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Japanning PageA-13 Infill Hand Plane



What is it? Japanning is a type of tar bases type of paint used in the early days of casting metal.. I am pretty sure that no plane makers uses it any more.. They either use paint or power coating which is a powdered paint that is backed on..

I have tried a several different methods of Japanning, read several articles even a Old Tool Restoration book and the method I use now is motor paint I buy at a auto parts store.

It is much easier to use, drys 10X faster and easy to find.. You can find the brand and color I use just a little ways down in bold type..

The real Japanning Method is at the bottom of the page...


Motor Paint

The easiest way to re-japan is Motor Paint..
After I read Herbert P. Kean  RESTORING ANTIQUE TOOLS Unlock the Secrets of the Pros I tried motor paint and have not looked back for any reason..

Motor Paint

I found that Dupi-Color Motor Paint worked best, I swear by this paint..

Dupli-Color® Engine Enamel DUPDE1635 Ford Semi Gloss Black
You can get it Advanced Auto, Auto Zone or AutoBarn Online This paint is NOT High Heat but Motor Paint good to 600° not the 1200° the High Heat paint is rated at.. The High Heat Paint is Flat Black in color and looks nothing like Japanning..

Cleaning & Preparation for Japanning

I've restored more japanned tools than I care to count. My best guess is about 200 planes and here's my technique:

I start with a medium or coarse steel wire wheel some where around .014 steel wire is harder than stainless and Stainless around .006 wire is what I use for cleaning small screws and parts on the plane..

HF 10" Buffer

Paint stripper - is next the industrial stuff and or Lacquer Thinners, use in a well ventilated area. Fill a pan, let the plane sit in it for a few hours, remove and scrape off what you cant dry.

Lacquer Thinner Stripping Pan
This pan I made from aluminum flashing material house siders use to wrap window moldings.. I have also used HD aluminum foil but seems to tear very easy..

Dental pick - to remove stubborn bits of old Japan, screw driver also works well to scrap off stubborn japanning..

HF Sand Blaster

Sand blast - just hit the japanned area if you are worried about machined surfaces. My experience is that careful sand blasting does very little damage to good metal, nothing that can't be easily polished out.

I use Pay Sand from Home Depot but it needs to be run through a screen to remove some small rocks that equals about .01% of the sand as seen in the pics below..

Play Sand

Make sure the sand is dry or its a major pain to get to run through the screen..

Paint stripper - or Lacquer Thinner treatment again if necessary.

HD Paint Stripper

Sand blast - again if necessary.

HF Sand Blaster
Dental pick again - to remove stubborn bits of old Japan, screw driver also works well to scrap off stubborn japanning..

High pressure air - to blow away any blast grit and small pieces of loose Japan.
The plane is now ready for re-japanning with the method of your choice. In my observation the Japan used by Stanley has changed in formulation over the years, and while the older planes may have been coated and baked with a very durable mix of asphaltum and linseed (and whatever else), sometime around WW II, planes began to be painted with and oil base of some kind. It may interest readers to learn that old piano plates (the big gold cast iron harp shaped thing inside a piano) were also japanned up until the advent of more modern coatings.

Here is what the planes look like before I paint them..

Planes Ready to Paint

I now only use Dupli-Color® Engine Enamel DUPDE1635 Ford Semi Gloss Black it's impossible to tell for japanned old planes but pretty easy to tell from modern japanning because the paint looks much better..

Here is my painting method:

My main paint is Semi-Gloss Black but often can only find one or two cans at a time.. So the last time I did a batch I had all three blacks Flat, Gloss and Semi -Gloss Black and he is that method..

Flat Black is a lot like a primer but build very slow
Semi-Gloss has the perfect color and look
Gloss is the thickest and builds the fastest

So I do a very light coat that doesn't even cover I wait 15mins

First Coat

and re coat with Gloss about three times waiting about 20-25mins between each coat..

Almost Done

Each coat I make a little thicker each time tell I get the super thick look of japanning, just look at the way the name letters (No.5 Made In USA) are after each coating of paint.. By the end embossed letters need to look twice as fat as when you stated

Finished Look

On the last coat I used Semi-Gloss and they paint ( You can use Semi-Gloss ever step) should be flowing that you can see it move from the spray.. I hold nozzle 2-4" away from what I am painting and air pressure will make a little ripple in front of nozzle when paint is thick..

