Restoring the Bench Plane

Need some tips on the best steps to take to restore a bench plane? Whether it is rusty from disuse or as good as new, Paul shows what he does to get a plane working perfectly. He flattens the base and takes off the hard edges. Paul then prepares the frog to receive the iron assembly, which he corrects and sharpens. He also cleans up and tightens the handles before reassembling the plane ready for use.

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Need some tips on the best steps to take to restore a bench plane? Whether it is rusty from disuse or as good as new, Paul shows what he does to get a plane working perfectly. He flattens the base and takes off the hard edges. Paul then prepares the frog to receive the iron assembly, which he corrects and sharpens. He also cleans up and tightens the handles before reassembling the plane ready for use.

106 comments on “Restoring the Bench Plane

    • What timing! I just recieved that exactly model of this plane today I bought on Ebay. I’ve been working on restoring it for the last three hours. Done for the night now, I came into the house, sit down at my computer and there is this! Very helpful Paul. Thank you so much!

  1. SOOOOOO helpful Paul!

    I’ve tried to restore a couple planes with moderate success. Your practical tips will help me get my planes from about 75% effectively restored to 100%. So great to watch a master at work. Thanks again for sharing your experience and expertise.

  2. What a gift – you make all of woodworking approachable. I have a Stanley #3 that I previously restored, this video will let me make it even better now that I know to ease and smooth the rough edges with a file and sand paper. I also LOVED the tip about dealing with a belly on the back of an iron. No one else is showing this technique. Paul has saved us hours of flattening time.

  3. Thanks for this Paul!
    For those in the U.S. who want an easy way to remove rust without caustic chemicals, without noxious fumes, and no mess, try soaking the rusted parts in Evapo-Rust. It’s about $20.00 a gallon but it’s reusable and doesn’t harm the Japanning (black paint) on the tool. Works great on saw plates too. I don’t know if it’s available outside the U.S..

    • Charles why spend even “just”. $20. When all you need is elbow grease and, as Paul says “upper body exercise”?

      I thought I could ‘restore’ a rusty plane?? But with Paul’s tuition added, I can’t wait to go over them again.
      If I may add to Paul’s excellent video …….I use an old tooth brush dipped in hand cleaner to get into corners, for example behind the frog.

      I have four planes on eBay for sale now, I feel as though I should go over them again.

      Thank you again Paul……John 2 vices

      • “Charles why spend even “just”. $20. When all you need is elbow grease and, as Paul says “upper body exercise”?”

        Because Evapo-Rust removes rust from within the threaded holes in the plane body and threaded holes in the frog, it removes the rust from the inside corners of the plane body and frog, from between the threads of the various screws, from the crevices around logos like the lever cap, etc.. Basically from everywhere. So it’s a complete rust removal solution. With zero effort.

        Additionally it removes only rust and nothing else. It’s safe on japanning and paint. It also leaves the etching (or what’s left of it) on saw plates intact.

        This also removes the need to spend any elbow grease if the tool is already flat enough and square enough for use.

        I look at it like this: It’s $20.00 if you throw the rust remover away after using it once. Frankly my time is worth more than that to me, so even if I were to throw it away after one use it would still be a bargain. However I re-use it. That means the next tool I soak brings the cost down to $10.00; $20.00 divided by 2 uses is $10.00. By now, I am spending less than a dollar per tool to remove the rust with zero effort and marvelous results.

        Think about how much time you spend sanding rust off of a tool and ask yourself, if you could pay a dollar to remove that rust from everywhere on the tool with no effort, would it be worth it? I hope you value your time and say “Yes!” and I also hope you spend more time working wood and less time sanding iron.

        Here is an example of a number wartime number 7 I soaked in Evapo-Rust. Note that there is no plating or brass on wartime planes. So the lever cap is just plain metal and no shiny nickel. I think the Evapo-Rust did a superior job to sandpaper, especially around the Stanley logo on the lever cap.

        I hope the links work.

        Evapo-Rust

        • As documented elsewhere:

          Vinegar is known to be a good gentle rust remover. Acetic acid plus iron oxide yields iron acetate, which is water soluble and simply floats away with only a bit of gentle scrubbing, leaving the un-oxidized metal untouched. You do need to dry and oil the tools after removing them from the bath, of course, to keep the water in the vinegar from encouraging them to rust again. Keep using the same vinegar long enough and you wind up with a dense enough solution of iron acetate to use as a reactive stain for ebonizing oak.

          There are people who claim that adding a bit of table salt to the vinegar improves the process. I haven’t yet heard a chemist defend that variant, so I remain skeptical and haven’t tried it.

