Stanley No4 Part 3 – The Iron

Finally! Following on from part 2 of this restoration, the next step was to give the plane iron it’s first sharpen, well first sharpen by my own fair hands.

The first step, as with chisels is to polish the back of the iron to a high level and ensure that it is flat.

Again, hatched pattern to ensure flatness

Again, hatched pattern to ensure flatness

This time, again using sandpaper mounted on flat marble, I stared with 60 grit paper, working my way up through 120 grit, 240 grit, 400 grit and up to 800 grit paper. Luckily, the previous owner had done a reasonably good job at keeping the back of the iron flattened off. After a short time at each grit level, I was happy that the job was done and I could move onto the bevel.

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Starting to get there after moving through some of the lower grits

I would use the same grits for the bevel in this case. I wanted to get the plane “bench sharp”. The idea here is that I could on the next sharpen increase the polishing to 1200 grit+ (using a buffing compound and strop eventually). The iron of this plane had not been carefully sharpened in the past. As a result the bevel on the blade was inconsistent and would take a lot of work to rectify.

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The bevel had only seen a partial sharpen previously, so I opted to use an eclipse style guide to sharpen the bevel close to 25 degrees.

Plane Iron and eclipse style honing guide

Plane Iron and eclipse style honing guide

In after progressing up from 120 up to 800 grit paper, the iron was what you could consider bench-sharp. Although the bevel was beginning to tale shape, it was still visually inconsistent bevel on the blade.

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At this point the two options are either to continue sharpening the blade, returning to the lower grit papers in order to continue trying to reshape the blade, or to use the blade in it’s bench-sharp condition and continue the reshaping process in future sharpening sessions.

I opted to use the blade as it was and trust that over time the bevel will be re-shaped and finally end up in a truly sharp, to 10,000 grit level with a profile that I am looking for. I am unsure whether I am going to gun for a flat or curved profile. Without a bench grinder to re-shape the bevel in one sitting (without spending an inordinate amount of time sharpening!) this seemed the most productive and efficient approach. Not to mention that the results I could achieve with the plane sharpened to 800 grit were more than satisfactory.

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Walnut shaving taken using the bench-sharp plane, not bad at all, leaving a silky smooth finish on the work piece. I’ll continue this series next time I sharpen the plane and try to continue the bevel reshaping and sharpen the iron to a higher level.

Thank you for reading and all comments/questions welcome.

~Alistair

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