Import Planes-Part V (final one)

Here is some more poor man’s stuff for you to try. This week I went into Aldi with Liz and saw some granite worktop (countertop) savers reduced for closeout. The packages were torn. Now I do have a bonafide granite block certified to engineering tolerances so I didn’t need any more but for most people this is an overkill. I picked up two of the 30counter savers and placed them face to face and they looked gap free on all four edges. P1160294 This is is a good start, but they could both be hollow. The offer was two for £5, so a reduction of £3. At £2.50 a piece this makes a granite test surface doable for anyone, but only if near flatness is a reality. I bought the four granite worktop savers and tested them out. Using feeler gauges and the straightedge in my square, and winding sticks too, three of them were flat across whichever way I tested them with no gaps that I could feed any feeler gauge through. P1160298  The fourth one was out by 0.06mm (about 2.36 thou) in one small area. Nothing to worry about here, most woods compress as much or more than that and if it doesn’t then the fibres can certainly be pulled up into the plane mouth that much. Now I know some might say that’s too much and it’s not really very scientific, but it’s really not at all. P1160299

In my transitioning betwixt workshops and living and working zones my own block is still in storage so this was the last testing I wanted. Buying worktop savers gave me instant testing capabilities I could apply to the three planes and guess what? They did test out very well. The best one was the Silverline followed by the B&Q and then the MACALLISTER. None of them were far enough out to not be used straight off in the case of my selection but you will have to try as best you can to test out your own. P1160301 These three planes could be dead flat in a few strokes on the granite  worktop savers.Remember an out of flat plane is a good enough reason to change it out. Also remember that there are no guarantees with any of the planes you buy. Just because it says in the catalogue tested to this or that flatness doesn’t mean it will be. High end models can be out too. P1160308

There are a couple of pockets you get in granite 3-5mm across, but these don’t affect the functionality of the granite as a proving surface as a surface suitable for flattening with abrasive paper. A little light misting with spray adhesive and you are on your way.


  1. That’s a great buy. My own granite plate is just a 12×12 square of granite tile from an aisle at Home Depot. Flat as I care for it to be, for not much money at all.

  2. I got my granite plate from Marks and Spencer; it was sold as something to kneed dough on. It’s big enough to work on. #5 plane if I go corner to corner and seems to be as flat as those tiles you found Paul. I might get one of these too though so I’ve got a spare.

  3. Ok someone please tell me why you would want these, What do you use them for?
    Thanks John

    1. Yes, John. If the granite slabs are indeed flat and untwisted, and sometimes they are not, they are excellent for flattening plane soles and cutting irons, chisels and such by adding sandpaper and using the granite as the support substrate to work the tools flatness to as a reference face. I probably took too much for granted here. Sorry.

      1. I was taught not to put any tea on my bench 🙂 Hot glue pots however…
        I think the sandpaper will be off more than 0.06 mm, so no need to be too scientific.

    2. Type “granite” into the search box at the top of the blog and you will see several of Paul’s posts in using these as trying and sharpening surfaces

  4. Thanks Paul, after rereading it the second time it made more sense plus the other comments, “thanks” I got it. I am looking at getting a piece of plate glass to do this with. I have purchased several different plane’s now I have two no. 3’s two 4’s one new and one old, a 4 1/2 and now my latest is a no. 5 plus a couple other new ones that are cheap copies of the Stanley / Bailey’s I now have a good collection of hand tools to work with. I simply love the way a sharp flat Iron in the stanley’s make the wood so smooth like glass! I am learning more and more about the way’s of the wood. I really haven’t made anything much yet but I am looking forward to making something.

  5. My granite slab was salvaged from the cut of out of a double sink installation. It is about an inch thick, polished and flat enough to treat the sole of my planes. I cut it into four pieces and shared them with friends. It does exactly what I want.