          There are also people who swear that molasses will function as a rust remover. Given the relative cost of molasses and vinegar I haven’t tried that one, and again I don’t have a chemist’s confirmation that this one makes sense.

          No objection to simply applying “elbow grease”… but chemistry does have its uses, and kitchen chemistry is a lot cheaper than the brand-name variety.

    • I will second the effectiveness of Evapo-Rust. I bought it to remove rust on a handful of saws that I bought at an antique shop. I let them soak for 24 hours and the rust turns to some sort of black oxide goo and buffs right off with a brass or stainless brush and some steel wool, Great for getting pitted areas de-rusted without removing excessive amounts metal from the plates. It also saved the etch on my big rip saw from being sanded out. I’ve used it on some other second hand tools with great success. Finding a container of the appropriate size is key. If you can find a container similar in size to the part being de-rusted, you can use less of the solution. For the saw plates I used a shallow box that I lined with 6 mil poly. I also warped the saw plates in paper towel and filled the box with just enough solution to cover. The paper towel helped to elevate the saw plate above the bottom of the box so that it was completely immersed in the solution and just resting on the bottom of the box. When you’re done filter the solution through some cheese cloth or paint filter funnel from the auto parts store and its ready for more use. It does lose some effectiveness the more times it is used but I’ve had my gallon for about a year and used it multiple times and it still is effective.

    • I’ll throw in as a third voice for Evaporust. That stuff is fantastic. I soaked a 5 1/2 in it that was very rusty, and it came out spotless. Amazing.

      Doesn’t harm japanning at all, either. I found it will tend to yellow nickle plating a bit if you leave the object in the fluid very long, though.

    • If you can’t find, or don’t want to order Evaporust, try poor man’s Evaporust which is also known as ordinary white vinegar.

      It works similar to Evaporust, but takes a little while longer. I’ve restored several planes using it.

      • That’s what I do. White vinegar (a gallon is super cheap at a store like Walmart) will remove all the rust. Just let the parts sit submerged overnight. I prefer that to sanding, which takes a lot of elbow grease and adds scratch patterns that you may not want.

  4. I have an old Stanley #4 that I’ve restored. Honestly there’s nothing wrong with it, but now I can’t wait to restore it again! I am inspired! Thanks Paul. I just know I can make it even better.

  5. Thanks! Another great video. As others have noted, some great tips not often (if ever) seen elsewhere….
    – use a hammer to adjust the blade “flatness”
    – how to sufficiently flatten and bevel the sole
    – don’t obsess about squaring the sides with the bottom… use lateral adjuster.
    – efficiently refinish the handles
    – tighten loose tote when the handle bolt is too long

    And the job is accomplished very efficiently as always. Bravo.

  6. Excellent video once again Paul. I love watching your videos because I can see the love you have for your craft in your eyes and I can hear it in your words, it’s as if you are doing these things for the very first time all over again. Your videos are very encouraging and they give me confidence that, with practice, I can do the same. You make woodworking very approachable, Thanks Paul your work is very much appreciated.

  7. Thank you for this Paul. I have a Stanley #7 to restore and I have a granite plate about the same size as yours, which is good for a #3 or #4, but how do I flatten the bottom of a #7 that is much longer than the plate? What’s an inexpensive solution, or must I invest in a longer granite plate to flatten this long plane?

    Thank you again.

  8. Evapo-rust works well, and if you’re attached to the japanning on your plane, it didn’t seem to harm mine. It chelates the rust as opposed to eating away both good metal (the metal on non-rusted areas of the plane, aluminum bits, whatever) and bad (the rust), which can be the case with abrasives (sandpaper, files, carbide powders, etc) or mild acids (vinegar, etc).

    So it’s a much more precise, minimal removal of material, and physically it’s not capable of removing good metal, unlike many other methods.

    It might even be less expensive than the 5 bucks worth of sandpaper you’ll use, since unlike the sandpaper, you can re-use it several times before it turns black (whereupon it can be safely dumped down the drain). I can’t envision a piece of 120 grit paper being useful for a half-dozen rusty planes, but as I accumulate more flea-market planes for various tasks, I’m regularly dunking them back in the same bath of evapo-rust.

    I’m not affiliated with Evapo-rust, just a happy customer. Certainly not questioning the efficacy or efficiency of Paul’s chosen methods, which are proven over time, just tossing out a possible alternative for some.

  9. I have a #4 I picked up on eBay I was going to restore it for my brother I think I’ll just let him watch this and he can have the joy of doing it for himself, thanks for this infinite guide to plane/tool restoration .

