Need help flattening sole of hand plane

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Forum topic by DannyHT posted 03-28-2020 02:18 PM 573 views 1 time favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 61 days

03-28-2020 02:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane restoration surfacing sanding flat refurbishing shaping question

Hello all! I appreciate you viewing this post and for any light you can shed on my issue.

I am trying to flatten the sole of a hand plane. Bought a few at a yard sale and am trying to get them up to snuff. It’s my first time messing with hand planes. I have an 18”x24” surface plate that I know is pretty flat (paperwork certifying it Grade B). I have aluminum oxide, adhesive backed sandpaper I put on the plate to flatten it.

After flattening the sole to a “certain point”, the sandpaper won’t take off any more material and it’s not completely flat. I marked the bottom of the plane to see if it was wearing evenly, and the back and the front (nose and the heel or whatever they are called) are not getting worn as much as the middle. However, I can glide the sole over the sandpaper and it just doesn’t look like it’s taking off anything! I can sit there for hours and it won’t make any difference. It just glides right over it. I do patterns when passing the plane (straight lines, circles, figure 8’s, etc) and it doesn’t make a difference.

It’s a weird issue to describe in words, so I made a little video and put it on YouTube to show what I am talking about. Here is the link:

This isn’t happening only to my hand plane. There are other things in my little shop that I’m trying to flatten and they all get to a certain point, and then it just seems like the sandpaper doesn’t cut into the metal anymore.

I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. Should I be applying pressure to the top of the plane? I figured I shouldn’t so that it didn’t flex the metal and wear unevenly.

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

29 replies so far

View tvrgeek's profile


941 posts in 2380 days

#1 posted 03-28-2020 03:14 PM

Are you fooling yourself with how flat it is expected to be? Trying to use way too fine a grit? Sandpaper does not last long. Use black wet/dry paper or emery cloth. Woodworking paper ( aluminum oxide) will last seconds at best. Even the best purple ceramic stuff. Whoever came up with the scary system must own stock in 3M or Norton. Start 120. I would not do a sole with less finer than 320.

View Madmark2's profile


1256 posts in 1319 days

#2 posted 03-28-2020 03:21 PM

Fine grit stationary belt sander, first then scarey sharp. Use automotive wet/dry sandpaper.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View Aj2's profile


2951 posts in 2529 days

#3 posted 03-28-2020 03:26 PM

I’ve found the same thing. I suspect the ductile iron takes the sharpness of the paper really fast. And what ever small particles that get cut are rolling back and forth under the surface.
The flatter the more this happens.
I have a diamond lapping plate that I use for lapping parts flat. It has small pockets for the scarf I drop in.But never will I use it on a 25 $ plane because it was expensive,
You could try a 80 or 60 grit either way it’s gonna cost $. The plane should be assembled with the blade retracted for the best results.
I’ve only messed with lapping one older plane so I’m not a expert.

Good Luck

-- Aj

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16627 posts in 3349 days

#4 posted 03-28-2020 03:28 PM

How does it perform for you at this point of the process?

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View DannyHT's profile


6 posts in 61 days

#5 posted 03-28-2020 05:42 PM

Thanks for all of the replies!

@tvrgeek, I could be fooling myself. Perhaps i’m trying to get it too flat. Though, plp on YouTube get it where all the marks from the sharpie are rubbed off, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t shoot for the same thing. This is the sandpaper I’m using —I am starting with 120 grit sandpaper. I would chalk it up to the sandpaper wearing out, but as I show in my video I can put a different plane that needs to be flattened on the sandpaper and it will cut it just fine. So I don’t think it’s the sandpaper wearing down too much.

@Smitty_Cabinetshop – How does the plane perform? Honestly I have tried it out. It’s all disassembled (I painted it and all that). I was just trying to flatten it all out before I reassembled it.

Perhaps going to a wet/dry sandpaper would be more effective. I can try this out and get back.

View tvrgeek's profile


941 posts in 2380 days

#6 posted 03-28-2020 05:51 PM

Any stress from assembling the plane should be trivial for the flatness you need.

I have done a couple. No big deal if you use the correct paper. it is not like doing the irons or chisels.

View bandit571's profile (online now)


25559 posts in 3414 days

#7 posted 03-28-2020 06:06 PM

Tip: Use a black Sharpie pen. Make a lot of lines across the sole. 80-100 grit is best to flatten with. sand until the lines are gone. Clean the dust off the sandpaper often…all that sanding dust doesn’t help the process, just makes more scratches to remove

Main 3 areas: front of the sole, both front and rear of the mouth opening…and the rear of the sole..these need to be in the same “plane”. in-between these areas? as long as they don’t stick up above the main areas…they will be just fine. A slight hollow behind the mouth is fine, even helps the plane work. As long as the space right behind the opening is even ( co planar ?) with the other main areas. Why a hollow behind the opening? Less friction as you move the plane over the wood.

