Scrub Planes From Common #4 Smoothing Planes


Special planes developed for roughing off coarse, rough-sawn, undulating surfaces were developed by the Stanley Rule and Level Company in the late 1890s. This short-lived, little-needed development resulted in a series of planes known as firring planes and scrub planes. The more commonly used of the two plane types is one we know as the scrub plane. This plane is no longer made by Stanley but it was most likely one of the crudest and skimpiest bare-bones plane Stanley ever made. 

A scrub plane is a simple plane with none of the complexities associated with the normal metal cast planes we know today. You can achieve excellent results with #4 Stanleys and Records or any other #4 including the heavyweights retrofitted with a thinner iron. 

I think that this video gives the steps to a good alternative scrub plane and one that really works on any wood.




  1. Paul,

    If you don’t have a spare #4 to begin with, would you recommend buying a scrub plane (i.e., a #40 or similar) or a #4 and doing the procedure shown in the video? Where I live there are very few if any second hand planes of good origin to be found, so the best option is eBay plus expensive overseas shipping. What I mean is that small price differences in the product itself are insignificant in the total price paid to get the tool in my hands, so that’s not the deciding factor.



    1. It’s not so much an option for the UK and Europe to buy a Stanley scrub plane as a secondhand plane as the plane was a US- made plane not UK or Europe. This means that they rarely come up as a UK eBay find so shipping from the US makes an already high secondhand price all the more prohibitive. New scrub planes at £150 a pop is an option for some but the difference between a second iron shaped for a scrub iron is a good option. For a £5 spare blade or a secondhand one I can retrofit my #4. I am sure some people would recommend the dedicated scrub as a user tool but I probably wouldn’t. An old wooden smoothing plane or jack plane with a worn down sole will hog off more than a scrub plane and before the term scrub plane was coined for the Stanley version, woodworkers had their own methods using up otherwise worn out planes. With the demise of wooden bodied planes came the need for something to replace what was left lacking and so Stanley came up with a definitive scrub plane. I still think that an extra iron dedicated as a scrub iron will achieve the same results, so for a few pounds I have a scrub plane that works fine.

      1. I am attempting to restore a wooden smoothing plane (1€ at a flea market). So far I have got the sole mostly flat and square to the edges, as it has warped into more of a diamond shape. I am wondering if it would not be best used as a scrub plane. If I decide to go this way, is it basically the same sort of camber required on the blade?
        Thanks for all your videos and posts.

      2. I was lucky to find a cheap #40 scrub plane and have also converted a #5 into a scrub plane. I’m no expert, but my experience is that there is no comparison. I’ll use the #5 every time and leave the #40 on the shelf. The issue is width. The #40 is a very narrow plane. You need to make many more passes with it than with a #4 or #5 set up with a heavily cambered blade. Also, the ultra-cambered blade on the #40 will leave deeper furrows than the #4 or #5 and you will need to deal with that when you switch to a normal jack or smoother. For me, the ideal situation is a #5 dedicated to being a scrub plane (heavy camber, open mouth). The next choice is an extra blade (and maybe needing to open the mouth each time). Some think that the #40 is really an edge tool rather than a surface tool. It’s certainly true that, with the ultra cambered blade, you can really hog off a lot of material on each pass on an edge. But the #5 or #4 will do almost as well on the edge, so even there I’d not feel a loss not having the #40.

        1. I meant to say, just about any plane will work. I made one from a hardware store plane that was so junky that it was all but a toy and it worked fine for this. “Good origin” isn’t required.

  2. I use either a Ulmia wooden scubplane with a very round bade or a baily nr 3 with a less convex sole . The Ulmia seems to like fir or pine and the stanly comes in handy on beech or aok or rock maple and ash. If I read the guys in top they also like the smaller blade of the no 3. In Holland they are both the same price on ebay here, The stanley 40 is 150 euros

  3. having just finished leveling two 2 meters by 25cm boards, both faces and sides, using a plain Stanley No. 4.
    I wonder how much easier it would have been if I had a modified No. 4, or any other scrub plane? these two boards took me about 5 hours to level, they were cupped but not twisted. They had a very rough surface from the saw or whatever industrial thicknessing machine they went through. The most difficult part was taking off this surface layer of very fuzzy fibers, they always clogged my plane and I had to stop frequently to clean it. Once this layer was removed it went rather well I would say, though this is the first time I’m doing this so I have no comparison really. Would a dedicated scrub plane deal much better with such surfaces, I wonder?

    I didn’t mind the workout, but I’m developing some blisters on my hands, that’s all…


  4. I converted a (tatty eBay find) No.4 into a very good scrub plane, inspired by Paul’s instructions.

    One thing I did note was that I needed to be careful in grinding and honing the blade to be sure that sufficient angle was maintained. Initially, possibly as a result of being less than thorough, I noticed that the blade ‘rubbed’ on the bevel at the central point – the edge did not quite touch the workpiece…!

    I’d gone for the ‘continuous smooth bevel’ rather than the more conventional 25 deg plus 30 deg microbevel, and had inadvertently ended up clearly less than enough degrees to provide relief to the workpiece.

    Funnily enough the short worn out old blade works possibly slightly better in this rough duty as there’s less free metal to vibrate.

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