  10. Absolutely loved this! The flattening the back of the iron with the nylon hammer is brilliant, as well as polishing the hardware with the strop. I’ve found that soaking rusty tools in warm water and citric acid makes clean up a bit easier.
    All in all this video was just awesome! Well done!

    • Citric acid has worked fine for me, too. The ratio for a citric acid solution is 1 part (in weight) citric acid : 10 parts very warm water. The solution can be used more than one times. Buffing the clean metal with a scotch-brite pad (preferably attached to a sanding disk of a drill) leaves the metal with a beautiful sheen.

  11. Well, after viewing this great instructive video, I can now go back and re-restore a Stanley I purchased on eBay last year the “right” way. All of Paul’s videos are so informative. It’s like, should I do it now or wait until I see how Paul does it.
    Paul, thanks for being so generous in sharing your knowledge

  12. Thanks for another great video Paul!

    I was hoping you’d do a restoration video for a metal bench plane. I still have a specific problem that wasn’t addressed in this video though:

    My plane has a frog that doesn’t sit inside the plane straight. It points to the right slightly, and I end up with a mouth opening that is narrower on one side than the other. I have to put the adjustment lever all the way to the left as well to compensate.

    The only way I can think of to solve this is to file a bit out of the groove in the bottom of the frog, but this will result in some give sideways. How would you go about fixing this?

    • Stefan, before I would file on the frog I would definitely check the “U” shaped frog adjuster plate on the lower back end of the frog. Paul talks about this at 1:01:00 in the restoration video, but he only references the adjuster and how the U fits into it. If that little plate is not parallel with the front edge of the frog, it will force the frog out of parallel with the base. Make sure that the “U” shaped plate is flat, and that it registers flat against the back of the frog casting.

      I hope this helps, and that I understood the issue well enough to be helpful with my suggestions.

    • Best thing is to take off the ‘U’ shaped yoke for forward and backwards movement and reinstall in the frog to see if possibly this is preventing the frog from aligning. It is very rare but it does happen. Once the frog is reinstalled and cinched down tight, minus the yoke part, you can see if there is something in the casting that prevents the frog from aligning. If it still does not align you will be able to check the castings for bumps and humps and twists. If you have another same plane try using the parts in each to see if they do the same thing.

  13. Thanks for a fanatastic video Paul and all done in real time too. So rewarding to watch someone that really cares. You should have done a before and after picture at the end to show what can be acheived with ‘elbow grease’ and time and detailed care and attention. Bringing the dead back to life would be a fitting title for the video. Thanks so much as always -inspirational.

  14. Paul,
    Thanks for this video, it was very good.
    Around the one hour mark, when you reassemble the frog, you point out the “step” between the frog edge and the back of the throat of the plane.
    What if the frog appears to be misaligned? Is there a way to correct this type of issue at all? On my Stanley I have a slight (1 milliliter?) difference between left and right when I assemble the frog.
    Thanks
    // Francesco

    • This is something many people labour over. My new book and the videos we have made to go with it, clearly shows the relationship between all of the components like never before. My experience has show that if the frog is slightly misaligned it actually makes no discernible difference to the functionality of the plane because the heel of the blade is actually pressed hard against the forepart of the rear aspect of the sole. So the blade is actually totally supported by the sole. This is the very normal position for the setting of the frog. We rarely use the plane with a closed throat, but it is an option for those very rare occasions. Certainly 1mm will make no difference t all and neither will 2 or 3mm. In fact if you think about it, isn’t that why the lateral adjustment lever was invented in the first place? Just enjoy!!

      • For some reason, a number of the planes — 4’s and 5’s – that I’ve got on eBay have frog issues. Visible differences in thickness from one side to the other. I have a 5 I’m working on now that completely lifts one side of the cutting iron out of the mouth by over a 16th of an inch. cuts fine on the right side of plane, doesn’t touch on the left. Many hours have gone into squaring this plane up, but I’m miles away from having the iron in right relation to the mouth. I shall, however, “endeavor to persevere,” until the darned thing cuts as well across the blade as it does on the right. One day, I can build something rather than make second hand tools work right!

  15. Great video. I recently bought an old plan and have already tried to get it into working order, but it still isn’t working or feeling like my newer ones. I’m now off to the basement and with the additional tips on rounding the edges, and aligning the frog to the base I’m more optimistic that I’ll have a great restored plan. Always a pleasure watching a master at work, and enjoying himself.

  16. Will the hammer trick work on the Stanley 55 blades to? It takes me about 4 days to flatin one blade both sides because I want all my blades to look better than new. But am afraid if I hit such small blades that they could shatter from being brittle??

