Polishing Restored Hand Planes

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Forum topic by jtrz posted 03-02-2018 09:48 PM 922 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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174 posts in 1950 days

03-02-2018 09:48 PM

I’m have finally reached the buffing and polishing point in my hand plane restorations and I’m looking for a little guidance. I’ve read about a million different ways to do it but I’m interested in how some of you do it and what type of polish or wax you use.

These are going to be working planes but I can’t help but want to make them shine as much as I can with this restoration. After I’m done, photos have been taken and I’m just using them, then the shine doesn’t matter and I just want them to operate smoothly.

Currently what I have sitting around the house and shop as far as polishing is concerned is dremel polishing compound, johnson’s paste wax, and an automotive metal polish cream. After I opened and tested the metal polish cream (pictured below) on the lever cap of a smoothing plane that, judging by the frog (see photo and if you know who might have made it let me know), looks to be of questionable quality, I read that metal polishes with silicon should be avoided like the plague. Of course, this one has silicone but at least I realized it before I went to town on all of my planes.

I don’t have a benchtop grinder that I can throw some buffing wheels on but I do have an angle grinder, my drill, a dremel and my hands.

What do you all recommend? Do you polish the different pieces of your planes the same way or use a different method for say the sole and the cap iron or plane iron? What should I definitely not do?

Any advice, as always, is much appreciated.

-- Jeff | Louisville, Ky

6 replies so far

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3074 days

#1 posted 03-02-2018 10:22 PM

I have a large grinder and keep a brass wheel on one side – that removes heavy rust. I don’t polish because I don’t want things looking like chrome, but if you have a drill press, you can chuck a buffing pad made for your hand drill into that. Any polishing compound meant for automotive work should suffice. A paste wax after will dull the surface somewhat.

View Lazyman's profile


5446 posts in 2164 days

#2 posted 03-02-2018 10:35 PM

+1 on getting a buffing pad you can chuck in a drill or drill press. Harbor Freight has a cheap one that comes with 3 grades of buffing compound. I haven’t used it on a hand plane restore but have used it for other polishing jobs.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View jtrz's profile


174 posts in 1950 days

#3 posted 03-02-2018 10:49 PM

I actually picked up a 4” buffing wheel from HF yesterday but I didn’t get any of the buffing compounds they had.

I wonder if the dremel buffing compounds are any good? I’ve one that is green and one that is red. They are both super old from whenever I first bought a dremel (10+ years) and are hard as a rock. Don’t know if that matters or not.

I have almost bought a brass wheel a few times when I was at HF and the big box stores, but they usually say they are course or just feel a bit stiff and I was worried they would just tear through everything. Everyone recommends a soft wire wheel and I’m not sure the brass ones I’ve seen qualify.

-- Jeff | Louisville, Ky

View Lazyman's profile


5446 posts in 2164 days

#4 posted 03-02-2018 11:08 PM

Brass wire wheel will leave a sort of mat finish but if you are removing rust or some other coating anyway, that’s not usually a problem. You can buff it out with the buffing wheel.

My HF buffing wheel came with white, green and red compound. I’ve used the green and red to get a mirror finish on steel (after using the wire wheel to prep) and the white I’ve used to polish an aluminum bowl that was etched with vinegar.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19621 posts in 3345 days

#5 posted 03-03-2018 12:09 PM

First, make sure you don’t polish mating metal parts if you want your plane to stay in adjustment when you’re using it.

Second, polishing metal is a process that starts well before polish.

I think your frog is a Shapleigh.

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

View OSU55's profile


2648 posts in 2767 days

#6 posted 03-03-2018 02:57 PM

The polish in the pic is a good one, used it a lot. The “no silicone” warning is for what touches wood, ie dont polish the sole with it and plane wood – sole doesnt need polished anyway. Wipe several times with solvent if you decide to. Use furniture past wax on the sole.

Anyway, you need to rotate the part or rotate the compound, like a buffing wheel. Depending on the surface desired it can take a lot of different compounds. That polish will shine up a surface but the surface may be full of pits and scratches even tho it is shiny. Just depends on what you are after. You can spend hours on one plane and not get very far because the surface may still have pits from casting. Easy to make a surface not flat trying to remove problem areas. Not worth the trouble. Clean them up and use them. A few months from now you will be happy you didnt waste your time.

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