hand plane help!

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Forum topic by scarecrow6541 posted 02-04-2011 09:39 AM 2030 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2703 days

02-04-2011 09:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: help plane question

Hello LJs,
Im new to LJs and also a new woodworker. Most of my projects have been done using mostly power tools, but i have decided i need to learn to use hand tools as well. I have a Stanley #4 plane, nothing fancy, $20 at Lowes. While i know i would get better results from a more high end plane, at the moment, this is all i can afford. I know i have to be doing something wrong, most likely with adjusting the plane iron. when i try to plane across the wood, it cuts in and stops completely, if i try to push harder, it either moves the bench completely or tears some of the wood out. i tried adjusting the level of the iron, but am having trouble getting it even. Any advice would be very helpful, as i know most, if not all, of you have more experience with this than i do. Thanks in advance,


10 replies so far

View treeman's profile


208 posts in 3472 days

#1 posted 02-04-2011 02:04 PM

If you are trying to use it straight out of the package, you won’t have any success. You can make it work but you will have to spend some time tuning and sharpening. First you will need to flatten the sole so it is perfectly flat. You will also need to flatten the back of the blade and sharpen it. You will need to make sure the cap iron fits properly and also the frog. It will take several hours of work but it CAN be tuned up.

I suggest you search this site for procedures to tune up your plane or buy a good book on tuning and using hand planes.

View boyneskibum's profile


76 posts in 3492 days

#2 posted 02-04-2011 02:32 PM

#1: Sharpen the blade! #2: Exactly what treeman said. Check this site out (One among many)

-- Always keep a stash of band-aids in your workshop!

View mstenner's profile


57 posts in 3177 days

#3 posted 02-04-2011 03:10 PM

Also, a #4 is a smoothing plane and is pretty light. As such, even when it’s well-tuned and sharp, it will bind up pretty quick if you try to take too heavy a cut. The mass and momentum of bigger planes will help you power through a little hill and emerge on the other side, but a small plane will often just stop. Here’s what I do: back off until you’re not cutting anything. Then, creep the blade forward in tiny bits (about as little as you can turn the knob) until you’re just barely cutting anything at all. If you can’t see through your shavings, it’s too much. Plane that way for a while… a few minutes, just to get the feel. Then increase ever-so-slightly. Repeat. You’ll never want to remove more than a few thousandths per-pass with a #4.

Note that when your wood is imperfect (that is, in need of planing!) then you’ll often skate over most of the board and only catch in a few places. That’s the point… those are the high places you need to remove. If you lower your blade enough to cut just anywhere, then when you hit one of those high places, you’ll really dig in. So, the bottom line, take thin shaving and be patient… eventually you’ll get a good feel for proper blade depth.

I have a cheapo #4 and cheapo #5. I also have a veritas jointer plane. World of difference. however, I was able to get my #4 working pretty well with some serious love. The #5 didn’t need much. If you really want to hot off some material, you might consider a #5.

-- -Michael

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3081 days

#4 posted 02-04-2011 03:29 PM

A really good book about handplanes is “The Handplane Book” by Garrett Hack. It covers everything you need to know to make any plane, metal or wooden, work properly. It also covers important things like how to read a board in order for the plane to leave the best surface on the wood.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View AaronK's profile


1506 posts in 3487 days

#5 posted 02-04-2011 03:54 PM

while treeman makes good points about parts being flat, these are really critical only when you want a flat surface. it sounds like your problem precedes accuracy to begin with. I think that your blade must be pretty dull and it is projected too far from the body of the plane.

So rule #1 of planes is that the blade is sharp. sharp means razor sharp, as in you can shave hairs with it (without pain!)

as far as adjustments go, for a smoothing plane you really shouldnt be able to visibly see any projection of the blade. the way I adjust it is by backing the blade all the way off the wood, then slowly and incrementally feeding it in until i get a very thin shaving. our eyes and fingers (especially when new) aren’t accurate enough to gauge the adjustments well.

View travisowenfurniture's profile


91 posts in 2714 days

#6 posted 02-06-2011 04:17 AM

Antique stores are often great places to find hand planes of different qualities, yet there are some gems to be found for sure. Weather you are buying a brand new plane or a used one, they will most likely need some tuning.

First, go buy a sharpening stone (wider than the plane iron) and a cheap Honing guide ( and sharpen that blade til you can see your reflection. Then take some coarse sandpaper, lay it on a super flat surface (like glass or granite or something) and flatten the bottom of the plane, with the blade retracted, until it is dead flat. use a sharpie and draw lines on the bottom of the plane and sand away to see where the high/low spots are.

All this stuff can be found in books and online, so go do some research. Learning to use a handplane is extremely rewarding, and will become your favorite part of woodworking. Garret Hack’s book (Handplane Book) is a good place to start, and it has more than enough info on handplanes of all shapes and sizes.

Hope that helps


View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 2860 days

#7 posted 02-06-2011 06:28 AM

Our fellow LJ are giving you good advise… New tools (planes and chisels +) need to be sharpened. None of us are giving you an exact angle because you need to google the subject and come up with your own angle. Some angles are too sharp and will not keep their edge… other angles are too steep and will take out too much wood. Do your research and try a few.

As for setting the blade depth, our fellow LJ are on the money… but a much faster way is to use sheets of paper from your printer. What I do is I place the back portion of my plane on 2 pieces of paper and let the blade drop off to meet the flat surface the sheets of paper are sitting on. If I need to lessen the cut, I go to one sheet. If I need more, then I add a sheet

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3064 days

#8 posted 02-06-2011 06:43 AM

There is a lot of ways to sharpen your blade, I just use sand paper and a flat surface. To get the blade square I use a combo square, this also shows you how proud the blade is. I usually push the blade up just until it stops the square from sliding. I have a cheep Buck Bros. and I get good result from just the sandpaper and a combo square. Get it sharp, square, and the height adj. properly.

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 2996 days

#9 posted 02-07-2011 02:58 AM

Thanks for the link to the woodtreks videos…nice to get some formal advice on tuning and planing.
Would have been nice to have a woodshop teacher like that long ago in grade 8 when I started . We used crappy un-tuned planes and had no direction on what to do about it. I am going to teach my kids better

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View scarecrow6541's profile


2 posts in 2703 days

#10 posted 02-07-2011 06:51 AM

thanks to all of you for the great links and advice. the woodtreks video is great, and ill be picking up the honing guide and The handplane book shortly. To be honest, i was prepared to get some good advice and was still very pleasantly surprised. Again, thank you all, and i look forward to recieving more great advice as i continue my journey into woodworking, and hopefully one day i will be equipped to give some myself.


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