Restoring Bench Planes Video on YouTube

For more information on planes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

DSC_0002You’ve asked me for a video on how to set up and even restore hand planes for some time and we put this one together as a starter video. It’s just over an hour long realtime at my bench. I hope it clarifies some of the the nuances for plane initialisation including total restoration work. We take what is basically an unusable plane and, step by step, walk you through the stages so that your plane can take its rightful place back as fully orbed, capital plane capable of creating the most beautiful work you can imagine.

Yes, it is a fact that we have sent the price of eBay #4 plane finds up to double what they were a year or two ago, and, yes, they won’t stop, but even if they went to £50 and over they are always worth every penny. Beyond that, your fettling your own planes this way give them an even greater value in that you truly understand the plane because the restoration work dismantles every part, restores it and and then sets it all back up in the setting up process.


When you look at the ugly and totally rusted plane we start with at the beginning of the video and see where it ends up in all its glory I think you will be totally inspired to give it a go. You’ll love it.

Just to stave off your needing more answers I will tell you here what I have already answered on, the online broadcast where this video first aired a couple of weeks ago. Here is the YouTube video:

Now for some early Q&A time:


Thanks for the guide, Paul!

Can I just ask, what is this dye that you put in the shellac? Its a rather nice colour, this one.



Brown leather dye from Tandy leather, a teaspoonful per half a cup but add more as needed.

Any of the brown dyes will work but I use the dark and cut it with the solvent also made by the same company.


Paul, thanks for the tip on the Tandy brown leather dye. This leaves the question though on what type of shellac are you using? De-waxed, blond, garnet, etc. ?


Any you want. The colour is strong so whatever you have in stock or want to buy works for this.


Mr Sellers if I may ask what is the dye you used in the shellac? The color is lovely.


Cut the dark brown leather dye by just a teaspoonful of solvent to a half a cup. Add more as needed. Remember that applying successive coats of the mix increases darkness layer by layer. Also remember that successive coats dissolve previous coats so apply fast and do not fuss with the coats after application. My maxim: apply fast, evenly and let well alone.


Thanks for another great video Paul!


I was hoping you’d do a restoration video for a metal bench plane. I still have a specific problem that wasn’t addressed in this video though:

My plane has a frog that doesn’t sit inside the plane straight. It points to the right slightly, and I end up with a mouth opening that is narrower on one side than the other. I have to put the adjustment lever all the way to the left as well to compensate.

The only way I can think of to solve this is to file a bit out of the groove in the bottom of the frog, but this will result in some give sideways. How would you go about fixing this?


Best thing is to take off the ‘U’ shaped yoke for forward and backwards movement of the frog, the bit beneath the depth adjustment wheel at the back of the frog, and reinstall in the sole to see if possibly this is preventing the frog from aligning. It is very rare but it does happen. Once the frog is reinstalled and cinched down tight, minus the yoke part, you can see if there is something in the casting that prevents the frog from aligning. If it still does not align you will be able to check the castings for bumps and humps and twists. If you have another same plane try using the parts in each to see if they do the same thing. if the yoke is twisted or unevenly milled it can offset the frog and so may need correcting.


Just curious,
How would you know it laminated steel? and what would happen?


You can usually see a line and actually, in the video we did, I just happened to have a laminated blade from Stanley who made them that ways for a while but stopped. The steel is ultra hard. When you stop the video and look at the image you can see a line that looks like I have a secondary bevel but it is the contrast between the two steels.P1100099


Paul thanks for the video and I do have a question. I have restored several older planes well enough, at least to my liking. On occasion however, I have had problems with the rear handle. The screw seems to be fine and holds the handle firmly, yet under stress, as when I am planing, the handle will twist side to side a little. I have tried what I can thing of to fix it, but with no success. Do you have any suggestions?
And I do like the idea of using the chisel to scrape the handle! Never would have thought of that! I have used a scraper to clean up the handle; works OK to clean up a saw handle as well.


