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Antique hand plane blade

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  • Antique hand plane blade

    I'm restoring my great-grandfather's hand plane and it has an unusually thin blade. I bought a replacement blade but it's an 1/8" thick and won't fit the body because the original was 1/16" thick.

    I figure I can make a new one out of tool steel but the stock I found is annealed and I know almost nothing about metal hardening. McMaster-Carr says it's air hardening, so do I just get the edge red and then let it cool? Should I temper it at 400 degrees as I've seen on YouTube? In those videos they were hardening with oil.

  • #2
    Before you go to that extent let's see if we can find the right blade for you from some other source. First off is to start with the assumption that at some point the blade may have been swapped and might not be the correct blade. So let's start by identifying the plane model and find the proper blade.

    When you say "great grandfather's antique wood plane" my first thought is one of the old all wood planes with wooden wedge.... At least that's what my antique wood planes which I prefer are made like. Then along came the transitional planes that had a wood sole and cast iron upper that started the move to thinner blades. And shortly after that the all metal cast iron planes that are well known now. Makers include Bailey, Stanley, Record etc. And each of these has sources for replacement blades for a number of the models.

    So can you give us some more information and pictures on what you have? Odds are excellent that we can find you a blade that either fits directly or which can be pretty easily modified.
    Chilliwack BC, Canada


    • #3
      It's a cast-iron plane. Not sure who the actual maker was but it's branded "Ward's Master" which I guess was Montgomery Ward.

      The blade is the same footprint as one I found for a Stanley of the same size but the Stanley blade is 1/8" thick and mine is 1/16" thick. There's a screw that won't reach through the thicker blade and it won't fit through the slot in the sole, either. Click image for larger version

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      • #4
        I see the issue now.

        So are you wanting to clean up the plane and use it for your own wood working or is this more to clean up and display?

        If you're looking to use it in his memory (a lovely idea if he was a frequent wood worker) just how badly pitted is the back of the old blade? That surface needs to be pristine to work well. But if it's only lightly rusty it may come up well after a bit of work.

        If you're keen on making this a user's tool I'd say go with the new thicker blade and make a new longer screw to reach the cap. The thicker blade will be a big improvement. Especially if it's a blade from Lee Valley or some other source along the same line.

        Since you're a member here I'm also assuming you have a lathe which could be used for this. If you're not keen on cutting this short of a thread you can cheat. Find a bolt that fits the thread in the cap iron and then turn and tap a ring the size of the head. Then either weld the top and turn smooth or cut some flats with a file and peen lock them together and finish turn and cut the slot or something similar?
        Chilliwack BC, Canada


        • #5
          The back is very badly pitted so it's basically worthless. I intend to use it so replacing the screw with a slightly longer 3/8" coarse was my first thought also, but as I said the thicker blade won't fit through the slot in the sole.

          I thought about thicknessing the blade with a carbide face mill or rigging up something to surface grind it but that seems like just as big a hassle as making one. Besides I wouldn't mind trying my hand a metal hardening.


          • #6
            I would guess that the frog on a plane like this is adjustable. In which case move it back enough to let your new blade go through the plane sole.
            West Sussex UK


            • #7
              Yep, you should be able to move the frog back a little to allow the extra to slip through. If there is not enough movement for that I'd open up the mouth carefully with a file to allow it to fit and such that the cap has room to avoid the shavings from piling up.

              I'd happily encourage you to try your hand at hardening and tempering. But starting out with a big thin plane blade is not the place to start. Too may options for warping and general unhappiness.
              Chilliwack BC, Canada


              • #8
                With the frog all the way back the blade touches the front edge of the slot. No room at all for shavings to pass through. I'm not filing an 1/8" inch off the opening.

                Back to my original question, for steel described as "air-hardening" should I let it cool on its own or quench it in oil as I've seen in videos? Should I temper it in either case?

                The piece of steel is only $25.00 so I'm willing to risk failure.
                Last edited by Commander_Chaos; 04-25-2020, 03:47 PM.


                • #9
                  Air hardening is just what it says. You heat it up and remove from the flame and it hardens just by the cooling action of the air. Check the alloy number for tempering or if it is needed.

                  Generally air hardening means less distortion so this might be a good option. If you try quenching in oil it could result in too fast a hardening and more likely distortion or even cracking.

                  Other tool steels will have a "W" or an "O" for water hardening or oil hardening. If you know the number

                  A check on for "Stanley wood plane blades" turned up a few options. I see in your picture what might be a number at the tail of the bed. That number would be the size of the plane and guide you to getting the proper blade if you opt to go that way. One of the pictures I looked at appears to be the proper thin size.

                  I'm sure you could also get onto ebay and find the same options.
                  Chilliwack BC, Canada


                  • #10
                    If you decide to try to find one on ebay, here's a website with about all you'd want to know about planes (i.e. the Stanley and Bailey) that you could probably use to cross reference what you have against the sizes and numbers of the Stanley's. There were a lot of other makers, e.g. Sargent one name that comes to mind, Millers Falls is another. But I think they all used about the same numbering scheme to describe the sizes and uses.

                    What are the measurements on the plane, and the iron, that you have?
                    Lynn (Huntsville, AL)


                    • #11
                      If you want to give the plane a first class tune up I would recommend getting hold a book by Leonard Lee of Lee Valley called The Complete Guide to Sharpening. I went through his method on a couple of old cast iron planes also using one of their roller guides to hone the blade to precise cutting angles. That turned an OK plane into a fine cutting tool that can peal off shaving as thin as a fine piece of paper. On the planes I was working on the frog and the sole were not originally perfectly flat along with a few other things that needed some attention. That honing guide gets the cutting surface perfectly square and at the precise cutting angles. One of planes I did for a friend and he didn't believe he got the same plane back he had given me to sharpen.
                      Larry - west coast of Canada


                      • #12
                        There is also some good videos on YT on tuning up the Stanley/Bailey/etc style planes.
                        Chilliwack BC, Canada