Note: when paint dry's it shrinks some so what you see is not what you get..
Make sure your painting on a near level surface as paint will run and sag as its so thick.
It needs to dry over night before you can store it at an angle.
You can use just the Semi-Gloss Black and no need to buy the three types..

WARNING! you can not re coat if you wait longer than about 1 hour.. This is not standard paint. If it starts to set up the fresh paint will cause the semi dry paint to peel and curl up..
If you need to repaint the can says wait 24 hours but I say wait 7 days since paint is so thick and just apply a light coat and wait 30 min's this looses up top coat and then apply a thicker coat if needed..

I only mask off the frog seats o Bedrock planes all others I just paint and wire wheel off the sides and use a knife or screwdriver to scratch off the frog seats on a Bailey..



These below are reprints of  articles I found on the web at different places

Nathan Lindsey Method

Did I miss something here? If so, sorry. If not, I've never met a tool's paint, japanning or whatever, that a good, water cleanable, paint stripper didn't remove. And it takes only the slightest of brushing in the cast iron "pores" to remove the leftover gunk. A little more scraping or brushing around and between the patent and Stanley raised letters and numbers might be needed.
Once down to bare, gray casting (takes about 10 minutes total on a Stanley #8), dry the surface of its water rinse. Then, prep for painting with acetone. A liberal amount flooded on and wiped dry with a paper towel will do fine. After this, refinish quickly or brush on some liquid wax to prevent the gray casting from rusting. Of course, if you are into "faking" an old paint job, let it rust a little and Japan over the rust so that when you strategically chip out the paint to match standard old japanning wear patterns, no bright metal shows through, only old rust! This seems to be how some of the more expensive tools at big boy auctions are done. One benefit about this paint stripper method is that there are no changes made to the texture of the casting - no scraping, blasting, sanding or polishing smooth of the pore roughness. It is just paint removal.


I've stripped one or two japanned planes completely by simply slathering on the orange smelling stripper then sealing it in a plastic bag overnight. Next day just wipe off and scrub down with clean mineral spirits. You may want to warm the plane up to drive off the volatiles from the mineral spirits before applying the japanning, or just let it sit in a sunny dry spot for a day or two to allow it to thoroughly dry.

The directions say to remove all of the Japan as the new will soften the old and look bad. It mentions electrolysis, razor blade and mineral spirits, hand held stainless steel brush, and an awl. Any stubborn areas can be CAREFULLY softened with a propane torch. Lastly, a final dip in the zap bucket.

Application of Japanning

1) I've been talking to the folks at Liberty Paint for a while... <snip> I asked a few questions about his product, Liberty Old Japanners' Pontypool Asphaltum. <snip> I asked if there were any directions with the product. I was told there was no special information provided. I explained what I'd heard about the baking procedure that has been posted here. (bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, cool, then 250 degrees for 15 minutes, etc.) He said that in the past some folks had "Stoved" the painted pieces. He said that would likely hasten full drying but was not really necessary. He said never exceed 300 degrees. He offered that full dry hardness would likely be obtained at normal room temperature within 30 days.

2) This is the full post of Archive: 35768 made to the OldTools group Jan 30, 1998. There is additional responses worth a read, that again oddly enough, cover the paint/don't paint controversy.


For restoring a factory finish to Stanley bench planes and other
old tools..


Besides using electrolysis to clean the rust from my tools I've found the need to replace the japanning on some of my worst planes to prevent further rusting. This is a real problem on the South Texas Coast. As the proud owner of over 40 Stanley planes I've had the opportunity to try several different cleaning and restoration methods.

I've recently begun a project to restore some old planes that had become unusable as they were. As a part of the restoration I decided to re-japan the castings and these are my notes on the subject.


What follows are instructions for application of a japanning formulation with which I've had good success. By offering these as my experiences I accept no liability for your use of this method or product.

If you chose to follow these directions you assume all risk and liabilities for your actions. Take whatever precautions are necessary in your circumstances to provide for fresh air ventilation, emergency cleanup of spilled material and cleanup or removal of finish from your skin and clothes. This product is petroleum based and all applicable precautions should be taken to prevent ignition of fumes or spilled material.

