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Restoring smoothing planes

bought this Record plane in grungy condition to restore. It’s 50 years old. All plane handles are too small for my hands. I had to reshape it some. I flattened the sole too. Degreasing took a while. I could tell it was an engineer that owned and at not a woodworker but the grease kept most of the rust of so I have a good plane with no pitting in any of the surfaces.

 

The Record 4 1/2 smoothing plane

 

We actually hold workshops at the New Legacy School of Woodworking specifically on restoring hand tools. This includes setting them up to work too, so its well worth the effort to attend. These hands-on workshops have been popular through the years because in actuality even professional craftsmen don’t know how to sharpen hand tools any more.

I filed the inside corner to increase the hand width a little

 

First thing I look for is whether there is need to flatten the sole, which in most planes there is. I’ve restored hundreds of smoothing planes just like this one and I can’t remember one that didn’t need some flattening. You see it’s not as some surmise that the iron body of the plane changed and distorted after casting or that the plane wasn’t flattened in the first place, although that can and is often the case with many. I have reflattened my own plane 4 times since I bought it in the 60’s because we often plane oak or cherry or mesquite that’s 1″ or less thick on the edge more than we do the flat faces of a board: fitting doors for instance, or edge joining and planing foursquare. The result after a few years is that a ‘channel’ hollows in the length of the plane that may only be a one thousandth of an inch deep, but none the less it must be removed.

 

 

I’ve owned and used my old Stanley 4 1/2 plane for over 40 years and that’s of daily, all-day use. Even though I never grind my plane irons on a mechanical wheel of any kind (except if I’ve hit a nail), I have worked through three full cutting irons and am now on my fourth! And that’s on one plane only. I own four smoothing planes.

This is my old Stanley 4 1/2 plane of 46 years now

 

Anyway, this sole took ten minutes to flatten. Not too long. The ground bevel on this plane was 20-degrees. Too shallow. But I will leave it and reshape it over the next year as I hone it to a diminishing 30-degree convex bevel. This works so well for my planes and chisels.

 

The results of an hour’s work-very nice

The plane feels like my old Stanley now but better I think. Hard to say. The results are the same. Forget thick iron retrofits. They may have a very minor benefit, but the downsides are quite hefty.

9 Comments

  1. Texster Ritter on 16 January 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Paul,

    I just picked up a Sargent 409 plane. Are these planes worth restoring? I am new to hand tools and have been following your advise on all aspects of woodworking. I sharpened the iron last night and got the blade concave. Now the handles are in bad shape and most of the iron(Body and frog) is rusted and needs removing.

    My questions are these: 1- what is the best method to restore the wooden handles?
    2- Should I use a wire wheel or sand paper to remove rust?
    3- I noticed that this plane, when the iron&hipper are installed the gap between the plane and blade is small. Very narrow mouth. Chipper seems to collect shavings in it and get in the way when planing. Have only planed with it for about 10mins after sharpening last night. The sound it makes is amazing. Just like yours on Youtube. This leads into the next questions = Where should I place the frog- when I loosen the two screws it lets me slide it forward or back. Which is better? I am fixing to start on your workbench and would like to use this plane. Any advise you can give would be great. I plan on joining your online classes too. Is there a video on setting up planes for use?

    Thanks Paul for getting me into hand tools. You make this so much fun and it is changing my life as I learn. Most of all thanks for being a teacher!.

    Tex



    • Paul Sellers on 16 January 2014 at 7:30 pm

      1) Remove any traces of former finish as needed and if needed or sand smooth. You can simply oil with two-three applications boiled linseed oil (BLO); one coat per day and left overnight to dry. That works fine. You can also apply tow-three coats of shellac, an hour between coats, followed by cutting with 0000 steel wool and some furniture wax.
      2) It doesn’t take much to remove the rust with emery paper or rust remover. More gentle than wire wheels, which can be too harsh on the metal underneath. I dislike finding wire wheel marks in the steel of “lovingly restored ” eBay planes and other tools too.
      3) An open throat is more practical for general planing and we tighten up for more control on awkward or changeable grain when needed. The Sargent 409 doesn’t have the screw adjuster beneath the depth adjustment wheel and so you must remove the plane iron assembly to access the two screws. Not an issue. It’s hard to give an exact position in this response, but slacken the screws till they just pinch, insert the cutting iron assembly and press it down against the frog to see the distance from the fore part of the sole. A gap of 1/16″ is about right for general work. Now tighten the setscrews.



      • Texster Ritter on 16 January 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Thanks for the lessons and wisdom. I have been trying to find some info on these planes and can not find much. I am sure you have a brief history on them. If you can tell me a little about them? I know they stopped making them around 1942. I also noticed that it cuts totally different than the #4 Groz that I have. The Groz is about 1-2 years old. It works ok but sounds different when cutting. The Sargent is more of a whistle when it cuts. Almost zipper like. Sorry to take up your time like this but it is great to learn from someone that you look up to.
        Thanks again
        Tex



  2. Sam on 5 November 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Picked up an eBay #4 Stanley. Seems to work after some work I did to it. The problem I’m having is that the blade seems to not be square. When I line up the chip breaker more blade is exposed on one side. Not sure what to do. Any input is appreciated



    • Paul Sellers on 5 November 2015 at 8:07 pm

      You must apply more pressure to the ‘long-point’ side and control the out of squareness that way. You don’t have to correct it all at once but if uncorrected for too long it will eventually prevent you from setting the plane iron parallel to the sole.Relax and just press harder on that side and you will eventually find yourself much more balanced.



  3. Ivo Verhaar on 26 January 2016 at 10:55 pm

    My levercap keeps on moving whenever I retract the blade, even thought it’d the cap is on tight
    I’d there anyway to fix this



    • Ivo Verhaar on 26 January 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Even though the cap is on tight*



  4. Don Palumbo on 6 June 2016 at 7:58 pm

    I just picked up an 0ld 409 plane that I plan to restore. Problem is it closely resembles the Stanley and Sargent but does not have a name on it. Do you know what it is and are parts interchangable with the other named brands.??? thanks for your time. P.S., I just bought both of your books on Amazon. They just came in and I cant wait to have a moment to start reading them. They are great. I just peeked a little.



  5. valerio on 5 July 2016 at 10:21 am

    HI PAUL,
    WHEN SHARPENING BY HAND MY BADE GET INEVITABLY SLIGHTY CAMBERED IN TIME (I USE DOUBLE SIDED STONES). THIS DON’T BOTHER ME, I’M LEARNING TO USE THEM IN THIS MANNER, AND I CAN REACH A GOOD SQUARENESS OF A BOARD (I THINK ALSO IN TIMES PAST THE CRAFTSMEN DID THIS WAY, WHEN NATURAL OR SYNTHETIC STONE WEAR IN IRREGULAR MANNER THROUGH USE).
    THIS THEN CAUSE THAT THE BLADE DOESN’T ALIGN PERFECTLY PARALLEL TO THE OPENING OF THE MOUTH OF THE PLANE, BUT THE BLADE IS PARALEL TO THE SOLE OF THE PLANE; THIS APPLY TO MY WOODEN PLANES AND MY BAILEY #4 (I’VE CHECKED FOR THE RIGHT ALIGNMENT OF TH FROG). DO YOU THINK THIS IS NORMAL OR CAN GO LIKE THIS, IF MY JOB IS TRUED AFTER CHECKING A CORRECT HIGH SPOTS, TWISTS, ETC… WORKING ONLY ON THE PARTS OF THE BOARD THAT NEAD CORRECTION?
    THANKS VERY MUCH,
    VALERIO.



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