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Thread: Block Plane Selection and Rehabilitation

  1. #1

    Block Plane Selection and Rehabilitation

    I gave my heirloom Stanley #60 ½ away to the oldest boy awhile back thinking my larger Stanley #65 alone would suffice, and miss not having a small plane for the apron pocket.



    So for 60 bucks at auction I bought some antique tool dealer’s collection of rejects… either lesser planes, stubby irons or missing parts. At the top are a crude Stanley #110 on the left and Sargent’s idea of a low-angle block on the right…an adjustable mouth, but too large for my hand and too little support for the iron. At the bottom from left to right are two, more desirable Stanley #60 1/2 low-angle blocks, a Stanley #65 also with a low-angle, 12-degree bed, and a standard-angle Stanley # 9 ½ with a 20-degree bed, all with adjustable mouths. I’ll rehab them all and sell or give away what I don’t need. I order the parts required from Stanley…eccentric levers ($2.00), a replacement iron ($6.00) and miscellaneous screws from their catalog:

    http://www.stanleytools.com/?TYPE=ST...rtsservice.htm



    I dismantle them and toss them into a phosphoric acid solution overnight. The acid attacks the rust without touching iron or steel, and leaves behind a protective coating of iron phosphate in pits and recesses, inhibiting further rust. I much prefer this rust removal method to any other for tools used in damp boat sheds.



    A day later all rust has been converted to sticky crud that has to be cleaned off.



    I begin with a coarse wire wheel, followed by a bath in hot soapy water with a small wire brush to clean the recesses, a good rinse, and drying over mild heat:



    The after-rust where I scrubbed off all the iron phosphate is removed back on the buffer-grinder using a fine wire wheel…



    …with special cleaning attention with a Dremel Tool given to the critical bed and mouth areas.



    I buff the exterior surfaces to a shine using green rouge.

    Continued…..
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  2. #2


    And degrease with mineral spirits followed by strong trichloroethylene, a suspected carcinogen, so here I wear gloves, which are also necessary to keep my oily fingerprints out of the blued finish.



    I then cold blue the parts using phosphate blue (Brownells.com). This solution hides rust staining, inhibits further rust, but most importantly is an index dye for the critical stages of flattening irons and soles.



    Before sharpening I check my stones for flat using 60-grit wet-or-dry paper on a precision-ground, cast-iron surface like this jointer table. A couple strokes done dry allows sighting down the stone to find any hollows still shining amid the stone dust made by the abrasive paper. If I have to flatten the stone I use kerosene as a lube and rub the stone till until I have a perfectly flat surface. I’ll never get a good edge without perfectly-flat iron backs, and I’ll never achieve flat backs without flat stones.



    As you can see by the indexing blue remaining after initial honing of the backs, all of these irons will require more work on the coarse stone to make the blue near the cutting edge disappear. If the iron back isn’t dead flat at the cutting edge, the high spots with blue remaining don’t get as sharp and don’t attack the wood uniformly with the remainder of the edge…the plane drags in use, and the cuts aren’t smooth.



    Common after flattening these old irons is to wind up with high spots at the corners of the cutting edge that simply won’t go away.



    I could simply grind the iron back a few millimeters, but this iron doesn’t have much life left so I simply hone a slight back bevel or 2 degrees or less into iron’s back until the blue at the corners disappears.



    This blued iron is adequately flat far enough back to accommodate a number of quick resharpenings without having to mount another major attack on the back.



    Once more to the jointer table with 60-grit lubed with WD-40, I attack the plane soles. First I mount the iron and set the adjustable mouth to the position in which it will be used the most often, and then remove the iron to flatten the entire sole assembly. You can see how badly this Sargent’s sole is out of flat by the index dye remaining. This one is pretty bad, and will take two sheets of 60-grit followed by a sheet of 100-grit to make true. I flip plane ends around every few strokes to make sure I’m flattening the sole as evenly as possible.

    Continued….
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 07-04-2007 at 11:31 AM.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  3. #3


    Few are as bad as that Sargent, but when they are that bad, keep in mind that soles don’t have to be absolutely perfect like iron backs do. Just the toe, both sides of the mouth and heel need to be in the same plane to do fine work. In fact, Japanese planes are purposely set up with hollows in between my ink marks to reduce friction. Much of the chattering experienced woodworkers complain about in Stanleys isn’t because the iron is dull or too thin, but because the critical area behind the mouth is in a hollow and is unsupported by the work piece. Indexing dye makes a huge difference in how well you flatten. If you aren’t using it, you may not be flattening as well as you think.



    I’ll do some trial work using three fettled planes. From the left, a stock #60 ½ I just finished above, my old standby #65, and a near-new Lie Nielsen #60 ½ low-angle rabbeting block plane. I checked out and finish-honed the L/N using the above techniques… that took all of 10 minutes….these are as close to perfect as you can get.



