Remember the Stanley #5 hand plane I picked up from the Flea Market a couple of posts back? I finally got around to cleaning it up. I needed to get another blade since the one that came with it was too small. Luckily, I was able to find one with a chip breaker and cap screw on Ebay. It came in earlier this week and is in good condition for its age.
To start cleaning up the plane I first disassembled it. This is done by removing all the screws so I’ll spare you a step by step description and jump right to a photo of it in pieces.
I chose to start with cleaning up the plane’s body. The inside of the body has a black paint like substance on it called Japanning. It’s a thick durable coating and on this plane is still in good condition. The outside of the plane is raw steel and has built up a layer of black rust on it. To clean it I soaked it in Simple Green and scrubbed the inside with an old tooth brush. This removed the layer of gunk on the inside of the plane.
For the outside (sides and bottom) I scrubbed the surface with a green Scotch Brite pad. After a while the surfaces cleaned up and returned back to a natural steel color. You can’t get every rust stain out without removing a lot of material so don’t try. So long as it feels smooth you’re good to go. After this, I dried the body and waxed it with Johnson’s Paste wax. The wax protects and lubricates the surfaces. Here’s the body cleaned up.
The rest of the steel parts were cleaned up in a similar manner. The brass pieces were cleaned up with Brasso. The knob and tote were cleaned using Acetone and a rag. Acetone will remove the dirt and grime but will also remove some of the finish so you don’t want to scrub too much. I actually wanted to lighten the finish some to let the grain show through so the Acetone worked to my advantage. I tried cleaning up the blade but it seems to be permanently rust stained.
The next step was to sharpen the plane blade. At some point I’ll do a more in depth post on this but I’ll give an overview now. Using either wet/dry sandpaper or a stone, start at a low grit and lap the back of the blade near the cutting edge, increasing the grit until you have a mirror finish. Next, go back to a low grit and start working on the other side. The plane blade needs to be held at a constant angle to the stone/paper while sharpening so I make life easy on myself and use a sharpening guide. The guide allows you to set whatever you’re sharpening to specific and repeatable angles. For the primary bevel I sharpened at 25 degrees and for the secondary I used 30 degrees. These are recommended angles from folks more knowledgeable than I am. The picture below shows the primary bevel partially established (shinny area on the end).
Once the primary bevel has been established to medium grit the guide is then repositioned to hold the blade at 30 degrees to work on the secondary bevel. Work progresses much faster on the secondary bevel since you’re only working on a very thin strip. Sharpening is continued up to the highest grit and in between grits the back is touched up on the highest stone to remove the burr. Once you’re finished you should have an edge similar to what is shown below. My secondary bevel was honed at 4000 grit on a stone.
Here’s a picture of the plane back together and in use flattening some White Pine. It also works well on Maple.
How thin are the shavings? You can read through them!
A more quantifiable test shows the shaving to be 0.0015″ thick. Not to shabby.
In reality how thin of a shaving a plane will take isn’t all that applicable since you don’t want to be planing forever on the same spot. It does show that the plane is setup well and sharp. So, for about $30 total and some elbow grease a classic tool has been returned to working status!