I Might Bail Out On Bailey Planes

Well, mainly the big ones.

I have become very frustrated with my beautiful old Stanley/Bailey jointing planes.

Dear Stanley/Bailey jointer plane, Why won't you stay flat and true? Is it something I said?

They feel great in the hand, have enough weight to add heft to my planing and they are beautiful to behold.

The problem is that I can not get the soles to stay flat. I have spent many hours getting the soles on both a #7 (22 inches) and #8 (24 inches) flat only to find that something as simple as taking out the blade for sharpening and replacing it can cause the sole to become concave.

Many woodworkers think a plane need not be dead flat. I agree, but only for certain types of work. When I am leveling a fretboard or jointing the back  or soundboard for a dulcimer a reasonably flat, long plane makes the job go very quick and easy.

I am aware that these trusty old metal planes were not intended for work requiring this much precision. This is why I thoroughly researched how to tune-up these planes for fine woodworking. I made sure the frogs were well seated. I flattened the sole with the blade installed so the plane would be under the tension as if it were in use. I added thick after-market blades. I chanted mystical incantations, etc.

This has worked well on the smaller planes but the big ones just don’t stay flat.

If anyone has suggestions as to how I could get these big planes flat and get them to stay that way please let me know!

There are currently made metal jointer planes that are made for fine work. They are expensive but friends of mine who have them say they are worth ever penny. I may go that route someday but I hope to resolve the problem by either getting these old Stanley’s to work or switching to wooden jointer planes.

My experience with wooden planes has been very positive. They are easy to keep flat and I like the feel of wood against wood when planing.

A set of wooden planes. Will you be my friend?

I use several wooden smoothing planes, both with high angles and 45° and love the results. I also fixed up an old wooden jack plane that is very comfortable to use. I have an old 22 inch wooden jointer plane that works well but is a bit too bulky for some of the finer work I do. I also would prefer the blade to be at 55 ° ( as I would on several  of my metal planes) so I would not have to sharpen using back-bevels.

I am thinking I will make wooden  high-angle jointer plane. With instruments to finish and gigs to play I probably will not be able to get around it until  next month. It should be fun!

6 thoughts on “I Might Bail Out On Bailey Planes

  1. Hi Doug,
    You had me running to the shop to measure my #7. I suppose everyone has their own definition of ‘flat’ but when I put a straight edge on mine, whether parallel to the bed or across it, in any direction, it says “flat” to me. I remember lapping it when I got it but that was long ago so I don’t remember the details.

    Mine’s a Type #16 so it’s WWII vintage. It’s true that more recent Stanleys are of lesser stock but I’m surprised they would go out of flat after you’ve taken the time to get them that way. Wish I had a magic solution but I just haven’t had the problem and can dial mine down to take mighty thin shavings, though I rarely want anything that fine from it.

    I’m with you on the wooden plane approach, particularly if you’re willing to make them. I have a vintage 24″ try plane that’s a joy to use but its mouth is a bit large from wear/flattening. The feel of wood on wood is just so much nicer than metal on wood. A Krenov-style try plane, perhaps?

    Cheers — Larry

  2. Doug… Planes the size of the 7 and 8 are subject to some minor movement as the seasons change. Not to mention the stress of the cap and frog on the casting. They’re just too big to maintain a perfectly flat sole.

    If you prefer age, find a good old infill fore or jointer. Spiers made nice planes of massive sizes.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thanks for the info. I wondered if that was the case. My long metal planes work well enough for somethings but that fluctuation is enough to put a hump in a fretboard. Not the end of the world because I can always go back with a small plane to even things out.

      A Spiers would be wonderful but I don’t have the first born and side order of fries to trade for one!

      I think I’ll be going with a wooden jointer. I true up my wooden planes somewhat often but it always goes quickly.

      All the best,


  3. Hi Larry,

    Thanks for checking. My #7 is a type 11 and the #8 is a sweetheart era. Should be fairly substantial, though not as substantial as a type 16 or 17.

    Not sure what the problem with my #7 and #8 might be. I might try lapping them one more time….They go a bit concave when I take the blade out and put it back in. Years ago I flattened a bunch of #3, 4 and 5’s and they are all fine.

    I’m thinking a Krenov style high angle jointer is the solution.

    All the best,


  4. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve heard good things about HNT Gordon planes. I use some Mujingfang planes that look similar and like them a lot. Might have to check it out!

  5. Have a look at the HNT Gordon website. He makes beautiful wooden planes with a high angle. Especially useful for our cranky Australian hardwoods. I have one of his shoulder planes and a smoother and I love them.
    I think there may be a jointer for sale in his bargain plane section.

Comments are closed.