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Tuning a Stanley Block Plane

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1. An Old Stanley Block Plane. Available in droves through ebay and local flea-markets, these old workhorses are far superior to their contemporary counterparts. This particular speciman is a #9 1/2 standard angle block plane. I’m no block plane historian but I would guess that this tool was made some- time during the 1920’s or 1930’s. 2. Breaking it Down. The first thing I’ll do is clean the tool. All of these little moving parts won’t work right unless they’re clean and lubricated.
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3. Soaking the Parts. I’ve put the knobs, lateral adjuster and ad- justable sole into a bath of naptha and sewing machine oil to soak for a while. 4. Preparing the Iron (aka: blade). This blade appears to be the original. It’s marked with the stanley “sw”, or “sweetheart” logo. These blades are better than the ones that came with stanley block planes in later years. It’s still inferior when compared to the contemporary replacement blades made by such manufacturers as Ron Hock and Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.
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5. Lapping the Iron. Since I’ll be tuning the frog to match the blade I first need to get the blade in shape. Lapping is just a fancy term for “flattening”. I’m lapping this iron on a dead flat granite slab with some 180 wet-dry sandpaper. 6. Cleaning the Depth Adjustment Mechanisms. The order in which a plane is tuned is important because one adjustment to the plane will effect the other adjustments. A dull exacto blade is helpful for cleaning oxidation from the threads of the threaded rod. I’ll follow this up with a good scrubbing of the depth adjust- ment mechanisms with naptha and an old toothbrush.
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7. Removing the Depth Adjuster with a punch. 8. Truing the Blade Bed with self-adhesive sandpaper attached to theback of a flat blade.
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9. Improved Contact Surface between the plane and the blade will help reduce chatter during use. 10. Flattening the Adjustable Sole. A small mill file ensures that the pocket is true to itself.
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11. Fitting the Adjustable Sole to the Pocket. I’ve run a piece of 180 grit sandpaper through the mouth and over the toe. The small cuts in the paper will allow for the adjustable sole boss to fit into it’s place in the pocket. 12. Final Truing of the Adjust-able Sole and Pocket. Workingthe adjustable sole back and forthover the sandpaper will give me anice fit.
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13. The Tuned Adjustable Sole Pocket. Once again, good contact will reduce chatter and ensure a flat sole. 14. Lapping the Sole on a flat surface with self-adhesive sandpaper. This is a messy job.
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15. The Plane’s Sole Revealed. A couple of passes shows just how much the sole has distorted over the years. 16. A Flat Sole is a must for fine woodworking applications.
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17. Sharpening the Blade in the usual fashion. I’m grinding the bevel to 30 degrees. This will allow the plane to cut dense and figured hard- woods without incident. 18. Sealing the Plane withWax will both prevent the tool fromoxidizing and will reduce friction duringplaning.
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19. Testing the Plane. This tuned block plane cuts oak easily and the blade adjustment mechanisms function smoothly. This tool will create wood shavings as small as .001″ thick. 20. After a Tune Up this oldtool is ready for many more decadesof smooth functioning woodworking.
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21. A Tuned Stanley #9 1/2.