How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs #11: Final Fettling and Wrap-Up

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 12-15-2016 12:52 PM 1414 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Flattening the Sole and the Sides Part 11 of How I Do Hand Plane Rehabs series no next part

At long last, we have reached journey’s end :-) I apologize for taking so long to get this last entry done but life got in the way the past few weeks so I’ve been squeezing in working on this plane as I’m able. She’s complete and ready to go to work though!

At the end of the last entry, we had flattened the sole and squared the sides up to it. I spent some time working up through some higher grades of abrasive. I’m not going to go into detail on that, just read the last entry and repeat the same process with successive grits of paper. I did my flattening with 120 on the sides and 180 on the sole. I then just repeated the same steps with 220, 320 and 400 grit paper. If I really wanted her purrrdy, I may have worked up a couple of more grits but, the pitting and some scratches on one of the sides would have required quite a bit of extra work to remove. It’s all cosmetic after about 220 grit anyway.

So now that we have finished up the work on the base, it’s time to do our final fettling and make some shavings!

Now, there isn’t much to write here because I kind of dispersed the “fettling”, or fine-tuning, throughout the series. Basically, for me, fettling involves the following:

  1. Fitting the frog properly to the base and setting it square to the mouth (see part 6 of this series)
  2. Flatten the back of the iron and hone the bevel (see part 7 of series)
  3. Make a proper, air-tight single point of contact, fit between the chipbreaker and iron and set the chipbreaker an appropriate distance from the cutting edge (see part 8 of series)
  4. Adjust lever cap tension so it holds everything tight but allows adjustment
  5. Set the iron/chipbreaker square to the mouth of the plane and adjust frog position so mouth width is appropriate for plane function
  6. Set the lateral position of iron to get even cut all the way across

Like I said, most of these were done in previous entries so let’s put our plane all together and do the rest.

First, I set the frog in position in part 9 before I worked the sole of the plane. I set my iron roughly at the same time but now we need to do it in earnest. I’m going to set the iron/chipbreaker on the frog and set the plane on a flat surface. With the dept adjuster backed up so the iron doesn’t protrude, I’m going to put the lever cap on but not lock it down. Just hold it down with finger pressure so the iron stays tight to the frog. I’m going to put the lateral lever in the center and make sure my iron is centered on the frog.

Now I’ll advance the depth until the iron just contacts the flat surface under my plane. Then I’ll lock the lever cap down. Tighten or loosen the lever cap screw as necessary to adjust tension. You want resistance when you lock the cap down but you want the iron to move when the depth adjuster is turned without too much effort. Hard to explain but you’ll quickly get the feel for it.

NOTE: You always want to adjust your iron DOWN to the final setting. Why? There is some backlash, or slop, in the fit between the slot in the iron and the depth adjuster fork. If you retract the iron to the cutting position, forces from the wood when you’re using the plane can push the iron back until that backlash is taken up. If you adjust down, the fork will act as a positive stop and prevent the wood from pushing the iron back up.

This next part can be done several ways. The simplest is to advance the iron just a bit deeper and take a couple swipes on a flat piece of wood. You can tune the lateral position based on which portions of the iron are peeling wood. Don W gives a good run-down on how to do this on his site. Note that if you have sharpened any camber into your iron, you’ll need to do it the way Don describes. The way I do this below only works with an iron that’s honed straight across.

Or, if you have a height gauge like the one pictured, you can get darned close before you ever touch iron to wood. I’d recommend this Wixey gauge or one similar as a handy thing to have around your shop. This is just one of the many things I use it for. It’s also the best way I’ve found to set router bit depths. This one reads in .002” increments so it’s not super accurate but it’s good enough for quick checks and settings that don’t need to be ultra-precise.

I’m going to advance my cutter just a bit and measure the depth from the sole on one side.

Then move over and measure the depth on the other side.

So we have one side sticking down ~.006” farther than the other. Now, we’ll shift the lateral lever just a bit to the side that’s protruding farther. If you’re making shavings to tune this, move the lever toward the side that’s taking a heavier shaving.

