In this guide, I restore an old Stanley 102 block plane found from the garage sale. Read along and learn how to restore old block planes, it is fun!
What is Stanley 102 Block plane?
The Stanley 102 Block plane is a small general purpose, pocket-size block plane with a basic construction. It is manufactured from 1877 to 1962. It is 5 ½” long and comes with a 1 3/8” iron. Bedding angle of the blade (iron) is 20 degrees, and with a bevel angle of 25 degrees, the resulting cutting angle is 45 degrees. The body and the cap iron are japanned. It doesn’t have any blade-adjuster so it is manually adjusted. The mouth is fixed too and quite big.
Condition before restoration
The plane was in quite a good condition. It was dirty and there was some light rust visible and some white paint. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t used much, sole had still the machining marks visible, the leading edge of the lever cap was rough with allover japanning and it doesn’t engage well with a blade. The blade wasn’t sharpened at all, blade length was original. Back of the blade was rough with machining marks. The sole had a quite deep hollow in the middle. All in all, this little block plane was in a need for complete restoration and tune-up.
Disassembly of plane parts
First I disassembled the plane. It consists of four parts: the body, the blade and the lever cap with the large metal wheel used for tightening the blade. Very simple construction.
Washing of plane parts
Next, I had to clean all the grime and dirt that have been accumulated over the decades on the plane parts. I poured lukewarm water with a dishwashing detergent to a plastic bowl and placed the parts in it. With an old toothbrush, I scrubbed the parts clean.
Rust removal with citric-acid bath
There was some rust visible on the body and the blade. I made citric acid and water bath and put the parts in it for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the citric acid is corrosive so I recommend using disposable gloves for protection.
After 30 minutes I scrubbed them clean with a scouring pad and rinsed them clean with a running water. If you let the citric acid dry on the parts the will get very light yellow color, that’s rust! so rinse them well.
If your parts are very rusty, you should leave them in a citric acid bath for a couple hours. And if the rust still persists you should scrub parts couple times and put them back to the citric acid solution and scrub again after a little while.
The solution can be poured down to the sink when finished.
Another good and safe method to remove rust is to use Evapo-Rust liquid.
Removal of white paint patches with acetone
The last owner had for some reason messed with white paint. There was paint on sides of the body and on the lever cap. I used the acetone to remove the paint. It was a breeze. The japanning was not affected by the acetone.
The Lever cap tune up
Bottom of the leading edge of the lever cap was very rough, it was japanned to the very tip of the cap. For the lever cap to secure the blade tight, it should have a flat bottom surface so it touches the blade tightly over the majority of its width.
I used the side of my Tormek grinding wheel to grind the japanning off from the bottom tip of the lever cap. You can use whatever method you like, belt grinder, water or oilstones or glass with a sandpaper. I Also polished the top bevel of the cap lever with a honing wheel.
The bed tune-up
Next thing was to flatten the bed of the plane. I had to use a small diamond file to file the bed flat and true. My general flat files were too big for the job. Luckily I had this tiny Eze-lap file for the job. The bedding was machined very badly and it took a long while before the bed was flat. I removed the japanning also from the tops of two tangs that support the blade under the wheel.
Blade sharpening and honing
It looked to me that the blade was never sharpened. The back was rough with milling marks. I flattened the back with my Waterstones. With the ruler trick, you don’t have to flatten the whole back, only about ½” is flattened and the process is fast.
Blade edge had large nicks that I had to grind away. With a Tormek it is fast and easy. For a primary bevel, I used 25-degree angle so I can later hone a 2-degree micro bevel to it.
Lastly, I polished the back and the bevel of the blade.
Lapping, aka flattening of the sole
For functionality of a block plane or actually any other plane, the flat sole is important. The sole of this particular plane was far from flat. There was a deep hollow in the middle of the sole.
The blade and the lever cap should be in place and properly tensioned before you can begin the lapping process
I used coarse grit sandpaper on top of a thick glass plate to grind the sole of the block plane flat. The hollow was so severe that it took over 15 minutes with an 80 grit sandpaper to flatten the sole. You could call it a workout. After I got it acceptably flat I used a couple of finer grade sandpapers to smoothen the sole surface.
Tip: For the coarse, fast removal of sole material I found out that dry yellow Mirka sandpaper was way faster than similar grade wet and dry sandpaper used wet!
After the lapping process, you have to clean the body out of all the debris and dust.
Removal of the burs and beveling of the sole
There should be no sharp edges around the body of the plane. After the lapping of the sole, there might be very sharp edges that can bite or scratch raised areas wood or your finger.
I used the diamond file to grind a small bevel around the sole.
Push the file away from the sole, not towards it.
There might be sharp edges also elsewhere on the plane. The portion of the blade that sticks out under the lever cap is one place where you should file those sharp edges way for a user comfort.
Why should I oil the parts?
For keeping the plane rust free in the future and in good working order, the user should oil the plane and its parts. Best oils for the job are camelia and jojoba oils. I didn’t have either so I used couple drops of light paraffin oil on a rag. Paste wax is also used by some.
Assembly and test
At last, it is time to assemble the plane and test drive it.
Old Stanley 102 block plane is ready and cuts better than ever before in its long life. The plane was never fully tuned before and my hunch is that the first owner of the plane has been disappointed with it when new. Now it shines after all the decades of uselessness.
There is a slight learning curve for adjusting the blade depth and taper because of the absence of blade adjusters. But this little, cheap block plane is going to do some serious work in the future.