  17. Thankyou once again Paul for passing on your skill and passion.
    This video is also a wonderful testament to the quality of the Stanley products of old and to the and the brilliance of Leonard Bailey.

  18. OK… When he mentioned not needing the sides square for use on a shooting board, because of the lateral adjust, my world crumbled and my mind was blown. Once again, I love Paul’s no-nonsense, common sense approach to woodworking. He takes the often overcomplicated and makes it accessible.

    • Some perfectionists want to go this route because they want perfect planes, but some will have you straining at a gnat’s whisker. I am glad this demolished yet another myth and mystery even if the truth can hurt just a tad.

  19. Paul thanks for the video and I do have a question. I have restored several older planes well enough, at least to my liking. On occasion however, I have had problems with the rear handle. The screw seems to be fine and holds the handle firmly, yet under stress, as when I am planing, the handle will twist side to side a little. I have tried what I can thing of to fix it, but with no success. Do you have any suggestions?
    And I do like the idea of using the chisel to scrape the handle! Never would have thought of that! I have used a scraper to clean up the handle; works OK to clean up a saw handle as well.

    • One of my planes had the issue of a slight twist during use, I used a small patch (3/8″ x 1/2″) of double sided carpet tape under the toe of the tote (rear handle). It did not take much between the thickness of the tape and the double sided sticky a very small piece is enough to hold and not stress the wood.

    • The magic of silicone shelf liner is amazing if handles refuse to stay in place. This is the cheap stuff in a roll that you buy for shelves and drawers in kitchens as a liner. Place a piece between the metal and the underside of the wooden handle and it will never move again. Trim with a sharp knife and you have it.

    • If you are talking about overall plane rust preventative, a softer paste wax works well. I’ve used expensive sheep tallow on some of my tools. It too does a good job, sounds like you are hard core woodworker, but I’m not sure I can see the difference in price is worth it.

      If you are referring to finishing the wood portions of a hand plane, I use inexpensive boiled linseed oil (BLO), available at an big box store. You want to use the boiled oil, otherwise it takes forever for the oil to dry so you can use the plane. Paste wax seems to work for me too, but tends to feel “gummy” to me when the humidity is higher.

      Since BLO and paste wax are so inexpensive, you may want to try them on two different planes and see which feels best to you.

    • You can. Don’t apply too much. Apply a coat and then use the plane for a week and add another coat. Leave it a month and then another and that, combined with your hand sweat and it will be good for a few months. reapply as you feel necessary.

  20. Great video!

    I have my grandfathers old #4 I use the most as well as another #4 I converted into a scrub plane, thanks for that video as well. I also got my hands on a #5 1/2 & a #7 that I cleaned & sharpened that work nicely, but now I can restore them further.

    The problem I have with the #7 is it was missing the front screw from the rear handle. It looks like the screw size of the other fasteners is M6x1.25. However, here in Canada, the standard thread pitch for an M6 fastener is 1.00. I’ve contacted 2 fastener supply companies who have both basically just wished me luck in my search.

    Any idea where I could try to find the correct screw?

    I’d like to use this old plane for what it was made for…without the handle moving constantly.
    Thanks

  21. Mike, you may have already thought of this, but just in case:- Fill the hole with chemical weld/ plastic metal mix, then retap it to the M6 -1.00, to suit. This is one of the tricks that the engineers used at one of the places I worked. It worked on heavy machinery sub to a lot of pressure,so should fix your problem.

  22. Paul,

    Very useful video. Thank you. One question: maybe I missed the explanation, but why did you sharpen to 25 degrees and not 30? Is it because you’ll naturally bevel to 30 after a few sessions at the diamond plates?

    Thank again.

    Ed

  23. Great instructions!
    But, I encountered a different problem while cleaning up a Stanley #4. The round end on the chip breaker has flatten out a bit. I compared it to another #4 and it’s a noticeable difference. I tighten the holding screw all the day and the chip breaker moves and doesn’t hold the blade in place.
    Is there a way to remedy this? The rest of the plane cleaned up nicely.
    Any thoughts?

    Marilyn

    • I’d be inclined to buy another chip breaker from eBay. Trying to replicate the bend without another nice chip breaker as a model could wind up being more trouble than it’s worth.

      The Stanley number 4 and number 5 share the same chip breaker (as well as some other parts) so don’t limit yourself to just searching for a number 4 chip breaker.
      They are also called “cap iron” so use that term in your search as well. I might caution you to stay away from ultra shiny examples you come across as these may have been wire wheel cleanup jobs, which I think may be too aggressive a cleanup tool for this part. The wire wheel cleaned part will look burnished rather than sanded.

