How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs #5: Polishing and Refinishing

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 11-21-2016 02:20 PM 2302 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Painting the Base Part 5 of How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs series Part 6: Fixin' and Fittin' my Frog »

Well, now that we have our base painted and everything rust-free, let’s turn our attention to the hardware.

On this plane, all of the hardware is steel – no brass at all. That makes the polishing a bit anti-climactic. It’s very satisfying to take an old, tarnished brass adjuster knob and polish it up so it looks shiny and new. Not so much with a knurled steel knob. I do steel and brass pretty much the same way though, just with different abrasives depending on the piece.

First, let’s get the mundane out of the way. The screws. On this plane, Millers Falls used steel phillips head screws to secure the knob and tote and steel flat heads for the lever cap and frog. Finally, there’s the steel chip breaker screw.

Starting with the knob and tote screws. Not much to do. They’re in good shape so I just chuck them up in the drill press (hand-tight only – no chuck key) and polish the head with a fine scotch-brite pad.

A lot of the time, especially with brass screws, you’ll find some “boogered-up” threads. If you don’t have a thread file, you should.

It has all common thread pitches and can be used to fix most any external thread. You just work the threads across the teeth on the correct pitch.

Now moving on to the flat head screws. For some reason, people seem to insist on using screwdrivers that are too small for the slots. This is especially true on the the chip breaker screw. This one’s boogered up pretty bad. I use a small flat file to flatten the top and square the sides of the slot back up.

Then I polish the head on the scotch-brite. The same issue with the frog screws, slots are wallowed out. I use a small needle file to fix them up.

Then polish the heads. You can see polished vs unpolished below.

Next, I move on to the depth adjuster. It’s in good shape. I chuck up on the small part (I put some painters tape around it before chucking to protect it) and polish it out with the scotch-brite.

If you have a brass adjuster nut, Don W gives good advice on cleaning it up and polishing it out in his tutorial.

Now on to the lever cap. The rust came off nicely but the nickel plating is mostly gone and we want it to have a uniform appearance.

I have an assortment of wire brushes for the drill press that I keep for tasks such as this:

I chuck a brush with medium stiffness up and brush the rest of the plating off.

It takes a bit of work to completely remove the plating. I brush the entire cap to even out the texture. I could sand it down and polish it if I wanted it smooth but, I think the “rough cast” look is appropriate so I’ll leave it just like it comes from the brush. Below we see the lever cap as we got it, after rust conversion, and after brushing.

That takes care of our hardware. We’ll treat the frog and the iron and chip breaker in separate entries. We’ll wrap this one up by taking care of the tote and knob though.

First for the tote. Sorry but no magic bullet here. Just grab your scrapers, sandpaper and elbow grease and get to work. Sometimes lacquer thinner or paint stripper can help. For this one, I’m just going to scrape off the film finish and sand it down to bare wood.

See that ugly yellow/white finish? Not sure what that looked like originally but it’s definitely not worth saving. I just work it with scrapers to get down to wood being careful not to gouge the Goncalo underneath.

Once I get all the film off, I sand with 120 then 180. I don’t go any finer because I don’t like a real smooth finish on my totes. It’s a matter of personal preference so if you want it slicker, sand to higher grits.

Now for the knob. These are a little easier, less elbow grease and more electrons. I use a screw, nut and some washers to make a “mandrel” for the knob then chuck it up in the drill press.

Then I start with 120 grit sand paper. Keep the paper moving and if you have a particularly stubborn finish, use a coarser paper to begin with.

I sand it until the film finish is gone then work up to 220 or maybe 320 depending on the wood.

Here we have our knob and tote both sanded down to bare wood:

Now I’ll apply Boiled Linseed Oil to both. I apply my first coat heavy with fine steel wool and make sure I work it into the grain well. For the knob, I chuck it back in the drill press to apply the oil.

I wait about 15 minutes and wipe the excess oil off. The next day I’ll rag on additional coats at 1 or 2 a day until the wood quits soaking it up. Here we are after a coat of oil on our parts. I like the look of this wood.

So, there we are. All the hardware and the wood knob and tote are ready to go to work. Next time we’ll work on our frog.

Thanks for checking in!

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

9 comments so far

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

4688 posts in 2517 days

#1 posted 11-21-2016 10:13 PM

What thread file do you recommend? I was looking at them and there seems to be quite a variety with different threading , prices and manufacturers.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile


19348 posts in 2378 days

#2 posted 11-22-2016 12:44 AM


The one I have is an 8” Bonney that’s probably at least 30 years old. These things will generally last forever unless used regularly in a production environment. Mine has pitches of 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24. Bonney doesn’t appear to be in business anymore but this Nicholson should be a winner. You can get finer/coarser pitched ones and metric ones if need be. The standard is the only one I’ve ever had. I have one something like this one for any other pitch I run across but have rarely used it.

This is the one I have. My uncle bought it sometime in the 70s or 80s. Still have the original box that I keep it in.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

4688 posts in 2517 days

#3 posted 11-22-2016 02:21 AM

Thanks. I ordered one. Never heard about thread files before and have always used a dremel or wire brush to clean threads.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile


19348 posts in 2378 days

#4 posted 11-22-2016 03:25 AM

The thread file won’t be a big help cleaning the threads. It’s for repairing galled or deformed threads mainly. I use it most when I have to cut a bolt/screw/threaded rod. It’ll clean up the cut thread much faster than chasing with a die.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View hnau's profile


88 posts in 1782 days

#5 posted 11-30-2016 06:15 PM

-- Spammer in processed of being removed.

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#6 posted 12-01-2016 02:09 PM

-- Do NOT click links. Spammer in the process of being removed.

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4043 days

#7 posted 12-18-2016 09:29 PM

Oh yes.

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

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1224 posts in 1628 days

#8 posted 11-07-2018 02:12 PM

Great blog – I’m going to steal/use most all of your methods. Thanks

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View HokieKen's profile


19348 posts in 2378 days

#9 posted 11-07-2018 02:33 PM

Glad it’s useful Bill :-)

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

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