Learn how to get peak performance out of your hand plane. This video overview will show you how to dismantle a typical metal bodied woodworker’s plane and then clean it, hone (fettle) the sole to optimal flatness, and then reassemble all the parts accurately and confidently. Even old or damaged planes can be repaired, adjusted, and made like new again. It’s easier than you think.
In this quick video, I discuss the parts of the handplane including the sole, mouth (or throat), handle, knob, cap iron, cap lever, cap-iron (or chip-breaker), blade, frog, and various adjustments screws. I’ll then demonstrate the easily mastered techniques that will bring new life into old planes – the same process I used to revive a once rusty and neglected, 1907 Bailey (Stanley Tool Works) #5 Jack Plane I found in a junk bin for $25. Come along for the ride, fix what’s wrong, and you’ll be planing like the pros in no time. (10 Minute Video)
A well tuned plane is surely one of the most enjoyable woodwork tools to use. A very interesting video, like many on your site. Good work!
hey thanks for finding my blog! This video is actually one of the videos I watched to help guide me through the restoration process. I’ve added a link to the video so other readers can watch it as well.
Keith’s Note: We’ll be watching your progress. I’m sure it will turn out fantastic and you’ll love that #5 Stanley.
Per another one of your video’s I am purchasing an old Bailey Plane and this video was perfect for getting it back in shape. Love your site and keep up the great work!
So after watching this, I’ve dug out my grandfather’s old Bailey #5 and went to town on it! I’m in the process of flattening the blade and getting it all tuned up. Thanks so much for this! It’s breathing new life into a forgotten tool.
Thanks. A GREAT tutorial. I can’t wait to get back to my shop!
Nice work. What a great way to spend my lunch hour!
new to your website –enjoyed the video’s. longtime wood worker by trade. always new things to learn. tks dick
Thanks for the site and the help you provide for those of us who wish to know more about our craft.
Another great video Keith. Besides a plane that is too rusty to fix, what criteria do you use when purchasing a used plane? After seeing your video, I am considering looking at used planes to get me started. I am pretty handy with dismantling, cleaning and reassembling things so I would enjoy the task of bringing something back to its useful life.
Thanks again for bringing us along on your journey. Keep up the great work.
I’m not a vintage plane expert, particularly regarding the collecting of rarer planes. But as a tool user, I can say that if you stick with the pre-war (WWII) Bailey and Stanley planes, you can’t go too far wrong. They are workhorses and are very well made.
Found your website through researching planes. You have done a great job explaining how to tune up your planes. I have found two rusty planes, I believe there Bailey planes. They are well rusted. The main parts, frog…. ect. are rusty and the paint is peeling off the sole. These seem to have very tight mechanical workings and I dont know if I can get in between them? What would you suggest?
Keith’s Note: Congrats on finding the planes. To renovate the plane to working condition, just work methodically dismantling, cleaning, and truing things up as shown in the video.
On many pre-war Stanley/Bailey planes there is no paint or varnish finish on any part of the plane that touches your work. The handles are often a clear coat – a varnish or shellac. There may be a painted or “japanned” finish on some topside parts and mechanisms, which helped prevent rust. On the metal parts that were painted, they were often “japanned.” You can leave these as-is, or you can touch-up or restore. There are several different sources online about how to apply a modern japan finish or how to restore a real japanned finish. I’m not an expert on that.
On the varnished wooden handles, I’d probably want mine to look original with the original finish, if it can be saved. If the finish is pretty worn off, see if alcohol will melt the old/dirty finish. If it does, then you can clean the finish gently, maybe even leaving most of the old finish intact – and then applying a thin topcoat of shellac. If alcohol won’t melt the finish (which is likely), then it is probably a varnish or paint. If not too damaged, these finishes can be cleaned up and then you can apply some boiled (must say “boiled” on the label) linseed oil to the wood just to freshen things up. You’ll need to wipe on the oil, then wipe off 10 minutes later and then let the oil dry for a few days – then you can seal it in with a shellac top coat.
By using shellac, you are applying a non-destructive finish that can be removed later. That’s one way to go, which will only minimally alter the original patina – if you want to preserve the vintage look. There is no right or wrong way to do this really – especially for “user-type” planes that are not particularly rare. I suppose it’s debatable how rare or collectable most pre-war Stanley planes are.
This video has answered several questions I had about adjusting a plane. I would say it was excellent. Well done!
