chisels):

For fine shavings you’ll typically want an 8000 grit or better edge. The strop w/ rouge should do the trick if you’re on a budget. If you’re making dust the iron is not sharp. If you run your finger nail across the edge (dont cut yourself) you shouldn’t feel any nicks in the edge. Also, while sharpening feeling for the burr is helpful. When i first started off I’d shave some hair off my arm to make sure the blade was sharp.

Make sure the frog faces are seatting well as chatter can cause issues. P.E.C. makes really inexpensive T-squares which are great for checking surfaces. Holding the square to the frog against a lighted background you shouldn’t see any gaps (the human eye can easily detect a few 0.001” this way). Issues with the frog being flat can be corrected with a file. The P.E.C. instruments aren’t STarrets or Mitutoyo’s but for the price they’re great:

I dont mean to be the bearer of bad news but the engineering on the Stanley isn’t going to be anywhere near a L.N. so the plane body is probably going to need a lot of work. If you’re looking for a all-in-one jack style plane that is fairly well tuned out of the box i recommend the woodriver #6:

To check that your stones are flat draw some reference marks on them with a pencil (e.g. a grid pattern). Then while you flatten them you’ll see low spots.

For lubing the sole I use Ikea tea candles =) They’re cheap and for some reason every time i go to Ikea i come home with another bag full of them.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View G5Flyr's profile


51 posts in 1152 days

#14 posted 08-16-2014 01:14 PM

Ditto Rob re Wood River #6. I own one. Nice tool. Not an LN but a great plane for the $$$. Long enough to joint and flatten and not too long to scoop out material. You could even use for smoothing on really long stock. Frog adjustment is super easy.

Woodcraft sells this plane by itself and in a set with a No. 4 and a low angle block plane. It is called the Ultimate Cabinet Maker’s Set.

BTW – Just saw this from divingfe:

“Unfortunately, my friend, you have opened up Pandora’s box of sharpening adventures, and there is no turning back.”

I can’t believe I missed this before this morning. This is prophetic wisdom if there ever was. So you see, skatefriday, you truly have fallen into the deep end of the rabbit hole. Since this is a woodworking forum perhaps we should call it a rebate hole or a rabbet hole.

Seriously, keep us posted. Good luck!

-- G5Flyr

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 1804 days

#15 posted 08-16-2014 07:43 PM

For what it’s worth, I’m going to disagree a bit and say that I don’t think the problem is the 4000 grit stone. A handplane iron sharpened properly on a 4000 grit stone should take shavings on poplar just fine. Here’s 2 easy things to check:

OPTION 1 – I wonder if the problem is that you may not be sharpening to the very edge of the blade (which means you are not sharpening at all). Unless you feel a burr across the entire length of the edge, you haven’t reached it yet, and either need to keep working, or perhaps raise the angle slightly.

OPTION 2 – If the blade is sharp on the edge (if it catches easily on your finger-nail, it is sharp enough to tell you that option 1 is not the problem. Check the angle of the bevel on the iron. If it is anywhere close to 45’, then it is likely that the bevel of the blade is actually touching the wood at the same time, or even lower than, the edge, so you’ll never be able to take a good shaving.

I’d be interested in hearing if either of these is the culprit.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

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