Bevel up vs bevel down

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Forum topic by Bob Downing posted 12-11-2010 11:09 PM 3461 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bob Downing

43 posts in 2821 days

12-11-2010 11:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane

I’m sitting in my shop pondering. Do bevel up planes really have a big advantage over standard planes?

I’ve heard the advantages: no chipbreaker, simple blade change for different kinds and textures of wood, blades are interchangeable between different planes.

I ask because I am going to spend alot of money on Veritas planes in the next month (can’t afford L-N). These will be my first hand planes and I don’t want to buy cheap on E-Bay and spend days (weeks) reconditioning them.

All the reviews I have read tell me that the Veritas BU planes are great. I’m wondering if there is some kind of trade-off I’m not aware of. Maybe it’s just a case of preference. I don’t have a preference because these will be my first. I’m just looking to get the best I can afford with the most versatility.

By the way, I will be getting a block, smoother, jack, jointer and shoulder plane. I think this covers the basic tasks.

I know with all the knowledgeable people in LJ land I will get some good input.

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

12 replies so far

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3782 days

#1 posted 12-12-2010 04:28 AM

I will guess you read my review of the Veritas BU Jack. I have used it quite a bit since I did the review, and am really happy I bought it. It has proven to be more versatile than my vintage Stanleys, as I am able to change the iron angle very easily. Just today I was planing some hard maple that had a grain change in the face, and could not get the Stanleys to work without tear-out no matter what I tried. Going with the Veritas, using the 50 degree bevel blade and the mouth set close, I was able to flatten the face without tear-out. (even the York pitch was tearing out).

The only difficulty I have had with it is the mouth adjustment can get a bit “stickey” as sawdust gets into it. It is very close tolerance, so any debris causes it to get a bit hard to move.

The other thing that Veritas cautions you about, and I have seen some reviews mention, is that the thumbscrew to tighten the cap can actually flex the sole if tightened too much. Personally, I have had no problem, finding that it only takes light pressure to hold the iron securely. I do not know if this will be more of a problem with the longer jointer plane. The easily adjusted mouth really is an asset.

I have experienced no chatter problems, even doing end grain on hard maple, walnut, and white oak. If doing these, I would follow Veritas advice on steepening the angle on the 25 degree iron to closer to 30. However, I have found the York pitch (38 degree) iron also works well on the harder woods’ end grain. Takes a bit more umph, but the mass of the plane lets you do it easily.

As for the Veritas Smooth, Jack, Jointer combo, if you buy one bevel up, I would go with all three as bevel up, to allow you to use the same irons in all three. I also would buy all three angle irons. I went with the A2 steel and am glad I did , working the harder woods. They definitely stay sharp longer than the Stanley blades. The downside is that they are 2 1/4” irons, so the traditional 2 3/8” (jack and jointer), and 2” (smoother) irons for the traditional bevel down planes won’t fit. They are also thicker irons than I have seen available elsewhere, so it may be a “sole source” deal for the irons.

I am no guru on hand planes, and do not claim to be. Just stating my experiences. My personal opinion is that newer technology on steel alloying and tempering has allowed some improvements in hand plane design. I think Lee Valley has capitalized on that and incorporated it into their bevel-up line. Not wanting to be a heretic, but before accepting that the Stanley design is the best forever, I would ask if the advocate has tried the new one. I think if Bailey (the designer that Stanley incorporated and followed) had today’s technology to work with, he would have changed his design several times already.

In all fairness, Lie-Nielson does have a bevel-up line (based on the iron width, length, etc) of the traditional Stanleys. You will find them under their “Block Plane” page as they do not consider them “Bench Planes” due to the lower bed angle. Their iron choices are different and you will need different irons for the smoother/jack and jointer. I have not used one and so cannot comment on them as to if the different dimensions are an advantage or disadvantage as to how they perform. The bevel-up will need thicker irons, but the irons can be used in other traditional-width planes (I think the Jointer is a different width).

I can attest that the Veritas is beefy enough to handle the added stress of the low-angle when working hard woods.

Summary: I think the bevel-up technology with the thicker, harder blades is an advancement in plane design.


-- Go

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Bob Downing

43 posts in 2821 days

#2 posted 12-12-2010 04:58 AM

Thanks Gofor.

I’m strongly leaning toward the BU planes because of comments like yours. I haven’t heard any bad things about them. I’m thinking that the simplicity of design will make learning how to use them easier.

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3337 days

#3 posted 12-12-2010 05:05 AM

I am by no means an expert on this subject but here is my 2 cents. Having both styles I would say a bevel up #5 would be a far better first plane than a bevel down one. Bevel up planes are cheaper than their bevel down counterparts. Another benefit of the bevel up style you can easily get the performance of 2 to 3 planes for nothing more than the expense of a couple blades or re-honing the existing blade in the plane. Increase the honing angle to achieve the equivalent of a 50 and 55 high angle frog bevel down plane for gnarly grain. Toothed blades are also offered for additional versatility.