This was a great video.
This is what I was having problem with. Based on the video the
1) 1/16 (average) to 1/32(for fine work) of an inch from edge of blade to cap iron(rides on top of the blade)
2) Blade to the front of the throat 1/16″
3) Adjust the blade so it just projects from the surface of the bottom of the plane.
but when you do number 3 doesn’t it change the measurement of number 2?
Keith’s Note: The blade distance should remain constant regardless of the blade projection.
Keith’s Note: Tony, in what sounds like a bit of a dressing down, provides in the comment below, a very detailed view on the advantages of using vintage cabinetmakers’s screwdrivers to tune a handplane. It should be noted that I’m well aware of the type of screwdrivers Tony references, and I even own couple of smaller sized ones myself, but I have yet to procure a set of vintage screwdrivers sized to fit my Bailey #5.
The truth is, like most of us, I don’t have among my collection of hand tools, all the tools I might want. As Tony states, proper vintage screwdrivers are hard to find. So like most tool users, I make do with what is “at hand” in the interest of getting the job done correctly, precisely, and safely.
In his critique, Tony says I’m using an incorrect grip and short driver – but the fact is it is a correct down-force grip for the imperfect but serviceable screwdriver that I’m using. By contrast, the vintage screwdriver, that perfect screwdriver that Tony describes, requires no down-force to keep the blade seated in the screw head. For the rest of us, who don’t own such a screwdriver (yet), we are forced to use the grip shown, using down-pressure to keep the blade seated deep in the slot.
I suppose it should be noted that if you are a tool collector who is buying expensive planes meant for collections, you’ll never want to work on them without the perfect tools that Tony describes for fear of nicking or marring the antique fittings. But for tool “users” who find “beat up” planes in junk shops and want to return them to service again for daily use, I’m not so concerned about having the exact, perfectly sized, screwdriver for each screw head on the tool. I just want as many folks as possible to discover the joy of using a handplane, with as few constraints or requirements as possible placed in their way.
That said, there is no doubt that the old-timers, the craftsmen from another era, had the right tools and skills to do the highest quality work. And Tony, your wisdom is priceless and much needed. Our task is to preserve this knowledge, make it approachable, relatively affordable, and if we deviate from perfection along the way, it’s fair to point this out as Tony does so well here, but I certainly don’t think that we should avoid the acquisition of some skill or use of some technique because we don’t have the perfect tool for the task.
Tony’s comment follows:
An interesting and helpful demo for up and comers. Don’t mistake a scrub-plane blade as a worn out smoothing blade though. Scrub iron requires considerable skill to sharpen well. So do straight planer blades and caps.
Keith, though having other obvious skills, has adopted however one very common and very poor practice of using the incorrect screwdriver and it will show on the screws. Each screw slot especially on vintage planes MUST have a screwdriver of the absolutely correct fit. Few today in our “off the shelf” age know how to sharpen a screwdriver correctly..the tip must be the termination of a correct hollow grind…flat ground screwdrivers reflect an ignorant, i.e. untrained or careless user.
Using tapered screw-drivers rather than hollow ground correctly finds them riding or slipping upwards to bite at the visible surface of the head of the screw, making it look awful and sometimes slipping right out to do other damage or injur someone. …
The turning moment SHOULD be at the BOTTOM of the slot.
Keith uses an incorrect length of screwdriver and with an incorrect style of grip. Older screwdrivers were not made by ignorant fools with primitive resources…as were not Strad violins…these people used hand tools to produce excellence and with skills rapidly disappearing fast we have few to teach skills.
The grip on older drivers were less often round than a sort of “teardrop” shape…this gave a comfortable palm pressure and good leverage to turn the driver. Today almost without exception screw-drivers have round plastic handles, leading to bad habits, poor finish of screws and injury to he product and use.
Keith is promoting and I applaud him, those skills and tools almost gone from our far-to-busy society where ‘home user” electric tools are imported from china and where steel quality is reduced to encourage “throw away”.
Apprentices today are rarely taught how to CORRECTLY sharpen screwdrivers or HSS drills for example…they haven’t a clue and learn from cheap junk drills for example, with flat lands, many of which cannot drill an hole although claimed to be “steel drills”, well they may be but the materials they can cut don’t include it.
