Finding a machine shop to flatten the sole of a plane

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Forum topic by Brett posted 01-24-2012 05:09 AM 7037 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


684 posts in 3933 days

01-24-2012 05:09 AM

If I want to find a machine shop to flat the sole of a jointer plane (and possibly square the sides), how can a place that can do the job? I can find machine shops online, but I don’t know how to sift through the chaff to find the wheat.

(Let’s ignore for now the question of whether having the sole flattened by machine is necessary.)

-- More tools, fewer machines.

14 replies so far

View Tyrone D's profile

Tyrone D

314 posts in 3582 days

#1 posted 01-24-2012 05:32 AM

Google search for some local ones in your area and check them out. You’ll eventually find a couple that look promising.

-- --Tyrone - BC, Canada "Nothing is ever perfect, we just run out of time."

View cabs4less's profile


235 posts in 4012 days

#2 posted 01-24-2012 05:32 AM

Call your local mechanic shop they prob know some one they use to machine stuff

-- As Best I Can

View ajosephg's profile


1898 posts in 4811 days

#3 posted 01-24-2012 05:53 AM

Good luck, because most machine shops won’t want to screw with something like that, or at least at an affordable cost.

The shop I use for blade sharpening flattened a few of my planes and did a good job. He also sharpened some antique plane irons that had big dings in them.

-- Joe

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4221 days

#4 posted 01-24-2012 06:05 AM

Most shops won’t touch a job for less than a minimum 1 hour charge. and that minimum varies from place to place. Around $65 for the operator plus the machine charge here in Tennessee.

You are going to need surface grinding, not machining, most likely. Set-up is difficult and process is slow.

And, if you want to get anal about precision, the sole needs to be ground with a blade in it, retracted of course, so the frame is loaded.

Why can’t you just stick some silicon carbide paper on a flat surface and grind it yourself?

View ChuckC's profile


847 posts in 4185 days

#5 posted 01-24-2012 06:08 AM

+1 ^^
Stick some paper on something flat at got at it. I just picked up nice piece of granite at the Habitat ReStore for $5 just for this purpose.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 4248 days

#6 posted 01-24-2012 09:09 AM

Most machine shops wouldn’t want to mess with it. The surface grinding would not take long at all (Maybe 10 minutes at best if they went slow). The problem is that getting it set up and ready to surface by holding the plane in the proper orientation would take much longer. Lots of measuring is needed. Funny thing is that people don’t want to pay for that part. They only want to pay for the grinding time. In the factory, they have jigs set up and ready so that doesn’t take any time other than initial setup. Just screw it into the fixture and go.

Doing it by machine is not the only way to achieve flatness.

If you want to get it truly flat, get out a reference surface, some dye, and a scraper and have at it. It doesn’t take that long. You could probably do a #7 in a couple hours. It is not going to be that far off to start with. Lot of good videos on metal scraping on youtube. Follow up with a light lapping and polish and you can have as good (or better with practice) surface than one done by a surface grinder.

Next best would be to lap it on progressively finer grits on a flat surface. If you work through the grits well, maybe 30 minutes if it is in really rough shape. Most of the time is switching grits and cleaning between each size. (But not as accurate as the above method)

See, I avoided ranting against plane flattening in general… :)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View NEFFCONCEPTS's profile


10 posts in 3567 days

#7 posted 01-24-2012 09:35 AM

Hi Brett, like David said you might want to try flattening it yourself. Here is a good video and it could save you some $$$!!

View paratrooper34's profile


916 posts in 4202 days

#8 posted 01-24-2012 02:03 PM

I’ve read a few books on planes and every one of them said not to get too worried about having a jointer that is completely flat along the entire sole. As long as it is flat in front of the mouth, it is good. A couple of the books I read specifically addressed metal jointers and warned of the long time it was going to take trying to lap the soles on sandpaper. Because of the coarse type of work that they are doing, they get the job done by being really long, which inherently delivers flat surfaces on the workpieces. In my own personal experience, I have three jointers that I use. A #7 and #8 metal bodied jointers and a very large wood body jointer. I never even looked at the metal bodied ones to see how flat they are. I took what I read to heart and put them to use by cleaning and honing the blade. I did check the wood bodied one for flatness as I was concerned with twist in the body. As long as it is pretty flat over the whole length, it will do its job. The results of having my jointers the way they are? I get perfect results all the time. The planes do exactly what they were designed to do. Now my smaller planes, 3, 4, 5 and such, all get the soles lapped flat.

I agree with the other posters who mentioned the high cost of machine shop services. They are expensive. If you have a fat wallet and can justify the cost, then by all means go for it. However, if you live frugally (like me), the above explains why you do not need to spend money like that. The flatness of your jointer is not critical to achieving great results.

-- Mike

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4247 days

#9 posted 01-24-2012 03:28 PM

You will want a machine shop that understands how a plane works. Removing too much of the sole will open the mouth, you may loose some of the adjusting you need to plane properly ! I personally DO NOT worry about the sole not being truly perfect. The “person” using the plane is going to determine whether or not the plane is doing the job it is designed for. Spending time on properly sharpening the iron and setting the chip breaker are more important in my shop.
IT’s your money !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Greg Salata's profile

Greg Salata

131 posts in 5012 days

#10 posted 01-24-2012 03:30 PM

Here is a link= for TablesawTom over at Woodnet.

He does lots of planes and is very highly regarded. *I have never used his services but have only seen glowing reviews.


View Ed Pirnik's profile

Ed Pirnik

83 posts in 4080 days

#11 posted 01-24-2012 04:44 PM

I must agree with the comments here pointing you towards doing it your self, the slow and old-fashioned way. I’ve tried in the past to engage the use of machine shops and metal foundries for small one-off projects – to no avail. Nobody wants to waste their time on such a small job. Stinks, I know, but that’s been my experience.

-- Ed Pirnik, Fine Woodworking Web Producer

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 4248 days

#12 posted 01-24-2012 04:51 PM

One more thing…

Remember to remove the least amount of metal possible. The more metal you remove from the sole of a plane, the less rigid the plane will be. The more metal you remove from the cheeks of the plane, the more likely they are to crack. You may not notice it, but a plane (especially a long plane like a jointer) will flex as you are using it. Cast iron is brittle. It doesn’t take much flexing before it will break.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Farkled's profile


28 posts in 3565 days

#13 posted 01-24-2012 09:55 PM

There is a guy who hangs out on Woodnet (Screenname = Tablesawtom) who specializes in grinding handplanes flat and square. Tolerances range from .0005 to .0015. He has a great reputation

View Islandguy's profile


25 posts in 4683 days

#14 posted 01-30-2012 04:38 AM

I had Tablesawtom on woodnet grind my Stanley #5. Did a great job and fast as well…look him up.

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