Adventures in Handplane Tuning – Part 1

Plane Frogs

Frog Bottoms from Four of My Hand Planes. From Left to Right: Stanley #7, Stanley #5, Craftsman 107-37034, Stanley #4.

I have 7 planes that need tuning:

Stanley #5 jack plane, Craftsman 107-37034 smoother (looks a lot like a Stanley #4),  Stanley #110 block plane – these three came from my Grandpa.  They stayed in his garage after he passed away and I claimed them after a small fire had burned out part of the building.  They are in solid shape, but need rust removed (caused by the fire hoses).

Stanley #4, Stanley #12-920, Stanley #12-960 – I bought these new about four years ago.  They definitely need the bottoms lapped.

Stanley #7 – I bought this one at an antique mall.  It’s old and used, but the body and iron are in good shape and the price was right.  Mostly it needs cleaned up from oily shavings (no idea why the shavings are oily) and some rust.

These 7 planes represent a good collection of useful tools that cover just about all of the thicknessing, jointing, and end grain trimming I could ever want to do.

Why have I been putting off tuning them?

In short, I was afraid of screwing them up.  To make it worse, I read so many articles and books demonstrating different methods. For example, processes for lapping the bottoms ranged from working them down with a machinist’s scraper to removing high spots with a file to running them back and forth across sanding belts mounted to a flat surface.  All of these choices bogged me down to inaction.

How did I get over it?

I realized that any “damage” I did could most likely be undone with another tuning.  Also, I was sick of working on projects where I wanted to use a hand plane and couldn’t.   

I decided on a method: 

  1. Complete any rust cleanup leftover from my earlier efforts.
  2. Seat the frogs on their contact points using valve grinding compound.
  3. Lap the soles on sandpaper starting with 80 grit working toward 320 grit.
  4. Complete any filing needed to smooth out the soles.
  5. Lap the lever caps if needed and cap irons if needed.
  6. Lap and sharpen the irons.

The cleanup couldn’t have gone any better.  I used Evapo-Rust, which takes all of the effort out of rust removal.  You may have to leave parts overnight in the solution, but it’s gone the next day.

Next, I worked on seating the frogs to their contact points in the plane bodies. 

I started with the new Stanley #4.  Here’s something I never read in the articles:  There might be deep machine marks on the underside of the frog.  The #4 had deep machine marks.  There was no way, short of spending 100 years or so, that valve grinding compound was going to smooth all of that out. (See Picture Above)

My first executive decision about the tuning process: Focus on smoothing out the two frog contact points next to the planes’ mouths. Once I completed the grinding, I could tell all four contact points had changed by the different shade of gray showing on the bare metal. 

Of course, the machine marks in the #4’s frog weren’t flat, but I could see where the grinding compound had worked across the lines.  After I complete the rest of the tune up, I’ll use the Stanley #4 several times to determine if the machine marks are causing any chatter or other problems.  If so, I’ll find a way to smooth them out later.  However, I suspect is isn’t going to make much difference.  I’ll only know for sure after I put the tool to some wood.

Next step – Lapping the soles. 

To Be Continued.

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One Response to Adventures in Handplane Tuning – Part 1

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