De-rusting planes – Part 1

After buying an assortment of old planes and old saws recently, I bought some de-greaser and rust remover from Axminster to have a go at cleaning them up.

Degreaser and deruster

I don’t think any of them have any value as collectors items and I’m not aiming for a freshly made shine, but I am looking to remove any rust and hopefully prevent its recurrence.

I initially bought a couple of shallow storage boxes from Wilkinson with the intention of using them for degreasing and derusting, but as they’re 16 litres and the degreaser and deruster only make a maximum of 5 litres I’ve used them as drip trays.

They have 5 “feet” moulded into the bottom, 2 on each side and one in the center and these fit nicely outside and between the jaws of one of my folding workbenches. Their corrugated lids make good draining boards, holding the components up out of any drips and both lids and boxes can “bridge” between the leg braces under my workbenches.

Acorn No. 4

I decided to start on the Acorn, as it’s probably worth the least. The screws showed signs of abuse by someone with the wrong sized screwdriver, so I felt a bit less guilty about occasionally resorting to using the widest one I posess which is on my swiss army knife!

Comparison of my largest screwdriver and the one on my swiss army knife

The handle/tote is not just cracked – it’s broken into two pieces:

Broken tote of Acorn No. 4 hand plane

The handle bolt is noticeably bent, as is the bolt holding the knob onto the toe of the plane.

The knob is cracked as well:

Cracked knob from Acorn No. 4 hand plane

I’d already given the planes a squirt with WD-40 to remove the worst of the grease they were covered in, so they didn’t take too long to degrease with an old toothbrush.

I started off with about 2 litres of water and half the rust remover in an old coke bottle, and a dash more of each in the bottom of another old coke bottle:

Degreasing and derusting

The various larger components (sole, blade, chip breaker, lever cap and frog) were suspended from bits of old wire coat hanger in the bottle, with the various screws and bolts loose in the smaller section.

Derusting a hand plane in a coke bottle

The instructions say to check after an hour, but there wasn’t much progress at all and I ended up leaving the Acorn in for about 4-5 hours in the end.

After removing the parts from the rust remover I gave them a rinse and scrub with a scourer, then (as suggested in the instructions) another quick dunk in the rust remover before hanging them up to dry (in my case I’ve popped them in the airing cupoard!)

Acorn No. 4 hand plane in pieces drying in the airing cupboard

I’ve never even tried to remove rust using anything other than WD-40 and abrasive, so this was a new experience.

The rust has certainly disappeared, but I’m not sure I like the dull grey of the components so I may give them a light going over with a fine abrasive of some kind (perhaps Garryflex)

Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2

I did the No. 4 1/2 next so I’d have less chance of confusing the pieces.

It was only when I had stripped it and saw the previous owner’s name scratched into the underside of the handle/tote that I realised that the handles are plastic!

Dismantled Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2

There were some wood shavings trapped under the frog:

Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2 sole with original wood shavings

The frog only had a little light rust, so only needed an hour in the de-ruster and I decided not to bother with the lever cap as there was no rust on it, just a variety of paint and other splatter marks.

Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2 frog after derusting

I’ve scraped most of these off with scraps of wood and plastic, although the large white paint splodge took some of the red background of the Stanley logo with it 😦

Stanley Bailey lever cap after pain splodges were scraped off

After two hours in the de-ruster the sole was still bubbling gently but looked pretty clean, so I removed it, but the blade and chip breaker looked like they could do with another hour.

Stanley Bailey No. 4 1/2 sole after derusting

The previous owner’s name is also scratched into the chip breaker:

R West - previous owner of my Stanley Bailey No 4 1/2

The markings on the blade are a little more legible now too:

Stanley Bailey No. 4 blade with 25 degree grinding

I think I’ll probably put the blade and chip breaker back into the deruster tomorrow as they both still look a little rusty.

The photo below illustrates the difference between “as dipped” (far left of the blade) and “as scrubbed” (right):

Plane blade after derusting - right side cleaned with scourer, far left untouched

The dark flat grey colour can be relieved by scrubbing and I suspect that fine abrasives would also relieve it, but I’m not that bothered with how they look as long as the rust is gone and the edge is sharp …

Stanley Bailey No. 4

The last plane to be stripped and de-rusted is probably in the worst shape.

Stanley Bailey No. 4 after degreasing

The wood of the handle/tote and knob is sound but the varnish is badly cracked.

The sole, blade and chip breaker are all pretty rusty and I think the de-rusting solution may be losing some of its potency, so I’ve left them in overnight.


All three planes have something wrong with their handles – one has a broken tote and cracked knob, another has plastic tote and knob and the other has the varnish cracking off everywhere.

I’m not yet sure what I’ll do about the broken and plastic handles. Axminster sell replacements but I’d rather not spend more on the handles than the planes themselves!

I’ll almost certainly attempt to repair and refinish the wooden handles but I think I’ll put off the decision about the plastic ones as long as possible.

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4 Responses to De-rusting planes – Part 1

  1. Pingback: De-rusting planes – Part 2 | Aggravated Wood Butchery

  2. Pingback: Rebuilding planes – Part 1 | Aggravated Wood Butchery

  3. Once again a great and informative post. Are you simply ‘adding to the arsenal’ by restoring these tools, or do you have a specific job or jobs in mind? I only have a couple of cheap planes, but with the sort of jobs I use my workshop for (being mainly a turner) I have not used them yet.

    • John says:

      Thanks. I’m mainly adding to the arsenal 🙂

      I’ve got this mental image of an ideal set of planes that I think will cover most eventualities:

      2 or 3 different block planes (including low angle and rebate) and a selection of bench planes (including 4, 5 and 7).

      Having three No. 4s and a 4 1/2 is perhaps a little excessive (I’ll probably try and sell at least one) and I have no real reason for having the saws (other than hating to see a good tool left out in the rain and being interested to see how well they’d clean up)


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