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Smoothing Plane vs Low Angle Plane

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Forum topic by Civilsurf posted 07-18-2016 03:55 PM 712 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Civilsurf

11 posts in 158 days


07-18-2016 03:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane

Can someone explain the main difference between a smoothing plane vs a low angle plane?

I have been reading many reviews and it seems that both planes can do the same job.

Thanks in advance.

Shawn
Singapore

-- Shawn, Singapore


21 replies so far

View bobasaurus's profile

bobasaurus

2673 posts in 2650 days


#1 posted 07-18-2016 04:23 PM

They’re not necessarily different. A smoothing plane can be a low angle or standard angle plane. Low angle means the blade is mounted bevel up instead of down, and the total cutting angle is the bed angle plus the bevel angle. This means you can control your cutting angel by just changing the bevel (or microbevel) of the blade, making it low for end grain or high to reduce tear out. Low angle blades also don’t have a chipbreaker, so you have to use high angles and a close mouth to control tear-out instead of a closely-set chipbreaker like a standard angle (bevel down) plane.

A smoothing plane is used to smooth wood rather than strictly for flattening. It typically has a shorter sole that can reach any concave dips in the wood, and is set for a very fine cut with a sharp blade.

-- Allen, Colorado

View JayT's profile

JayT

4785 posts in 1677 days


#2 posted 07-18-2016 04:27 PM

They are mutually exclusive terms.

A smoothing plane refers to a smaller bench plane, usually between 8-10 inches long, that is used for final smoothing of a board. Most common example is a Stanley #4. Other sizes that are usually used as smoothing planes include #2 #3 and #4-1/2 in Stanley numbering (some other manufacturers had different numbering systems)

A low angle plane refers to any plane where the attack angle (angle between the leading edge of the cutting iron and the surface) is lower than 45 degrees. There are also high angle planes, where the attack angle is greater than 45 degrees.

Since they are exclusive terms, you can have a low angle plane of any size (smoother, jack, jointer, etc). Most planes advertised as low angle are also bevel up planes, where the bevel of the cutting iron faces up instead of down, as on traditional planes.

One of the selling points of a bevel up plane is that you can adjust the attack angle simply by how the iron is sharpened. Most of the bevel up planes have a bed angle of 12 degrees. Add that to a 25 degree sharpening angle and you get a 37 degree attack angle, thus making it a low angle plane. If you were to sharpen a bevel up at 33 degrees, it becomes a standard angle and anything greater it’s now a high angle plane.

A low angle plane tends to work better on end grain, but not very well on highly figured woods, where a high angle is better.

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

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Loren

8313 posts in 3114 days


#3 posted 07-18-2016 04:39 PM

I think a smoother is easier to maintain with camber
on the iron. They are also a little heavier.

As a workhorse plane for smoothing jobs I recommend
the standard smoother over a low angle plane.

You can also learn tricks with the chipbreaker to get
better results on difficult grain.

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

879 posts in 2284 days


#4 posted 07-18-2016 04:42 PM

The basic difference is between bevel-up and bevel-down planes (you can get a smoothing plane in either configuration).
Others are a lot better qualified than me to explain this (you can find on LJ Derek Cohen’s super-long review of the new Lee Valley custom planes to get a good explanation of why Veritas changed their mind and did BD rather than BU for this line). But briefly, the main advantage of BU planes is the ability to have different blades with different angles (but the low sharpening angle means more metal to remove for sharpening), while the main advantage of BD planes is the way the chipbreaker helps reduce tearout.
Either will get you where you want to go. But if you want to buy used and tune it, there are many, many times more BD than BU planes and I personally wouldn’t pay extra for BU. For new good planes, on the other hand, the price difference is small, so the choice seems closer.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 952 days


#5 posted 07-18-2016 04:58 PM

https://youtu.be/56DpxEOpxz0

Video on chipbreakers and why I think low angle planes are better left for end grain.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

1063 posts in 1456 days


#6 posted 07-18-2016 06:53 PM


I have been reading many reviews and it seems that both planes can do the same job.

