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Flattening the sole of a plane

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jim4321

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Hi everyone,

I am reasonably new to woodworking have been going to an evening class and have begun to appreciate the fact that to get better results it helps if your tools are in the best condition they can be. I have got my dads old 5 1/5 Stanley plane and I want to spend a pit of time tuning it so it can actually shave wood rather that just pushing it.

I have read that you need a peice of float glass to flatten the sole, but I was wondering if an old bathroom mirror could be used? or does a mirror have some sort of coating that would be scrubbed off when rubbing a plane on it? or does a mirror tend to have a bit of give and flex when you put pressure on it.


Thanks for your help

James
 

Alf

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Welcome to the forum, James.

I think a mirror would probably be a bit too flexible unfortunately. You could back it up with something else, like kitchen worktop or something, but if that wasn't flat... :( Should you happen to have any cast iron flat areas about the place, such as a table saw or planer table, that works pretty well, or a piece of float glass is favourite. You might find BugBear's quest for the good of his soul interesting reading: http://www.geocities.com/plybench/flatten.html.

Don't get too caught up in the flat sole society though, especially with a jack plane (#5 1/2 btw, nice 8) ) A sharp blade and tuned cap iron will make a much bigger difference. In fact sharp edges are the number one priority; even the fanciest plane is just a doorstop if you can't sharpen the blade. You might also need to fettle the frog a little. Again, BugBear's handplane dissertation http://www.geocities.com/plybench/plane.html has some excellent pointers. And of course Jeff Gorman's site has a wealth of information http://www.amgron.clara.net/planingpoints/planeindex.htm. A word of caution with regard to any tuning of a plane; it's very easy to make things much, much worse. (DAMHIKT :oops: ) If you have some sentimental attachment to your Dad's plane, then it might be better to get another to practice on first. With the additional bonus of adding to your plane coll- selection and equipping yourself with ballast for The Slope at the same time of course. Sounds good to me :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 

mudman

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Hi James,

I'm pretty much the newby as well and I think I got hooked when I cleaned up my fathers old Record #4.
I found that the plane was in quite a state and needed a lot of work on it. To flatten the sole I used an old mirror with a heavy wooden back to it and used spray mount to attach a sheet of 80 grit wet and dry. This probably wouldn't get the sole flat in any engineer's definition of the word, but I found it good enough for me.
After I finished with the #4, I started to actually use it and found myself rapidly getting hooked on the whole business. It was soon after this that I bought a Stanley #6. Shame I didn't know too much about the poor quality that these tools suffer from nowadays.
Flattening the sole of this baby was a whole different kettle of fish and I wish I taken Jeff Gorman's advice and sent it back. I won't say how long I took fettling that plane but it was a lot. I started off using a long piece of shelving glass but found that this did indeed flex and took on the very slight curvature that exists in my bench. So, I mounted this onto a thick piece of mdf. This was a lot better and some packing in the middle made from strips of Duct Tape ensured it was pretty flat.

One thing I did invest in was a good straight edge and a set of feeler gauges. These were invaluable in being able to know that the reference surface (the glass) was flat within a couple of thou. Then all you have to worry about is the uneven wear of the wet and dry, the clogging of the surface grit (I used a magnet and a piece of paper to clear it, worked great) and wether or not the spray mount was creating localised ridges or bumps.

Personally I would never do it again, next big bench plane I buy will be a Lie-Nielson :wink: . However, I do feel that the experience was invaluable as I gained a fair amount of experience and skill in tool fettling. It was also quite a strangely peacefull activity and coupled with some nice relaxing music is a great way to unwind.

Oh, and those two planes work a treat and are a real joy to use.

BTW. Check out Jeff Gorman's website for more info on flattening, especially how to do it by scraping.

Cheers,
Barry
 

jim4321

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Alf, Barry

Thanks for your quick replies. You have given me some great advice on what I need to be doing. I have had a quick look at the links and there is a lot good info there.

I'll let you know how i get on

Thanks again

James
 

mudman

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Oh, and I'd echo what Alf said about blade, cap iron and frog. With the #6, I had to do quite a bit to the frog as it was pretty awfull. I even had to modify the adjustment mechanism as it was causing the frog to be lop-sided.
For sharpening the blade, do a search on Scary Sharp. I found it a great way to learn how to sharpen plane blades and chisels. It's also relatively inexpensive and gives an impresive edge.

Cheers,
Barry
 

Gill

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Time to embarrass myself again... :oops:

I've used the Scary Sharp method very successfully but I didn't use float glass. Instead, I used...

...18mm MDF :shock:!

It did the job, though.