Some steps, once begun, must be completed before you can step away from the project. For this reason I've divided them into headings. The end of each heading is a natural stopping point that allows you the opportunity to quit for the day. Once you begin a heading it should be completed before stopping for the day.


I highly recommend that you clean the castings by electrolysis. However, I don't go deeply into that subject here. The oldtools archives have several discussions on the subject and I may write about it again at a later date if it's necessary. For now, if you need help setting up an electrolysis vat for this project read the archives and I'll try to help you on an individual basis. It's really quite simple to build.


You will need mineral spirits and paper towels for cleanup, a 1/2 inch artists brush and a paper cup or spray can lid for a temporary brush holder. Tools you'll need are discussed in the appropriate heading and are common tools you should have on hand.

I purchased a bottle of what is said to be the original formulation of
Stanley's japanning from:
William (Bill) Gustafson Antiques
Phone: (518) 392-2845
email: oldtools@t...

Black Japanning @ $10.00 / 8oz. + $3.00 shipping paid in advance of

Bill states outright that he has little experience actually applying the formula and he provides only the following basic instructions with each bottle:

1. Mix well, brush on and air dry for 1-2 days.
2. Bake in 50F steps starting at 250F for 15-30 minutes.
3. Do not bake over 400F.

This product is an historical finish. It is a custom product and is produced in small quantities. Each batch will differ slightly which will effect the drying time. Air drying will work also but will not impart a rock hard surface."


Create a comfortable work area and take your time because none of this goes quickly. If you need a fast project for instant gratification remodel your kitchen or build a work bench.

The first thing that has to be done is to clean and prepare the castings surface. As with many projects the key to success is in the details.

As a preface: I tried recoating over top of the existing Stanley japanning and got less than acceptable results. The remaining old finish began to lift and curl as the solvent in the new finish softened the old finish.


Remove all the hardware, tote, iron, frog, etc., from the plane casting.
Clean the casting with dish soap, hot water and a non metallic scrub brush to help remove any oils and dirt. Many planes have been cleaned in the past with WD-40. This oil must be remove before applying the new finish. You can apply these directions to the japanned areas of the frog also
I highly recommend cleaning by electrolysis overnight to kill the rust. The difference this makes in the finished product can be dramatic. A wire wheel does not really remove the rust, it merely smears it around. I've had some success with sandblasting with a very fine blow sand but I don't recommend any cleaning method that removes or further damages the base metal.
With razor blade and mineral spirits remove all of the remaining old japanning and rust. After the major areas are cleaned use a small hand held stainless steel wire brush and eventually a sharp awl for the corners.
If all other methods fail to completely remove the old finish use a propane torch to gently heat the stubborn finish and either soften it or burn it until it's crispy and releases from the casting. It is not necessary to overheat the casting to the point of warping. That much heat is not required to release the grip of the old finish.

I have found that the area under the frog around the screw bosses seldom needs recoating. If that's the case on your casting, it is a good idea to leave the factory finish alone here and use it as a reference to judge your work on the rest of the casting. The goal is to make the refinished area resemble the original factory finish.

If removal of the japanning exposes any hidden rust run it through the electrolysis bath for another couple of hours.
Wash the casting again with soap and water. Hand dry with a shop towel and then immediately dry with heat to prevent surface oxidation from starting. I use an old hair dryer or a small propane torch. You don't realize how much moisture is still in the porous metal until you see the flash of water as it evaporates under applied heat. With the casting at 70F or warmer you're ready to apply the first coat.

7. Set up lots of lights to view your progress. The first coat is seldom a problem as you have the contrast between bare metal and black finish. On the second coat it can be very difficult to see any spots that you miss while applying the second coat. The black japanning soaks up light like a black hole. Even under lots of fluorescent lights I still resorted to a flashlight to see some areas.

8. Choose an area that has no drafts and is dust free. This material stays tacky for a long time and will collect dust and insects that might come into contact with your work.

9. Be prepared to store the brush in a small container of mineral spirits during drying times. The cap off of a can of spray paint or a small paper cup makes a handy temporary brush holder. Keep the lid on the japanning bottle when not in use.

