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Flattening the sole of a 5 1/2 plane

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Andy Kev.

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I've got a lovely pre-war Record 5 1/2 which up to now I've used for initial flattening of boards before doing the final touches with my Veritas LAJ. The odd thing was that the Record would sort of give up and the LAJ would immediately take full width shavings. That didn't bother me too much because of the division of labour between the planes.

Then I decided to try to tune up the Record to see if I could get it working like a surgical instrument. Initial flattening with the sole marked up got rid of the very minor pitting, but the tail end, perhaps the last inch, was clearly high. So today I got a metal straight edge and found out that the sole is slightly convex in the length with the bulge being immediately behind the mouth, which is probably the last place you'd want it.

The best solution I can come up with is to hold the plane sole up in the vice, put some sticky backed 80 grit sandpaper on a flat block and work away at reducing the high spot behind the mouth. I thought I'd ask if that makes sense before launching into it. Are there perhaps other methods which would be better?
 

MikeG.

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Do it the other way around, Andy. Put the abrasive on a flat surface, withdraw the plane blade, and just push the plane backwards and forwards until it is flat enough.
 

Bm101

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Far from as experienced as you two but I'd go with both approaches. Personally I'd flatten the problem area then lap the sole out of the vise after as Mike says.
Wonder if you'd be better off using a metal scraper like the blunt chisel trick so you're not making it worse. With the scraper you can be very selective.
Worth noting that the plane should be under tension ie, ready to use with the lever cap tight just in case. If you glue a bit of abrasive to a reasonable size square of 18mm mdf etc you can keep checking for progress without constantly taking the plane out the vise using marker/blue etc .
Doubt I'm telling you anything you don't know tbh. 8) Might help someone trying to work on a plane for the first time though searching this topic later in desperation.
 

D_W

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https://imgur.com/gallery/NxDqmR0

if you have a good turnip file, I would use a flat lap to check flatness from time to time and draw file (or sanding block that's smaller than the sole would also be OK - with very coarse paper) until the plane was close to flatness, and then just finish lap.

When they're convex, I like to file them just a bit hollow (like a thousandth or two - this is easier than it would sound - only just so the outside is marking and the inside is barely) and then lap to a finish and the plane will be supremely flat and it doesn't take long.

Supremely flat isn't really needed, but while you're at it when it's got a hump like that.

This takes, perhaps, an hour, and then plane will still do rough work for the naysayers who complain about how much of a waste of time that hour is (while they're planning a netflix binge watch).
 

Pete Maddex

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I use a length of glass and 40 grit paper stretched out so it doesn't ripple and take off more from each end. It might take you a while but it's worth it.

Pete
 

AESamuel

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Personally, I can't stand lapping planes on a flat surface, no matter what you do you're inevitably going to get a slightly convex surface from either rocking the plane itself as you move it, or uneven wear of abrasive. Plus you need so much abrasive!

I do what you do, turn it upside down and work on the problem areas. I use a straight edge to start with, then move on to a plate with engineer blue for fine tuning. I've tried files, carbide scrapers, hss scrapers, but nothing is as easy and effective as sandpaper over a hard block.
I use wet and dry and never coarser than 150 grit, because I've found any coarser and it's too time consuming to remove the scratches after its flat. I tend to use a 1.5" square piece of hardwood, about 4" long, then I'll wrap a 1.5" strip of sandpaper around it. (if you're talking about downward pressure, you're going to get a lot more on 1.5" square piece of sandpaper than the whole plane on a lapping plate!) And if I want to get carried away with it I'll move to a smaller block and narrower strip for more precision. Cutting the paper into strips means I can easily move on to a fresh section, which I do as soon as the sandpaper loses its bite.

I can easily get plane soles to under a thou over the whole length, which is entirely unnecessary for all but smoothing planes. But I find this method so fast, that even on my low angle jack, going from out a few thou to out one thou barely took any time at all.

Definitely unconventional way of doing it and I'm sure it will ruffle a couple of feathers, but I find it to be much more efficient in time and materials, and a lot more accurate way it doing it.
 

