Flattening a WoodRiver Plane Iron

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Forum topic by rhyvun posted 09-15-2014 04:06 PM 1850 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1804 days

09-15-2014 04:06 PM

Hello all, first post, but been frequenting the forums for a bit now.

I recently bought a WoodRiver 5 1/2 Bench/Jack plane. It’s nice, I like it.
I used it right out of the box without a tuneup and it did what I consider a decent job.
In fact I used it until the iron needed to be sharpened.

I am new to sharpening, well I am new to hand planes and hand tools all together for that matter.
I am trying to make the back of the iron flat, and then polish it. But I am having a dredge of a time making it flat to start out.

I began on my extra coarse DMT diamond stone, got some quick progress and found it has a high point in the middle of the blade. Now I have been sharpening it with various methods for the past 2 days (not all day mind you) and I just can’t get this stupid thing flat.

Let me back the truck up a bit…

I started with the Extra Coarse Diamondt DMT stone, then realized progress had become too slow.
So I moved to 120 grit wet sandpaper adhered to a granite tile – made some progress but after holding it flat as possible and honing for an hour I decided to go to 60 grit (mistake).

The 60 grit made some progress, but it also left some pretty crappy scores in the blade so I went back to the 120 and I have been trying to get this high spot out now for about a total of probably 4 hours of work all together… but not getting anywhere.

My questions:

1) Is this normal to have to spend this much time to flatten an iron?
2) Is there a faster method that involves minimal cash? (I just bought 4 diamond stones and a hand plane after all)

Any help is appreciated. I have watched countless videos on sharpening and am quite confident I am doing it correctly. No one ever talks about how long it should take though. If anyone has a way to remove material very quickly that would be awesome. I have considered drilling a hole in my marble plate and mounting it to a motor… :) I don’ t know how great of an idea that is though.

24 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 1940 days

#1 posted 09-15-2014 04:21 PM

Are you using oil with paper and stones? Dry? Cleaning off paper/ stones as it gets clogged?

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

View johnstoneb's profile


3123 posts in 2627 days

#2 posted 09-15-2014 04:25 PM

The only part of the back of the iron that needs to be flat is the first 1/16 or 1/8”. Even thatprobably doesn’t need to be perfectly flat. The backs of all my irons and chisels have flattened out in just a few seconds. What you are looking for is a flat surface for the end of the cap iron to seat against and a straight edge on your bevel. Remember the tool works with a substance that is live and moves with humidity and temperature. So you don’t have to be perfectly flat. Sharopen it and use it and each time you come back to the stone you will get better. Sharpening with a stone is something that takes practice to perfect.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View rhyvun's profile


8 posts in 1804 days

#3 posted 09-15-2014 05:11 PM

@ johnstoneb
Is that all the more that needs it? I have been trying to do about 1 inch into the iron.
I can get the first 1/4 inch no problem (don’t ask me how I know this lol)

@ TheFridge
I am clearing the swarf religiously
I was using my stones exclusively, then I went to the paper after my coarsest stone wasn’t cutting it (pun intended).
I am probably cleaning it more often than necessary honestly.

View Chris208's profile


245 posts in 2724 days

#4 posted 09-15-2014 05:39 PM

I spent hours (probably over 12 hours total) getting the backs flat on my Wood River chisels. They’re flat now, and work great, but it took a long time to get them that way.

Not fun at all.

View rhyvun's profile


8 posts in 1804 days

#5 posted 09-15-2014 05:41 PM

I spent hours (probably over 12 hours total) getting the backs flat on my Wood River chisels. They re flat now, and work great, but it took a long time to get them that way.

Not fun at all.

- Chris208

Oh really! Wow, dedicated.
You know I don’t mind doing it… but I was questioning whether I was doing something wrong.
OK… so at least I know it can be done, just may take a depressing amount of time.

View Woodknack's profile


12877 posts in 2834 days

#6 posted 09-15-2014 05:49 PM

After 4 hours I’m surprised there is any blade left. 60 grit is a bit coarse, I start with 80 until it’s flat.

-- Rick M,

View rhyvun's profile


8 posts in 1804 days

#7 posted 09-15-2014 05:58 PM

I wasn’t going at it with 60 grit except for a short period – noticed it was scoring too much for my liking.
Moved back to 120 after that.