The magic of silicone shelf liner is amazing if handles refuse to stay in place. This is the cheap stuff in a roll that you buy for shelves and drawers in kitchens as a liner. Place a piece between the metal and the underside of the wooden handle and it will never move again. Trim with a sharp knife and you have it.

Also, I noticed one of the answers someone gave on WWMC who said he used a small tab of double sided tape there and it worked well for him.


Can you use just paste wax as a finish?


You can. Don’t apply too much. Apply a coat and then use the plane for a week and add another coat. Leave it a month and then another and that, combined with your hand sweat and it will be good for a few months. reapply as you feel necessary.

You can also become a free or premium members to and follow our training videos there.

There are more and I will add them as I find time.

41 thoughts on “Restoring Bench Planes Video on YouTube”

  1. Mats Hjalmarsson

    Do you ever better the paint/japanning? Or the surface of the lever cap? How would you go about doing that?


    1. I once cleaned up a #5 plane that had been used for heavens knows what, the mouth was full of glue and all finds of filth. I took it to a local shot blaster and he cleaned it up perfectly, but he did say the japanning was the hardest thing to remove, even blasting it with walnut shells.

    2. I never have but there is nothing to stop you. On the chrome, I would say leave well along unless it’s flaking and then I I just sand the edges lightly after flicking off any loose chrome if chromed.

    3. On the LumberJocks forum there’s a good series written by someone that had a go at doing his own japanning. I’ve not tried it myself though. I just try to remove as much rust as I can and use wax over the body to prevent more.

      In case the forum censors links, you can just Google for “lumberjocks Adventures in Japanning”

      The direct URL is here:

  2. Do you ever use penetrating oils like WD-40 for rust removal/prevention?

    (and thanks for the shelf liner tip, just what I’ve been needing for my #4)

  3. Thank you so much for the video. For the last question, on how to tighten the handles, I have found that if you hacksaw or file off a bit of the threads for the long bolt that holds the handle to the frame, it makes the connection tighter, which alleviates the twisting.

  4. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the video and especially the question about the Frog (mine doesn’t sit right either). Sorry to be pedantic, but could you be a little more specific about the leather dye used. I had a look at Tandy’s website and wasn’t sure what you were referring to, as I couldn’t see any solvent for sale alongside the Eco-Flow and Fiebing’s Leather dye products.


  5. The best thing about Paul’s instructions is there is no waffle, everything is concise and to the point. My planes are now pristine because Paul, very generously, shows us the correct way to restore and sharpen our tools.

  6. Excellent video Paul. Personal preference for me is to restore to a functional state only. I like seeing the history in the plane visually. It’s easy to restore to “like” new, but I always think that is a shame. Clamping the roll of abrasive paper is a good tip. Wasted a lot of double sided tape in the past.

    1. Me too, what I usually do is just leave it on the roll and roll out as the abrasive wears to far. Doing things to camera can hold some things back.

  7. Paul,

    Could you post a picture sometime of the maximum amount of pitting you will accept on the back of a blade at the cutting edge? This is what usually kills tools for me….I buy something, get it apart, and find pitting on the back of the iron that I just cannot manage to lap off. Of course, I’m talking about pitting at the cutting edge…pitting elsewhere doesn’t really matter. So, I’m wondering if I’m too fussy, whether you accept any pitting here, and if so how much. Pits seem to lead to imperfections in the planed surface.

    1. Hello,
      I’ve got the same concern. I’ve recently bought a record no4 in excellent shape, I was surprised. But the back of the blade has pitting. Close to the edge I think the blade is sharpen with a back bevel. But just after there are pitting so if I ground a little I will fall on the blade with pitting in it.
      I don’t know if it can still be used like this.

      Another question linked to this : are the new Stanley blade as good as old Stanley/record blades? Do they keep their edge correctly?


