Every time I see an article in a woodworking magazine about restoring an old plane, it’s usually a Stanley No 4 smooth plane. While a smooth plane is probably one of the most important planes to own, it certainly shouldn’t be the only plane you have in your arsenal of tools. A jointer plane is extremely handy for jointing the edges of boards straight as well as leveling the tops of wide panels flat. In fact I probably use my jointer just as much as I use a smoother. So I decided to write a blog and show how easy it is to refurbish an old jointer and put it back to use.
The first thing I do when cleaning a plane is take it completely apart. Remove every single bolt and screw you can and lay them on the bench so you won’t lose them. Don’t worry about not knowing where each screw will go as the guts of a plane are quite simple and easy to put back together.
Next you need to get yourself a product called Evap-O-Rust. I buy it in a five gallon bucket as I clean a lot of tools but a couple of gallons at your local auto parts store should do you just fine. Fill a container with the Evap-O-Rust and submerge the parts in so that they are completely covered in the solution. If you don’t have the part completely covered, you will end up with an oxidized line on the part where the air and the solution meet. It’s also important to make sure that the parts of the plane are not lying on top of one another in the solution. You want to make sure that the Evap-O-Rust has the ability to penetrate the entire part. Let the parts sit in the solution overnight.
Once the parts have soaked overnight, take them out and wash them under the tap to remove any residue from the part. You’ll notice that the parts will be completely clean from rust but will have a dull finish to them. I like to take them over to a flap wheel sander and buff them to a nice satin shine.
After buffing the parts, wipe them with an oil protector called Kramer’s Antique Improver. I have been using this stuff for twenty years and have never come across anything that works better or is simpler to use than Kramers. It simply brings the metal and wood back to life. After wiping all the parts with Kramers, put the majority of the plane back together.
Now that the plane is clean, you’ll need to make it work. The first thing to do is grab something that is perfectly flat and place soaking wet 220, 320, 400, and 600 grit wet and dry sandpaper on top of it. I use an old marble window sill but the top of your table saw will probably work just fine. You will need to flatten the bottom of the plane so that it will be able to cut crisp clean shaving off. Start with 220 grit and work it over until you have uniform scratches upon the entire body. You actually don’t need to have the entire bed perfectly flat. Only the front of the bed, the front and back of the mouth and the back of the bed need to be co-planer with each other. If you happen to have a hollow area between the back of the mouth and the back of the bed, it’s perfectly fine. Once you have uniform scratch marks with 220 grit paper, switch to 320, then 400 and so forth until you have a nice clean bed with the 600 grit paper.
Next and most importantly, you need to sharpen the blade. I own a Tormek sharpener so I use my Tormek to grind a 25 degree bevel on my irons. After I sharpen and flatten the back of the iron with the fine grit of stone I switch over to my 4000 grit water stone and continue to sharpen the burr off. I then finalize the edge with my 8000 water stone. Sharpening to this magnification gives me an edge that stays sharper than simply using my Tormek alone.
Now it’s time to see the results of your work. Take a piece a wood and start planing it. You will need to adjust the position of the frog and depth of the blade in order to achieve a clean cut. Since you’re using a jointer plane the tolerances of mouth opening isn’t as critical as it would be for a smoother. You’re not trying to achieve .002″ thick shavings with a jointer. A jointer is a medium cut plane that is used to clean up joints and panels so that other planes can finish the job. A shaving of .005 to .010″ should work just fine.
With about an hours worth of work, you can a have a perfectly usable plane and save hundreds of dollars as opposed to going out and buying a brand new plane off the shelf.
**** Word to the wise: If you’re a beginning woodworker and are considering spending a few hundred bucks on a 6″ motorized jointer, pick up one of these hand jointers for $30.00 and learn to use it. I no longer even use my 6″ motorized jointer anymore.
UPDATE 4/17/17 — Forget about buying a Stanley No 7 for $30.00. Prices have gone way up since I wrote this post in 2011. If you buy one on eBay, you’ll pay $100 or more. If you’re lucky, you may find one at a flea market or antique show for less, but don’t count on it.