Help Needed – Stanley #4 EBay Refurb and Setup

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    Ben Fisher

    OK I’ve been going at this three or more days and watching the flattening / sharpening / set up videos from online and Working Wood over and over, but I’m still having issues getting it right after 3 days and 12 or so hours of work.

    I’m totally new to woodworking still and this is my first tool I’m trying to set up so I can use it in the making of a workbench.

    It was bought on eBay.

    I got the rust down with some white vinegar, wire brushes and so on.

    The first couple days I did some flattening and sharpening work, but most of my time was trying to make the sole flat.

    It was very much high on the heel and toe. I’m not sure how much that matters so I kept at it.

    Eventually today I did some 40P and 80P grit because the other stuff wasn’t doing it. It’s better now.

    I flattened and polished the cap iron as suggested here and elsewhere.

    I sharpened the blade as I think I am supposed to from the videos with diamond plates, but not sure.

    I really don’t know what to look for on the edge of the blade.

    I am not sure what “burr” is or what I should be looking for.

    I never got any small strands of steel coming off of either side of the blade edge.

    I just did what I saw in the videos…

    It seems to be 30 degrees per protractor though. Using EZE LAP plates.

    I messed with the frog but have no idea where that should be set. There’s not much info out there about it.

    I got the lever cap screw set right I think, although the depth adjustment wheel is hard to turn still unless I loosen the screw too much, which is pointless.

    I did try some WD-40 on the screw and screw hole.

    It made the “slack” when you go the other direction with the wheel more but didn’t help any actual adjustments be less hard to make with the wheel.

    The iron – well, I think it’s sharp, but it may not be set up right.

    Maybe not sharp enough.

    I’m not sure if the iron is flat on the bottom but I think so. I’m not sure on the flatness of the frog either. I think it is. If you look at the side of it when assembled it’s not perfect with no gaps, but with the depth adjustment bit that sticks out I don’t think you can sand it flat.

    I was able to get some shavings from scrap 2×4 but never evenly on both sides regardless of what I did with the depth and lateral adjustments.

    And at least half the time, it just glides along even if the blade is well protruding.

    And I had to really push on the heel to get them with a shallower setting, but maybe I’m just thinking it should be easier.

    Maybe my throat opening and frog position is wrong. The throat did clog a couple times with near dust. Or maybe the blade bevel is wrong, but it seems right to me.

    Paul’s YouTube video here on ‘bench heights and planing technique’ suggests not much force should be needed.

    Or maybe he just makes it look a lot easier than it is.

    I did try going both ways on the scrap for grain direction.

    I have no idea how to read the grain really, but neither seemed much better than the other.

    I went to some project wood and it did absolutely nothing but glide no matter the setting I used and if the blade was set shallow or not.

    Blade does seem out of square a little but no lateral adjustment helped.

    Here are some pictures. The only thing I didn’t get was a side view fully assembled where you can see what the frog/iron gap looks like. Let me know if you want to see it.

    Fully Assembled


    Cap Iron to Iron Setup

    (How far the cap iron is away from the edge of the blade of the iron.)


    Frog Configuration



    Cap Iron to Iron Connection



    Iron Bevel Edge


    Iron 30 Degrees


    Iron Out of Square


    Throat Opening – Full Back


    Throat Opening – Forward


    Assembled Side View

    (Cap/Iron/Frog looks flat to me.)


    - Ben

    Ben Fisher

    OK, fixed the image links.

    - Ben


    Hi mate

    We’ve all been there. It took me quite a while to set up my plane too.

    First off, as you’ve been doing, you have to flatten the sole and round the edges slightly as Paul shows in his video.

    Next, sharpening the iron. If you’re new to it, I suggest you buy a honing guide to use. They’re like £5 or £6 on eBay. I have one and I still use it when I have to take off a lot of material on say a chisel or something. They’re very good. Usually now I don’t use it though as I have sort of developed a feel for the angle. The angle doesn’t have to be perfect by any means. Remember to flatten the back of the blade too.

    Burr is basically when you’re grinding away metal and then the waste metal sort of folds over to the other side of the edge. So you know you have a sharp iron when you’re grinding away and then when you pull your fingers along the flat side of the blade, right at the end you feel a raised bit all the way across. This is the metal you have ground off from the bevel. When you feel this, you take a few swipes on the flat side with some of the very fine abrasive. This will get rid of it and give you a sharp edge.

    The cap iron should be quite close to the cutting edge. 2mm is really the most gap you should have, I aim for around 1 or even slightly under. This distance varies on your intended use. At this point just set it to around 1-1.5mm.

    When you’ve done that, hold the iron-cap iron assembly to the light and look from the side of the cap iron. You should see no light coming through the join between the iron and the cap iron. If there is light, grind the end of the cap iron to make it flat. This is important to have no light coming through.

    Once you have all of that established, test the plane. If it still doesn’t work well, most likely there is an issue with the frog location. If this is the case, you will to take shavings and see everything getting jammed in the mouth. If this is the case, move the frog back half a turn of the screwdriver each time and test again. Try to aim for the setting which is the most forward but still gets you good shavings.