      1. Personally I don’t mess with pitted flat faces even though there are methods to still use the iron I find they break into my pattern of working. Better to find a replacement iron new or secondhand. I have used new Stanley blades and they seem just fine. It’s a no-brainer for manufacturers supplying Stanley replacement blades. They pay under a pound for the steel, the process requires zero skilled hand work and they sell them for £10. Like printing your own money; bit like buying copy prints of an art piece as limited editions when they are no more than a facsimile of the original work.

        1. Hello Paul,
          Thanks for your answer (and so quick!).
          So I’ll plan to get another blade, old or new depending on the cheapest I find.

          Have a nice day!
          Thanks a lot for all the knowledge you’re giving to us and for demystifying woodworking!

          1. Thanks,
            I’ll have a look.
            I’m French so shipping won’t be free but if original price is low it’s a good opportunity.

            thanks a lot!

  8. Thank you Paul for the plane rehab video. I picked up a number of great tips.

    But mostly, thank you for your practical approach. For example, I’ve seen/read so many sharpening “commandments” like always keep the sand paper dead flat against the surface, never sharpen your iron towards the cutting edge, use a heavy magnet to ensure the iron is dead flat when honing the back…and on and on. Your video proved all of those unnecessary.

    Your teachings cut through so much of that noise….it’s truly refreshing to say the least.

      1. Paul used loose paper on the bevel, not the back. When I’ve used loose paper to flatten the backs, I’ve dubbed the corners. That made chisels hard to use. I agree others make too big a deal of many things, but there are subtleties here. When using paper on the backs of irons and chisels, I use a little spray adhesive to keep the paper down to avoid dubbing the corners and I don’t just hog away wildly. On the bevel, it doesn’t matter.

        1. I didn’t use the paper for the blade flat faces. Ed is right to mention this here if this is indeed raised somewhere.

  9. Jonathan O'Neill

    How much pressure do you put on the plane when using abrasive paper to flatten the sole?

    1. You can apply higher pressures but it’s not necessarily pressure that’s needed but good sharp particulate which of course becomes less and less abrasive as the particulate loses its abrasive edges through fracture and wear. I would say change the abrasive regularly and us moderate firm pressure otherwise you will likely distort the steel of the plane which is much easier to do than people think.

  10. I have tuned up a couple planes with your old youtube video but this video makes the others antique , I redid my planes after watching this one and they work like yours do now ,, thank you for the more in depth video, it was well worth the time spent to watch it,, . lots of rxtra little tidbits.

  11. After stripping “all” the parts with safe rust remover, sent out for nickel plating (process does not affect parts in any way) other then truly shines & protects…. Parts can be re-japanning or painted. Then applied Ren Wax for further protection & no finger prints.
    Well worth the effort for hand me downs for future generations of grandkids…. Love the detail of your video & humor.

  12. Any advice for flattening the soles of longer planes? I have a Miller Falls #22 (similar to a Stanley #7)….at the moment, I don’t have anything long enough to use as a reference face. what would be a good reference for something so long? I thought of getting one like your granite slab, but that’s not long enough, is it?…being new to restoring old tools, I don’t want to foul it up. Tips?

    1. I am not sure here because the soles flex so easily and change with temperature changes and as you use them too anyway. I don’t really have a use for these planes and never recommend them for any work I might need. Those that will advise you make claims of flatness but I have yet to find any maker’s plane that stays true.

      1. well, I thought I’d give it a shot. So maybe it will just be good practice for restoring tools and increasing my tool knowledge. I’m in the process of making your English Workbench from your book. I had read elsewhere that it would be easier to flatten the top with a longer plane and I got the Miller Falls #22 for next to nothing so thought I’d give it a shot. I will say this, every time I stray from what you teach in your book and videos, I end up wasting time and money. I’ve learned my lesson (again) and I’m back on the Sellers program!

        1. Wayne – you could try a large sheet of float glass (though they’re not always that flat over larger areas), a large granite tile (as previously mentioned by Paul – take a rule to your local DIY store to find a flat one), or find a local stonemason and see if you can get an offcut or sink cutout from a suitable slab.

