Trying to love hand planes

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Forum topic by Firefighter posted 01-21-2011 03:51 AM 1166 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Firefighter's profile


96 posts in 2973 days

01-21-2011 03:51 AM

I took a Stanley #4 from my mom’s garage a couple months ago because all it was going to do there was rust. It sat on my bench collecting dust until yesterday. I have glued up a 32”x21” top for a changing table and now I need to learn what I am doing. I think I have read everything there is to read about planes. The blade is pretty messed up, but I have gotten it pretty sharp and cleaned up and flattened the plane as best I can. The problem is after hours of planing and trying to modify techniques I am still getting tear out. The only way I have (or know) to fix that is with the belt sander and that is really slow. I am not sure if the problem is the blade or the user. I am thinking that I could attempt to use a card scraper to remove the tear out, but have no experience (or scraper) there either. HELP!!!

PS- something I just read leads me to believe that maybe this one board should have been left out of this part of the project to make my life simpler. It is figured maple with strange grain patterns.

On another note what do you think of the Groz bench planes and what would be a good second plane to go with the one I have? I am thinking something like the #6 but need advice as I have read some not so good things about them.


7 replies so far

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 3035 days

#1 posted 01-21-2011 03:54 AM

Yes, figured maple is supposed to be a challenge to plane. Keep at it. I am about to journey down this same road. P.S. your donation of several hundred dollars to…:) A number 4 would also probably be wrong for that type of wood. I am thinking a low angle something or other.

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View Ole's profile


67 posts in 3275 days

#2 posted 01-21-2011 04:15 AM

On figured woods you really want to use something with a higher cutting angle. Stanley type planes are bedded at 45º. This is too low for this type of work. You have the option of getting a new plane with a high angle frog, like Lie Nielsen sells them. Or you could get a low angle plane and change the bevel on the blade to result in a higher cutting angle. This would be somewhat of an investment. Scrapers and sanding also work… Do some searching On LJs and you’ll find a whole bunch of info on the topic.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3197 days

#3 posted 01-21-2011 04:36 AM

Tighten up the mouth (You loosen the screws under the blade and move the frog forward). Take a very light cut. If it is tearing out, go from the other direction.

I would go with a block plane before I got a long plane. Also, a scraper plane for really tough to plane stuff. A long plane is useful but by far not the most important.

Which longer plane depends on what kind of work you are going to do. There is a big range.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View canadianchips's profile


2613 posts in 3196 days

#4 posted 01-21-2011 04:50 AM

If you are getting tearout, you are probably trying to take to much at one time. To get a nice smooth finish,the shavings should come of looking like thin rippled pieces of paper. Start by setting your plane on flat board. Back the blade off till nothing is cutting, then slowly set the blade. I think the biggest mistake people do in planing is trying to take too much at one time. Also try planing in opposite direction.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3986 days

#5 posted 01-21-2011 05:04 AM

From your post I think the problem is a combination:

Figured maple with changing grains is very difficult to work with using hand tools. For hand planing, it is up there in the craftsman, journeyman, or master category, not beginner. The best plane for it has a higher pitch than the one you have, so I doubt you will have much luck with the tool you have.

A card scraper may work if you get one and then can turn a good sharp edge on it. Again, takes another tool (a burnisher) and it still can cause tear out if not used properly.

The belt sander sounds like your best bet for this project.

That said, if you must do it with what you have, and there are no guarantees:
1. Iron on plane must be Very sharp (it will shave your arm dry or wet and going with or against the hairs).
2. Mouth on plane set to very close (1/32ths” or less clearance between mouth front edge and iron).
3. Set blade depth to where you just barely get a shaving when going with the grain.
4. Where the grain changes, cut across the grain (not directly into it). And yes, this means you will be planing around in a circle in some areas).

As a reality check, if the plane is set as above, your shavings will be about 0.001” or less. If you have a 1/32” deep tear out, that means you have to go over each area the width of the shaving 32 times(1/32” = 31.25 thousandths) to get to the bottom, while also flattening the rest of the board to match. Maybe the sander is not that slow after all.

A common misconception is that hand tools are easier to learn how to use than power tools. The converse is true. The more primitive the tool, the longer the learning curve.

As for the Groz, I do not have one but have looked at them. For it to perform well for furniture work, it will need a lot of tuning and truing. The ones I saw (months ago) had less than flat soles, many rough tool marks that could scar work if not smoothed as well as maybe causing problems with the frog and iron bedding tightly, and the irons needed a lot of work to remove the tool marks on the backs so they could be sharpened and honed correctly. Not to say they are bad tools, but will need the same amount of work as many old beaten ones bought off e-bay. If you learn how to do all that, you will be well on your way to also learning why and how a plane works, which will add to your skills in using one. It will take a bit of time and effort, tho.

Using a hand plane to trim a door to keep it from sticking when it swells is a long step from using one to shape and finish wood for furniture projects. IMHO, the Groz, Buck Bros, and modern Stanleys, etc are made for the carpenter, not the furniture maker, and need a lot of refinement when put to a more exacting purpose. I suppose Stanley/Baileys were made somewhat the same prior to WWII, but dollars being so short at the time, had to meet a higher quality standard to sell. They were in competition with European craftsman that hand made fine quality, but were able to get into the market using the economy of mass production. Today they are sought after as affordable but good quality.

I strongly encourage you to start getting experience and learning about hand planes. I cannot give you any recommended sources off the top of my head, because there are so many good sources out there. “Tuning a hand plane”, “sharpening plane blades”, and “using a hand plane” are all good search topics that will give you many sources to pull from. Pick the ones that strike a chord with you. Leonard Lee, Lie-Nielson, and Christopher Swarz all are knowledgeable names that have tutorials and videos that will aid you, but are by no means the only ones that have valuable tips and insight into the use of hand tools.



-- Go

View swirt's profile


3417 posts in 3171 days

#6 posted 01-21-2011 05:48 AM

A scraper may be the way to go with what you have…however….practice a bit with it on some scrap, not on the piece you are trying to finish. Do the same with the plane. You will learn more, the more you use it and begin to have a better read on what will work where.

-- Galootish log blog,

View knotscott's profile


8146 posts in 3574 days

#7 posted 01-21-2011 06:00 AM

Taking too much wood is a common tendency…one which I worked through too. Curly maple, birdseye maple, lacewood, QSWO, etc., can be difficult to plane. Keep it very sharp.

Buying a Groz plane might work out ok, but IMO there’s a better chance of getting the most plane for your money with the right older plane….I’m fond of the older Stanley Bailey’s, Stanley Bedrocks, Record, Millers Falls, Keen Kutter, Winchesters, etc.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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