The Stanley #78 Scrub Plane? What?

Results from my #78 scrub plane.

Here’s something I personally think is well worth shouting about. I’ve never seen anyone else do it as it’s one I thought up more for as another poor man’s woodworking tool. It’s a scrub plane made from an adapted #78 rebate or rabbet plane. Using the term ‘scrub’ mis describes it. It doesn’t at all enhance the opinion of what this tool is capable of or a actually does—makes you think of scrubbing floors and deck scrubbing on vintage ships with wooden decks, such like that. Though principally designed for roughing off copious amounts of wood, the scrub plane gives us much more than that. I have two types that I rely on, alongside my wooden versions that is, both are as invincible in reducing the highs and lows in wood as anything I’ve used. This #78 plane is a champion for those who really do not want to use machines. As with my Stanley #4 scrub plane, it can also be deployed to create angles as narrow chamfers and then on up to wide bevels for raised panels too. I reach for it when creating bullnoses, to remove the bulk first, and It prefaces the work of both the smoother and the jack and then often takes over where the handsaw leaves off.

The three-prong attack team for reducing stock. Heavy removal with my #78 adapted scrub right, #4 smoothing scrub middle and #4 smoothing square across left. What a team!

Even though many Stanley planes originated in the USA, there is one plane I know of that most woodworkers in the USA will never have actually come across let alone have used. The Stanley #40 scrub plane was the first all-metal production model scrub plane mass made for the US market. We rarely if ever see them here in the UK. Unlike many if not most of Stanley’s other plane versions, the # 40 was never copied or made by a UK maker and so it is indeed a scarcer find here in Britain. Magnify that a thousand times and you’ll find the same throughout  the whole of  Europe too. If you did happen upon one somewhere you most likely would not give it more than a cursory glance—most likely you might buy it for that reason alone. It’s without doubt the ugly duckling of all the Stanley range of planes. There is no doubt, the Stanley #40 scrub plane is the ugly duckling with it’s black-Japanned paint and basic looks. It’s redeeming quality on the other hand is that it works  well; it removes and reduces stock thickness in almost any wood in a heartbeat, even across wide boards of oak, cherry, walnut, ash and many more. It’s demise resulted when machines hit the woodworking industry and mass making entered even the smaller home workshops as affordable beasts of burden in wide format. Power planers replaced them at the point of release by Stanley and soon, as with most hand planes for woodworkers, they were soon rendered obsolete. But in my view the scrub plane comes in very handy for a range of tasks revolving around removing stock in quantity and fast. This is especially so for those of us who rely heavily on hand work. Even in machining, when stock is cupped so much that the crowned and cupped board cannot pass into and through a power fed machine because of its limiter restricting a fuller depth of cut, the scrub plane bails out the machine. This can be especially helpful for heavy stock as in beams and joists.

Watching me use the #78 scrub plane is captivating for me because it works so obviously well and you start to wonder why no one thought of it for a common tool. Well, it only took me 50 years to get here!  I’d love to see what happens when people watch my video on it for the first time today!

Here’s how the cutting irons look with regards to straight cut and radius differences.

So, yes, you are right, Stanley didn’t make a #78 scrub plane, they made Stanley #40 scrub plane. You are right and then you are wrong!  Stanley made a #78 that I repurposed for a scrub plane to function as well if not even better than any all cast-metal scrub plane ever made. The à la Paul Sellers is scrub plane will amaze you. By using a regular #78 plane body and the same or an additional spare cutting iron, in about five minutes you will have two planes for little more than the price of one, a scrub plane par excellence, and a regular rebate plane for which the plane was designed. Alternatively, of course, you could go ahead and buy a second plane to dedicate as a scrub plane. I bought two on eBay for £10 each and though they will go up in price after the video goes on YT, it will level off again I am sure. (Maybe not. Look what’s happened to the Stanley and Record #71 router plane as a result of our work.) Anyway, how we missed this for so many decades I’ll never know, but change woodworking lives it certainly will!

