Stanley No4 Part 2 – The Sole

This is the second instalment in a series of blog posts in which I look at giving an old Stanley No4 Smoothing Plane some TLC. You can read part 1 Here..

The sole of the plane looked OK, in need of some work, but nothing too drastic. The first step was to mark the sole with a permanent marker (Sharpie in this case) and then give it some passes on some sand paper facing a piece of marble. The idea is that the marble is flat and so you can identify which areas of the sole are rubbing first and where the high and low spots are.

Mark the base of the plane with permanent marker

Mark the base of the plane with permanent marker

It’s important at this stage to make sure that you have the plane re-assembled before addressing the sole. This is because having the frog, blade, chip-breaker and lever cap back on the plane will put the sole under it’s normal working tension. If you flatten the sole without this tension, then you will have a slightly distorted sole when you come to use the plane.


I started on a fairly low grit, around 180 grit paper just to see how things looked and how much work I had to do. In order to give the sandpaper some traction against the marble surface, I used two or three sprays of the glass cleaner, although water will also work for this. Move the sandpaper back and forth a little bit, like you would a rubbing two surfaces together when gluing and your sandpaper will be solid enough to work on, but still easily removable. Two or three more sprays of glass cleaner on the top face of your sandpaper to act as lapping fluid and you are good to start passing your plane over the sandpaper. This is where using a permanent marker for marking the base of your plane helps as your marks will not just wipe off due to the moisture of the glass cleaner.

Initially, things looked OK, I had a low area in the centre of the plane, but the key areas around the mouth and ends of the plane looked good.

Still some work to be done

Still some work to be done

I re-marked the sole and started again. and kept going until the sole was free of all markings and therefore flat enough for my use. Again I used glass cleaner as lapping fluid in this process.



Following on from making the sole flat, the next step was to take the sole up through several grits of sandpaper until I was happy with the amount of polish on there. These grits were 120, 240 and 400. This is not a sharpened edge, so going any higher than this just didn’t make sense to me.

I then took a page straight out of Paul Seller’s “book” and added a feathering edge to the sides, front and back of the plane. This can be done by simply adding a small metal ruler under one edge of the sandpaper in order to present the plane to the flat surface at a slight angle.

Once the sole of the plane was flat to my satisfaction, the next step was to clean up and sharpen the iron so that this smoothing plane could be put through it’s paces. This will be covered in the third and final part of this article.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.



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