Which to convert to my first scrub plane...

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Forum topic by Holbs posted 12-09-2017 05:24 PM 2386 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2344 posts in 2801 days

12-09-2017 05:24 PM

I have at my disposal some trial & error expendable metal & wooden hand planes to convert to my first ever scrub plane. Fascinating read about the history of the scrub plane. However, I am undecided which one to use as my primary scrub plane (would be wise to have a secondary scrub plane?). Those that have kept your #40/#40 1/2, converted metal or wood planes… which felt right?

1.) Stanley #6. Since I would be using my #7 and #8 exclusively for jointing planes, this #6 will fall into the “do I keep? If so, what for? Just to say I have a #6 maybe”. Much heavier than others, more beefier while taking more energy.
2.) Stanley #5. Seems most converted metal planes into scrub planes are #5’s. Will not follow valley’s like lower numbered planes do.
3.) Stanley #4 1/2. Paul Sellers likes the #4, yet most convert a #5. Maybe 4 1/2 is middle ground.
4.) Stanley #4. Those who do not convert #5’s instead convert #4’s like Paul Sellers and others. Light weight, smaller footprint, takes less energy than the above numbered planes.
5.) Stanley 40. The defined scrub plane. Thinner than a #4, more lighter (wish I had a 40 1/2 to compare)...I also have a spare 40 behind the front one with no blade.
6.) Wooden plane. I am no expert on wooden planes but this could be in the realm of a #6 jointer or #5 jack.
7.) Wooden plane. Already have wide mouth’s for scrubbing (the picture makes the mouth looked skewed, but it’s actually straight).

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

18 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2258 days

#1 posted 12-09-2017 05:32 PM

I’d go for the 40 since you have one already.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Holbs's profile


2344 posts in 2801 days

#2 posted 12-09-2017 05:36 PM

it is an interesting dilemma. And very debateable :) I guess it boils down to preference. Some swear by converting #5 to scrub, #6 to scrub, only using #40, converting old wooden transitional planes to scrub.
Fridge, maybe you are right. I could rehab the 40 and run with it. Or…could do all planes in above picture to scrub and find out for myself.

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

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2258 days

#3 posted 12-09-2017 05:41 PM

I do go 40 mainly because if I didn’t like it I know I can get my money back easy.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Holbs's profile


2344 posts in 2801 days

#4 posted 12-09-2017 05:43 PM

These planes were all purchased via auctions on large lots (multiple items in a box). No money back on these :) Very rusted in all need rehabbed. I have duplicates of all these planes to be rehabbed into primary users.

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

View BlasterStumps's profile


1681 posts in 1212 days

#5 posted 12-09-2017 05:56 PM

I’d tune up a 40. I have several 40’s but I wanted a wider one so I cambered the cutting edge on a Harbor Freight 4.

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." - Mike, western Colorado

View Woodknack's profile


13386 posts in 3152 days

#6 posted 12-09-2017 06:09 PM

If you have a 40, you have a scrub plane. You keep saying that 5&6 are popular for scrubs but before today I’ve never heard of anyone using either one as a scrub and considering scrub planes are narrow and short it doesn’t make sense. A cheap no 4 has a big enough mouth, all you need to do is radius the blade, and if you can stand pushing it, Bob’s your uncle. But again, you already have a 40 so why convert anything.

-- Rick M,

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3069 days

#7 posted 12-09-2017 06:24 PM

I was gonna suggest the Harbor Freight plane as well. If you have to experiment I’d choose something that’s no great shakes to ruin.

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2767 days

#8 posted 12-09-2017 06:47 PM

The harbor freight no 33 plane is another popular conversion. Mouth is huge already, so all you need is to camber the blade. They are only 15 bucks.

If you aren’t going to open the mouth on one of your vintage planes, then all you are doing is regrindimg the blade. That is a reversible procedure, at least once or twice before the blade gets too short.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19618 posts in 3340 days

#9 posted 12-10-2017 12:25 PM

A #6 scrub? Are you the Hulk? You’re making my muscles hurt just thinking about it.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View JayT's profile


6402 posts in 2983 days

#10 posted 12-10-2017 01:57 PM

Depends on if you want a true scrub plane or a plane to work the faces of rough stock. For a true scrub plane, you want a narrow, light plane with a dramatic camber and a very wide open mouth. These can take very deep cuts in a narrow path. Some have posited that scrub planes were not originally intended to work rough stock due the the narrow cut, but were instead used as a way to narrow the width of a board instead of trying to use a hand saw to rip off a very thin piece.

For working rough stock, a fore plane is my choice. Fore planes tend to be wider and longer than scrubs. They are also cambered, but not as dramatically. A fore plane will take off just as much material as a scrub, but it will be over a wider path that is not as deep. For taking out cup or twist or working a board down to desired thickness, I find a fore plane is much preferable, as it is far to easy to take off too much depth with a scrub. I’ve tried several sizes as a fore plane and prefer a 5-1/2 or 6 for this use. It is a workout, but the added mass of the plane helps when taking those wide, thick shavings. The additional length also helps to straighten and flatten the board.

If you want a true scrub, use the 40, #4 or one of the coffin smoothers. If you want a fore plane, the #6 or the wooden jack would be a good choice. To split the difference, a #5 works great, which is probably why many people use them. That, plus they are extremely cheap and easy to find.

I personally wouldn’t try to turn a 4-1/2 into a plane for rough work. The wide iron means a lot of resistance to a thick shaving and there just isn’t the mass or length to provide assistance. Leave the 4-1/2 as what it was intended, an oversize smoother.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

973 posts in 4165 days

#11 posted 12-10-2017 02:07 PM

The narrow, the better

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View OSU55's profile


2647 posts in 2761 days

#12 posted 12-10-2017 02:33 PM

Most all references to converting a plane to a scrub I’ve come across use a Stanley #4 or a copy. I would not use a woody due to the grip ergonomics, nor a transitional due to chewing up the sole – a scrub gets used on rough stuff that may have rocks, nails, etc. I have a #4 copy and a Stanley 12-404 (twin screw depth adj) I use, but not a lot. I did it for the heck of it. Prefer power tools for rough work. Use them more to prep turning blanks. Use the 40 you have.

View bandit571's profile


25891 posts in 3455 days

#13 posted 12-10-2017 04:12 PM

I use a Harbor Freight #33 as a small scrub…..I also found a Corsair C-5 Jack plane and made that a scrub plane, as well.

You can also camber a regular #5’s iron to around 8-9” radius..ala Chris Schwarz… as well as a scrub.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Holbs's profile


2344 posts in 2801 days

#14 posted 12-10-2017 04:18 PM

Here are my 2 planes that are scrub planes. #1 I am certain is a Stanley #40. #2 is unknown without a blade.
The problem with a #40 is it’s dinky. I’m 6’1” with large hands. My fingers squish together just holding onto the handle, hence the consideration of converting a #5 or #6 to scrub.

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

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 2666 days

#15 posted 12-10-2017 07:06 PM

Having used a converted 5 as a scrub vs. a real scrub, I’ll take the real scrub every time. I know you said it’s dinky in your hands, which you may or may not ever get used to. But in general I think it’s better to have a lighter, more streamlined plane (compared to benchers) for this kind of work. It’s very, very rough work, you just want to get rid of wood as fast as possible. It’s ok to throw all precision out the window.

I’ve got the slightly larger 40 1/2 but I can’t get all my fingers around the handle, either. It’s never bugged me, it is what it is.

If you really want a true scrub plane you can grip with all your fingers, the LN and LV scrubs both have larger handles for this. But plenty of people have cambered the irons of a 3,4,5 and used that.

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