Oh, and while I’m here. I’m not saying you should not have a converted #4 scrub plane too. It’s not an either or for me but a both. I tend to use the #78 for mass reduction and then my converted #4 scrub plane to reduce undulation from the #78 followed by either my #4 smoothing plane to conclude planing or my #5 jack.

Watch this video!

33 thoughts on “The Stanley #78 Scrub Plane? What?”

  1. As per usual Paul, thanks for the tips and techniques. I understand this is your new filming space , the production quality is really good. Congratulations to yourself and the team who make it happen.

  2. Andrew Foster


    A very insightful post, thanks – and a timely one for me with regards to scrub planes as I have a particular question, if I may? I have a wooden scrub plane, which i find to be a joy to use due to its lightness. However, at times it can end up taking a big chunk out of the wood; I found this on the softwood I was using for my bench and recently some English Elm. This could be down to sharpness, but it does cut well for the most part.

    I now question how much material I can take off and how close I can get to my final thickness as I have experienced these ‘chunks’ taking me down below my final thickness; this now makes me very cautious.

    Looking at your first photo in this article, I notice that around the knot located towards the bottom there are similar tear-out ‘chunks’ as I have experienced.

    Do you have any advice on how to work down to a final thickness; is there are balance between the efficiency of a scrub but risking chunks being removed, with the more labour intensive use of a smoothing plane to reach final thickness?



  3. Paul,

    One thing that I have been curious about. I have seen you talk about using a converted #4 as a scrub plane and now using a #72 as one as well. I am just curious. Why not Just use a #40? Which as I’m sure you know is a purpose built straight from Stanley Scrub plane. No conversion needed.

    I understand the method of sometimes doing things the poor mans way and that not everyone would have a #40. But they are relatively inexpensive. Having just picked one up on ebay my self for $35. I love it and I didn’t have to sacrifice one of my #4’s to make it.

    It already has the extra wide mouth and the plane iron is almost twice as thick as the #4.

    Eagerly awaiting your input,


    1. Paul Sellers

      It’s interestingly funny how we in our own country most often can assume that all people in all other countries have the same access to what we have, be that equipment, tools, wealth, spare time and so on. I did go to lengths in the post to explain that you cannot find Stanley scrub planes in the UK or Europe. And that a second blade can cost as little as £6 making it an inexpensive scrub plane that will give you a regular rabbet plane and a scrub for near nothing. I also said that I had bought two #78 for £10 each.

      1. Paul, I have read two of your books and watched hundreds of your videos. I find that I am completely absorbed with everything I have seen. Having done woodworking for over 40 years, with the passion you have (not the skill), I am so grateful and thankful for all the tips and advice that you put on every page of your books, and the way you demonstrate things in all your videos. I feel I’ve gotten to know you, and some of you’re associates over the years. I thought I was pretty good…until I found you on the internet. My skills have improved so much since then that I can’t say enough. I suppose some people in this world will criticize anything. I understand that this video is a quick demonstration, showing everyone that any plane can be converted to use as a scrub plane. The details of shaping the blade are covered in your other videos. I think this video covered what you intended, which is to quickly show how to fill a need to make a plane do scrub work. It is the type of inspiration you are so good at. Thanks again and I look forward to the next one with anticipation.

  4. Good thinking on turning a junk 78 into a useful scrub tool.

    But I was disappointed that the film was shot with amateurish skills, as we could not really see the grinding action from the side. With the experience and equipment the crew has, it was a sloppy job to present the video as such.

    In other videos, including some Masterclasses’, I have found that out of laziness (I couldn’t find a better reason to explain it), the filming was not done as best it could be. Either the set-up (bench or Paul) could be rearranged or the filing crew could move to a better spot to cover the scene.

