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Thread: Maintaining plane bodies

  1. #1

    Maintaining plane bodies

    I'm a newcomer to hand tools, and recently bought my first few planes from LV/Veritas. I've tried to take good care of them (they're quite an investment!) but they have already begun to tarnish (not sure if that's the right word -- see photos below). Is this rust? Some kind of pre-rust? The marks are principally fingerprint-shaped, in case that provides a clue. I've tried to rub it off with elbow grease and jojoba oil, as well as krud kutter, but with little effect. I should note that the blades are still spotless, even though they're the only part of the plane that ever touches water (during sharpening).

    They live in a drawer in my garage, which is kept around 50% RH by a dehumidifier. About a month ago I added Zerust capsules to the drawers as well.

    Any thoughts on (1) How this happened (2) How to prevent it (3) How to clean it?

    Many thanks!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Columbus, Ohio, USA
    I have a thick oil that I would put on it and then use steel wool. This will take that rust off pretty well.

    I usually wipe my planes off with camellia oil before putting them away. When I run out of that, I will probably switch to some other oil or thing to keep rust away.

    I then wipe it off before I use them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    Hi Aaron, your location is not provided in your profile.

    If you live in a high humidity area your dehumidifier might not be enough.

    Some folks have chemistry in their sweat that can tarnish metal. That would be a different matter than humidity to confront when it comes to caring for your tools.

    Before being put away my tools are wiped using a cloth saturated with Howards Feed-N-Wax Wood Polish & Conditioner >

    This protects them from the effects of humidity and temp changes. A long term goal is to build a cabinet for them with golden rod type heaters to keep them warm enough so moisture in the air will not condense on them.

    If the tarnishing is caused by reaction to sweat a different protocol will likely be required and someone else will have to provide that.

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    South West Ontario
    Yes Aaron steel rusts. That is the start of rusting. Oxygen and water are the enemies. Dry storage is best. Cold storage with humidity and temperature swings can cause condensation on cold tools. The fingerprints of rust show the acids in your skin help the rusting process. Plenty of oil based rust preventers on the market, the trick is getting them on the steel. The Sellers oiled cloth in can to lube the plane during use also works when you put it away, quick swipe on the flat faces.

    My Lee Valley planes have some signs of rust, despite the oil, 20% humidity in winter, 80% summer. My Cliftonís show no signs of rust. All stored in the same tool chest. Very hard to remove, fine wire wool and oil, after that itís a lot of work. Phosphoric acid to kill the rust is one option, commercial products are available.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Northern California
    Removal: 0000 steel wool with a bit of WD-40. If that doesnít remove the rust, scrape lightly with a single edge razor and repeat with the oiled steel wool. Wipe clean. If that doesnít work rub with a fresh 0000 steel wool pad and a bit of white vinegar. This should be your last resort as it may discolor the metal.

    Maintenance: after each use wipe all parts (including the blade) with jojoba or camellia oil on a rag and do so after each use. A little goes a long way. Small bottles of these oils can be purchased inexpensively at most health food stores.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Silicon Valley, CA
    I have been very happy with Jojoba Oil for rust protection. It's recommended by Lie-Nielsen for tool protection. It's also sold in the beauty sections of local stores, (e.g. our Trader Joe's has it with their health products.) But the best price per oz. I've found is from L-N, until you include shipping. So if you have some other order going and throw a bottle in your cart....

    Jojoba oil is liquid at normal room temp, but is thick and waxy so it stays on a tool well once it's wiped on. (We don't get that cold here, but once I received a bottle that was "frozen" solid in shipping and took 3 days to "thaw" at room temperature.) Christopher Schwarz promotes using a micro-fiber cloth to apply the oil (and calls it his Super-Woobie ), though he credits L-N with the specific idea. BTW- I've never felt the need to wipe the thin coating off before use.

    For long term storage or higher humidity or temperature swings, you may want something thicker and more persistent though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
    Lafayette, CA
    These are good suggestions for knocking back the rust you have.

    After that, a wipe down after each use is called for. Near my bench I keep an Altoids box with a folded microfiber cloth in it. Onto the cloth I spray a few squirts of camellia oil. Before putting the planes up for the day, I open the can, fluff up the cloth a bit so it's above the metal rim, and swipe it over the three plane faces. If the cloth is a little heavy in the oil (soon after the squirt refreshing), I may follow up the swipes with a light wipe with a dry paper towel. But leaving the camellia oil on the plane will not hurt a thing. The Altoids can snaps shut and stays clean and ready for next time.

