Extensive use of hand planes, and accidents such as the plane being dropped onto a hard workshop floor, lead to wear and breakages. Fortunately, spares are available for most planes, even older ones that are no longer made, so long as you look in the right places.
Irons, chip breakers and lever caps
You might be looking for a new iron for your plane as an upgrade because the quality of the existing iron is insufficient, or because the existing iron has been sharpened so many times it’s become too short.
Irons vary in width according to the size of the plane. For instance, the iron in the smallest smoothing plane – known as No. 1 – is just 30mm (1¼”) wide, whereas a No. 8 jointer plane has a 67mm (2 5/8″) iron.
Many specialised planes, such as a grooving plane, have narrow irons, some as little as 3mm (1/8″).
Ensure you get the right size for your plane and that the iron is sufficiently hard, but not so hard that it is difficult to sharpen. O1 or A2 tool steel represents a sensible balance between hardness and ease of sharpening.
If your plane has a chip breaker, you can use the existing one with the new iron, or if it is damaged or corroded, you could buy a new one along with the iron. You can buy a chip breaker and matching iron as a set, in which case you may make a small saving compared with buying them individually.
Lever caps can be damaged or lost, and their cams may wear down after extensive use. The caps are available as spares along with the lever cap screw. Make sure you get the right one for your make and model of plane – the size varies considerably.
Rear handles and front knobs can be broken, and although it’s quite possible to make your own, sourcing the hardwood and cutting them to shape might require tools you don’t have – for instance, a lathe for rounding the knob. Handles are readily available for most modern standard and low-angle planes.
Get the hardest you can afford – African rosewood (bubinga) is a great choice due its extreme hardness. If it proves too expensive, you could buy toughened plastic handles which are unlikely to break if the plane is accidentally dropped.
Frogs and adjusters
The higher the angle of the bed (the sloping part of the frog that the iron is seated on) the better the plane works for smoothing or “finishing”, along the grain, and the lower it is, the better the plane will cope with cutting end grain. (See How does a plane work?)
While it’s unlikely that a frog will be damaged, if you have a standard (as opposed to low-angle) plane with a typical 45-degree frog, you may wish to invest in an additional frog with a lower or higher bedding angle to make the plane more versatile.
Spare frogs are normally sold complete with the iron adjusters, for the depth and the lateral position of the iron, attached. This is convenient when changing frogs for different planing tasks – you don’t have to transfer adjusters from one frog to another, just remove one frog by releasing two screws, and screw in the second one.
If you just need new iron adjuster parts, you can buy them individually or as sets.
Nuts, screws and bolts
Nuts, screws and bolts can wear, become cross-threaded or be lost. You can get a pack that contains every type for some particular planes.
Alternatively, you can search for an individual nut, screw or bolt. You can usually readily find them on auction websites.