    Hope this helps.


    When i set my frog i leave the lever cap slack and adjust the frog forward or back so that i can see the iron is making full contact with the frog and not deflecting off of or touching the throat opening.. Looks like the back of the iron needs some polishing….perhaps you have worked a burr onto the backside of the iron and its not presenting to the wood properly.. Also was the plane fully assembled when you were flatting the sole? I think the problem may be on the back of the iron… Good choice on the P grade paper 🙂

    Perhaps I'm Just Over Eager, Better to Curb the Enthusiasm

    Matt McGrane

    Ben, there are too many questions to answer here. But I’ll recommend a youtube video to you titled “Restoration of a Stanley No.4 Bench Plane” by Mitch Peacock. A quick search should find the video. He did a tremendous job with this video, showing all the things you should do to refurbish a plane. Good luck.

    Matt, Northern California - Started a blog in 2016:

    Ben Fisher

    Well today I went at it again, but more failure. It seems to me that I am making slow progress at least.

    As with my second hand Disston saw, I’m not sure I should have gone with second hand tools to start out with or at least for workbench building. Re-sharpening a new tool would have been an easier first go at things I think. The price was right of course.

    I started watching that video several times and fell asleep so many times. 🙂 I finally made it through.

    My iron / cap iron has no light passing.

    I’m not really sure what the burr looks or feels like so I’ve starting reading up more on it. I’m not sure I’ve gotten the burr or taken it off properly thus far. Something to work at some more.

    Good points on the frog adjustments, thanks. I did some today and there’s definitely a sweet spot of not being too far back but not too far forward as even dust was jamming up the throat.

    - Ben


    It definitely takes a long time at first if you don’t have a well set plane to compare it to. I was the same.

    What helped me was to sand the front of the frog and also to lightly sand the contact surfaces between the frog and the body. You won’t be able to sand the whole of the frog because of the bit sticking out which controls the iron depth. You should be able to get both sides individually though, try to go equally on both sides. What this does is make sure there’s no bumps in the frog which could be messing up the angle of the blade.

    Try that and see how it goes.


    By the way, most of the modern saws you can buy are not resharpenable. Pretty much the only ones you can sharpen are quite expensive.

    Except if you want to look into it, there is a company called Thomas Flinn saws or Flinn garlick saws or something. They make saws which are resharpenable. I have one of their gents saws and although its not perfect it isn’t too bad. I think Paul described their saws similarly in one of his blogs. Their saws aren’t too expensive.

    Ben Fisher

    I have already lightly sanded the back and feet of the frog and the contacts on the sole. I am fairly sure it is making good contact.

    - Ben

    Joel Finkel


    I think that @mattmcgrane‘s suggestion is a good one. I would only say that Peacock demonstrates all the things you could do to refurbish a plane, not necessarily all the things that you need do to. I certainly have not done all the work on the frog that he does, for example.

    One thing, though: You wrote “It [the sole] was very much high on the heel and toe. I’m not sure how much that matters so I kept at it….And at least half the time, it just glides along even if the blade is well protruding.” It matters a lot. The sole needs to be pretty flat. If it’s concave, then you’ll have to set the iron very deep so it can even touch the wood.

    I think Peacock mentions that he would not consider refurbishing a plane that had a banana-shaped sole. It’s too much work and the amount of metal you may need to remove will weaken the sole.

    Maybe you can find another one to play with. And you may be much happier with the results.

    Really nice pictures, by the way.

    North side of Chicago. -- "Such a long, long time to be gone; such a short time to be there."

    Ben Fisher

    OK, noob pride here.

    It is still a little harder to push than it seems it should be from the videos and it is skipping a little where I need to push a little harder.

    However I was able to get a fairly continuous – along part of a long board – thousandth or less of an inch shaving.


    The issue was about 10% minor frog adjustment and 90% blade wasn’t being sharpened properly. I don’t have a honing jig, although one is on the way from Lee Valley, but I think I got close to 30 deg either way. I got the plane blade slightly more square although still not perfect. The biggest issue was I had no idea what was meant by getting a burr or taking it off or whatnot so I wasn’t sharping for long enough. My blade was old, but Paul’s videos there’s real quick sharpening because it’s an existing blade. Anyway I figured out both from other YouTube vids and Amazon books and resharpened tonight.

    Enjoy two pics, one with digital caliper reading 0.0005 and another showing the stretched out shaving.

    Caliper reading 0.0005:

    Caliper Reading Half a Thou



    - Ben

    Joel Finkel


    North side of Chicago. -- "Such a long, long time to be gone; such a short time to be there."


    Way to go! Now build up a nice knee deep pile shavings 🙂

    Perhaps I'm Just Over Eager, Better to Curb the Enthusiasm

    Ben Fisher

    I have a 2×3 3′ long that will not with us much longer. 🙂

    - Ben

    Ross Boyle

    I use a home made 3″ X 12″ leather stropping board charged with red compound stick for final honing. It seems to do very well removing any fine burr’s and polishes both sides of the iron to a mirror finish.

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