    My rule is, if I've touched it, it has finger slime on it. I don't use machined iron tools if my hands are sweaty; I'll just wash them first. But a little finger "oil" doesn't stand a chance against the camellia oil swipe.
    Last edited by Bob Jones 5443; 03-01-2021 at 10:13 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    It's odd. I read of people's planes rusting and rust spots.
    Likely because I use only vintage planes, but I live near portland oregon and current humidity shows 83%, but I've never thought my planes rusted easily or unusually... I use the paul sellers rag in a can and don't even wipe down all the time, usually only when I'm actually using a tool. In fact I had planes wrapped in bubble wrap and boxed up for 2 years with no unusual rusting (couple small rust spots) The worst I've had a plane rust was when I left it on my plywood shelf for a few years without using it. When I picked it up, the mouth was rusted pretty good, and the plywood was black underneath.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael J Evans View Post
    ... I use the paul sellers rag in a can and don't even wipe down all the time, usually only when I'm actually using a tool. ...
    I certainly didn't mean to suggested wiping down the planes was a maintenance task I did on a schedule. I use the tool, (plane, chisel, saw, whatever,) and then brush off any chips or dust and then wipe off any finger prints or crud. That's all until the next time I use them. I suppose if you leave them out so that they collect significant dust or have humidity or temperature swings large enough they collect moisture, then something more might be needed. But I'm lazy, Jim's Goldenrod in a closed space is the idea I'd pursue for that.

    As far as how to apply the oil, or grease, that seems regional or cultural or based on the person that gave you the idea. I recall discussion of oily rags packed in a box as a traditional Japanese technique. Roy Underhill did a segment on a grease box, filled with lanolin, and attributed it to English tradition. Peter Sellers apparently has substituted oil for lanolin, (or Roy got it a little wrong.) I use the oily rag, without can, mostly because I first read it on Chris Schwarz's blog shortly before I attended a L-N event where they recommended it. Thus reinforced I tried it, it worked for me, and I never had need to try an alternative. But I can't think why any of the alternatives wouldn't work as well.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Marietta, GA
    I use an oily rag to wipe down any tool Iíve used. After using a brush to clean out as much dust and chips. Just like many have mentioned.

    I differ in that my oily cotton washcloth is soaked with mineral oil. You can find it in the pharmacy marketed as a laxative. Somewhere around $1-$2 for a lifetime 16oz supply

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Boat suppliers sell jars of desiccant that absorbs moisture. If they are in a cabinet, you might consider putting a jar in the bottom of the cabinet.

  12. #12
    Thanks all for the detailed and thoughtful replies. I'll try cleaning with superfine steel wool + the jojoba oil I already own, and if that doesn't work, wd-40. And I'll start making sure to thoroughly clean and oil up the planes after each use. I've been blessed with perpetually clammy hands, so probably all the more reason to have a strict cleaning protocol.

    I live by the coast in New Jersey, where it's about 40% humidity in the winter and 80% in the summer. Because I'm right by the water it's possible that the air contains some salt too. Temperature in my garage, which is semi-insulated, swings from around 50 in the winter to 80 in the summer. My dehumidifier *claims* that it's keeping the RH down around 50% year round, but it's also possible that since the tool chest where I keep everything is poorly ventilated, some humidity is getting trapped inside.

    And one final point of comparison: my Stanley Sweetheart LA Jack isn't showing any signs of rust or discoloration despite being my most-used plane, so as William observed, maybe there is something about the LV steel that is more prone to rusting.

  13. #13
    I wouldn't worry about tarnish.

    I live in swampland, USA. Rust was a constant problem even with dehumid rods, Damp rid and every thing else you can think of.

    Until I built an air conditioned room no problems at all anymore. The RH in the room runs around 55%.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    South Coastal Massachusetts
    I switched to wooden body planes for the same reason. I still wipe down my steel blades and chisels prior to longer term storage.

    I use WD40, which is adequate but not ideal.

    I also scatter the Zerust Plastabs I the drawers and storage cabinets.

  15. #15
    No dust needed to see your finger print. Water, air, salt from your skin, and very clean, unoxidized iron rusts very readily. Iron begins to rust at lower relative humidity than steel. Hence your blades are not rusting. Most oils will provide some protection. CRC 36 is supposed to be the best, according to a test by Fine Woodworking. The VCI (volatile corrosion inhibitor) paper that new planes are wrapped in is good for 6 months to a year if kept in a sealed container.

    You mentioned cleaning the rust off the sole with steel wool. That will work. Rubbing them on wood works too. With a nice LV plane, you should probably do that daily.

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