help with tear out

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Forum topic by jmp posted 01-12-2011 09:14 PM 1415 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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40 posts in 2686 days

01-12-2011 09:14 PM

Topic tags/keywords: oak

I am making my first ever project, a small coffee table in european oak. All has gone well until it came to finishing with a smoothing plane. I have fairly widespread tearout which i hoped i could plane out by reversing direction and a narrower cutting gap. Needless to say things have not improved. I am not sure where to go from here as i have seen a number of suggestions ranging from leave alone, sanding with ROS or belt sander, card scraping or filling with epoxy. Legs and table top are affected with probably 16th to 18th inch tears.
Apologies if this has been repeatedly covered.

6 replies so far

View TominTexas's profile


42 posts in 2830 days

#1 posted 01-12-2011 10:32 PM

Tear out can be a frustrating problem. It’s caused by reversing and/or interlocking grain in the wood. Rather than shearing the the fibers, the plane iron is lifting and thus tearing the fibers producing the effect that you see. It’s unfortunate that some of the most beautifully figured wood is prone to this.

Card scrapers can be an approach to removing the tear out. You have to exercise caution and avoid dishing out areas with your scraper in an effort to concentrate on tear out sections – you want to retain the flat surface of your table top or leg. A belt sander may be your best approach if the tears are numerous and deep but you still must be cautious to avoid producing an uneven surface when the sanding is completed.

In the future, consider using a bevel up plane with a high angle grind on the blade for final smoothing of figured wood. When your cutting angle (sum of bedding angle + the angle of grind on the iron for BU planes)exceeds 55 degrees, the chances of tear out are greatly reduced.

Good luck with your project – this the way we all learn.


-- East Side of Big D

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2952 days

#2 posted 01-13-2011 11:25 PM

I’ve seen some incredible work done with planes, but they need to be super sharp to cut figured woods. Honing on a diamond sharpening system should fix things for you. Maybe a lighter cut as well.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View jmp's profile


40 posts in 2686 days

#3 posted 01-15-2011 10:40 PM

Thanks for the advice. I think Tom has got it right. I used a low angled plane which i got for christmas and really used it for the first time. I think i need to get a second iron with a hgiher angle cut and go back to my older smoothing plane for the time being

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3109 days

#4 posted 01-15-2011 11:00 PM

go with a higher angle iron 50 , 55, 60 degree or even up to a 90 degree with an iron that has teethed edge
and a very tight mouth oppening
that shuold do it
low anglesmothers is mostly for endgrain and are great as shooters

good luck


View artthruwood's profile


28 posts in 2755 days

#5 posted 01-17-2011 05:36 AM

I would saw take a belt sander to it but it appears your trying to finish exclusively with planes.
There was a fine woodworking magazine article about this method of finishing you could try looking that up.

-- slowing down with bring you greater speed then going fast

View jmp's profile


40 posts in 2686 days

#6 posted 01-21-2011 11:29 AM

Just to follow up i have manged to sand out the tear out with a machine sander and the finish now looks very good. Importantly I think I now know why it happened and what to to do in future to prevent it happening again.

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