I’ll measure and move the lateral lever until I get the same measurement on both sides:

It’s the moment of truth! Let’s make a shaving :-) I retract the blade so it’s just above the sole and make a pass on my test board. First swipe doesn’t cut. I advance the depth knob a bit and try again. Still no cut. Third time’s the charm though…

I get a nice shaving off the Walnut but it’s a little heavier on one side than the other. I tweak my lateral adjustment until I get a nice, thin shaving all the way across the iron.

See how I get a continuous shaving through the whole pass? You can see how the chipbreaker curls it over so it maintains a constant thickness. I know I harped on it previously but, if you can’t achieve this result and you’re certain your iron is sharp, chances are you’re chipbreaker isn’t set and/or tuned properly.

A couple more “money” shots :-)

Now, one thing I didn’t cover previously because this plane didn’t require any work in this area, is the mouth. You want to make sure the front of your mouth is flat and that the blade ends up parallel to it.

If not, use a file and flatten/square it up like Will Myers does in this tutorial. Many people also advocate filing an undercut on the front of the mouth at about 15 degrees to allow chips to easily clear. I’ve never found this to be necessary but I don’t close my mouth up as much as some people. If you find that you’re throat is clogging, give it a try.

Finally, here’s a couple of “before” shots of our subject:

And, some “after” shots:

Well, I think that about does it. There are all kinds of things that may be required to get a plane functioning properly that I didn’t cover in this series. I did everything I thought this plane required but there’s no way I could cover every eventuality. I also did things differently than some do and I’m sure there are folks that have better and/or easier ways to accomplish some of the things I did. Just do a few old planes and you’ll find your own methods and figure out what’s necessary and what’s “fluff”.

If you’ve got experience rehabbing old planes, I hope you’ve at least found this series interesting and competent. I’d love to hear your thoughts and welcome any criticisms of my process. I have no doubt that there are better ways to do this stuff and I am never opposed to improving how I do things!

If you’re new to rehabbing (or are just tuning a plane that doesn’t need rehabbing but just isn’t working as well as it could) I hope this blog series gets you started on the right foot. Please look at all the sites I linked along the way. Don W’s site is a great resource for all things hand plane related. Lots of good reading over there about the history of tools in addition to the how-tos. Great place to shop too if you’re in need of a plane or two!

Please fire any questions or criticisms at me in the comments. I’m done with this plane but I can always add more entries if it will help some folks out. And if I don’t have an answer, I’ll see what I can do about tracking one down for you!

I’d also love some general feedback in the comments as to whether or not this blog is good, bad or ugly. I’d really like to know whether or not to do similar series in the future and how to do them better if I do. To be honest, I spent about 5 or 10X more time taking pictures and writing these entries than I did actually working on the plane. If the effort was beneficial to y’all, then it was worth it. But if it could have been more beneficial then I’d love to know how. And if I’m just a crappy writer and it was torture for you to read down to this point, let me know and I’ll save my energy and spare you the pain of any future drivel! ;-)

I do appreciate you reading and I appreciate all of the questions and comments on previous posts!

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

7 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


4357 posts in 2599 days

#1 posted 12-15-2016 03:01 PM

It has been an interesting blog and clearly shows the steps needed. I am unlikely to rehab a plane but still found it informative.

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


12015 posts in 1749 days

#2 posted 12-15-2016 08:10 PM

Thanks Redoak, I appreciate the support!

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

View JimYoung's profile


341 posts in 2197 days

#3 posted 12-16-2016 12:54 PM

Hi Kenny,

Wonderful blog, and I like your writing style. I can appreciate the time and effort it takes to clearly describe how-to do something having written several of these types of articles myself.

Being relatively new to woodworking, I found your information great for understanding and setting up a hand plane (new or used). I’ll check out the other links you mentioned along the way.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge,

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


12015 posts in 1749 days

#4 posted 12-16-2016 02:49 PM

Thanks for the feedback Jim. Glad it was useful!

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

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3414 days

#5 posted 12-18-2016 09:51 PM

Tis a 110% winner winner. Just beautiful

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

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


12015 posts in 1749 days

#6 posted 12-19-2016 02:21 AM

Thanks Roger! Glad you enjoyed the series :-)

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

View DavidTTU's profile


148 posts in 2246 days

#7 posted 04-13-2017 04:30 PM

Killer job Kenny!

-- -David -- Lubbock, TX

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