How to Restore Woodworking Hand Planes

Written by troy dooly
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A good quality wooden hand plane can be costly, but there is no reason the plane should not last a lifetime and be passed on to the next generation of woodsmiths in a family. Woodworkers may not have good results with their wood planes for two reasons; the blade is not sharp or the tool is out of adjustment. Learning how to restore, sharpen and adjust a wooden hand plane can eliminate the frustration of having a wood smoothing plane which does not work.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Loosen the level cap screw and release the cap lock, then take off the lever cap, cap iron and blade and set them aside. Loosen and remove the frog setscrews and separate them from the sole of the plane. Unscrew the handles from the body. Clean each part individually using a brass-bristled brush dipped in white spirit.

  2. 2

    Tape a length of emery paper to a smooth, flat work surface, such as a glass plate or saw table. Reattach the handles and the frog to the body of the plane, and slide the sole along the emery paper, applying even pressure to keep the sole flat. Continue lapping the sole until the metal on its bottom surface is uniformly bright and clean, indicating that the sole is level. Check the sole to make sure it is staying square regularly.

  3. 3

    Check that the bottom and sides of the plane's sole are exactly 90 degrees to each other. Hold the wood plane in one hand, butt a combination square against the bottom, and one side of the sole. Repeat for the other side. The surfaces should be square on both sides. If not, continue lapping the sole and the sides.

  4. 4

    Use a combination square to determine whether the cutting edge of the plane is square to the sides. If it is not, square the cutting edge on a bench grinder, making sure to adjust the grinder's tool rest 90 degrees to the wheel. If you don't own a bench grinder, a belt sander will work. Install a 100-grit belt, mount the tool upside down in a stand or vice, and secure the stand or vice to a work surface. Turn on the sander and hold the bevelled side of the blade on the belt at the appropriate angle.

  5. 5

    Position the cap iron on the top face of the blade so the blade extends about 1/16 inch beyond the end of the cap iron. Tighten the cap iron screw. Place the blade assembly, including the blade, cap iron, and level cap, in position on the frog. The gap between the front edge of the blade and the front of the mouth should be around 1/32 to 1/16 inch. If the gap is too wide or narrow, remove the blade assembly and loosen both frog setscrews about 1/4 turn. Adjust the frog adjustment screw to set the proper gap. Tighten the setscrews and reposition the blade assembly on the frog.

  6. 6

    Hold the wood hand plane upside down and move the lateral adjustment level until the cutting edge is parallel to the sole and centred in the mouth. Turn the depth-of-cut adjustment knob so the blade protrudes from the mouth.

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