Plane Sharpening and Just Plain Rambling

Inexpensive Stanley Plane Sharpened

Every now and again I remind everyone that the primary purpose of this blog is to catalog the various projects completed, and products used in those projects, for posterity and just in case I need to know what the color of a paint was, or the name of a wallpaper, and so on. 

A secondary purpose has been to share the projects with family and friends who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to see some of the things done here.  But, sometimes, and I think rarely, I post something just for the fun of posting something.  This is one of those times.  This post is simply about sharpening a plane iron - no Pulitzer in sight!  Let's start with a little plane anatomy...

Pretty cool huh?  Who knew there was so much to such a simple tool!  And my dad gave me his old Stanley - Bailey No.4 Bench Plane, the self-same one I watched him use my whole childhood -

Here's a description of the plane from Stanley Tools:

The Stanley Model 12-904 Bailey® Smoothing Plane is a fine general-purpose bench plane. It has a cast-iron base with precision-ground sides and 9-3/4" long bottom. It features a fully machined and polished double-iron cutter and lever, and the 2" wide cutter is made from hardened, tempered steel for durability. The solid brass cutter-adjustment knob allows precise control of depth and alignment, and the frog seat is machined for precise mouth adjustment. A quick-release cam lock makes iron removal easy. Contoured, polished high-impact polymer handles and knobs offer comfort and durability. Honing recommended before use.
Gray, cast-iron base with precision-ground sides and 9-3/4" long bottom
Durable powder/epoxy coating provides long-lasting protection
Hardened, tempered steel gives precision-ground cutter edge durability
Fully machined and polished double-iron cutter and lever
Frog seat is machined for precise mouth adjustment
Cutter adjusts for depth and alignment, offering precise control
Solid-brass cutter-adjustment knob
Quick-release cam lock makes iron removal easy
Kidney-shaped hole in lever cap helps secure cutter in place
Contoured, polished high-impact polymer handles and knobs - Source: Rockler
Pretty cool, and historically known as a solid tool, which today costs about $75 to $80.  But alas - this is not the plane for which I sharpened the iron.  No, instead I sharpened the iron on this beaut:

This model is the Stanley SB4, and here's the description:
Stanley SB4 Light Duty Smoothing Plane
Features:Fine grey iron base accurately machined for stability and precision in use.
A light-duty, easily and simply adjusted smoothing plane with a chrome carbon cutter with simple lateral and depth adjustment.
Virtually unbreakable high impact injection moulded handles for comfort and long life. - Source:  Tooled-Up
This model cost about $20, and for good reason!  It's the simplest of all planes, plastic handles and has no frog!  The iron is about half as thick at the No.4, and the adjustments are those two little wheels you see at the top of the iron.  When I bought this plane, dad hadn't passed the No.4 on to me yet, and I needed a plane for when I spliced together two boards for the base on the dining room built-in:

This cheap little bench plane actually did a nice job straight out of the box!  And I've used it a few times since (haven't started using dad's yet because I want to do a little restoration on it first), and am pleased with the job it does.  It's definitely not a professional tool and it received mixed reviews on Amazon.  Funny as this may sound, this plane seems to be rather polarizing in the woodworking/diy community. 

Master craftsman Paul Sellers had this to say:
I would take this plane back because of it’s inferior quality and unfitness for purpose. The Stanley SB4 plane is and always will be piece of junk. If it were stainless steel, perhaps it could have been sold as a cheese slicer.
Pretty cheeky!  I love that.  On the other end of the spectrum - okay, the truth is nobody came close to the other end of the spectrum but there were lots of reviews all over the web that give it a decent grade, especially for what it is - a light-duty plane.  Like I said - it's been okay for me!  But the other day I needed a brief distraction from working with COVID-19 scenarios, so I decided to sharpen the SB4.

There she is on the right side of the plane rack.  I started on the sharpening board I put together back in '18:

I marked the back of the plane with a Sharpie so I could try to flatten it:

After quite a bit of work on the sandpaper, I was able to get the back of the iron fairly flat:

Then I went at the edge.  The cutting edge was pretty dinged up, so it took some aggressive paper...

...and the obligatory artsy shot:

Until I got to a fairly sharp edge...

I forgot to get some pictures of the iron being sharpened on the finer stones,

...but it sharpened pretty good, 'til I got some decently-translucent shavings:

And there you have it - an entirely mundane post, just for the fun of posting!  If nothing else, this exercise achieved its purpose - exorcising the stress of these days, if only for a little while.  Thanks for hanging in there!

Be safe!
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