I agree I don’t think anything below 80 grit should be used, and I won’t use the 60 grit again.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1327 posts in 2389 days

#8 posted 09-15-2014 11:16 PM

Yes, it takes a long time to flatten the backs of chisels and plane irons. 4 hours isn’t outlandish for an average blade.

I would suggest watching this video from 1:45 to about 4:00. I do it all the time and my planes work great. It isn’t a sin. I bet I have saved 24 to 48 hours of my life with the ruler trick, and that isn’t a joke. It’s just not freaking worth it in my book to flatten the back of every single plane iron I get. Ruler trick. Give it a shot. As long as your back is relatively flat already, it should work. This video is also a good trainer on general sharpening.

You could also be a maverick and do it like Paul Sellers. This is how I sharpen.

Be patient. It will literally take you twenty times as long to sharpen when you are just getting started. You’ll get the hang of it and it’ll speed up.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View bobasaurus's profile


3601 posts in 3638 days

#9 posted 09-15-2014 11:38 PM

That convex surface will be hard to flatten properly… Rob Cosman suggested to just return any woodriver planes that had an iron with a convex back. Concave backs are easy to flatten, just like a concave board is easy to flatten on a jointer… there are feet to act as platforms while flattening, instead of just rolling around like a convex surface.

That said, if you want to stick with it you could try building a wood jig (this is just an idea, never tried this myself). If you cut a recess a bit deeper than the blade in a wood block, carpet tape or CA glue the blade into it, then flatten the whole mess with coarse sandpaper on a flat thing, it should work. The wood feet should help keep things in line (use a really dense wood).

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View knockknock's profile


472 posts in 2627 days

#10 posted 09-16-2014 01:53 AM

I’m with johnstoneb, I don’t do anymore than I have to. Here is my WoodRiver #3 blade after a few sharpenings. you can see the hollow (I hope) on the back. I just flattened the back enough up to where the chip breaker seats. When I hone / sharpen I chase the burr on the next higher grit, so eventually the flattened area will get larger.

-- 👀 --

View Stew81's profile


45 posts in 1820 days

#11 posted 09-16-2014 02:05 AM

I find sandpaper works the fastest. Get a granite 12×12 tile (or a couple of them since they are cheap) from home depot and 320, 400, 600, 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Stick the sandpaper to the tile with spray adhesive and start working the iron from side to side till you get an even scratch pattern all the way across then move up to the next grit and work the iron back and forth until all the side to side scratches are gone. Don’t go to the next grit until ALL of the scratches from the previous grit are gone. Keep alternating directions till you get to 1000 and you should see your reflection in it when you are done. Also, its a good idea to use a wood block to keep even downward pressure on the iron. Should only take about 30-45 minutes start to finish. Hope that description makes sense…

-- Stew

View Fettler's profile


200 posts in 2451 days

#12 posted 09-16-2014 10:37 AM

I typically dont work the back of the iron at all. Generally they’re flat enough where i can just use the ruler trick on the backs. Then again I’ve replaced the stock blade in my 5 1/2 with a Pinnacle/IBC blades that Rob Cosman had effectively for a 2 for 1 special.

You should be fine going down to like a 80 grit and working your way up 120, 220, 400, 1000, 4000, etc. However, as bobasarus mentioned above just call woodcraft and let them know your iron is defective. They’re really good about customer service.

It took me 10 minutes to hone my last iron to sharp. Chisels are another story all together.

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View rhyvun's profile


8 posts in 1804 days

#13 posted 09-16-2014 12:12 PM

I’ve been using a granite tile… haven’t tried the ruler trick though.

I think I am going to call Woodcraft today and see what they have to say about it… I moved to sharpening just the first 1/4 inch of the iron and results are much better… but there is still a high/low spot (depending on your perspective) at the side edges and at the very edge of the blade. I sanded for about 2 hours last night on coarse stuff.

Thanks for all of your input y’all. :)

View Stew81's profile


45 posts in 1820 days

#14 posted 09-16-2014 03:17 PM

I should have mentioned that I have a Wood River #4 and the back of the iron was flat enough that I just needed to polish it a little… Exchanging your iron is probably a good idea.

-- Stew

View rhyvun's profile


8 posts in 1804 days

#15 posted 09-16-2014 04:54 PM

Called woodcraft.
Asked to exchange it out.
The dude said the only ones they would have in the shop would be the same one I already have.
That’s fine with me, so long as it is not as out of flat as this one is.

He advised I call tomorrow when their plane expert is working so he could give me some sharpening tips….......
I don’t like where this is heading.

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