When you're ready to use the brush again just wrap it in a folded paper towel and squeeze the brush between your fingers before dipping it back into the japanning. Mineral spirits also works well for final brush cleanup at the end of the application and for cleaning up spills or mistakes.

10. Lay the casting on its side (to prevent runs in the finish) over several layers of newspaper. Beware, this formula will bleed through one or two layers of paper to the surface below


11. Shake the japanning well. Using a small 1/2 inch artists brush apply the finish to the horizontal inside surface of the casting. Be generous and apply the japanning liberally to allow it to flow out to a smooth finish. Load up the brush, start deep into the casting and gently draw the finish out to the edge of the casting. Lightly smooth the surface with long brush strokes and be careful not to overwork the finish. Although there is some surface tension that can cause voids from heavy brush strokes the finish has a tendency to try and float out to an even finish by itself. Allow the first side to cure for an hour.

12. After allowing about an hour drying time on the first side, flip the casting to its other side and repeat step 8. The sides are done first because they usually take a little less finish and dry faster reducing the risk of a run. Allow finish to cure for an hour.

13. After allowing about another hour drying time on the second side flip the casting upright so it rests on its sole and apply finish to the remainder of the casting. Avoid over working the japanning. Load up the brush and lay it on the casting liberally helping it to flow evenly by brushing in one direction. Always start deep into the casting and pull the finish to the edge.

Take great care to bring the finish up to but not into the screw bosses for the tote and knob. This finish will fill in the threads if allowed to dry inside the screw boss. Also, try to avoid getting the finish on the milled landings that support the frog. This however is not critical as there is an opportunity later to clean it up.

14. When the inside of the casting is fully covered you are done for at least a full day. Clean your brush, turn out the lights and come back tomorrow. Maintain a comfortable room temperature for the drying period but do not rush the finish by trying to warm the casting. This makes the finish go flat.


15. After allowing the finish to dry for a full day, judge your progress. In most cases I have found that one coat still shows the rough texture of the underlying casting and often the color does not adequately cover the top edges of the raised lettering.

16. Apply a second coat if necessary. Follow steps #10-14 allowing another full day of drying time. I have found two coats are sufficient for most applications.

17. Clean your brush and allow the final application to air dry for a full two days before baking the finish. The ambient temperature should be kept above 70F throughout the application and drying periods.


18. Having allowed the finish to air dry for two days now is the time to clean up the casting. Using a razor blade remove any japanning on the machined area of the screw bosses, frog landing, top edges of the sides and anywhere it should not be. Using your razor blade make nice clean cuts at the break points between bare metal and japanning. Use your mineral spirits to clean off any smears on the outsides and bottom of the casting around the mouth. The next step is going to make the finish too soft to work without making a mess until it cools. When it cools it will be a hard baked finish that will be difficult to remove.


There has been some concern voiced about heating a plane casting or block plane lever cap to what will eventually be about 400F. There is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Even soft 60/40 tin-lead solder has to be 400 to 500 degrees before melting. With all pieces
removed the cast iron of a plane is perfectly safe at 400F.

Baking in an oven will create a slight odor of freshly laid road tar. In my case it wasn't really objectionable and it dissipated quickly after the finished pieces were taken back to my shop. However, my SWMBO did go out and buy me a small toaster oven for my shop. Maybe that's a hint?

WARNING! This japanning formula is a petroleum based material and I strongly advise you not to use a gas fired oven to bake the finish.

My little electric baking oven was purchased from Walmart for under $30.00 and will fit anything up to a Stanley Bailey #5 jack plane. While you're there pick up a small oven thermometer to monitor the oven's temperature.

19. Pre-warm your oven to 250F and heat the casting for 20 minutes. For small pieces reduce the time to something less than 15 minutes. Watch the casting closely or use an oven thermometer to avoid over heating the japanning. Too much heat or too long in the oven will cause the finish to start bubbling and ruin the slick finish you've worked so hard to attain.

If you're doing small pieces like frogs, block planes or their lever caps you must be very observant. They tend to heat too quickly and will bubble the finish. Some ovens do not heat evenly or will spike at a much higher temperature before the thermostat can turn off the heating element.