After that “awareness” commentary…Keith probably selected the screwdriver as he wanted to get close to the screws to reduce slipping…yet immediately it was evident it failed…. and to get to the throat adjusting bracket….The screw-driver is simply the incorrect type…he ought to use a “vintage” type, maybe up to 12 inches long, because the CORRECT grip and the CORRECT sharpening will give all the CORRECT control he needs. Moreover…the plane should also be secured in between three pieces of timber screwed the the bench in a “U” pattern, when dismantling …to hold the plane with one hand and screwdriver in the other is asking for problems.
(Keith’s note: In the following, I’m assuming that Tony is not suggesting that I don’t care about my tools, but is making a generalized comment. I’ll note that the damaged screw head on the frog shown in the video was not caused by me, but was the condition of this almost 100 year old screw at the time I acquired the plane.)
The correct way to the throat adjuster screw is NOT to do as shown but is to remove the tote and the hardware for it and use the correctly sharpened, precisely fitting screw-driver whose grip comes outside of the rear of the plane sole, giving a direct turning moment and not an offset. These planes’ screws are usually ruined in appearance by people who don’t know or care about using tools properly…they’ll claim to be great carpenters but are not good tradesmen. Today these spare-parts are not down at the local store and Stanley for example, had its own threads…trying the wrong one can strip out the casat iron.
(Keith’s Note: … and I give Tony the last word…)
I think Keith will take this on board, it may never have occurred to him, as to most of us. When you are dealing with planes, make a point of finding and using the correct dismantling tools. And keep them aside from your other daily work tools. ..99.9% will not, but when instructing it adds “finesse” to also educate people WHY the tools of the era when cast iron planes were ‘invented’ by Bailey are the tools which should still be used to this day. Seek out those old 19th C early 20th C carpenters/cabinet-makers screw drivers in overall lengths from 6″ to 18″…learn the correct sharpening practice and do it carefully. In some cases you will need a blacksmith to redo a worn tip first. Cheers Tony
[...] How To Tune-Up A Hand Plane [...]
Used your video to tune my father’s 40 year old plane. It now works better than he ever remembers. Thanks.
A very complete and informative video. Other videos I’ve seen skip over many of the details covered here. As someone who’s never been shown the proper way, this video answered so many questions. Many thanks, you have a new fan.
Used your video to tune my Bailey #5 Jack Plane. It was handed down years ago from my Grandfather who passed away in the 50′s when he was in his late 80′s! I’m not sure how long he owned it but I’m certain it is over 100 years old!
Great job, thanks.
Keith’s Note: I’m glad you got it working again. You will love this plane.
It looks like WD 40 you are using as the penetrating oil. Wouldn’t you have to use some sort of cleaner to get the oily residue of that off? I am attempting to get a Stanley 5 1/2 back in working order. Great video!
Keith’s Note: Try using mineral spirits to clean up after using the WD-40. I’ve found that after buffing the metal out with a soft cloth, there really isn’t much cleaner/solvent left behind. Good luck!
Thanks for the detailed information. I recently acquired a Baileys 5 1/4 and I am looking forward to restoring it. What I was unable to find yet was the angle to which the blade of this plane should be sharpened.
I own a MK II honing guide from Veritas and could apply the original angle at which those blades were sharpened if only I knew the correct angle.
Keith’s Note: Let’s see if anyone has the angle that was historically specified. I don’t have it and could only guess. Well regarded blade maker, http://www.hocktools.com, says “Most block and bench plane blades are ground to 25°”. I think that this is a pretty good guess as to what the original Baileys were ground to.
This is a great video and I used your video to tune-up and sharpen my Stanley Bailey #4 (which looks nearly new). I took it apart, cleaned and sharpened it. However, it does not have an adjustment knob for adjusting the distance that the blade is from the edge of the throat. It does have an adjustment for raising and lowering the blade angle. So can you tell me how to adjust the space that the blade sits back from the throat opening? Thank you for your help and a great video.
Keith’s Note: Watch the video at about the 7:00 mark. At this point in the tutorial, you’ll see the explanation on how to adjust the frog to the correct angle and opening gap relative to the throat of the plane. On the #5 there is no adjustment knob, but rather the adjustment is made by carefully fussing with the slightly loosened frog and then re-tightening the two screws that hold it firmly in place. Once this adjustment is made you won’t have to do it again for years, so it’s worth taking the time to do it right and tightening the screws well (and carefully so as not to damage them).