Into each life a #4 must fall: Stanley #4-T11-pictoral essay and rehab

On a recent rust hunt, I happened across a Stanley #4.


The very reasonable price and three patent dates behind the frog motivated me to have the nice lady open the display case.

Once it was in my covetous little hands, I started ticking off the distinguishing characteristics of a vintage Type 11.


I’ve been burned before. So before forking over good tool money, I made sure that all the parts were present and in good working order. Check, check, check and—here’s my check.

At home I took a closer look.


The experiential archaeologist in me likes to look over how the previous owner configured my new plane.


Wow. Either a youngster gave cambering the ole’ college try, or an Irish workman decided to do it first thing in the morning on March 18th. The cap iron was also set a country mile (3/16”) from the edge. Let’s see. A course camber and set to the iron, plus paint streaks and drops everywhere, plus some plywood chips ensconced under the frog. To me that all adds up to a lifetime dedicated to general purpose work.

That left a cosmetic layer of rust, tarnish, grime and dust everywhere.


The disassembled parts plopped into Evaporust. Everything else was treated to steel- and brass-wire brushes, cue tips, mineral spirits and that Spice-Girls-fluorescent-pink naval jelly rust remover.

After that, I followed the plane rehab regimen that I detailed in my restore of a #3. That includes lapping the iron, sharpening it with a hint of camber and polishing the leading edge of the chip breaker to a mirror finish.

The sole was in pretty good shape. A total lapping time of five minutes through the grits was all that was required.


I left the sides alone other than to remove some rust to reveal the patina beneath.

Before/After tool porn

With the cleaning and sharpening complete it was ready for the test.

My minimalist rehab must have been sufficient, because it only took a few minutes to dial in some solid, smoother performance.


Mmmm. Billowy, gossamer shavings. That’s good, but what kind of finish does it leave on a piece of cherry?


Nice! A glassy-smooth, reflective, no-sandpaper-needed surface.

I’m satisfied with that. More so, considering that I only spent 30 minutes on tuning activities.

From display case to my shop. This one’s a keeper.



About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
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4 Responses to Into each life a #4 must fall: Stanley #4-T11-pictoral essay and rehab

  1. Marilyn says:

    Very nice! And what fun, love bringin’ those old tools back to life.

  2. forbeskm says:

    Nice work. I’ll have to remember to take more pictures next round on my rehab. Your number 4 looked to be in great condition. Mine not so much but after a machinist took .02 off we are cutting shavings to match what you came up with. Makes me want to sell my lie nielsen #4. I also have a #5 and #8 and searching for a #7.

    • Mike, I wouldn’t sell your LN #4 just yet. I use mine frequently and ever since I learned to stop the iron after sharpening, have been getting some amazing results.

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