My brand new $20 “scrub” plane

Back before I even thought about getting into hand tools, I still would go on sites like Lie-Nielsen and drool over all the shiny tools they had dreaming one day I would own ALL of them. At this point in time I am no where close to that dream but I have started building my collection. One tool that was never on my must have list was a scrub plane, mainly due to the fact that I never really understood it. It wasn’t until my saw bench that I realized that if I was going to do the hand tools thing, a scrub plane is a necessity.

I built my saw bench out of some red oak I got from a guy at work whose father owns a saw mill in MS. I got this wood for a steal, 130 bdft of rough red oak for only $50. most of the wood is 4/4 but there are a few pieces that are about 8/4. I wanted to use some 6/4 for a solid top on the saw bench. These boards were cheap but they are also some work getting them usable. By the time I flattened one side and needed to thickness it to the thinnest portion, there were some areas that needed 3/8″ of planing. This is especially where that scrub plane would have saved my arms and hands. When you use a flat blade and the full length of the 2″ blade makes contact with the wood, the effort to take thicker shavings is draining! Well I didn’t have a scrub plane so all my work was done by my no. 5 and no. 7. I tried for the thicker shavings but eventually just went for thinner shavings which was less force used, but more passes so it was no win situation. I finally finished my saw bench but knew I would NOT be doing that again.

After looking at a Lie-Nielsen scrub plane, my tool budget told me I would have to wait. With four kids, my tool budget isn’t as large as I would like it to be so I needed a way to get a scrub plane now with minimum money put forth. That’s when I started shopping around. Lee Valley has one for $45 less than LN but that was still more than I wanted to pay. So I went to woodcraft.com to see what I could do. While browsing their clearance section, I came across a Groz jack plane for only $18.85! I’ve read and seen enough people convert their no. 5s into scrub planes that it was a no brainer what I was going to do. About a week later, my new soon to be scrub plane was at my door.

As far as personal choice in plane buying goes, I wouldn’t consider buying a Groz for actual planing. The reviews alone are enough to turn me away but I wasn’t gonna use it as a no. 5 so all the gripes everyone has with Groz regarding set up and effort to make it work like higher end planes didn’t concern me. To be honest, when I got it, I was in the middle of my hiatus so it just sat in the box for probably about a month. When I finally started getting back in the shop, getting the plane converted was priority#1.

I took it out of the box, gave it a cleaning with mineral spirits and got to work. I didn’t check how flat the sole is/isn’t, no time sharpening the blade or trying to make ANY other type of adjustment to the plane. Step number one was getting the blade shaped. I used an 8″ radius for my blade closest to the cutting edge as possible. For this I got a ruler, centered the blade, got a piece of string and wrapped it around a marker at the 8″ line and marked the back of my blade. This is not by any means the most accurate method for this but hey, it worked for me since I didn’t have a compass. The actual shaping came by manual means… a file and arm power. It took me about two days during my lunch break but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. After I had a relatively uniform curve, it was time to sharpen.

To get things started, I did use my Veritas MkII jig set at 30° using the scary sharp method. I know the roller is long and hard to rock but since I wasn’t relying on it to keep things flat, I just lifted and rolled until I had enough of the angle established to continue sharpening by hand. For this portion I focused on sanding down the outside edges and getting them to develop the shape for a cutting edge before actually trying to sharpen the blade the whole way across. Once I sanded down the blade enough that it started to look like I could be sharpened evenly, I used Shannon’s method of starting a one corner of the sandpaper and pulling it across and rocking it to its opposite corner trying to overlap in the center. It worked like a charm because only a lunch time worth a sharpening, I had a brand new $20 “scrub” plane. I put it back together, centered my blade and tested it on some red oak taking some pretty think shavings with hardly any effort. How did I ever work without this bad boy before?

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Author: Dan

Husband, Father of four, active duty Marine, and amateur woodworker.

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