Rehabbing Wooden Planes

by Bob Smalser

This article first appeared as a thread on theWoodNet woodworking forum. It was compiled and reproduced here for easier public consumption. All Text and Images are the property of Bob Smalser.

In previous articles, I described rehabbing older Bailey-pattern planes acquired from Ebay to replace all the family's ancient wood planes.the ones I'm getting tired of inlaying mouths in every decade or so as they wear. I'll rehab these oldies one more time and pass them on to my oldest boy who's interested in luthier work.he'll be the 5th generation of craftsman for some of these.

From left to right is a Stanley transitional jack, a Stanley 36 razee smoother, and an old Ohio Tool coffin smoother. The jack and the coffin smoother have new soles, and I'll do the Stanley 36 today. Wood planes are a joy to use..they have a warm feel to them and for a boatbuilder or shipwright working overhead, are lighter and handier than cast iron planes. They wear faster, but are much easier to tune. As the sole wears unevenly from planing edges and odd shapes, a simple pass through or over a fine-set hand or power jointer flattens them back into true. Do that three or four times over the course of a decade, however, and the mouth widens to the point where fine shavings are no longer possible. If you look at the Stanley 36, you can see the mouth is a bit wider than the one on your favorite cast-iron smoother.

The front of the plane wears the fastest, and repeated jointings on a plane used for coarse work makes them wedge-shaped, eventually. I could inlay a patch or throat piece into the front section of the mouth, but that does nothing to correct the wedge shape, the mortises are time-consuming to cut, and a throat piece doesn't support the critical area at the front edge of the mouth as does the original sole and throat. So instead, I prefer to attach new soles and recut the throat to the original specifications or even a bit narrower in the mouth, depending on how I intend to use the plane.

Any straight-grained hardwood will do.these original plane bodies are beech, and I'm using hard Bigleaf Maple for the new soles today. I also use holly and Madrone, more hard local woods. How thick should the new sole be? Thicker than the furthest downward the iron can be adjusted. Because I'm using the power jointer for this, I mill the new sole stock almost twice as thick as needed. For the Stanley 36 in relatively good condition, no taper is needed to correct wedge-shaped wear, so I plane my sole stock flat.

I power joint the beech plane body to expose fresh wood uncontaminated by oil and wax, and glue the sole stock on with 5:1 West System epoxy dyed brown. Get the free Gougeon Brother's epoxy pamphlet from West Marine and follow the instructions.including the use of a high-strength thickener. A good boatbuilder's epoxy is moisture proof, is almost twice as strong and flexible as other glues and is the best choice. Clamping isn't required..I merely place the glued assembly on a wax-papered flat surface and set a cast-iron plane atop for weight over night.

Then I simply trim the oversize sole flush using card scrapers. Notice I also filled the worn corners on the plane body with thickened epoxy to make a smooth surface that won't catch on something during use.

I clamp the plane to a flat, smooth surface and recut the throat from the throat side of the plane. The rear of the throat is a 45-degree angle and the front bevel of the throat needed to clear shavings is about 20 degrees in the opposite direction. I merely index the chisels against the plane body and tap and pare.

I continue to remove wedge-shaped waste until the back of the throat and the front of the throat meet.

.in a nice, clean "V" at the bottom of my over-thick sole stock.

Then cutting the mouth is simply a matter of jointing the new sole-plane body on a sharp, well-tuned jointer set to remove a 64th or so until the mouth appears and develops into the width desired.

The mouth and throat are cleaned with fine mill files.

.and the plane assembled. Insure the frog is aligned accurately with the throat in the plane body using a straight edge.

.and make that cap lever screw is tight.a source of chatter as the blade dulls in use. To adjust the blade, I merely set the plane on a flat board and adjust the iron to drop until it barely touches the board.then I lock everything in and lightly tap my final set with a brass hammer just like I do any other wood plane. Just don't exceed the limits of the adjuster's slop and you'll not damage the plane.

Then I tweak the adjustments while planing a flat piece of hardwood like this figured Bigleaf Maple until I consistently get fine shavings that are near the full width of the blade. That's about as good as it gets. Now I can dismantle the plane if I desire and finish the wood with stain, oil and wax.

Sharpening the blade and tuning the cap iron are covered in my article on Rehabbing Cast Iron Planes.


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