The only downsides to this I can see is you need to pay very close attention to how square the blades cutting edge is to the sides of the blade. There is very little side to side adjustment on the bevel up plane where the bevel down plane as quite a bit adjust. A bevel down plane is easier to adjust on the fly but that doesn’t carry to much weight in my mind. You plane should be very close to where it should be before you start making passes on the board. I hope this help. Good luck

-- Marc

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3069 days

#4 posted 12-12-2010 05:06 AM

The most recently issued edition of “Fine Woodworking” has a very good article on the Lie-Nielsen No. 62 low angle (bevel up) jack plane. Strangely, this is the February, 2011 edition.

I recommend this article for additional insight on the subject.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3643 days

#5 posted 12-12-2010 06:26 AM

The bevel up plane design is not possible with a wood-bodied plane. The
bevel down is, which is why it’s a standard. It requires a second blade
(the chipbreaker) to add a chip-breaking secondary bevel to the cutting
edge. The chipbreaker also helps stabilize thinner blades against chatter.

I have some bevel-down wooden planes with 1/4” thick irons and no chipbreaker.
They work fine, actually, and one has a 55 degree blade angle for more of
a scraping cut.

I find bevel-up planes a little fussy to adjust for finish-planing cuts so for
final surfacing I use a bevel-down #4 size plane with a very sharp, cambered
iron, a fine mouth, and the polished chipbreaker set very close to the edge
of the iron. Set for a fine cut, this produces a very nice shaving and a
polished surface in most woods.

Bevel-up plane designs allow you to adjust, through grinding, the cutting
angle of the blade from one side only. You can also back-bevel the bottom
side of a bevel-up iron, make the top bevel less acute, and get more of
a scraping gut which performs well on figured and tricky woods.

Both styles can do a good job on end grain when adjusted for a fine cut.

I own a Lie Nielson bevel up jack and find it a bit redundant. I don’t find it
cuts better than a well-tuned standard Stanley #5. It’s a nice tool, but
performance-wise I don’t see much difference in the speed of work or
results using it or a cheap old #5.

View Bob Downing's profile

Bob Downing

43 posts in 2821 days

#6 posted 12-12-2010 08:24 AM

Thank you all. I knew I would get some good info. I wasn’t aware of the limited adjustment on the BU planes.

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3110 days

#7 posted 12-12-2010 09:11 AM

Loren just a note you can make a bevel up in wood and with just a wedge to hold the blade

the disadvantange is the bottom can´t hold to suport the blade becourse the angle is so lowe
on the part the blade is resting on


View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3643 days

#8 posted 12-12-2010 09:57 AM

Yeah, Dennis. I’ve tried making lower-angel bevel-up planes out of wood.
The angle of the wood at behind the mouth is just too acute at 20 degrees
or less. The wedging isn’t the problem – with wood low-angle planes, it’s
the support behind the cutter. I found the pressure of wedging the cutter
caused the wood supporting the blade to bulge and break at the thinnest
point, right behind the cutter.

Of course a brass or other metal part can be let-in to support the cutter
at the back of the mouth if one has got to make a bevel-up plane out
of wood.

At the most primitive level, it’s the pressing of the front of the mouth on
the fibers and the shortening of the chip caused by a narrow mouth that
makes a fine shaving possible with a plane. A plane is really just an adze
or drawknife with a depth-control mechanism and a block that fixes the
angle of blade attack to the work. The chipbreaker, depth setting, and
mouth help control the chip length so you’re shaving rather than chopping,
but the cut is still a form of hacking into the wood.

I recommend playing around with making some planes. It isn’t hard to do
at all and you may be surprised at how well self-made planes can perform.

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 2812 days

#9 posted 12-12-2010 03:46 PM

Hi Bob

I am the happy owner of several Veritas and LN planes. The Veritas bevel up planes are the most flexible as the irons can be changed to select a differant planing characteristic – low angle to whatever. I use the bevel up low angle plane as a dedicated shooting board plane. All that said, my favourite smoother is my Lie Nielson 5 1/2 with the high angle frog. The weight of the plane and nature of its adjustments make it an exceptional final smooter.

-- DonH Orleans Ontario

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3110 days

#10 posted 12-12-2010 03:53 PM

Loren :yah I have an idea about that ,and long ago when I did see hocks little vidioclip
I was amazed at how easy it is , but after I did see Clark and Williams Dvd on how to make
side-escape-planes I´m hooked and will do it in the future after I have restored all those I have
been lucky to have sitting in my basement but realy have been too many too fast …LOL
so becourse different sircumstances I can first after Chrismas start the big restoring project
but its a very nice wintherproject I look forward to do
If you follow my little toolgloatserie you will discover how crazy it has been the last year
when it comes to old tools and planes

the idea of using a metalplate under the sole well I´m both for and against the idea in the way
that I can see the advantage and the backdraw in it
for the moment I think I wuold make the plane with a skew iron to get the cutting angle
low enoff

BobD4950 : sorry we got little of track here wasn´t try to highjack your blog

take care

View Bob Downing's profile

Bob Downing

43 posts in 2821 days

#11 posted 12-12-2010 08:26 PM

That’s OK Dennis. I’m sure I will be making my own planes soon, so any info is helpful .

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 3093 days

#12 posted 12-12-2010 09:06 PM

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