Hand Tools - Resuscitating an old Plane

A cheap plane is not necessarily a bad one

Yesterday I pulled out an old Ambika #5 Jack plane that I had discarded some years ago. That was when I was relatively new to woodworking and was struggling to get a hand plane to work. I didn’t know too much about sharpening or about planes in general. I went through several planes, junking most of them until I settled for a brand that makes good planes.

Yesterday, however, I decided to pull out the old plane because I was working more and more with my two Shobha Jack Planes (a #5 and a #5 ½ ). These planes are great at levelling wood and doing most of the work in flattening pieces.

I thought I would convert the old Ambika into a scrub plane of sorts by adding a cambered blade iron.

I checked the Ambika sole for flat and found it was pretty good but decided to do a bit of flattening for good measure.

Silicon Carbide powder

I have found that silicon carbide powder (66 grit), which is relatively easy to locate in milling stores, does fast work of removing metal. I put a bit of the powder on a 320 grit sandpaper stuck on a piece of flat glass and gave it a good rub for a few minutes and the sole was done.

I gave the blade a very slight camber and honed a fine secondary (or micro?) bevel on it.

Secondary bevel [courtesy: www.inthewoodshop.com]

That was that and the plane worked like a charm. I was astounded!

Made me wonder why I had junked it in the first place; realised it was because of my inexperience.

The plane was sound but not my sharpening at that point of time. I also did not know how to adjust the iron so that it was perfectly parallel with the sole.

Now that I know better I realise a low cost plane is not necessarily a bad plane because it is cheap. I now have a terrific Ambika Jack plane for which I would have paid just Rs 600 or so.

It works as good as my more expensive planes and takes off super fine shavings. I tried it on a piece of White Oak and it worked like a darling!

Indranil Banerjie
14 February 2016


  1. I think wooden planes are much better & easy to use. I am still learning hand planning. Skill & experience are more important than a perfect tool. A professional can build any big project with just few hand tools.I have lots of power tools but cant dare to beat a professional.

    1. Well said, Kishore. I could not agree more.

  2. Look sharp. A DIYer should learn the sharpen first. I learns it the hard way.


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