Bevel Up vs Bevel Down

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Forum topic by Walnut_Weasel posted 09-25-2009 09:47 PM 3186 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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360 posts in 3423 days

09-25-2009 09:47 PM

I am sure this may spark a heated debate, but I need some feedback…

I am new to wood working and struggling to learn how to correctly tune, sharpen, and use a hand plane. I just read a very interesting article in popular woodworking regarding low-angle bevel up bench planes. To summarize the article it basically states that low-angle bevel up planes are better than traditional “stanley” bevel down planes because of the flexibility to change effective cutting bevel angles simply by changing and/or re-sharpening the blade. In addition, the bevel up planes appear to be much easier to tune and adjust.

What I would like to know: Is there someone how there that has used each type of plane extensively and can speak to the pros and cons that they have experienced with each type of plane?

-- James -

4 replies so far

View Llarian's profile


128 posts in 3808 days

#1 posted 09-25-2009 09:54 PM

I can’t speak to it personally, but Christopher Schwarz addresses this in his new handplane book and basically says that if you’re familiar with the adjustment and grip of the Bailey style planes, sticking with them is probably a good idea due to the low profile frog and the lack of ability to adjust the blade on the fly However, if you’re just getting into hand planes, he suggests the bevel up planes.

I’d highly recommend his book, its amazingly well done.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3850 days

#2 posted 09-25-2009 10:02 PM

I think it really refers more to the physical parts of the planes than the usage.

in usage -they are the same (or very similar) they have a cutting edge that is backed by a frog.

the difference comes to play when you look at tuning – the bevel down have the cap-iron that needs to be set properly to eject the shavings properly – and can be set differently depending on your desired depth of cut. with bevel up – you don’t have to worry about that at all since you don’t have a cap iron. since the bevel is up, the angle between the end of the bevel and the blade iron acts as the “builtin” cap iron. no settings required.

the other thing is obviously the fact that changing the cutting angle of the blade can be changed on bevel up by regrinding your blade at a different angle (or using interchangable blades) where as with a bevel down – the cutting angle always stays the same (with the possibility of grinding a back bevel on the edge to change the cutting angle slightly – but this is only good to create a steeper angle , you cannot create a shallower angle).

these 2 major reasons are why a bevel up plane is more versatile and in theory would be a better choice if given the option to choose from.

after you set your plane – both will cut just as good as you can tune them and use them.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View ondablade's profile


105 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 09-25-2009 11:13 PM

I’ve again got no experience of them, but i’ve just taken a flier and ordered a full set of bevel up planes from Lee Valley Veritas. (Jointer, Jack, Smoother and a Low Angle block as well) Having done all the digging i could the following seemed to be the case:

1. The bevel ups work at least as well as a bevel down, and maybe even a bit better on difficult wood due to their rigidity.

2. The CG is lower, they may be easier to handle on an edge. (less tippy)

3. The bench planes all take the same 2 1/4 wide X 3/16 in thick blade, which is very easily changed, and is available in O1 and A2 steels at a various angles and in toothed form. This means that buying some extra blades makes possible different cutting angles (37 (low angle), 50 & 62 deg) and cambers/curves – covering everything from the end grain/low angle option to the steep pitch needed to prevent tear out in awkward grains.

4. Last but far from least, these planes have fewer parts and are cheaper to make – reflected in a unit selling price of around 1/3 less than the equivalent bevel down plane.

My original intention (due to familiarity with the layout) was to go with Lie Nielsen bevel downs, but the more i looked the harder it became not to go for the Veritas LA/bevel ups. A secondary factor (apart from lower cost and a sense that the Lee Valley way of doing business emphasises quality and a fair deal) that steered me towards the Veritas models is the way they use set screws for sidewards blade location – my no. 5 bevel down quality English brand caused me some problems in this regard because the adjusting lever pivot pin was slightly misplaced.

One factor to be aware of is that the side of the body is fully machined on only the Jack plane in the Veritas LA series – meaning the smoother and the jointer are not suitable for use with a shooting board.

The only real disadvantage of the LA types seems to be that grinding (especially where camber is needed) is quite a lot more difficult because of the blade thickness. Also that the angle at which you grind the bevel now really matters because it sets the cutting angle.

I’m not sure how I’m going to approach camber grinding, as i’m not that wild at the idea of hollow grinding the bevel and using a micro bevel as is suggested by one writer. I’m sure it works just fine, but it offends my sense of ‘rightness’ a bit. The plan is to have a careful look when the planes arrive.

Why historically has this type of plane not been more widely used? Two possible reasons are (a) the above, and (b) the likelihood that the cheap steels used in mainstream plane blades seem unlikely to tolerate the 25 deg bevel grind used on the low angle blades without folding.

Here’s hoping i’ve not just been taken in by wild marketing claims, and that i won’t be back whinging in a month or two…...

-- Late awakener....

View griph0n's profile


68 posts in 3544 days

#4 posted 09-26-2009 12:49 AM (darn can’t make it work)

I’m a fan of stanleys. No, that’s not right…I’m a user of stanleys. Now I’m a fan of Veritas BU.

I just got a Veritas® Low-Angle Smooth Plane. It’s the other lee valley low angle that can be used as a shooter. I posted the picture of the plane till because there’s no spot for it on the till. Not just laziness, I just never put it down. It seems to live on the bench.

If you feel like cambering it there’s a great article here:
I’ve paired up my planes for the most part, one cambered one not so much. The BU seems fine with just drubbed corners. I seem to camber my smoothers less and less each sharpening session.

I bought this one as a smoother and a shooter. I wish I’d bought the wider BU because now I want the Jack and the Jointer and they all take the same wide blade, leaving this one the odd man out. Maybe I’ll regrind it at a ridiculously high angle?

It’s nice not to have to spend a day with electrolysis, lapping soles and frogs, lapping blades, sanding handles, cleaning, oiling, waxing… before you feel it work.

Anyways, can’t recommend it enough… and they’re Canadian.

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