    1. Hi Richard,
      I have to say that I found the quality of this instructional video to be quite high and thought the scenes and camera angles to be quite adequate for my understanding of the processes involved. (I’m not that clever or switched on). I couldn’t ask for more clarity to be honest.
      I think you use harsh words describing a group of people producing to my mind near high end TV quality video’s that with exception to Woodwork Masterclass videos are completely free. I think if your intent was constructive criticism then a little more tact and diplomacy wouldn’t come amiss. “Amateurism”and “laziness” are words that I don’t think I could ever use in describing any of Paul’s productions, even his first efforts in his back garden all those years ago. Down to earth, realistic and easy to watch and listen are better descriptions and though sometimes I fail to catch every nuance or understand everything I generally find rewinding and watching a particular section several times occasionally switches on the light bulb in my head.
      In general I find polite and friendly suggestion or approach results in a higher success rate than sneering or sarcastic criticism that I perceive from your unfortunate choice of words.
      Nuff said.

      1. I agree with Joystick. There is no reason or need to be rude. If you don’t understand it then e-mail Paul and one of his team will help you. They are a very helpful bunch and have years of experience in passing on their knowledge.

        Humble pie should be on the menu tonight.

  5. Thanks Paul. Out of curiosity, approximately what radius are you grinding to for the number 78 and number 4 scrub planes? I’m going to guess about 7″ but would love to hear it. Maybe it’s in the video which I will watch this evening when home from work.

    1. Joe, in case other readers of this blog don’t watch the video and as per your own correct presumption, Paul gives the radius in the video as 2 & 1/8” or 54mm. Paul uses a handy tin (of wax polish?) to mark the radius on the blade with a pencil. I don’t think it’s that critical though as not all the blade cutting edge protrudes through the throat (my presumption).

  6. Christopher D

    Great idea Paul.
    After converting a cheaply bought Whitmore #4 into a scrub it has become a much-used tool.
    I have a #78 that I picked up for £1.00 so that looks ripe for conversion.
    That means I will have two scrub planes for a total of £6.00, which is great value.

  7. Hi Paul,

    I have to take issue with your freehand grinding of the blade. Using the tool rest would give much better assurance that the edge would not catch and make a projectile. Please remember that novices may follow your lead on these methods.

    #78 replacement blades aren’t very plentiful. It seems that using a cambered iron on a #5 would be easier and cheaper in the long run. A scrappy #5 can easily be had for less than $20 in the US.

    1. Paul Sellers

      You are entitled to your opinions. I find freehand much more acceptable and would advise all to discover the benefits for themselves.That said, some will prefer the registration as you say you do and that’s fine too. Number 5s may be 20 bucks (£15) in the USA, and they may be readily available there, but in the other 194 countries in the world they are not and in most you will never see one. So, in my perception, what you see as a scrappy number 5 will be a treasured impossibility in almost 200 other countries you see.

  8. Mr Sellers ,I guess I was lucky in that I found a #40 scrub plane at trade days / flea market, ( Round Top) for a song, but a # 4 with a cambered blade works some better. The #40 is very light, and that is not a lot of help to an old man. The #4 is heavy enough to work but not so heavy as to work you to death.

  9. Steve Powell

    Hello Paul,
    Might be a use for the Woden W78 wooden handle on the front here – I don’t use the one on mine.

  10. Steve Dittmer

    I read your comment with mounting incredulity. As Paul says in reply to another correspondent, you are entitled to your opinions, but when they are as subjective, petty and mean spirited as yours I think that the vast majority would prefer that you keep them to yourself.

    You will find very few, if any, negative comment in this forum in respect of the quality of Paul’s output. His (free!) videos are well produced, easy to understand, enjoyable and in many cases, I suspect, life-changing in an overwhelmingly positive way. They have been for me.

    It would be a tragedy if Paul and his team were foolish enough to take such comments to heart and change what they do or even move their service to a fee paying platform. I for one would not blame them

    If you think that you could improve on what they do I am sure we would all welcome the opportunity to watch (and comment on) your offering. If not I respectfully suggest that you do not look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and be suitably grateful for the body of skill, experience and wisdom that Paul shares so generously.

