Guidance Sought for Refurbishing and/or Restoring Wooden Planes


Active member
I've come into possession of several varieties of wooden planes (rabbet, plough, fillister, hollows/rounds, moulding) in various conditions and would like any guidance in the proper refurbishment and/or restoration of them with the primary objective of bringing them back to actual functional and regular use but also to avoid doing damage for future custodians of these tools.  I've checked several books, but couldn't find anything specific as to best course of action for refurbishment/restoration.

Here's some of the specific condition issues and treatment alternatives I'm considering.  Any guidance would be appreciated.

  • Dirt & Grim - Use compressed air initially, then clean up surfaces with moistened rag (water, denatured alcohol, paint thinner, acetone,  turpentine) - what is best or what should I avoid?  I'm inclined to try a couple of these - first water then paint thinner.
  • Wood Body Condition - leave alone or apply some boiled linseed oil?  I'm inclined to apply some BLO.
  • Rusty Blade Condition - remove rust with Naval Jelly or slight buffing with steel wool and WD40.  I'm inclined to just buff with steel wool.
  • Mushroomed Blade Condition - smashed edges from tapping - lightly grind off any mushrooming of edges on top or side of blade
  • Blade Trueness & Sharpness - Touch up /slightly flatten back side.  Sharpen edge while retaining exact profile.  What is best to use for grinding/sharpening the profiles other than square blades such as hollows/rounds and molding - stick with slipstones only?  Dremel Tool?
  • Cracks in check/mouth of plane body - Hide Glue, Epoxy, Bondo Auto Body Filler or Superglue?  For small cracks I plan to use Hide Glue, but for larger cracks I'm thinking of filling with Epoxy
  • Severely worn soles and/or sides that are bearing surfaces - True up sole and laminate a new sole using beech, lignum vitae or fruitwood.
  • Missing Iron - Create a new iron or try to find a replacement? - Are there any good sources for locating old blades?
  • Cut off front horn - Turn/carve a replacement

I'm walking the same path as you, and I'd bet for similar reasons (need to create that shoe profile somehow, eh?).  Have you read the following?:  This doesn't exactly address the question you asked, but seems good info nonetheless.  I"ve acquired a couple planes from Lee @ bestthings recently and have found him to be a good guide as I dip my toe into these waters.  The one principle I think I've learned so far: if it's a good quality or rare plane, do as little as possible to it; if it's a common or junky plane, do whatever you feel needs to be done.

I would second what Mark says regarding fine planes v. beaters.  If you are working on a very common plane, there are still loads of those out there.  I think you would be justified in making any necessary changes.  Regarding locating new plane blades, I think Lie Nielson sells blanks that you can grind to match the profile you need.  In my experience, the most important aspect of plane functionality is how closely the blade matches the profile and how sharp the blade is. 

Try Murphy's oil soap or good old Go-Jo hand cleaner to get the dirt and grime off. They both seem to do a really good job cleaning and leaving a patina on the wood.
I know this is an old thread, but I just thought I'd add my two cents.

Murphy's Oil Soap works great.  As does a light mixture of ammonia and water.  I tend to use the Murphy's because it smells a whole lot better.  Then, I put on some paste wax and I'm good to go, body-wise. 

I am, by nature, less than interested in maintaining a super-flat iron back.  It doesn't seem to matter to the work.  So, I do only as much honing / sharpening as necessary to get a workable edge. 
The British Museum's formula for cleaning antique furniture was posted on WoodCentral several years ago. It works on wooden planes too.