Anyone have experience using a hand plane for surfacing a board?

I’ve got some nice old growth pine boards from an old staircase. It has paint or varnish on it. It’s pretty difficult to sand down with a belt sander. I noticed a video somewhere on how to flatten a warped board. The guy had an old school really long hand plane. I don’t need to do this. I’d just like to remove the paint and varnish.

Does anyone have any experience doing this? How hard is it? Can I do it with a Home Depot purchased Stanley plane? Which model should I get? What sharpening stone should I get to hone the blade?

Thanks in advance.

I’ve done this, and it’s not much fun.
If it were me (and I had to do several of these), I’d find someone with a jointer/planer or thickness planer and have them run the boards through it. 30 sec/board and you’re done.
Doing it by hand is going to be an hours-long job, depending on the amount of warpage.

The purpose of the long plane is to minimize the waves.

A power planer is a set of spining heads and sometimes leaves a noticeable pattern on the baord depending on how fast you push it through; but if you then sand it, and unless you are making very fancy furniture it will be fine.

A plane gives the slick, smooth surface that only a plane can. The sorter hand plane is a pain to use for an amatuer, as you have to adjust the blade very carefully and be smooth about it or you get grabs and gouges. Practice on throw-away lumber first. (IIRC there was a warning about going with the grain not into it or you may get gouges, too. )

Last time I did this was as an experiment making a small red oak coffee table about 20 years ago or more… As an amateur I don’t think I did a good job, certainly not perfect.

The reason a long plane is used for this sort of thing (assuming no powered thicknesser is available) is that it tends to flatten out any undulations, as it’s riding over bumps and dips as opposed to rocking up and down into them.

If you use a short plane, there can be a tendency to amplify the bumps and dips. It’s possible to overcome this with great care and practice, but you won’t get it right straight away (I reclaim timber from hardwood pallets and I’ve pulled it off with a short plane, but have also ruined a good few boards too).

If you’re not experienced I’d recommend against it. A plane with a long base would be best if you do try it.

If you have a few boards to work on perhaps a local cabinet shop could run them through their surface sander for a reasonable amount.

OK, sounds like a pain in the ass. My friend who is a contractor has a planer, but he wouldn’t let me use it because of the varnish. He owes me a favor big time, so I think I’ll ask him again.

You might want to look at using one of the paint/varnish remover products out there. Never done it myself (I have a thickness planer, used it to “destain” wood before) but you’ll get most of the surface coating off without removing lots of wood in the process. Dry it and then you can smooth with a snader (or your friend’s planer, since you’ll only need to remove a thin layer of wood to smooth things down and you won’t be beating up his planer bads as badly with all the goo).

Paint and varnish shouldn’t be a massive problem for a planer-thicknesser, especially if it’s old paint, as it won’t be plastic and sticky any more. What lies beneath the paint may be a problem (staples, tacks, cut-off nails, etc).

Using a wood plane is both a skill and an art. There are many types of planes and each have their application. Just getting the blade setting right will take a lot of trial and error.

A plane is not going to be a short cut as opposed to a belt sander. A plane is going to be more work and may result in flaws that you will have to sand out anyway.

I would use the belt sander with first a coarse grade and then with a finer grade of belt.

I have a Bosch belt sander and I have a sanding frame that goes with it. This device mounts on the sander and provides support and stability so the sander doesn’t dig in and gouge the work surface.

A belt sander should do a fine job of removing layers of paint and varnish. You need to start the job with a course grit. You might want to start with chemicals though to get rid of most of it. In general, the less vile and toxic the stripper is, the less effective it will be. But if you can the coatings softened, you can scrape most of it off. For use on a staircase, you have heartwood, which can be very brittle, so watch out for power planers causing a lot of chipping. Whatever method you use, work with the grain, not against it.

I’ve seen my grandad smooth warped wood boards with a draw knife. Also seen him remove thick layers of paint with one.

Any hand tool requires lots of practice. I’ve used a draw knife before and never got the results my grandad did.

The reason why you’re not getting satisfaction from the belt sander is because varnish likes to melt into a belt clogging mess. They sell open mesh sanding belts which eliminates the problem.

My suggesting is to use a paint scraper, then some nice gel stripper.

Paint remover and a scraper. I generally use zip strip. Once you get the majority of the finish removed, hit it with the sander, on the slowest speed.

Paint isn’t, varnish is. I have experience with that. Varnish will clog up the planer blades pretty quick and make a mess. The blades get hot and melt the varnish, that’s why the OP’s buddy won’t let him use his planer. Running painted boards through a planer makes a mess that is a pain to clean. I only use my planer on unfinished wood now.

Here is another vote for paint remover.

Another danger to watch out for: Hidden metal in the board.
Old wood often contains hidden nails, screws, and staples. These are often flush with the surface and painted over.

As far as using the plane goes, sharpen it well, stone the corners of the iron a little to give a tiny radius on each side, set the height correctly, and try to plane with the grain (in the direction where the blade doesn’t dig in).

Grab a carpenter’s pencil and scribble all over your board before you plane. That way you can tell where you have been.
This is particularly useful when you are planing in multiple passes. You can scribble on the board, take it down a little, and then scribble again and plane again so that you can make sure you aren’t skipping any areas.

The trick is to push down on the heel of the plane, and pull it toward you. Push down too hard on the front, and it will dig in and gouge. Too little and you would get no bite. But yes, the problem is making dips and hollows with a shorter plane.

As a suggestion, you might use a hand plane just to remove the surface paint, not to make it perfect. This would also prove to your friend that there are no hidden nails in the board. Then he could confidently complete the job with the big power planer. After than you could lightly sand to remove the power planer “waves”.

To remove the finish and paint, you should use a #80 scraper plane rather than a normal block or jack plane.

Once you are down to bare wood, run the boards through your friend’s power planer.

If you do this sort of thing a lot, you might want to look at Craigslist for planers. It is not uncommon to see them for under $100.