dw- Plane notes from the field #5: A few tips on How to set a handplane.

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Blog entry by Don W posted 02-10-2013 01:42 PM 2247 reads 6 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: How to set a bench plane chip breaker. Part 5 of dw- Plane notes from the field series Part 6: My Union Planes and what I know about them »

Writing a blog about How to set up a Hand Plane will take a series, because it really depends on what you are trying to do. In other words, a smoother will be different than a jack and so forth, but it even goes further than that. At what stage your planing with your smoother will make a difference also.

So here is a few tips to get you started, and I’m assuming this is for a smoother, so adjust as needed.

- Set the frog far enough ahead so when the blade just starts to cut, it would be difficult to slide a business card through the mouth, but you could probably force it if you had to.

- Set the chip breaker as close to the edge of the iron as your eyes allow, maybe a 1/16” or a smidgen tighter. Make sure it never goes beyond the blade if the blade is a little uneven or cambered. Here is a blog on setting the chip breaker.

- The cap should be as tight as you can make it and still easily move the iron up and down. Start loose and tighten it down until you feel the adjustment start to become harder.

- You always want to start planing with the blade retracted just above the mouth.

- Slowly lower it until its through. Use the lateral adjuster to make it even across the mouth.

-You can slide a thin piece of wood across one side of the iron then the other to make sure its even, or use your eye. As you practice, you will use your eyes more and more. Using your finger tends to cause bloodshed so its not recommended :-)

- As you’re planing, if you see the iron is taking shavings on one side and the other, move the lateral adjuster toward the shavings, or the heavier side.

- Your first swipe should get nothing, but slowing lower the iron until it starts to take a shaving.

- Then just adjust accordingly.

A thin shaving should look like this

- But remember that different wood react differently and you can get thinner or thicker depending on have much smoothing needs to be done.

- If they shaving comes out like sawdust, or you are pushing to hard to get shavings your iron is not sharp.

- If your iron is straight, even and the wood is straight grained, you get a even shavings across the cut, the full width, or almost the full width of the cut.

- The more your iron is sharpened with a camber, the less this will happen. That is often by design so not always a bad thing.

- Always start your stroke with the plane skewed to one side. It makes the cut more of a slicing action and allows a easier cut.

- Practice makes perfect.

Hope it helps

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

10 comments so far

View ksSlim's profile


1275 posts in 2884 days

#1 posted 02-10-2013 01:50 PM

Good stuff, keep it coming.
I see a book or a DVD here.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#2 posted 02-10-2013 02:30 PM

Thanks, Don. I’ve been cleaning them up for a while now, but I really need to start working more on my using skills.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View getlostinwood's profile


224 posts in 2596 days

#3 posted 02-10-2013 03:52 PM

As one who has wanted to use my planes, and when I try they are cumbersome, hard to use and deliver bad results. This is a huge help. Thank you for making some of my mistakes clearer for me.

-- The basis for optimism is shear terror

View AnthonyReed's profile


9713 posts in 2434 days

#4 posted 02-10-2013 03:53 PM

Thank you Don.

-- ~Tony

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2371 days

#5 posted 02-10-2013 04:06 PM

Great info. :)

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View MikeyLikesIt's profile


17 posts in 2006 days

#6 posted 02-10-2013 04:16 PM

Very helpful info, thank you.

View Brit's profile


7373 posts in 2837 days

#7 posted 02-10-2013 08:19 PM

Great blog Don. One for the favourites.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Handtooler's profile


1553 posts in 2126 days

#8 posted 02-11-2013 01:34 AM

Super information and I’m sure Christopher Schwarz will agree in all of its entry.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2834 days

#9 posted 02-11-2013 10:55 PM

Don wonderful tips. As always I pick up a thing or two.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3459 days

#10 posted 02-13-2013 06:29 AM

Nice synopsis!

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

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