Sharpening Hand Plane

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Forum topic by LutherBaker posted 09-08-2011 12:33 AM 3632 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 3051 days

09-08-2011 12:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane jointer plane sharpening

I am brand new to the world of hand planing but really want to get good at it – so I invested in a small set of planes from Veritas. I picked up a bevel up jointer plane, a smoothing plane and a block plane.

This past weekend I glued some maple boards (4/4) together. I ran them through a powered planer to “rough” plane them to approximately the same thickness. I then used biscuits and clamped pieces together to create a few boards about 17” deep and ranging from 19” to 36” wide.

I pulled out the jointer plane and tried a few passes over the glue to just generally smooth out the boards. I had a hard time keeping my little Black and Decker portable bench on the ground as I made my passes. Is that normal? Do I need to hunker the wood pieces down—- or was I just taking too much off?

I also experienced quite a bit of tearout … was I pushing on the plane incorrectly or is that just how a larger jointer plane looks—- requiring a followup with the smoothing plane?

I constantly adjusted the planer blade quite a bit to get my shavings thinner and thinner … what is a good measure for this? I tried to keep the bade square as best I could. It is a learning experience and while the wood doesn’t look great yet – I feel like I’ve started. I watched a few you tube videos and noticed the users actually starting the stroke with the blade OFF the wood. I wasn’t doing that.

So, I started on my second glue up. Unfortunately, I immediately noticed that I was putting a stripe into the wood with each pass. The blade doesn’t look terrible – but on very close inspection, there may be a very small burr that I put on the blade previously.

Do I need to sharpen the blade already?

I have a Tormek sharpener that I used once to sharpen a lawn mower blade I tried to imagine how how I’d use the SE-76 JIG to sharpen my plane blade … but I just can’t understand how I’m supposed to move that blade back and forth over the wheel, keeping constant pressure on the blade and also, not going past whatever angle I set it at.

Will I ruin the blade if I try to use that grinder and should I just go and purchase a plane sharpening kit … or does it work better than I can somehow imagine? Also, won’t the wheel put a slightly concave bevel on the plane blade? It is the 250 … or bigger ginder model ….

Tormek makes a really fancy jig sells for $160 that has a ‘stop’ on it. It looks like it slides better and would hold the angler much more accurately? Is that what I want? Although expensive, it would be worth it if I were to add to my plan collection.

Or, should I just go find simple kit like that in this Lie Nielson video.

Of, do I need to sharpen the blade at all. I’m surprised that it was only after one board. I know I didn’t hit anything metal. Maybe the rubber stoppers on the Black and Decker bench were up to high? They protrude a bit above the board.

Ah well, I’m very open to any suggestions you may have. The whole – hand tools – using your eye – sharpening thing seems very intimidating.

6 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4902 posts in 3925 days

#1 posted 09-08-2011 12:42 AM

Sharpening is an art in itself.
The Tormek is well thought of though I use a Makita slow speed device.
Grind a primary bevel, hone on a water stone, set a secondary bevel if you wish, then strop with a polishing compound.
There are several web sites devoted to the art/science.
Don’t get carried away by the technology available today. You can spend a fortune to achieve what the old guys did on a flat rock.


View Don W's profile

Don W

18685 posts in 2532 days

#2 posted 09-08-2011 02:33 AM

take a look at some of the sharpening links. They will help. It took me a while to get it down to a science. My science. You’ll need to find yours.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4062 days

#3 posted 09-08-2011 02:46 AM

You said ”So, I started on my second glue up. Unfortunately, I immediately noticed that I was putting a stripe into the wood with each pass.”

The stripes are called plane tracks. As stated above they can be addressed by putting a slight camber on your plane blades. This prevents the edge of the blade from digging into the work.

You can reduce tearout by ensuring your planing with the grain. Also, as stated above, you can increase the angle of the blade to help address this issue. Is your smoothing plane a low angle plane as well?

There are a number of videos that show how all this works. I can recommend a couple for you if your interested.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View LutherBaker's profile


11 posts in 3051 days

#4 posted 09-08-2011 07:53 AM

Thanks for the input. I’d love to take classes but not sure of a decent woodworking center here in St. Louis. Woodcraft has a few classes but I don’t see anything soon regarding the use and care of these guys.

All the Charles Schwarz books/DVDs look right up my alley. Nice call.

