Hand Plane Tune-up

by Patrick Harper - Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Due to a limited budget, I started my hand tool journey by refurbishing some old tools.  Among these, was an old Stanley no. 5C that I received from my grandfather.  Despite finding it on the side of the road, it was still in relatively good condition.  It had lots of surface rust, but the sole was reasonably straight, so I decided to give it a shot.

After an initial tune up, I put it to work against some pine.  I was astonished at how well it cut.  However, my excitement was short lived.  Putting it to work on an oak board revealed just how inadequate my restoration had been.  The blade would jam, jump, and skitter across the board.   I was determined to figure out where I had gone wrong.

I scoured the Internet for solutions.  I fully disassembled the plane, and checked every part for possible defects.  It seemed as though I found something wrong with every part.  I fiddled and fiddled, until the tool performed flawlessly.  It was a frustrating journey, but wisdom was gained from the experience.

If you’re having issues with the performance of your plane, don’t overlook the following:

1) Is the sole truly flat?  Mine would rock slightly on a flat surface.
2) Are there any gaps between the blade and cap iron?  Hone the cap iron.  Play with the distance.  Make sure the nut is as tight as you can get it.
3) How cleanly does the lever cap mate?  Is it tight enough?  Hone the lever cap
4) How sharp is the blade?  Can it easily shave the hair off the back of your arm?  If not, work on your sharpening.
5) Is the face of the frog flat?  Flatten it.  Does it rock in the sole with the screws backed off?  Check all four corners
6) Are the totes tight?  Back off the short screw in the rear tote.  Does is wobble?  I had to cut some threads off the long screw.

Don’t leave any stone unturned, and don’t give up.  Happy planing.