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Hand Planes #1: Love and Loathing

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Blog entry by Jeremy Greiner posted 1201 days ago 1257 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Planes series Part 2: Class Canceled »

I read a lot about how much everyone loves their handplanes and how relaxing it is. I love the idea of using a handplane to remove mill marks or smooth over edges. I love what I see others on TV do with handplanes and how smoothly they work.

I loath that I have yet to get a hand plane to work like I’ve seen them work on TV. I mentioned in one of my projects that I don’t own a hand plane. That was partially true, I picked one up at Lowes a 25$ stanley block plane when I first started wood working. I took the plane home and tried to use it, try as I might the thing didn’t work very well and I got frustrated and returned the plane.

I later began reading about hand planes and watched episodes of woodsmithshop and youtube videos about hand planes. I also read a lot of suggestions to buy an old used handplane and restore it instead of buying new. This somewhat makes sense after reading about restoring a hand plane it looks straight forward as long as there is no major damage. Clean off the rust, repaint, flatten the soul and sharpen the blade etc..

After several comments in my previous project about hand planes I went over to ebay and bid on a few hand planes. I won a stanley bailey #5, it looked pretty old and had the large “Made in USA” embossed on it so I gathered it was the old style of hand planes that everyone thinks is the bees knees.

I was happy when I recieved it and cleaned off all the rust showed no major damage, just cosmetic rust and a few knicks on the knob from normal use. I casually spent the week cleaning off the rust, repainting the top side of the soul (I also re-painted the knob and handle after sanding away most of the knicks). I spent a good deal of time flattening the soul of the plane and using a new Worksharp 3000 that I purchased to sharpen blades to sharpen the blade.

With everything sharpened and flattened etc.. I put the plane back together and fiddled with it to get it all set up so I thought. This is where the problem comes in. Try as I might, I can’t for the life of me make this thing work the way I see hand planes work on rough cut or on Woodsmith shop. When I try and scrape some shavings either I don’t get any because the blade isn’t sticking out, or I feel like I have to shove the plane over the wood to get a very thin shaving but it is rarely a consistant shaving.

It may be the wood I don’t know, I was testing on some scrap maple, it may be my technique, or it may be I didn’t sharpen the blade right, or flatten the soul enough or any number of other problems.

I loath hand planes because they won’t work for me, and I don’t know why.

-jeremy

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer: http://www.1024studios.com/cuttingboard.html



14 comments so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2701 days


#1 posted 1201 days ago

For a plane to work correctly you need to know how to sharpen the plane blade, how to set it up, which direction to plane, how to hold the plane, and you need a work surface that will hold the workpiece securitly. There are a number of videos and books that provide these fundamentals. Also, if your near a woodcraft, I belive they may have a class that would get you started.

I will take a look and post some recommendations for books and videos to get you started.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 1376 days


#2 posted 1201 days ago

I’ve done a lot of reading and such but I didn’t think about checking for the Woodcraft classes, “Using and Maintaining Handplanes” on May 15th .. I’m totally signing up

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer: http://www.1024studios.com/cuttingboard.html

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2701 days


#3 posted 1201 days ago

Books

The Handplane Book – Garrett Hack

http://www.amazon.com/Handplane-Book-Garrett-Hack/dp/1561587125/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-4157343-8985443?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175402831&sr=1-1

Making and Mastering Wood Planes – David Finck
http://www.amazon.com/Making-Mastering-Planes-David-Finck/dp/061527353X/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

Video

Handplane Basics – A Better Way to Use Bench Planes – Christopher Schwarz

http://www.shopwoodworking.com/product/dvd_handplane_basics_better_way_to_use_bench_planes_christopher_schwarz/woodworking-cds-dvds

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View boyneskibum's profile

boyneskibum

76 posts in 2074 days


#4 posted 1201 days ago

I highly recommend the following three blogs/podcasts for hand tool work.

http://logancabinetshoppe.weebly.com/blog.html

http://www.renaissancewoodworker.com/

http://mattsbasementworkshop.com/

Good luck!

-- Always keep a stash of band-aids in your workshop!

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1258 days


#5 posted 1201 days ago

Sounds like your sole is not flat. Grab and off-cut of granite, and some adhesive backed sandpaper (80, 120, 220) and work through the gits until you are. That makes a big difference. However, there are several other issues you might have. Tuning a hand plane is a bit of a ridiculous process. Start with and adjustable block plane. I second the Making and Mastering Wood Planes – David Finck, recommend, this book is not only a great way to make you own planes, but it is the missing manual to them as well. It has detailed instructions on getting a block plane to work.

