Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Make an Old Jointer Plane Act Newer

Its common knowledge that adding an improved iron and chipbreaker to an old Stanley plane will improve its performance.  In fact, a set from Ron Hock was among my very first premium handtool purchases.  However, the iron did not fit my plane, and I was afraid to tamper with it.  Until today.

There are no images because it is not a photogenic operation...  I just made a thin scribe with a square and put tape down to mark the mouth, clamped the plane in a vise (with wooden shims to pad the jaws), and went to work with a file.  I was nervous about opening it too far, so stopped, put the frog back into place and tested it 3 times before I had it open enough.  When it did fit, my mind was blown.  This jointer, an old #7, was already a joy to use.  Now its an amazing joy.  I can dial it almost as fine as a smoother, but the real magic is on the shooting board.  Before, I was getting an odd stripe on the end grain, although I could find no nick in the iron.  I was also getting slightly out-of-square ends, although this was remedied by flipping the board and taking a couple more cuts.  However, now the shooting is not only easier, but much more accurate.  Should have done this a long time ago!

One little benefit of this set-up is that now I can keep the frog snugged right up front, where it should be, so that the iron is supported at the very bottom by the plane body itself.  When the frog is retracted, there is a slight gap there.  It might only be a few millimeters, but every bit helps in the war on chatter.

I use a Hock iron and chipbreaker in my jack plane (a #5) and it is fantastic as well.  In that case, I had them grind a 10 degree camber on it for me since I was a little nervous about making such a drastic modification to the stock iron.  I would now not hesitate to do this myself, but if you are new to hand planes and are planning to buy an iron from Ron, it might be worth it to inquire about this service.

The desire for a Lie-Nielsen #7 is fading, as is the desire for a #51 Shooting Plane.  Wait, who am I kidding? I still want a #51.  While my jointer now shoots nicely, it is still murder on the hands to do for very long.  There is just not a comfortable spot to hold it which is also effective. Not sure its an issue worth $500 to fix, but I do dream of such things.


  1. I want to do this... I've been saving my pennies for a Hock blade for this #7 I picked up. the blade is crap, so it's a great candidate for this.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Badger- I honestly think this relatively small outlay is one of the best things you can do for your shop. The difference is amazing.

  3. Hi,
    Great post I'm enjoying the journey.
    May I recommend a hotdog for your #7 made a vast improvement to mine for shooting. Very good instructions here: