How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs #3: Preparing the Body and Sole

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 11-16-2016 02:00 PM 1520 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Rust Removal and Prevention Part 3 of How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs series Part 4: Painting the Base »

When last we left off, we had done rust conversion on all of our parts except for the main body. So let’s pick up there and take care of body and sole.

Just to remind us of what our patient looked like when we got it:

I said in the last entry that I would be using a couple different methods of rust removal in this process. The first was the phosphoric acid bath we used on everything but the body. Well, we’re not using that (well not JUST that) on the body.

Now, if the japanning on this plane was going to be preserved, I probably would have treated it the same way I did the rest of the parts depending on the extent of the rust. In many cases, you can simply get by with a wire brush on the grinder or drill press, hand-held brushes, scotchbrite pads, or other mild abrasives. I recommend preserving the japanning whenever possible. You have to be careful about phosphoric acid when you’re saving the japanning because if there is rust underneath the japanning and the acid has a path to get to it, it will remove the finish. The safest path is to start with brushes/abrasives and progress from there if you’re trying to save the finish.

If you’re going to preserve the japanning, have a read through Don W's blog on No Soak restoration.

Back to the matter at hand though. The japanning on this Millers Falls is only about 50% present and the areas where it’s missing are heavily rusted. The rust is also attacking areas where finish is present which is evident because I can chip the japanning away with my fingernail.

If you’re not repainting, but have spots where japanning is missing and rust is present, remove the rust and follow Don’s advice in the blog linked above on applying some sort of protective coating.

So, I took the plane and used a blast cabinet at work to remove the japanning and the rust on the sides of the plane. The blaster I used was loaded with a fairly abrasive aluminum oxide grit so I wanted to be careful on the sole. I just passed over it quickly to remove the bulk of the rust. I didn’t want to take a chance on creating any hollows that would add to the lapping process later. I’m also careful when I blast not to remove material from the machined sections where the frog mates which are circled in the pic below. I don’t blast the threaded holes or the pin hole for the tote either.

After blasting I use some hand-held wire brushes to remove stubborn spots of japanning. This is what the top of the body looks like after I’m done:

Right before I paint it, I’ll give it a final pass with a soft brass brush and clean it with acetone.

Now for the sole. There is pretty significant rust present and I want to convert it rather than just removing it. Remember our phosphoric acid? Well, it can be used to work on localized areas as well. I just use a blue paper towel and rag it onto the sole pretty liberally. I want to make sure it pools into the corrugations as well as sitting on the surface. For the record, I would have just soaked the whole body in a bath of the solution, it wouldn’t hurt anything but, I didn’t have anything on hand large enough to hold the plane and didn’t want to take the time to make a container.

The acid goes to work immediately.

I let it work overnight. In the morning, I degrease the body and rinse it with running water and dry it thoroughly with compressed air. Below we see the sole when we got the plane and the sole after the rust conversion:

Still ain’t really purrdy is it? No worries. The phosporic acid leaves a very dull matte finish on un-rusted areas and a darker finish where rust was present and iron phosphate remains. It will polish out nicely though, as we’ll see later.

At this point, I’m going to paint the base. I like to paint before doing the rest of the tuning the base will require. It’s a matter of preference but if I paint first, any overspray that makes it to the sole, sides or machined portions will be removed during the rest of the work. You can just as easily tune then paint though.

So, it’s masking time. I mask off the sides, sole and machined pads with tape. Make sure the tape is burnished down well around the edges to minimize paint getting under it.

I also take some tape and roll it up and stuff it into the threaded holes and the peg hole for the tote so I don’t have to clean them out later. Also make sure you tape off around the mouth to prevent paint from getting down onto the sole.

Now, I’ll hit the top with a brass brush and wipe it down with acetone. I wipe the acetone on and go back and wipe it off immediately before it evaporates. I will do that until the rag I wipe it off with comes away completely clean. Then 1 more coat of acetone and let it air dry. That way I have visible confirmation that it’s fully degreased and clean.

I’m going to do a little experiment with this plane. Normally, I spray a self-etching primer prior to applying the black enamel. Most people don’t use primer so I’m going to spray paint directly on the bare metal on this one to see if there’s any difference in appearance or durability.

I would have went ahead and painted this guy but I realized I’m out of paint. I use Dupli-Color Gloss Black Engine Enamel. A lot of people recommend the semi-gloss black. I’ve used it as well and both look good. I just can’t decide which mimics the original japanning better. It depends on the plane and the lighting. I would recommend either so take your pick. I’ve never used any other brand on a plane so I can only attest to the Dupli-Color.

When you spray the enamel, follow the directions carefully. I usually end up doing 4 or 5 coats in an hour’s time. You cannot wait too long between coats or the top coat will cause the bottom to peel and crack. The paint will be dry to the touch in a few hours and I usually go back to work on the plane in a couple days but be careful when you do because it takes about a week to fully cure IIRC.

So there we have it. We’re ready to paint. Since I’m out of paint right now, I’ll tack that portion onto a later entry. Like I said though, all I’m gonna do is follow the directions on the can.

Thanks for reading. Next time, we’ll get back to the rest of the parts. We’ll do some polishing and tune the frog up to make sure it’s ready to go back on the base when the paint cures.

Fire your questions at me in the comments. Criticisms are welcome as well!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

3 comments so far

View waho6o9's profile


8812 posts in 3183 days

#1 posted 11-17-2016 05:42 PM

Excellent prep work Kenny, keep doing the good work!

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3992 posts in 1883 days

#2 posted 11-20-2016 04:53 AM

FYI I usually prime and then give only two coats of black. Seems to work fine.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3410 days

#3 posted 12-18-2016 09:23 PM


-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

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