          1. Thanks, Gordon. Unfortunately, the only granite tiles I’ve been able to find aren’t longer than the plane. I’ll have to do some searching for a longer granite offcut. I’ve heard of people using those but I’m not sure where they’ve purchased them. But I’ll keep searching. Or maybe not, being that Paul isn’t too fond of this plane. We’ll see. Thanks for your comment.

          2. Just to chip in here (no pun). Float glass flexes to the subsurface and does bend under pressure too if the support is elongated so you would need to create sufficient support flatness to support long section or panels of glass too.

          3. Yes – I’ve found the glass I have (originally for scary sharpening) will move a bit under pressure, so when using it to flatten soles I tend to shim it and check it for flatness on the bench top before I start. A nice thick offcut of granite would be much better, but for the moment my restored planes are flat to a degree that exceeds my skill level when I put them to use.

  13. I found a rusty #8 at a flea market for $35, which I tuned up. A machinist friend had a large enough reference table, so I put it on that out of curiosity. First off, I was lucky. That plane was dead flat everywhere it needed to be (near the mouth) and was flat extending for a great part of it’s length. Second, where it wasn’t flat, it was surprisingly easy to flex it flat against the reference table and close out the gaps we could probe with feeler gauges, just like Paul said. So, a couple lessons from this for me. First, despite their size, these are planes to be used gently. Second, since they flex, it probably doesn’t make much sense worrying about flattening them other than right at the mouth, but don’t bulldog it when you do that flattening. Finally, the casting is probably only out by a small fraction of an inch (mine was only out a few thou over a couple feet), certainly small compared to what we care about for jointing an edge to glue up, so I’d think if you don’t bulldog it, the plane can be useful. That’s not to disagree with Paul saying one isn’t required, but for $35, I’m glad I got it. Although it is too big for most work, for some reason, I like the #8 on a shooting board.

  14. Hello Mr. Sellers, I am having a problem with the the lever cap. The steel behind it is bent as if the lever is pushed all the way back even when it is not. I was thinking about hammering it back into shape, but thought I would ask you first before I do anything I might regret.

      1. I got the plane while out of town and had it mailed to me (it was too nice a plane to let the TSA have a chance at it), so it may be a little while, but I’ll get a picture as soon as I can.

  15. Paul-
    Any plans to touch on restoring the combination/plough planes like the #45? I just got a nice deal on a pretty good 45, other than everything being dull and a little neglected it is in good shape, but I am finding things like the spurs, #8 blade and the skis a bit confounding on how to bring back to life.

  16. Thank you very much Paul. I have a growing collection of old planes – USA Stanleys, Records, Millers Falls and a Marples #4 that has really impressed me. So this guide has come at the perfect time as I start to de-rust some of them and get them ready to learn more about using hand planes.

    I watched the entire video the other day and was impressed by your straight forward approach to many things. You’ve also persuaded me to move to diamond stones as `I find the need to soak, and the mess of waterstones puts me off and means I sharpen less often than I should!

    I’m interested in how you finished the handles. I see that you’ve used a dk brown leather dye from Tandy. the only available one I could find was by Fiebings, is that the one?

    But I’m not sure what, if any, solvent to use.

    And is it ok to use clear spirit shellac sanding sealer or is something else better? I’m not familiar with shellacs as I mostly use Tru-oil or Nitrocellulose on the guitars that I build.

    Any pictures or links would be very much appreciated.

    Well, thanks again for taking the time to share your experience with us all, it really is valued.
    Best wishes

    1. Dave S – that’s the right dye (or at least, it’s the one I’ve used). I mixed some into Chestnut Sanding Sealer (shellac), and find that a little methylated spirits was needed to cut it down to a good consistency. A few coats and the handles look good.

      I’ve also used some of the other colours of that dye neat (cut with some meths) to stain pine; with reasonable success.

      The hake brush that Paul uses is well worth the investment too – I’ve found it really good for applying shellac (though I have one for clear shellac and another for the brown dye, as it obviously stains the brush).

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