bevel up versus bevel down

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Forum topic by SeaWitch posted 11-14-2011 06:49 AM 5711 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View SeaWitch's profile


149 posts in 2387 days

11-14-2011 06:49 AM

Can someone please explain to me the advantages or disadvantages of a bevel up versus bevel down for the same hand plane? For example, a bevel up vs bevel down smoothing plane? Thank you.

-- When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.”   Theodore Roosevelt

5 replies so far

View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2670 days

#1 posted 11-14-2011 08:30 AM

Short answer:
Bevel up block plane (large format especially) = more versatile – harder to sharpen – no chipbreaker.
Bevel down bench plane = more limited – easier to sharpen – chipbreaker.

Long answer:
With a bevel up block plane, depending on what angle your blade is honed, you can have anything from a low-angle miter plane (37 deg) to a scraper (100 deg) and everything in between – including toothed blades for extremely rough grain. Bevel up large format bench planes are a bear to sharpen though, because the blades have to be THICK and have to be sharpened to a precise angle. Thin blades are prone to chatter. Also, depending on who you ask, a low angle plane can have more of a tendency to gouge and tear out because of the absence of a chipbreaker.

With a bevel down plane, you get a perfect 45 degree standard pitch every time so you don’t have to worry about having a perfectly precise bevel angle. The chipbreaker allows you to use a very thin blade, saving a great deal of sharpening effort without an increase in chatter. Furthermore, as a shaving is pulled into the mouth the chipbreaker “breaks the chip” relieving the shear on the wood fibers ahead of the cut thereby helping with tear-out.

Bevel up large format block planes have only recently become popular. I think the main reasons are: more sophisticated sharpening tools available and modern iron mouths are far less prone to damage than the old Stanley 62/164.

Technically, all block planes are bevel up, but the small format size (with their traditionally thin blades) were never intended for aggressive work on a large scale, so I left them out of this discussion.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2964 days

#2 posted 11-14-2011 03:23 PM

Bevel down planes will cut at the angle of the blade mounting (frog), usually 45 degrees.
Since the bevel down plane has a fixed angle of cut, unless you change out the frog, the chip breaker was added to provide some adjustability in this regard.

Bevel up planes cut at the angle the blade (iron) was sharpened which can be greater or lesser than 45 degrees.

The higher the angle of cut, the less likely you will have tearout, but the harder it is to push the plane through the cut.

I personally would rather have a bevel up with several irons sharpened to different angles to provide this flexability because it is the only way to have a low angle of cut. In actual use, tearout can sometimes be avoided by skewing the blade through tough grain areas. But it’s a matter of personal preference really.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7587 posts in 2794 days

#3 posted 11-14-2011 03:24 PM

Bevel up works great for scraping ice off the windshield. Bevel down tends to scratch the glass.

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View drfunk's profile


223 posts in 2670 days

#4 posted 11-14-2011 07:19 PM

In all honesty, if someone said I could only have 1 plane the rest of my life it would be my LN 62 Low Angle Jack Plane. It can do it all. Great for shooting end grain – just long enough to joint – just short enough to smooth. Of course I’d need the full array of blades.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3780 days

#5 posted 11-15-2011 02:54 AM

Depends on the plane’s use. I have several standard (Bailey) bevel down planes (#4, two #5, #6, and #7) plus a Veritas scrub plane. I also have a Veritas bevel up Jack plane.

I work with some seriously screwed up lumber on occasion (poorly dried, warped, twisted, etc) because I can get it cheap and I have a very hard time delegating good hardwood to the firewood pile.

IMHO, a bevel down Jack with about an 8” radius cambered blade is the best at removing a lot of wood quickly for most rough lumber. A narrow scrub with an even more radical radius it well suited for the worst boards or where you opt to remove a lot of thickness with a plane instead of breaking out a saw, esoecially if it is a hard (Janka scale) wood. Both of these are bevel down. It is hard to get the same amount of removal with a bevel up blade. (Derek Cohen has a good article on how to camber a bevel-up blade, but I have seen no comparison done as to how it works compared to a bevel down cambered blade).

For running with a straight grain, it is nice to have the versatility of the bevel up in changing the blade angle when you run into a spot of changing grain, etc. (note that a toothed blade can also handle these areas). No need to have an arsenal of different frogs or different pitched planes for lesser used occasions. That said, with a straight grain, I do not see a big difference between up or down styles,a s long as the iron is sharp and the mouth is correctly adjusted.

If you are flattening a large area of end grain (for instance, a large round cross-cut from a log to make a table top, etc), the low angled bevel up is a very nice tool to use, as it works like a monster sized block plane shearing all that end grain.

Also, IMHO, the best new innovation in modern planes is the adjustable mouth. Bevel up or down, this has really increased the versatility of a single plane’s use.

The caveat to the above is that I normally work with the less expensive woods such as red & white oak, cherry, walnut, ash, purple heart, etc. I have no experience in the highly figured woods (except for walnut and oak crotch wood, etc), so my view is somewhat limited compared to those that work with the finer materials.

I also have a couple hand made wooden planes. I have used them with and without chip breakers on the irons. I have seen no advantage to the chip breaker other than stiffening a thinner blade to prevent chattering.

If you want one plane for all occasions, I would think a york-pitch adjustable mouth jack would be the closest, with a bevel-up jack coming ion a close second.



PS: I agree with Stumpy on scraping ice, especially towards the middle of the windshield where the reach is longest. LOL

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