Ttrees

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I don't think it uses that much abrasives if done right.
I've had that fancy abrasive strip on the plate for a long time and it still done the job for me here
I remember spending hours with other planes in the past with the delusion that they would become
flat when all I was doing was see sawing the plane...
now that is wasteful!
No pointless wastage here though as it floats off and more cut on shorter narrow strip, the same as it would with the block.
A case of tails vs pins first I guess, each possibly better for a certain case scenario.
Shoulder plane.JPG


Only at this yesterday getting rid of a hint of tippy belly.
For me this method works well, and so would the block too...


For what its worth... for the folks whom don't wish to adhere to this principal, i.e
Still have confidence that they can eliminate a hump by lapping on a full strip of full width
abrasive....
Don't try to learn scraping on your plane after your frustrated and have to
undo the massive convex mess you've just made :oops:
Its not a case of watching Bill Carters or whoever's method for timber and having at it, grinding a blunt edge on a beater chisel.
Not that I'm opposed to scraping, but it is a bit somewhat of a rabbit hole to go down.

Tom
 

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thetyreman

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it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes or an hour to flatten it, I like to use microlapping film on float glass, usually 100 micron then 40 micron is enough, then follow it up by autosol with steel wool then a wax which is buffed out.
 

Andy Kev.

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Thank you all very much indeed for the replies.

Tom's idea of a short strip of abrasive to provide targeted removal seems very logical for the high bit behind the mouth and thanks for the video link, it was very instructive.

I also like AE Samuel's idea of the block for targeted removal.

DW: I have never even heard of a turnip file and had no idea that one filed turnips! :D I'll Google. I've also never heard of the blunt chisel trick or engineer blue. More googling!

Actually, I know nothing of metal working whatsoever and I was genuinely surprised to read that scrapers are also used in that field.

I've now got enough ideas to go further (I'm really glad that I asked!) and given that I don't have to remove masses of material, I'll go cautiously and will check frequently with my straight edge - which should be good enough (I hope) as it is the two foot steel one from Veritas.

Am I right in thinking that the very slight lift of the rearmost 1 1/2" of the plane is not something to get too worried about? I assume that it comes from the way that the previous owner(s) lifted the plane at the end of each stroke.
 

MikeG.

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Ttrees":37z9b3j9 said:
.........For what its worth... for the folks whom don't wish to adhere to this principal, i.e
Still have confidence that they can eliminate a hump by lapping on a full strip of full width
abrasive........
This is twaddle. Of course you can flatten something (anything, including a plane sole) on a flat abrasive sheet larger than the object you are flattening. You'd have to try really hard to make it convex.

The thing you forget when you trot out your quirky theories is that there are hundreds of people out there who have done the same job many times perfectly well in the manner you say doesn't work, and we know that you are wrong. There is no reason at all for you to change what you are doing, by all means, but there is also no reason for anyone to follow your suggestion.
 

MikeG.

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Andy Kev.":28o4f8u2 said:
....Am I right in thinking that the very slight lift of the rearmost 1 1/2" of the plane is not something to get too worried about? I assume that it comes from the way that the previous owner(s) lifted the plane at the end of each stroke.
Yes, you're right that it isn't a big issue. It's a pity, as that piece of the sole is not contributing anything to the performance of the plane other than its weight, but it will make very little difference.
 

D_W

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Andy Kev.":rcq41yi7 said:
DW: I have never even heard of a turnip file and had no idea that one filed turnips! :D I'll Google. I've also never heard of the blunt chisel trick or engineer blue. More googling!

Actually, I know nothing of metal working whatsoever and I was genuinely surprised to read that scrapers are also used in that field.
That's a not very interesting change by the spell check software thinking my term for a file is profanity.

Bass..

......trd

Let's try that.

I think I also mentioned the block (that was how I addressed 7s and 8s before filing, and probably still wood - scrap wood block, but I would use 80 grit psa roll alumina - a small bit of it. Reason for that being you're trying to remove material on a sole. an 80 grit finish with the tips knocked off by 220 grit or something is fine. )

Scraping is the traditional way to make a reference square super flat (think something that weighs about 50 pounds and is intended to be used for metalworking, and not an engineer's square - and think 1 1/2 days of very fine scraping). It is OK for planes, but it's not something you want to do once -and there is a big danger with it - scraper over the edge on a plane mouth can cause bits of cast to break off - like bb sized bits.

