When I got this Stanley rebate plane as a gift and noticed the sole, my first thought was that I should grind it. I would say that woodworking planes that are affordable usually need the base to be ground to flatten it, but I wasn’t expecting that the sole of this Stanley rebate plane should need so much work to get a decent sole.
Although this is one of those jobs where the hardest thing to do is to get into them.
Maybe it’s a rebate plane they made some time ago and have been in the hardware store for a few years, as I would swear that most new Stanley planes are sold with a smoother base than this one. All in all, I have to say that I am very happy with my new rebate plane and I look forward to using it on some of the woodworking projects I show in this blog and in my woodworking and DIY channel on YouTube.
How to grind the sole of a metal woodworking plane
To flatten the sole of a rebate plane or also of a jointer plane, the ideal would be to buy a stone or metal base with a calibration certificate that assures us that the surface is perfectly flat. I settle for using a board I had in my shop, which looked pretty flat when I checked it with the metal ruler.
I thought about using 4 different grits of waterproof sandpaper, starting with 80 grit, going to 120 grit, then 240 grit, and finishing with 400 grit. The first thing I did was to paint some lines in the sole of the rebate plane with a felt-tip pen. This is to get an idea of where the sole is wearing down as I sand it. With a couple of dry passes I can see where the sole of this rebate plane is starting to wear.
I poured a little water on the first sandpaper, 80 grit, and started grinding the sole of the rebate plane, trying to press the plane evenly, moving it in what would be the direction it planing wood. I was grinding the sole of the plane little by little, but when I had already used 3 sheets of sandpaper I realized that this 80 grit sandpaper was not enough. The problem is that as I reduce the “deeper” area to witch the sandpaper does not reach, it is necessary to remove more and more metal (the sandpaper grinds more and more surface).
I made a quick trip to the hardware store and brought back several sheets of a sandpaper they call emery cloth. With that name I expected the effect on the metal to be forceful. And I was not disappointed. This emery cloth is used dry, but the rest of the procedure I use is the same, although now I advance much faster flattening the sole of the plane.
I finally decide to stop grinding when a small surface of the sole remains untouched, as it seems very deep. And if I want to remove it completely, I would need too much time grinding the sole of this metallic rebate plane.
At this point my intention was to try to make the sole of this Stanley rebate plane look like a mirror, so I went back to the 80 grit wet sandpaper until I removed all the emery cloth marks. I continued with 120 grit wet sandpaper, then 240 grit and finally 400 grit, always sanding until the marks in the metal sole left by the previous sandpaper were removed. This didn’t take me too long, and the end result was a very nice, almost mirror-like surface.
A very smooth base greatly reduces the friction of the plane sole on the wood, making it easier to plane. But I suppose that in order to get a good support on the wood to be planed and to leave the wood surface as flat as possible, it is important that the surface of the sole of the plane is as flat as possible. The end result I got was not perfect, but I find a huge improvement in the ease of use of this rebate plane and the result I get when I use it.
Although I would say that part of the improvement I find when planing wood with this rebate plane is due to the fact that I also rectified the lever cap of the planer, and now it makes better pressure on the iron (the blade) preventing it from moving. I simply ground the lever cap a little on the 80 grit sandpaper. The entire base of the lever cap was painted, and by leaving a paint-free surface it no longer slides as much on the iron.
I am looking forward to using the sharpening jig to improve the sharpness of the iron a little, as the first tests “removing shavings” with this Stanley rebate plane were very satisfactory. And I have discovered what the master carpenters mean when they say that a well planed surface looks much better than sanded. It looks impressive.