    Thank you Paul and team!

  11. I bought a #40 quite a while ago, but it largely stays on the shelf because a #4 is so much better as a scrub plane, at least for me. The #40 is so narrow that it just takes too many passes to be efficient vs. the #4, even if the #4 takes a little shallower cut. As you mentioned, you must then do additional work to get the heavy scallops out, so the time savings isn’t as great as it might seem. I’d think the #78 to be the same as the #40 in the width. Also, I usually find junk #4’s cheaper than junk #78.

    Where the #40 excels is in edge work. If you need to take 1/4″ or 3/8″ off an edge, then there’s no such thing as too much camber. Just watch your fingers on the shaving coming out! Even so, I think the #4 scrub does admirably for this, too. I sometimes wonder if the #40 was really always intended as an edge tool rather than a face tool. For face work, I’ll take a #4 with a camber.

    Of course, it’s a matter of preference, but only a #78 can do rebates, and around here they are scarce vs. #4’s, so I’d hate to see them all disappear to become scrubs! If you want the super heavy camber of a #40, you can find a junk #4 or just a junk #4 blade, and can then put a camber on it just like the #40 and only use the very center section of the blade for the work. Indeed, only the very center 3/4 inch or so will protrude from the sole. There will be no difference in performance vs. the 40/78, I’d bet.

    1. I have to say, Ed, that I would not have recommended this had I not experienced such great benefit and it really wasn’t so much an either or but an all. By combining planes, following on from coarse cuts with the #78 with other planes, I felt true benefit. Raising some panels in curly maple was an amazing experience. I followed with a few passes with the #4 scrub plane conversion and then dodged between my #4 and #5 for finessing. The end result was a relaxed hour of determined work with great therapeutic benefits.

      1. Do you think maybe there is a special advantage in figured wood with interlocked grain? The edges of the camber are giving a shearing cut, which perhaps deals with interlocked grain? Based on your experience, I’ll try again with my #40, then, for these special tasks.

        I’d still think that if someone wants to try this, they can put a really heavy camber on a #4 blade if they don’t have a #78 or don’t want to commit a #78 blade. Perhaps I’m not understanding, though?

  12. Paul, I meant to offer this: I’ve actually been thinking of a #78 as a different kind of scrub, which literally is a scrub rebate plane. You would need to approach it a little differently than what you did here. You would need to grind the camber so that it is both as heavy as desired but also still comes all the way out to both sides of the sole, like a rebate, rather than only projecting from a portion of the sole. Why do this? Think of hogging the material off of your Shaker Bench seat. A regular scrub can only take a pass or two before bottoming out because of the closed spots on either side of the mouth. The same thing happens on a shooting board. You then need to move side to side or tilt. A traditional round is nice, but only takes relatively fine shavings. A scrub rebate would be like a turbo-charged round (as in hollows and rounds). You could just hog down with heavy shavings. I was thinking it might be a good shaping plane. The camber would need to be exactly right. It would be a one-setting plane, really, but I think it could be done.

    I was thinking of making one of these, but maybe you could try it with yours? I put the idea aside because I decided I’d rather find a junk round and open up the mouth. Or, I could build one of your wooden “round in two directions” planes that was only round in one direction rather than commit a rebate plane to the venture and was thinking through how to make one of your little wooden planes in a rebate style with at least one edge of the blade reaching the side.

  13. Mark Popovic

    Late last year I acquired what I believe is a tidied up Whitmore No2 plane from ebay. A very simple thing it is too – about 10″ long with a 44mm wide short blade, screw down cap iron and no frog to speak of. What an excellent scrub plane it makes. I’m still overjoyed whenever I get the opportunity to use it. Dunno how I managed all these years without a scrub plane. I honestly believe now that a scrub plane is the very first plane anyone should buy.

  14. Hans van Essen

    What do you do with the chipbreaker when you grind the blade more round?