I offer the file method as it's more pleasant than any of the other methods and contrary to what one might guess, the file cuts fastest where your hand pressure is and there's no reason for it to be curved so much that it can't touch anything else. You simply put one hand on the file and push down where you want it to cut.

(but the block is good - if any plane is large enough to struggle to get bite on a large abrasive, using the block to do all but the very last consolidating work is better -tired abrasive on a 2x4 block of wood will still cut well. Almost fresh abrasive with a full #8 sole and a lot of metal to be removed can barely dig in at all - much like laying on a bed of nails vs. laying on 10 nails. )
 

D_W

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Andy Kev.":j3br15gq said:
Am I right in thinking that the very slight lift of the rearmost 1 1/2" of the plane is not something to get too worried about? I assume that it comes from the way that the previous owner(s) lifted the plane at the end of each stroke.
If you have a bias, you want the toe and heel up a little. If they are down a little instead (touching the surface first), you have a practically unusable plane for creating edge joints and the next plane will always have to plane convexity off of your work.

A slightly convex sole on a fine smoother will be noticeable vs. a premium plane, but maybe not others. The reason, as shown in my infill flattening picture string, that I'm shooting for very fine tolerances is that if one has an infill, you'd really like it to be able to do everything that a LN or LV plane would. Especially an expensive uncommon vintage norris plane.
 

Ttrees

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MikeG.":1fjcdae3 said:
Ttrees":1fjcdae3 said:
.........For what its worth... for the folks whom don't wish to adhere to this principal, i.e
Still have confidence that they can eliminate a hump by lapping on a full strip of full width
abrasive........
This is twaddle. Of course you can flatten something (anything, including a plane sole) on a flat abrasive sheet larger than the object you are flattening. You'd have to try really hard to make it convex.

The thing you forget when you trot out your quirky theories is that there are hundreds of people out there who have done the same job many times perfectly well in the manner you say doesn't work, and we know that you are wrong. There is no reason at all for you to change what you are doing, by all means, but there is also no reason for anyone to follow your suggestion.
Good history lesson Mike on why there's so many really out of flat planes with new irons.
And the jokes section is on the off topic forum.
Tom
 

MikeG.

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Yes, Tom, that's because they've worn over the years and no-one has bothered flattening them. It's pretty straightforward flattening them, and all of the hundreds of us who have been doing that successfully with a piece of abrasive on a flat surface know that your nonsensical "it only works if the abrasive is smaller than the plane" is something that you've plucked out of thin air. Crack on with your way. I've no issue with that. They're your planes. But telling everyone else that they're wrong when we actually know that we're getting good results just makes you look a bit foolish.
 

Ttrees

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Aye, they must have been using those planes as sanding blocks instead, completely unused irons in heaps of them.

Tom
 

Andy Kev.

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A quick update: after wielding the file of uncertain ancestry (it turns out there was one lying in the bottom of my non-woodworking toolbox) and following Tom's advice, the sole is becoming flatter. The back bit is still high but less so (and for reasons discussed above this is not a worry) but the toe i.e. everything in front of the mouth is a fraction higher than everything behind the mouth. It's by a small amount: no light to be seen if I lay my straight edge on it but a definite line of light if I tip the straight edge onto one edge.

I've had enough for today but am hoping that a few more hundred swipes on the sticky backed sandpaper will even it out.
 

Tony Zaffuto

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I've flattened both a 5-1/2 and a 5: easy peasy!

Actually the 5 was done by a machinist I employ on a large surface grinder in my plant. It ended up as close as any premium plane available today. But, whoever does it, must know how fixture correctly and it is time consuming. Mine took a bit more than two hours, start to finish, so if any here know shop rates, you can estimate the cost. It is a job than cannot be rushed.

The 5-1/2 was done by toolmaker, also in my employ. It was scraped and again ended up closer than my abilities to use the plane. I believe the time involved was a hair less, and the upside is you would be less likely to cause a problem you could not fix: coat, scrape and check. Repeat many, many times. There are multiple videos on YouTube, showing scraping techniques, and the scrapers are readily available on MSC or McMaster-Carr (I did not check Amazon). As I said, I watched my plane being worked on, and any one reasonably competent with tools, could do it. Look up the videos!
 
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