Shawn
Singapore

You are correct in your conclusion that both can do the same job or even be the same plane – Veritas’ BU Smoothers. A lot of Japanese style smoothing planes are low angle (40°) and bevel down. Typically BD planes have a blade angle of 45° and up. The advantage of the BU smoother like the small Veritas, with its machined sides, is with a 25° blade bevel, 37° cutting angle, it makes a shooting board plane (a bit light though) and planes end grain well, and can then have up to a ~60° bevel angle, ~72° cutting, for really gnarly grain (getting hard to push at this point), or anywhere in between that may be needed for the particular job. So versatility and low angle for end grain are the major points.

BD planes, at 45° cutting angle, are a good compromise. Not great for end grain or shooting boards, but can be made to work. Very good as smoothers until they just can’t prevent tearout in gnarly grain. No matter how sharp or how close the chipbreaker, or how much the plane cost, they just can’t do the job. That’s when the scraper plane, card scrapers, hi angle BD smoothers, or BU smoothers come out to play.

Being in Singapore, I would think the Woodwell/Mujingfang planes are readily available. I have a couple of the smoothers, 45° and 63°, and once tuned in they have been very capable planes.

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

8313 posts in 3114 days


#7 posted 07-18-2016 07:23 PM

Asian hardwoods are known for being tough to work
and Asian-made planes can be got with 50 degree
or higher work angles.

For that matter, the German-made Primus/ECE planes
have a standard smoother angle of 50 degrees. I’ve
never had one but this was a tip I ran across in researching
them awhile back. I think they make 45 degree planes
too. In any case, they don’t make much of the angle
in the way the planes are marketed… it’s just taken
for granted that the planes are the way they are.

View Civilsurf's profile

Civilsurf

11 posts in 158 days


#8 posted 07-19-2016 12:40 AM

Thanks guys for your reply. it really helps me to understand better. I need to read it again a few more times to full digest. So please bear with me and i may come back with more questions soon.

-- Shawn, Singapore

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

294 posts in 214 days


#9 posted 07-19-2016 04:27 AM

Years ago I bought an old Stanley 4 1/2 smoother. Took me a while to fix some minor issues and then get a good Hock blade installed. And after that I have to admit that getting it perfectly set up for use was frustrating, but once that was finally properly done, it cuts fine enough shavings to make a true hand plane fan get teary eyed. I have BU and other BD planes, but this old Stanley is what I call a true smoothing plane. I can’t seem to get as good a shaving from my day to day favorite – the Veritas LA smoother – but I can get almost as good shavings easier.

View Civilsurf's profile

Civilsurf

11 posts in 158 days


#10 posted 07-21-2016 02:17 AM



They re not necessarily different. A smoothing plane can be a low angle or standard angle plane. Low angle means the blade is mounted bevel up instead of down, and the total cutting angle is the bed angle plus the bevel angle. This means you can control your cutting angel by just changing the bevel (or microbevel) of the blade, making it low for end grain or high to reduce tear out. Low angle blades also don t have a chipbreaker, so you have to use high angles and a close mouth to control tear-out instead of a closely-set chipbreaker like a standard angle (bevel down) plane.

A smoothing plane is used to smooth wood rather than strictly for flattening. It typically has a shorter sole that can reach any concave dips in the wood, and is set for a very fine cut with a sharp blade.

- bobasaurus

Thanks Allen, only till now than i know Low Angle plane is bevel up. i thought all planes are bevel down. BTW, if i want to get a LN 62, is there a shop at Boulder, Colorado that i can ask my friend to pick it up and send over to Singapore for me, or is there anyone that can do international shipping?

-- Shawn, Singapore

View Civilsurf's profile

Civilsurf

11 posts in 158 days


#11 posted 07-21-2016 02:23 AM

They are mutually exclusive terms.