Watch your first baking session to get a feel for how your oven reacts. Ask your SWMBO how evenly her oven bakes. Chances are she's made cakes and pastries and will know more about her oven than you want to know. If a part does bubble up you can still remove the finish at this stage by immediately cleaning with mineral spirits. If this happens, go back to the beginning and try the process again. Consider it a lesson learned the hard way.


20. After 20 minutes carefully remove the casting from the oven and allow it to cool slowly. The finish is now as soft as when you first brushed it on so take great pains not to disturb it. Although the finish will be soft and tacky you will begin to see the surface start to even out and gloss over.

21. While allowing the casting to cool to room temperature, prewarm the oven to 300F. When the casting has cooled reheat it for another 20 minutes. After this heating the appearance of the finish will change significantly as it takes on the glaze or glossy appearance of a new tool.

22. Repeat the cool down and baking procedure once more at 350F. Do not exceed 400F oven temperature. If your oven has poor heat regulation you might stop at 325F. Heating the japanning over 400F will cause it to start to bubble and blister the finish.

23. After removing the casting from the oven for the final time allow the casting to cool and stand for two more days to assure a cured finish.

24. Prior to reassembling your plane take a small mill bastard file and gently file the top edges of the casting to give it a sharp machined look and a crisp break from the japan finish. If any finish remains on the milled areas, now is the time to file it clean and flat.

You are now ready to reassemble your plane and go back to woodworking.

Good luck.

Nathan Lindsey
South Texas Rust Buster


 William (Bill) Gustafson Antiques recipe is what I have been using as I am unable to locate to ingredients to the Pontypool Ware recipe and make my own..

Other Online Resources


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Hand Plane Iron Set UpMany people call the Iron the blade and the Cap Iron a Chip Breaker but I prefer to use the old terms and a chip breaker does really break chips.
I have a nice shot set up tutorial on how to adjust the lateral adjuster to get a even cut across the length of the blade..

Hand Plane Tune UpI have few methods in this guide is use will help you get the best performance out of your planes.. Also make sure you read the David Charleworth article at the bottom .
I hope to adding a lot more content to the topic soon..

Bench Plane Type StudyThis section will let you figure out how Old is your Bailey Plane?
This is a guide, it was made after Stanley made the plane, it was not what Stanley used to make the planes.. There are Anomalies that have different features from two types on one plane, you could also have parts that were switched. So use it but all of these guides are not etched in stone..

Handle Repair This section cover how to repair broken or chipped plane handles. I have two methods one is using a 1/4" steel pin with some masking tape which I think works best to like up pieces and another which using a threaded rod that I need to change the rod to a 1/2" and try that with some masking tape as a shim..

Handle RefinishingThis section covers how to refinish you plane handles.. Shellac is the the best finish I know to have you beauty of the rosewood show through. You can then use lacquer on top of the shellac but you must make sure you used De-Waxed Shellac and not plain shellac..

My Hand Plane CollectionI have a few of the planes in my collection listed here. I mainly collect Type 15 Sweetheart's ..

What's Japanning ?Here is some recipes and links to other folks pages on how Japan you plane..
The Japanning is the black finish that looks a lot like paint.. I have listed a Motor Paint that looks just like the japanning Stanley used and is very durable and is my choice for refinishing if your just getting started. Its cheap and almost fool proof..

Hand Plane Makers ShopsThis page is brand new is is pictures of the shops of hand plane makers I admire.. Everyone enjoys images of peoples shops and since I inspire to be a plane makers I love seeing others shops and thought I would add a page.. I will be adding more soon..
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do..

Wooden Hand PlanesLots of people I know swear that wood planes cut much better than metal based planes.. I have not really had to time to do any tests but hope to some day. Also I am friendly with Steve Knight from Knight Tool Works and he will give you 10% off the price of his planes if you tell him you read it here..

Rust PreventionFew Methods on how to stop rust for occurring on you planes..

ElectrolysisThis is a method to remove rust no make that kill rust.. It really does not do the job I thought it would after reading about it but on planes where the rust keeps coming back or was rusted badly from the start then is the method I use to give me peace of mind..

What Hand Plane Should I Buy ? Answers as to what planes are best to buy for a new woodworking just starting down the road of using hand planes....

Sharpening I have a whole sub section devoted to sharpening hand plane Irons.

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