    1. Paul Sellers

      Sorry, I can’t call it by the American term chip breaker as that’s not what it is and never actually was. Aside from that, I leave the cap iron further back from the cutting edge and you can also file the cap iron on the outer edges to gain a couple of millimetres.

      1. Thanks for the reaction Paul. In the Netherlands we call it a “ keerbeitel” ??

  15. I was making the rounds of my usual junk shops this weekend and came across a #78 without the stop and fence for $5 and dunked it in a derusting bath. It turns out to have a near perfect laminated iron, so I decided to see if I could get another iron to try grinding it to a scrub iron. Not much luck, but I did come across this #78 That has been tricked out as a sort o multi-round plane with an iron for each profile and a wooden shoe which screws on for each different iron. Comes with a custom case.

    It seems there is more than one way to trick out a #78.

  16. Paul, after watching your video on how to make a scrub plane and hearing what it was generally used on prompted me to turn an extra #7 I had into a scrub plane. Shortly after the need arose to reduce a two walnut tabletops (19″X19″) from one inch down to three quarters. The pieces were too big for the thickness planer to which I had access. Oops, did I say power tool?
    In any case, the scrub plane was great to work with. Glad I have it now.

  17. I like the spirit of innovation and adaptation that comes through here, recognizing that different tools & makers are available (or not) in various geographies.

    I do have some concerns about grinding down #78 blades, which are not so plentiful around me. I am also not a fan of the cast steel tote – a wooden one is more comfortable in my hand.

    I have the Veritas scrub, and have had excellent result with it – for really heavy and rough work. It was almost as fast as a power planer, and much more controllable, on a walnut burl that measured about 3′ across. Trying the same work with a cambered jack plane produced a lot of sweat and not many shavings.
    For my day – to day light scrub I favour a (est) 1918 Stanley #3 with a cambered iron – repurposing a pitted blade that can no longer manage fine work. I like it better than the #4 because it is lighter & narrower, so I am pushing less weight around. Then I follow with the #5 and a lightly cambered blade – personal preference for the longer sole compared to Paul’s #4.

    Different strokes for different folks – literally.

  18. Joe Kesselman

    In the spirit of community, though I may cheat myself out of some good deals by reminding folks: Craftsman hand tools were often made by Stanley, relabelled and simplified so they weren’t competing quite directly. I have a beater Craftsman rebate plane clearly based on the 78 body, minus the Stanley logo and depth adjustment lever mechanism (and possibly the depth guide attachment hole, though it does have a scoring knife). Not quite as good as the real thing, but it’s a prime candidate for this adaptation.

  19. Could you similarly adapt an old wooden rebate plane to act as a scrub plane? Not mine, it has a skewed blade?

    1. Paul Sellers

      There is a video on YT I did about wooden scrub planes coming from worn down wooden planes here.

  20. I was abroad with limited internet and missed this when it was posted. Now, having read this blog, I suddenly realise I am rich! I have three of these planes – acquired as much by chance as design. One has the cutter ground (perfectly) to an angle to cut a bevel, one has had a chunk broken out of the nose of the body casting but they all work splendidly.

    The first tasks on my next two projects involve scrub planing some 6-7 feet long, wide planks to thickness. Watching the video, it now looks like that may be a heck of a lot faster than I was anticipating!

    I am looking forward to re-purposing one the 78’s as a powerful secret weapon in my tool kit.

    Thanks very much for an unexpectedly useful blog & video!

  21. Paul,
    I recently got a Stanley #40 from my sister who said it belonged to her late husband’s grandfather. It’s in need of restoration, but is in overall good condition. I want to use it as my dedicated scrub plane. In researching this plane (which I’d never seen before) I found they were made from 1896 to 1962. Quite a long time. But I also suspect they were not made in huge numbers.
    There appear to be as many as 15 types or perhaps more of these planes, but I cannot find any resource regarding types for the #40.
    Any ideas on where such type information might be found?
    I am looking forward to cleaning the plane up and taking it for a test drive!!

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