Restoring Hand Planes.. My methods #4: Sanding and Polishing the body and metal parts

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Blog entry by Dan posted 01-11-2011 09:43 PM 24106 reads 16 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Re-painting the plane body Part 4 of Restoring Hand Planes.. My methods series Part 5: Tip on replacing Stanley Bailey plane parts »

In my first blog of this series I talked about removing the rust using Evapo-Rust. The following picture shows my Stanley #4 after it was soaked over night in Evapo-Rust and washed and scrubbed clean.

I have polished and sanded the sides a number of different ways. I have done all by hand with folded up sand paper and sanding blocks, I have used my dremmel tool with different attachments and I have used my drill press with wire brush. I find all of these to be way to time consuming. I find it fastest and easiest to lap the sides of the body the same way you would lap the sole. Lapping the sides wont necessarily effect the use but I now do it on all the planes I restore. I usually start with 180 grit paper attached to some plate glass. I will lap it with this grit for a min or two and then check to see where it is at. If it looks to be touching on most of the sides then I continue with this grit and work up to 800 or 1000 grit. You don’t have to polish it to a real high grit, in most cases 400 grit will be just fine. It just depends on how shiny you want it to be. You can go higher then 1000 if you want to as well.

If the plane is in rough shape I may move down to 120 grit. I don’t stay on one grit for long. I try and move back and forth so that I don’t end up with deep scratch patterns from the lower grits. As far as the paper goes I was using all automotive paper but I recently found that the 3M purple sandpaper that Home Depot sells works great for the lower grits. I move to wet/dry paper once I am at 400 grit. I do most of this work with dry paper. I may get the last few grits a little damp with some water or mineral spirits. The following is the plane side after 400 grit.

And then after 800

You will have some areas that are low and just are not hitting the paper. I just hit these areas by hand with paper or sanding block. I also use a sanding block and paper on the top edge of the sides and around the front of the sole edge. Wear gloves and mask unless you want black hands and a nose full of metal dust.. It leaves a really bad taste in the back of your throat when you breath to much of it in.

The frog of the plane gets the same treatment however I try and get the face of the frog pretty flat. I remove the york adjustment thing to do this.

Once I am done with the lapping and sanding I go over it with some polish. I have used a few different types of polish and they have all worked well. I do this by hand. I would assume a buffing wheel would work better but I don’t own one. The polish I have in the picture I had bought for an Aluminum project but it said on the label that it worked on all metals. I tried it out and it worked really well so I have been using it on the planes. Check the automotive store and I am sure they will have a large selection of metal polish in all different price ranges.

Just keep buffing/polishing until you reach the point that you want to reach. Some pits, scratches and dings will be to deep to completely sand and buff out.

This does not take much time, even if the plane is in bad shape. It is messy though. I hope I covered enough. Pretty simple really.

Here is before and after of the Stanley #4

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

12 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4318 days

#1 posted 01-11-2011 10:30 PM

Awesome job in your plane restoration. I follow your method for working the sides of the plane as well. One added benefit to this process is that, with the sides flattened, the surface is even and stable for shooting board style operations where the plane is setting on its sides.

Thanks for posting,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4325 days

#2 posted 01-11-2011 11:15 PM

thank´s again for sharing and taking the time to makes theese great toturials Dan :-)

David :
just remember if you want to use it as a shooter
you have to use a square fence it can ride agains when laping the sides
or ells you wont want to use it as a shooter…...LOL

take care

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4207 days

#3 posted 01-11-2011 11:16 PM

Another good plane saved from a rust bucket. GOOD WORK !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Alonso's profile


949 posts in 4448 days

#4 posted 01-12-2011 01:00 AM

Very nice, I like it, it remembers me when I was doing all my restorations..... oohh I loved those days… :)

-- The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me.

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 4156 days

#5 posted 01-12-2011 01:21 AM

Dan, Great Stuff, Thanks again!

-- Smitty

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4498 days

#6 posted 01-12-2011 02:12 AM

great work, the polish is a good idea.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View mafe's profile


13294 posts in 4299 days

#7 posted 02-14-2011 04:23 AM

Hi Dan,
You made a beautiful job.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View chrispcall's profile


5 posts in 3881 days

#8 posted 02-14-2011 04:45 AM

Awesome job. Looks like new!

View WoodworkingGeek's profile


181 posts in 3902 days

#9 posted 02-15-2012 01:39 PM

Hey nice job!
I’m wondering what you do to the tote and knob, Do you paint them?

View Holbs's profile


2382 posts in 3239 days

#10 posted 06-21-2015 07:21 PM

you should toss up a youtube video, from start to finish of your next hand plane restoration!

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View Jeffjr02's profile


134 posts in 2237 days

#11 posted 09-01-2015 03:36 PM

This is a great blog series. I’m about to start my first restoration and I think I’m going to follow your procedure (though I may try the real japanning if necessary). I did have one question. What do you did for the wood tote and knob? Do you just run a little fine grit sandpaper to get the century of grime off or do you somehow refinish them?

View Spitfire1's profile


68 posts in 1948 days

#12 posted 04-20-2019 02:33 AM

Thank you for the post. I just bought a new Veritas block plane. I think I went a little over zealous on the bottom of the plane. Left some scratches with the heavier grit water stones. Although right now my finest stone is 4000 grit. Seems functional and plenty sharp just doesn’t look nearly as nice as yours.

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