And yes, I do need to build a heavy bench. But, there are so many other things my wife would like to see me build soon. Is anyone out there happy with any of the benches that Grizzly sells? I’ve had my eye on this one bcs it looks big and heavy, has two clamps, has an adjustable height and includes predrilled holes for bench dogs. All that said, it sure doesn’t look like the traditional woodworker’s bench … what with the metal base etc. Unfortunately, most of their other benches in this price range don’t have holes for dogs or have only one clamp or appear a bit lighter. I’d really appreciate a few pointers for a good, well rounded, cost effective but heavy bench. And again, I’d sure enjoy building one – but for now, think it’d be wiser to plane wood, glue boards and build storage things the wife and kids would enjoy.

The smoothing plane is actually a standard 4 1/2 smoothing plane I haven’t actually attached the blade yet … but should it also have a camber? The boards are small enough that I was hoping I could use it to get rid of most of the plane tracks …. but won’t it too leave tracks?

And, it is normal that new blades from Veritas would NOT have a camber?

Part of me is just afraid that once I try to sharpen a blade on the Tormek—I may throw the blade out of whack so much so that I can’t use it until someone else grinds it down for me. Sort of like taking your dads radio apart and then not remembering which board or wire attached where. I know it is nonsense … and I’d really like to make good use out of that thing that most folks really like—- so I’ll try it.

One final question – the blades were available in A2 and O1 metals. Do any of you have thoughts on the merits or drawbacks of one or the other? I went with the A2.

View treevore's profile


4 posts in 2453 days

#5 posted 09-09-2011 11:44 PM

There is a wealth of info out there on sharpening. I may be mistaken, but all new blades generally need to be honed. This is really polishing up the tip of the plane iron so it cuts real smooth. I had the same problems you are having when I got my first #3 from woodcraft and refurbed my grandfathers old Stanley #3. Now I’ve got them cutting suuuuper thin shavings…I had to sharpen them though.

By far the easiest and cheapest way to get into the vast world of sharpening is through using sandpaper by hand. You can get up to about 12,000 grit sandpaper online. It took me hours and hours to find it, but i did

Search sandpaper sharpening and you will get many results. It is a frustrating “waste” of time to try planing without sharpening, you WILL NOT get good results. It is useful practice and learning though. You will then know the difference once you feel the glory that is a sharp hand tool.

As for your tearout, like mentioned above, could be from grain direction mishaps. Try planing the other direction.
Tracks: try to gently roundover the edge/corner of the tip of the blade with sandpaper, that helped one of my irons, without inducing a camber. though my other blade needed the camber. try to round it over first as it is easier. camber will be made during sharpening by putting localized pressure on one side of the tip then the other. like i said this is a lot of info out there.

I use a combo of sandpaper and waterstones to get my fiiine work done. Sandpaper works for most stock though. and like i said it’s cheap and easy to use and no mess.

dont get intimidated!! we are here to help! sharpening can be daunting, but sandpaper is cheap and easy to learn the techniques of sharpening with, and if you mess up, new sheet. Once you get a nice cut with sandpaper, move up to waterstones or diamond paste. Good luck!!

View Newage Neanderthal's profile

Newage Neanderthal

190 posts in 2515 days

#6 posted 09-10-2011 04:27 PM

Couple things to consider.
1. Check the sole of the plane, I once was getting really bad “plane tracks” and couldn’t find a thing wrong with the blade. I had nicked the front of the sole making a burr that cut grooves in the board.
2. If you mess up the blade, just redo it. Don’t worry about it, the blade won’t be ruined, just make it flat and start over.
3. If you were planning away from the perspective of the picture (which it looks like you were), you were going in the wrong direction. Google some info on reading grain direction on wood, it will make a huge difference.
4. Don’t worry about how thin the shavings are, unless you trying to make shavings instead of a flat smooth board? A smoothing plane benefits from thin shavings, jacks and jointers don’t. My jack takes 1/16 shavings in softer hardwoods, more in pine. I love it, gets me where i need to be pretty fast. Follow up with a jointer taking about half that or less.
5. Use you smoother at the same time you would your sandpaper. Makes no sense to pretty up a board then start clamping on it, cutting joinery, etc.
6. You don’t have to camber a blade. It can make it easier to avoid tracks, but rounding the corners works too. I only camber my jack and scrub.
7. I know bad results can be stressful, but just try to enjoy the learning process. Makes no since to have a hobby that makes you more stressed in my view.

-- . @NANeanderthal on twitter

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