Honestly, as a guy who has both built, bought new, and restored old, making a plane is the best way to go.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 1376 days


#6 posted 1201 days ago

@RGTools
Part of the restoring I flattened the sole, I’m not saying I did it correctly I don’t know. But I had a piece of glass and went through several sheets of 60 grit sandpaper until I got it flat (removed all the surface rust and tarnish as well), then went to 80, 120, 220, 400, 800 .. to smooth it out

I’d love to make a handplane, that sounds like fun .. though at this point I’d just be happy with one that worked.

-jeremy

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer: http://www.1024studios.com/cuttingboard.html

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2701 days


#7 posted 1201 days ago

If you were in Cali…. would let you test drive some of mine. However, I am confident you will get it going.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Woodwrecker's profile

Woodwrecker

3566 posts in 2179 days


#8 posted 1201 days ago

My money is on you Jeremy.
You’ll have it figured out in no time.
I tried a Lie Nielsen #4 at a hand tool event in Chicago, Holy Smokes !
(out of my price range for now though, but I’m saving…)

Good luck and let us know how you make out.

-- Having fun...Eric

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1258 days


#9 posted 1200 days ago

The other thought I had while lying in bed last night was this: If the sole is flat and the blade is sharp, then you may not have a good seating from the blade to the frog, or the frog to the base. Try flattening the frog the same way you would the plane sole (be careful to blow out the threads before screwing it back together). Then use valve seating compound, to grind the for seating points of the frog until you are getting even wear on all four points; to do this you clamp the plane in your vise and put the seating compound on the four points of contact then you place the frog in the plane and push it back and forth.

The reason I suggested making a plane is that it takes less time than to tune one up, it costs about as much (~$70), but you end up with a superior plane. If I convince you to go that route, David Finck sells blades for them as well, and they are in my opinion unparallelled for quality. Remeber, a plane is just a jig to hold a chisel, the better the chisel, the better the plane.

Oh and for testing a plane, use a piece of straight grained poplar at first, and if you can, ioint it on a power jointer first (your goal is to test the plane not true rough stock), walnut and cherry are also good choices for this.

Good luck, it’s doable, it just takes a bit of sweat.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Div's profile

Div

1653 posts in 1544 days


#10 posted 1200 days ago

Lots of advice, so I’ll just wish you Good luck! Keep at it,once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View toolchest's profile

toolchest

2 posts in 1201 days


#11 posted 1200 days ago

Hello,
Here’s the answers to your hand plane problem! First: buy your self a good plane. A Veritas, bevel up smoother or a Lie Nielson 605 Bedrock type plane. After collecting planes for 25 years I can assure you that 21st century tools are far superior and you don’t have to screw with them. Figure $250.00 for either plane. The rememberance of quality lives on long after the price is forgotten. Now that you have a good tool to work with: Join a wood workers club and find an old poot like me to teach you how to use your new expensive plane. I have been where you are at. You too can enjoy the thrill of using properly fettled hand toos. Regards—-Ken

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1258 days


#12 posted 1200 days ago

WoodRiver is also a usable new plane, should you go that route, not quite as nice as a Lie Nielsen but they get the job done for a lot less money.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View MikeGCNY's profile

MikeGCNY

43 posts in 2099 days


#13 posted 1200 days ago

Jeremy—I too am new to hand planes, although my first experiences have been nothing like yours. Since I am a beginner and not an expert I cannot offer any expert advice. What I can do is share with you what I have found helpful.

1. Good Work Support: Make sure that you are using either a woodworker’s vice (not a metalworker’s vice) or some type of clamping system that hold the wood to a stable support. Also make sure that whatever you use to secure the wood to the bench does not get in the way of the plane. I would recommend reading Chris Schrwarz’s workbench book.

2. Make sure the blade does not stick out of the throat all that much. Start with it not sticking out at all, and then gradually work your way down till it is just barely sticking out. Use that as a starting point and then “feel” where you should go.

3. Put as much thought into how you are standing and how you are moving while planing as you do into the work support, plane selection (new or old) and plane setup. Watch lots of online videos to see how others do it and learn from their technique. To me, its almost a well orchestrated dance.

4. Start with pine.

5. Don’t blame the tool. Unless the tool is a complete piece of junk or not setup correctly, you should not need to spend hundreds of dollars to learn technique. I am teaching myself to play guitar and I purposely purchased a cheap guitar. My reasoning is that if I can learn on a guitar that does not sound that great and is tough to play I will never need to fall back on an expensive instrument. You might not get the same level of results with an old Stanley Handyman as you would a brand new Lie, but you should at least be able to get results.

I hope this helps a bit. Don’t get discouraged—If it was that tough, there would have probably be a lot less hand planes manufactured.

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 1376 days


#14 posted 1199 days ago

Thanks everyone for all the advice, even the conflicting advice ;) I think the hand plane class will be my best bet, if I still get lost I’ll have to get some help from my local woodworkers guild.

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer: http://www.1024studios.com/cuttingboard.html

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