A smoothing plane refers to a smaller bench plane, usually between 8-10 inches long, that is used for final smoothing of a board. Most common example is a Stanley #4. Other sizes that are usually used as smoothing planes include #2 #3 and #4-1/2 in Stanley numbering (some other manufacturers had different numbering systems)

A low angle plane refers to any plane where the attack angle (angle between the leading edge of the cutting iron and the surface) is lower than 45 degrees. There are also high angle planes, where the attack angle is greater than 45 degrees.

Since they are exclusive terms, you can have a low angle plane of any size (smoother, jack, jointer, etc). Most planes advertised as low angle are also bevel up planes, where the bevel of the cutting iron faces up instead of down, as on traditional planes.

One of the selling points of a bevel up plane is that you can adjust the attack angle simply by how the iron is sharpened. Most of the bevel up planes have a bed angle of 12 degrees. Add that to a 25 degree sharpening angle and you get a 37 degree attack angle, thus making it a low angle plane. If you were to sharpen a bevel up at 33 degrees, it becomes a standard angle and anything greater it s now a high angle plane.

A low angle plane tends to work better on end grain, but not very well on highly figured woods, where a high angle is better.

- JayT

Hi Jay,

What Do you mean by highly figured woods? If we put a 33-degree blade and make it to 45 degree, than can i say there is no point doing this in a low angle plane.

-- Shawn, Singapore

View Civilsurf's profile

Civilsurf

11 posts in 158 days


#12 posted 07-21-2016 02:29 AM



The basic difference is between bevel-up and bevel-down planes (you can get a smoothing plane in either configuration).
Others are a lot better qualified than me to explain this (you can find on LJ Derek Cohen s super-long review of the new Lee Valley custom planes to get a good explanation of why Veritas changed their mind and did BD rather than BU for this line). But briefly, the main advantage of BU planes is the ability to have different blades with different angles (but the low sharpening angle means more metal to remove for sharpening), while the main advantage of BD planes is the way the chipbreaker helps reduce tearout.
Either will get you where you want to go. But if you want to buy used and tune it, there are many, many times more BD than BU planes and I personally wouldn t pay extra for BU. For new good planes, on the other hand, the price difference is small, so the choice seems closer.

- jdh122

So with the chipbreaker, it helps reduce tearout, than how do we prevent tearout when using a low angle plane.

-- Shawn, Singapore

View JohnChung's profile

JohnChung

372 posts in 1540 days


#13 posted 07-21-2016 07:52 AM

for that we need to close the plane mouth.

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

879 posts in 2284 days


#14 posted 07-21-2016 09:41 AM

Close the plane mouth, as John says (although personally I haven’t had as much success with that as with a closely-placed chipbreaker). And you can raise the cutting angle by regrinding the blade, since on BU planes the frog angle plus the bevel angle determine the cutting angle. Steeper cutting angles tear out less (see JayT and OSU55 above). Trade-off is that it takes more work to push a steeper angle plane, as the blade action starts to get closer to that of a scraper.
I don’t think Lie-Nielsen has physical stores in Colorado. They only list 2 American dealers (in Atlanta and in Washington State). But you could order one by mail shipped to your friend in Boulder. There are also dealers in Australia and Korea that might ship directly to you (https://www.lie-nielsen.com/dealers), although it might cost more.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Aidan1211's profile

Aidan1211

189 posts in 292 days


#15 posted 07-21-2016 11:54 AM

On crazy grain and end grain your LA’s are going to work a touch better as long as they are suuuuuper sharp. A higher angle smoother with a tight mouth will yield fantastic results. I’ve got a LN LA and a Millers Falls #10 (stanley 4-1/2) smoothing plane. On a recent bubinga table project I did the grain was nuts the low angle worked very well to surface the top but I ended needing to chase it with the #10 to get that glass feel. They both attack the same job from different approaches and both do great work if set properly and sharp.

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

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