Yours

Gill
 

Adam

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GillD":3gwa6lh8 said:
Time to embarrass myself again... :oops:

I've used the Scary Sharp method very successfully but I didn't use float glass. Instead, I used...

...18mm MDF :shock:!

It did the job, though.

Yours

Gill
I've done the same thing before I got some nice bits of glass. Lovely shavings, so whilst it might not be perfect, but it was good "enough"

Adam
 

Alf

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For ScarySharp, MDF or similar is fine because you're not dealing witha large surface area. On a plane sole it's more of an issue.

Mudman, welcome to the forum too. You're not alone; I bought a new Stanley #6 before I knew any better. I've still got it for two reasons. One, to remind myself not to be such an silly person again, and secondly 'cos I don't think anyone else would be daft enough to take it off my hands :lol:

Cheers, Alf
 

Chris Knight

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Granite surface plates are not overly expensive - especially when you consider what is involved in making one. They cost about the same as a DMT Duo sharp stone.

With a surface plate you can lap, do scary sharp - if that is your preferred method and use it as a reference for scraping the soles of planes which is what the pros do to get them flat in a hurry. Trying to flatten the sole of anything bigger than a No.4 using sandpaper, wet and dry etc, is a game for the totally masochistic or terminally bored - unless it is in very good shape to start with.

Chronos and Tilgear both do surface plates for a reasonable price.
 
A

Anonymous

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Trying to flatten the sole of anything bigger than a No.4 using sandpaper, wet and dry etc, is a game for the totally masochistic or terminally bored
You are so right there. :wink:
Like I said, nevedr again.

Thanks for the welcome Alf, I've lurked here for a bit and finally plucked up courage to post. You know though, I've actually become quite attached to that #6 now. After all the work I put into it, it isn't half bad now and I learned a lot from it. I think the worst part of it now would be the blade and possibly I could do with a better quality steel. I have been looking with great longing at the Lie-Nielson planes and have been wondering about saving the pennies for a #5 or #7 or even to replace the #6. But then I also fancy the low-angle block plane. But then I really fancy a Clifton shoulder plane. Oh blast, I think I'd better start doing the lottery again. :lol:
 
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Anonymous

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Jim

I use a mirror placed onto some 18mm thick MDF. Works great when used on a flat(ish) bench as MDF supports flat glass. No plans to change from this succesful and cheap combo :D
 

Midnight

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Time to embarrass myself again...

I've used the Scary Sharp method very successfully but I didn't use float glass. Instead, I used...

...18mm MDF !

It did the job, though.
Cut yourself some slack Gill......if it works, don't KNOCK it....

Actually I did something very similar to flatten my Stanleys.....

I used contact adhesive to secure some opened up sanding belts to an offcut of old kitchen worktop... just 3 grits; 40, 60, 120.... didn't take more than 15 mins to flatten the worst of them (the #7).
Cheap, cheerfull and effective...
 
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Anonymous

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Building a small torsion box is a good thing if all you've got is some flexible mirror glass - I actually have my 6mm float glass fitted on a torsion box I knocked up with 12mm MDF. Works a treat.
 

Alf

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Building a sheet of glass into a box seems to be a recognised way of creating a cheap(er) surface plate, judging by what I've read in "The Amateur's Lathe". (Engineering that is, not woodworking. Got the book, not got the lathe :( ) But even then, as a reference surface it specifies 3/8" - 1/2" thickness. If you're applying pressure, as when you lap a sole, I would have serious doubts about the accuracy of thinner stuff. But then again, the abrasive isn't going to be that accurate either I suppose, especially in the coarser grits. Aww what the heck, just buy Clifton's and L-N's and let them worry about getting the sole flat :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 
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Anonymous

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12mm MDF in just a box wouldn't be good - as you say, it'd flex like nobody's business. But a torsion box sorts out that problem. The structure inside the box provides masses of support and rigidity. It's possible to build a very rigid and flat torsion box with even thinner materials than 12mm.

But yes, buy an L-N to get the stuff flat to start off with! I had heard that the Cliftons need a bit of work still (though nowhere near as much as a new stanley or record). And yes, I too have a new stanley #6. Seems a common mistake, eh?
 

Philly

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I think Alf summed it up-"buy a L-N or Clifton and let them worry about it". Your probably better off doing woodworking than piddling about with tools and engineering tolerances. After all, it's called "Woodworking", not "Metalwork".
regards,
Philly
(who is the Biggest hypocrite :D )
 

Gill

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Hi folks

Silly question time. What exactly is "float glass" and where do you get it from? What makes it different from normal glass?

Yours

Gill
 
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