    My 15-dollar #60 ½ has its stock carbon iron ($6.00), my #65 a thicker Hock carbon replacement iron ($35.00), and the L/N a thicker-still iron of A2 steel ($150.00 complete). The L/N is one heavy block plane….two or three ounces heavier than my large #65. It is more suitable for a leather holster than an apron pocket.



    I set the mouths up for combination work removing both end grain and long grain hardwood. One of the limitations of this model L/N is that the mouth is a bit tight for heavy cuts in boatbuilding softwoods, placing it at a disadvantage…so I’ll compare the planes using White Oak instead.



    The stock, 70-year-old #60 ½ had no trouble at all making end grain cuts in White Oak.



    Neither did the pre-war #65 with Hock iron.



    Nor did the L/N. I even tried my stock, standard-angle #18 on the far right on the oak end grain and it pared it adequately too….just not as effortlessly as the low-angle models.



    Will the stock #60 ½ take full-width shavings of tough oak edge grain? You bet. Easily and all morning long.

    Continued….
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  4. #4


    So will the #65…



    …as will the L/N…



    …but here’s where the stock #18 shines. As cheap as the old, standard-angle block planes go for, don’t be without a #18 or #9 ½ to match your low-angle #65 or #60 ½. In the middle of a project you’ll sharpen half as often.

    How long will the different makes of iron stay sharp? L/N's A2 steel with chromium and
    molybdenum added is tougher and will hold its edge longer. The only down side to A2 is that it doesn’t take quite the edge that good carbon does. Not by much though, and after a couple hours of work dulling both, I can barely tell the difference. But when freshly honed I can feel a difference, and if I were to go to A2 irons I’d try diamond paste on an indexing plate instead of stones. My ideal remains Hock carbon, but as you can see, I stumble along just fine with stock Stanley.



    And as a rabbet plane, this L/N hasn’t enough depth for anything deeper than a quarter inch, although it would work well as a shoulder plane for crossgrain work on small tenons. If you need a rabbet plane, buy a rabbet plane. An inexpensive, old Stanley #78, Record #078 or Miller Falls #80 can be made to work as well as the #60 ½ here. Let Jake Darvall teach you how to fettle them. Go to Woodworking Australia's forum and search for "Jake Darvall" "Stanley 78". The best fettling I've ever seen on that critical boatbuilder's plane.



    When selecting tools for boatbuilding, keep in mind that teaching yourself to clean, flatten and sharpen can free up the money you need for all those other tools you need but don’t yet have.






    Additional detail on sharpening, bluing and fettling is found here:

    http://www.sawmillcreek.org/search.php?searchid=1332476
    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 07-04-2007 at 11:45 AM.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Thanks for the nice thread.

  6. #6
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    Very nice pictorial, Bob!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
    Thanks for sharing the step-by-step -- very informative.

  8. #8
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    Excellent tutorial Bob. Many thanks.
    Ken

  9. #9
    Bob,

    As usual, a very helpful thread.
    Keep 'em coming.

    Thanks,
    Phil

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Summit County, Ohio
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    I'm impressed. Having inherited a number of old hand tools I was not sure how or what I could do with them. Your step-by-step instructions will inspire me to refurbish these old and neglected tools.
    Thanks!

  11. #11
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    Douglasville, GA
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    Once again Bob, thanks for sharing your knowledge and skills. Great lesson.

    Happy 4th.

    Best regards, Tom
    Chapel Hills Turning Studio
    Douglasville, GA

    Hoosier by birth, Georgian by choice!

    Have blanks, will trade.

  12. #12
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    Block Plane

    I've got a 60 1/2 plane that's in pretty good shape. Is there an easy method to adjusting the iron? The blade swings to the right, or it swings to the left, so that the cutting edge is not square to the mouth.

    Should it be this hard?

    Gary Curtis

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Curtis View Post
    I've got a 60 1/2 plane that's in pretty good shape. Is there an easy method to adjusting the iron? The blade swings to the right, or it swings to the left, so that the cutting edge is not square to the mouth.

    Should it be this hard?

    Gary Curtis
    Sounds like your lever cap screw needs to be tighter. Once I have the plane set and the lever cap locked down, I often tighten down on the lever cap screw a tad so I can use it hard without fussing with it again until it's time to resharpen. But I also rarely adjust them in use. When I need both coarse and fine cuts, I take two planes to the job so I never have to waste time fussing with either.

    Once tight, tap the end with a small hammer to square the cutting edge with the mouth, just like you'd do with a woodie.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  14. #14
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    Once again, and as always, an extremely well presented, and informative thread.

    Thank you.

  15. #15
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    Wonderful effort to make us all so much better informed! Thank, Bob! Phil
    Philip

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