      Also search for something like “stanley 4 plane parts”, or “stanley 5 plane parts”. You might be able to get a beater or broken plane for cheap that includes a chip breaker as well as another cutting iron for less than the cost of both individually. Of course shipping will be more due to the extra weight.
      Remember 4 and 5 share cutting irons and cap irons (chip breakers).

      About the cheapest ebay auction I’ve found for just the chip breaker is $10.00 U.S. including shipping. For twice that amount you can find new old stock (NOS).

      Try flea markets or boot sales too. You might be able to negotiate yourself a great deal on a busted up plane that has the good part you’re after.

    • Hi Marilyn,
      What you describe seems a bit odd. If you are saying that when you have tightened the Cap Iron Screw that holds the Blade and Cap Iron together as tight as it will go, that you can still move the Blade and Cap Iron around (in relation to each other) then there is more than the angle of the cap iron curve wrong.
      The cap Iron Screw should hold the blade and cap tightly together even if they are at 90′ to each other.
      If this is not the case, I would suspect that the wrong Cap Iron Screw was fitted — There are a couple of different thread sizes — imperial and Metric. If a metric screw was used instead of imperial, it would tighten up immediately (as if it had been cross threaded). This would cause the issue you described.
      It could also just have been cross threaded and the thread is damaged either the screw or more likely the thread of the cap iron.

      If your problem is more simple and the issue is just that after honing a new flat mating surface to the cap iron, you can still see a gap, then just put the cap iron in a vice and give it a bit of a bend (If you are strong you can even bend it over the edge of a flat surface (the steel isn’t hardened)
      I hope this helps,
      Steve

        • Well then I guess since the Cap Iron isn’t functioning, you’ve nothing to lose by trying a bit of Hammer Adjustment!. maybe by holding the cap iron vertical in the vise – cinched just below the start of the curved part — and hit it with a hammer, see if you can get back any of the original shape.
          don’t worry if your hammer won’t fix it —- just use a Bigger Hammer 😉

          Else try putting a bit of a bend in it like I mentioned before.
          You might have to Tweak the cap with pliers in the vice to get the blade to meet the cap all the way across.
          Marilyn, as you’ve experienced, buying “Fixer-uppers” can be quite hit and miss.
          I know Paul has said that the older planes (1950’s and before) are better quality, but they often have nasty surprises lurking inside. I’ve mainly bought newer planes (70’s and 80’s) particularly the British ‘Record’ planes (they all have a blue paintjob) but also Stanley’s.
          when you are buying tools (esp. from flebay) , specifically ask the seller if there are any defects /missing parts/are all parts original. If you get a non-committal answer like “I don’t know what the tool does/ i’m selling it for someone” It’s prob best to leave it. there are many, basically honest people who buy tools from auctions and make a few bucks by selling them on, You get to know the familiar names – they tend to give an honest answer — They are also inclined to make up a plane from their parts pile and sell it on (I thought I was getting a fairly rare Marples No5 – Marples are painted red – I got a red body, a blue frog and a stanley blade – not worth the grief to pay the return post) .
          Have a bit of patience, there are Always planes on ebay — good Tip — Ignore the auctions that end on a weekend — Too much competition (unless of course it’s something you ‘GottaHave!).
          It’s surprising how much the sell price dips during the week. — I use a “snipe” App called Gixen (gixen.com) – Paul has mentioned that he uses it too. You have to key in your ebay password to them but i’ve never heard of any problems – find midweek enders and set up with your maximum bid – you become one of them people that make ignorant(of sniping) ebayer’s furious by automatically bidding in the last 5seconds.
          Everyone gets caught out and gets a dud — You have to decide if it’s worth paying extra for spares or just using that one as spares and trying again.
          good luck with your tool hunting and woodworking

  24. I’ve watched a lot of videos on setting up planes these last two years. Yet, when Paul does one I learn five new really important things. An amazing wellspring of craftsmanship and common sense.

    Thanks Paul. Time to go through my #4 again. I can hardly wait.

  25. Be careful if you do try striking the iron with a nylon hammer to get a dimple on the back face. I used the same hammer as Paul and my Record iron cracked after 5 blows. No evidence of a dimple forming at all before the fatal blow.

  26. Wow, thank you!
    I have worked so hard the past two years trying to restore a few p[lanes I acquired. lots of advice but non practical for the new wood worker. I learned more on this video and now have confidence to do my planes correctly. I can not thank you enough. I knew it wasn’t difficult but no one could show me as well as you did with not spending large amounts of money for equipment.

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