  6. I got 4 off these about a year ago when I first got into your work,2 for me to do exactly what you suggest and 2 for the Mrs,I use double sided tape and some stick label remover to remove to the tape once done.
    Aldi have the occasional good find every couple of months,still waiting on the chisels to return so I can have a 2nd set for my rough work around the house.

  7. I too saw these granit work top savers in Aldi a month or so back. I immediately thought of Paul’s granit block for flat abrading and examined them closely. They were priced at around €10 or €15, here in Ireland, I can’t quite remember exactly now. There was a choice of one large one or a set of two smaller ones, all at the same price. On close examination I noticed the surface “pits” that Paul mentions and wondered if these might compromise the abrading of plane soles etc. I decided not to buy because of this doubt. I am lucky as I have a couple of Connemara marble blocks that were selected for flatness by my brother-in-law who works in the local marble quarry, they cost me nothing. I think it was the possession of these marble blocks that also dissuaded me from buying the Aldi granite ones. Here’s an idea, if you miss the Aldi granite surface savers try your local “monumental stone mason” (who makes grave stones) for off-cuts. You might need to give them the price of a drink but then again, you might get the selected block for free as it would possibly be regarded as worthless by the stone mason.

    1. Joystick little off topic but have to ask as your based in Ireland too.

      Where are you sourcing your wood as I can’t find anything except white deal in the providers I call.

      It’s fine for now while I’m just learning/mucking about but I’d like to make a few toys for my nephew and don’t want to use deal for these due to the fact he will be putting these in his mouth as all toddlers do.

      I’ve found some specialist wood suppliers but their prices are extortionate and I’d have to drive half way across the country to collect the small number of boards I’d need as they won’t ship such a small order.

      1. Hi Graham,
        I’m in Cork.
        you can email me on gmail (pages like these often block Eddresses, so I hope you can work this out 😉
        mine is stevewales0 ( — thats a zero not an O) then just add the “AT” symbol and then gmail”DOT”com

        1. Steve, thanks for your reply

          Sorry about the delay I managed to break my wrist in one arm and the elbow on the other.
          I’ll email you when I’m actually able to type correctly for more than five minutes 🙂

      2. Hi Graham,
        Yes I know what you mean. I’m afraid that I pay (through the nose) for decent wood from a supplier in Galway City. I haven’t bought much so far as I too am new to woodworking but I was permitted to select the wood myself which meant I could check for knots/shakes etc. So far I got sapele (looks like mahogany). I don’t think I’d like to trust to a mail order purchase as you might end up with some poor pieces. White deal is a local name for some species of cheap pine when in fact it’s correctly another name for Sitka Spruce (N.America). You are unlikely to actually get Sitka Spruce as this timber is quite expensive. It was used in the aircraft industry when aircraft used wood because of its strength and straight grain. Indeed some local builders merchants are hard pressed to even tell you exactly what “white deal” actually is.
        Have you considered beech for your childrens toys? It takes the knocks (and teeth) quite well. Make a day of it when and if you have to travel to timber merchants. Its nice to visit other parts of the country and you’ll be able to select the best pieces yourself.

        1. Thanks Joystick.

          My wife used to live in Galway.

          Do you know the wood cutting place on the Tuam road in Galway city?

          If still in business they were in the same estate as the elverys sports shop. It might be a place you could perhaps pick up some off cuts from for practice or small pieces.

  8. Nice tip Paul,

    I was just thinking that these slabs could also perhaps be used as press plates for gluing veneer to a reasonably thin board with a few paint tins or free weights added on top. Or would this be a waste of time?

  9. Paul:

    You mentioned granite work top savers. Can I get those here in the U.S. too? I’ve never seen granite slab that thickness. I’m more familiar with granite inspection blocks but they tend to be 4″ + thick.


    1. You can. I have seen them in the supermarkets from time to time and of course online you should find them too. Funeral home supplies have broken headstone parts and then there are granite floor tiles too. The floor tiles are less accurate. I went back to get more of the work top savers this week and tested these again for flatness. I now have ten and they are all flat enough for me to use with an upcoming restoration class at the new school.

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