When you do sand the sole for flat..have the plane fully assembled, with the iron retracted as far back as it will go. Press down around the handles, you are not trying to plane the sandpaper. do go in several directions….forwards, backwards….same number of strokes.

BTW: leave them feeler gauges in the drawer where they came from…..not needed for this sort of work.

FIRST test I do with any yard sale find plane I buy ( besides the usual hunting for cracks) is to place the plane ( blade retracted) on a flat surface. Place one index finger on one end of the plane, the other goes to the other end. Try to get it to rock, press down with one finger, then the other…then try again with the fingers at the diagonals. then the other diagonal….no rocking? Clean the sole, wax the sole, and put it back to work.

ALWAYS test the sole first, BEFORE you start to sand…..sometimes, you can even make things worse than when you started. If’n it don’t need it, don’t do it.
VOE….several hundred planes have come through my shop over the last few decades…...

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

View DannyHT's profile


6 posts in 61 days

#8 posted 03-28-2020 06:10 PM

@bandit571 – I appreciate the tips! I’ve been using the sharpies pen method, but my issue is that I will sand the plane to a certain point and then the paper won’t cut it anymore, but the paper will still cut other metals just fine. You can see what I’m talking about in the youtube link in my original post.

View corelz125's profile


1256 posts in 1707 days

#9 posted 03-28-2020 06:18 PM

What brand of sandpaper are you using? Some last a little longer than others.

View DannyHT's profile


6 posts in 61 days

#10 posted 03-28-2020 06:19 PM

Klingspor – here is the exact type

Klingspor Abrasives Stearate Aluminum Oxide, PS33, Paper-Backed, 2-3/4”x 10MT Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) Roll, 120 Grit

View bondogaposis's profile


5732 posts in 3082 days

#11 posted 03-28-2020 06:41 PM

One thing you need to do that you aren’t doing is that you should assemble the plane and flatten the sole with the blade in, retract it of course. Next I would go to a coarser grit if the grit you’re using isn’t cutting.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Aj2's profile


2951 posts in 2529 days

#12 posted 03-28-2020 06:56 PM

I’d wager that you tubers wreck more planes then they fix. Trying to lap the entire bottom flat with sandpaper is very difficult if not impossible.
Bandit has it right there’s only a few areas that need to be dressed for a plane to cut fine.
One thing for sure it always fun to try new ideas.
I’ve been doing a lots of experiments with the current stay at home orders.

Good Luck

-- Aj

View DannyHT's profile


6 posts in 61 days

#13 posted 03-28-2020 07:33 PM

@bondogaposis – Good point! I was going to do most of the ‘fetting’ without assembly and then finish it off with assembly.

@Aj2 – Lol. You’re probably right. This has turned more into a science project than it has just finishing the tool. Nothing ventured nothing gained I suppose.

View corelz125's profile


1256 posts in 1707 days

#14 posted 03-29-2020 02:50 AM

View CaptainKlutz's profile


2993 posts in 2225 days

#15 posted 03-29-2020 11:27 AM

+1 Bandit’s post – Don’t flatten unless it’s really needed.

IME – MUST remove the dust often, and/or wash the paper with a compatible lubricant to remove swarf.

FWIW: Cast iron contains a lot of excess carbon in a granular matrix. Removing the larger carbon spots in matrix, requires big grit or larger depth of cut, than removing metal particles.

Carbon dust is also a very slippery compound, some times even added to dry lubricants. Once it clogs paper, you are done sanding. A vacuum is best way to remove it dry, unless you want slippery and dirty floors.

I use WD-40 as lubricant on 4×36 HF sanding belts for plane flattening. The belt is cut open and adhered to TS top with temporary spray adhesive.

Another trick: No reason to be gentle. If any metal surface needs a lot of material removed, use large grit. Use a feeler gauge to measure how much removal is needed. If more than 1-2 thousands of inch, I start with 36 grit. Yes, big nasty stuff! The depth of scratching can be reduced by not applying too much pressure, but is only an issue with fresh belt. If you don’t have feeler gauge and flat plate, start with 60 grit. Once I have remove all the sharpie lines with large grit, rinse and repeat with 60, 80, & 120. If you are not removing the lines in a few minutes of sanding, you need a larger grit paper or paper is clogged.

Bottoms of metal plane are going to get scratched. Attempting to use a grit smaller than ~120 for cast iron metal removal is waste of time. Yes, get a nice polish surface with 220 grit. But then your plane sole doesn’t hold wax as well, and needs to be waved more often.

Not an expert, refurbished maybe 8-10 planes this way. YMMV

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

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