If your like me, you probably ignore your handplanes when you are not using them. Well, I have done this WAY too long and several have rusted. By the time I dug them all out, I found some that had never ever been tuned up. So I set about disassembling, cleaning, sharpening, and tuning all of my handplanes. Some of them required heavy duty rust removal using Naval Jelly and sandpaper. I made use of my granite block I got from Harbor Freight (on sale) by spraying adhesive on a full sheet of sandpaper and sticking it on the granite. I then would stroke the bottom and sides of each handplane, going thru the grits from 120 to 150 to 220. This leaves a nice shiny and flat surface on the sole and sides of the planes.
When it comes to sharpening, everybody has their favorite method (I would hope). Sharpening is a blog post in itself so I will save you the time. I have finally settled on diamond stones and a leather strop. I used a Veritas roller jig to hold the plane iron. I then rolled it back and forth on my 1000 grit diamond stone until an even sheen can be seen all across the edge. I then turned the adjustment knob one turn which changed the angle slightly so I can put on a micro-bevel. After a couple dozen swipes on the 8000 grit stone it is done. Then I move to the back. I use the ruler trick. Apparently there are a lot of variations on this so I refer you to the Master who created it.
The ruler trick puts a very slight (2/3 of 1 degree) bevel on the back, thereby ensuring that the 2 edges meet to perform the perfect edge.
To watch this whole sharpening process, I refer you to the Lie Nielsen video which does a good job of explaining it as well as Chris Schwarz.
Once the plane iron is scary sharp, I re-assemble the plane and wipe everything down with an oily rag (WD-40). Once a plane is assembled, I tune it to cut perfectly and test it on a piece of maple. You know your time is well spent when you can peel off a translucent shaving that you can see thru. I followed this process until all of my planes cut shavings like this.
A word about handplanes. Half of my planes are 19th Century Stanley or Bailey planes. I have picked them up here and there over the years at antique shows, flea markets, etc… You can find these pretty reasonable if you look around. The other 5 planes are 21st century. A couple are very expensive but I now have a plane for every need, finally.
If you have never refurbished an antique hand plane or tuned up a new plane out of the box, you might want to consider taking one of our Workshops offered at RWS on Handplanes. We typically offer a couple classes a year. There are also tons of videos on YouTube that show the process as well.
Well, I have rushed thru the process of cleaning up my handplanes and hopefully may have given you some incentive to get out in the shop and break out those planes. Now, in the cold of winter, is a great time to do some maintenance on your tools. Let me know how it goes!