Best plane for highly figured woods?

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Forum topic by BalsaWood posted 11-04-2016 08:34 PM 2509 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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68 posts in 1355 days

11-04-2016 08:34 PM

I’ve been working with highly figured woods and have always experienced tear out of some sort either from the jointer, planer, and jack plane. Even with light passes, tear out sometimes occurs. I’ve been looking at various planes to deal with the tear out- namely:

LN No. 85 scraper plane
LV low angle smoother with a 50 degree blade

The only planes I own now are a jack plane and block plane. I was thinking one of the planes mentioned above could be a good addition to help with tear out issues. Sometimes these are large surfaces I am dealing with. A glass smooth surface after planing is not something I care about either since I don’t mind sanding afterwards. Any suggestions?

18 replies so far

View newwoodbutcher's profile


776 posts in 3047 days

#1 posted 11-04-2016 08:45 PM

No expert here, but I use a LN with high angle. I don’t work with a lot of wild figure or grain, but this works for me (failing that a scraper as my next choice). I’ve always thought a quality scraper plane would be the utlimate hand tool solution for wild wood. So.. I think I would go with the scraper plane. Either choice will be a great tool. I’ll be interested in this conversation.

-- Ken

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3845 days

#2 posted 11-04-2016 08:53 PM

Some German made planes are bedded at higher

Also, awhile back Lee Valley was selling planes
made in Indonesia and I think they may have
had higher pitch angles for working tropical

You can also try back beveling an iron in a smooth
plane by 5-10 degrees. It’s a fairly simple
and cheap experiment that changes the effective
working pitch of a plane.

Also, futzing with making your chipbreaker
setup as near to perfect as possible, set back
perhaps only 1/64” and polished to a mirror
finish, the chipbreaker will help with tearout.
That’s what they were invented for.

View TheFridge's profile


10696 posts in 1683 days

#3 posted 11-04-2016 08:56 PM

I don’t like BU planes because they don’t have a chipbreaker. I’d use them for endgrain. That’s about it.

I have a lie Nielsen 4-1/2 with 55 degree frog that will plane crotch walnut against the grain with no tearout.

The higher the angle, the harder the push but lower odds of tearout.
The video on the link was eye opening.

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

View KelleyCrafts's profile


3300 posts in 936 days

#4 posted 11-04-2016 09:02 PM

I have to agree with Ken. Most everything I work with is difficult. Arizona wood is all over the place and most of what I use is small stuff I mill myself or big stuff WoodyAZ on the forum here has milled. I have a bevel up smoother with 50 degree blade and it does well but still not perfect. My electric planer also doesn’t fit the bill well on everything. My next plane will be a scraper plane. I use scrapers by hand now and it works out well but it would be nice to have one in a plane.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2100 days

#5 posted 11-05-2016 12:44 AM

I have some local walnut that is very hard to plane, on wider surfaces I use one of the larger planes with a radius ed blade, then smooth it with a #5 1/4 or #3, then scrape it. I am making a wood gun case out of wenge, the wood is fairly straight grained, but the grain reverses along with hard spots. I can plane it with narrow blades, or curved blades, then scraping it.

View Aj2's profile


1867 posts in 1995 days

#6 posted 11-05-2016 03:16 AM

My best plane for difficult wood is the #4 Lie Neilson smoother standard angle.
If that doesn’t get done I will scrape with a card.
You don’t mention what this highly figured wood is that brought you to this question.
I have come up against some wood that cannot be planed so don’t beat your self up.


-- Aj

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


7010 posts in 1335 days

#7 posted 11-05-2016 04:05 AM

I use a # 4 as sharp as I can get it then follow it up with a cabinet scraper. Sometimes it takes a buncha scrapin though!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View TheFridge's profile


10696 posts in 1683 days

#8 posted 11-05-2016 04:19 AM

Whenever photobucket is back up and running I’ll post some pics of some swirly grain walnut planed with a LN with 55 deg frog. With and against the grain.

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

View Aj2's profile


1867 posts in 1995 days

#9 posted 11-05-2016 04:26 AM

Whenever photobucket is back up and running I ll post some pics of some swirly grain walnut planed with a LN with 55 deg frog. With and against the grain.

- TheFridge

Walnut ? Too easy

-- Aj

View JohnChung's profile


416 posts in 2271 days

#10 posted 11-07-2016 03:30 AM

Not sure if you have the LAJ from Veritas. You can change the blade to 50 degrees. For smoothing
a #4 can work well WITH the chipbreaker very close to the edge.

If all fails then use a scraper plane.

View TheFridge's profile


10696 posts in 1683 days

#11 posted 11-07-2016 03:48 AM

Whenever photobucket decides to work (I’ve been waiting for days) I’ll post pics amboyna burl I planed. You’d be surprised.

It’s all about the chipbreaker.

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

View OSU55's profile (online now)


1956 posts in 2186 days

#12 posted 11-07-2016 10:41 PM

High cutting angle, however you get there. Along with the LN high angle frogs, LV now has the custom hand plane line that allows selecting the frog angle anywhere from 40-65°. The LA BU smoother planes with high bevel angles work very well. LV’s scraper does a great job, review here. I have a Mujingfang 63° angle wooden smoother (2” wide blade) from japanwoodworker that works great, but you need to know how to tune it up. Lots of options – the Mujingfang is the cheapest at ~$70.

View 1deadeye's profile


5 posts in 1125 days

#13 posted 11-07-2016 10:56 PM

I often use a card scraper on highly figured wood because of the ability to change direction quickly when the grain direction changes. It leaves a much nicer surface than sandpaper.

View rwe2156's profile


3163 posts in 1678 days

#14 posted 11-08-2016 01:59 PM

You can put a 5 degree back bevel on a bench plane to effectively raise the pitch. I have not done this but very respected people recommend it.

I generally go with the card scraper. Properly prepared nothing works better in for me.

Problem is no matter how much you practice on figured wood, you never know how a particular board is going to behave until you put the iron on it. And sometimes it becomes and “oops” moment.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View sawdustdad's profile


366 posts in 1082 days

#15 posted 11-08-2016 02:48 PM

Drum Sander and a hand scraper. That’s the lazy man’s approach. Count me as a member of the Norm Abram school of woodworking. If a power tool can do it, you don’t need the hand tool.

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

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