Metal-bodied planes require so little maintenance (aside from sharpening) that it’s easy to forget that they do need some love every year to work smoothly.
Recently I borrowed a friend’s smoothing plane to demonstrate a cut and was struck by how easily her iron adjusted. It was like silk. I thought my plane was in good shape, but I was way off the mark.
So as soon as I delivered the two commissions on my bench to the customer, I stripped down my planes to give them some long-overdue cleaning.
Take the plane entirely apart. Remove the adjuster from its threaded post. Pull all the screws from the frog.
Clean the threaded post with a wire brush until you get it down to bare metal. Even a little bit of rust or gunk will foul the adjuster and make it difficult to advance and retract. Then take a wire pipe cleaner and screw it into your adjuster’s nut (it’s reverse-threaded) to remove any gunk in there.
I was shocked at how much crap was in my threads. It was like forgetting to floss for a year and finding last Christmas’s bacon….
Coat the threads with a light machine oil. Heavy bodied oils are OK, but they seem to attract more dust in my experience.
Now perform the same routine on all the other screws on the plane, including the screws that hold and adjust the frog. And don’t forget the main adjusting screw that holds together the cap iron, iron and lever cap. That thing gets filthy.
Wipe down everything with an oily rag and reassemble the tool.
Your will be shocked and amazed at how much easier adjusting the tool will become.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want more handplane advice such as this, check out my book “Handplane Essentials,” which has been recently revised and expanded.