Block Plane as Smoother?

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 04-23-2012 02:46 AM 1345 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 1807 days

04-23-2012 02:46 AM

Are there any potential problems using a well-tuned block plane as a small low-angle smoothing plane? My current block plane is not well-tuned enough, and I haven’t tried it yet, but I wondered if anyone else has? What would the real difference be?

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

6 replies so far

View mveach's profile


56 posts in 1805 days

#1 posted 04-23-2012 04:44 AM

I would think the short length of the block plane would not be good for smoothing.

View Loren's profile


8168 posts in 3070 days

#2 posted 04-23-2012 07:10 AM

You’ll want to sharpen the back of the blade to compensate
for the low angle and bring the effective cutting angle to about
45 degrees. Steeper scrapes more and is better for figured
and dense woods. You can do some smoothing with a
standard-honed block plane but if you encounter tearing
of the grain the absence of a chipbreaker is part of the
reason. This can be mitigated by changing the angle of the
cut and/or by raising the bevel angle of the blade using
back beveling.

If this seems all quite complex, it is. That’s why smoothers
are used for smoothing more. The 45 degree angle of
cut combined with the chipbreaker solve many of the
problems of smoothing cuts.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 1807 days

#3 posted 04-23-2012 11:29 AM

1. I thought the short length is what made a smoother a smoother…you can smooth small areas.

2. If the higher angle is better, why all the rage about veritas’s new low-angle smoother?

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Don W's profile

Don W

17880 posts in 1990 days

#4 posted 04-23-2012 11:58 AM

No matter what your angle, it will work on some wood grain and not others. Low angle is typically for end grain, but will work well on some diffiucult grain (it acts like end grain). Higher angles tend to work better. Think about it, scrapers work on almost everything.

I made a 55 degree plane which works well (you can look at my projects) for when my #62 won’t cut it and I want to be a little more agressive than my scrapers. My #1 go to smoother is my 604 however.

The block may work, but it will be work. It lacks the weight and mass needed for a smoother. All of the work will come from your arms. You’ll be sore at the end of a day.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View jmos's profile


716 posts in 1792 days

#5 posted 04-23-2012 12:32 PM

With a bevel up plane you can adjust the angle by sharpening the bevel at different angles. With a lot of low angle block planes the bed angle is 12 degrees, add to that a standard 25 degree bevel angle and you get a 37 degree effective angle. If you sharpen the bevel to 33 degrees, you get an effective angle of 45 degrees, the same as a standard bench plane. You can go higher to get angles comparable to a high angle frog for a bench plane. One big reason for the popularity of the bevel up design is cost, it’s a simpler design and cheaper to make.

Another thing to look at with your block plane is the mouth. My understanding is that the mouth opening is a significant factor in the suitability as a smoother. If the mouth is fixed and fairly wide it won’t take as nice a cut.

Last factor I see is mass; a bench smoother is a pretty heavy plane compared to a small block plane, which may impact your ability to get as smooth a result.

-- John

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2394 days

#6 posted 04-23-2012 12:39 PM

12strings, the short length is not the problem; the lack of weight and a comfortable grip is.

The rage about the Veritas is its simplicity, its mass, and having the “bevel up” lets you prepare several cutters with different angles of attack. That way one plane can serve as any angle smoother you need. I don’t have a Veritas, wish I did, but I have a Stanley SweetHeart #62 and it’s similar.

Having said that, I have used an adjustable mouth, low angle block plane as a smoother for a small piece of maple I was working with. I held the plane at a skewed angle to get the thin slices I wanted and to help avoid tearout.

Low angles are good for end gain and make the effort required to push the tool easier, but the trade off is tearout risk is increased.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

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