Fine-tuning wooden planes

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 05-02-2012 02:18 AM 1693 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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434 posts in 2378 days

05-02-2012 02:18 AM

I have a Wooden try plane and a wooden rabbet plane. Both are old. I am having trouble making small adjustments tot he depth of cut. I know the general theory of taping the blade to advance the iron, and taping the back of the plane to retract the blade, but most of the time I tap it forward and if i go too far i have knock it out and start over cuz i can’t really get the blade too retract by tapping the back.

any tips?

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

6 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1730 posts in 2802 days

#1 posted 05-02-2012 02:22 AM

You may have to regrind to find a new sweetspot on the iron where it may have spent lots of years in the same setting. Thus loosing its grab in the using area.

View NJWiliam's profile


32 posts in 2561 days

#2 posted 05-02-2012 03:07 AM

Unless the rabbet plane has a very large iron for a rabbet plane, you will be much better off adjusting it like a molding plane – start with the iron set at too fine a cut, and tap the iron forward until it is where you want it. If you pass your shaving thickness, tap the iron forward to remove it, reseat it with the wedge at too fine, and start advancing again.

The try plane’s iron should have enough mass to adjust the way you describe. The better the wedge fits, the easier it is to adjust.

Also, the bodies of the planes often shrink so that the irons are not tapered enough to adjust easily. Depending on the condition of the plane and the iron, you can either widen the cheeks of the plane, or grind some width off of the iron. Not much material needs to be removed, but it can make a big difference.

View RS Woodworks's profile

RS Woodworks

533 posts in 3245 days

#3 posted 05-02-2012 03:17 AM

I like to start with the edge of the blade about 1/8” back from where it would start to cut. Then put the wedge in place and once it’s hand tight, tap it in a bit more with a small mallet. As the wedge moves forward, so will the iron. Then, just tap the back of the iron until you start getting fine cuts. At this point it will be tight enough that it will hold until you have to remove it to sharpen.
The plane has to be set up well tho, a good well shaped wedge, a nice flat mating surface for the back of the blade, ect. Otherwise, you’ll be forever trying to adjust a plane that just won’t work for you.

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

View BubbaIBA's profile


387 posts in 2370 days

#4 posted 05-02-2012 03:23 AM

The tap dance will become second nature…..use a small light hammer, set the iron and wedge with the body on a flat surface by hand. Use a light tap to set the wedge, inspect the sole by sighting down from the toe and feeling for the iron with your thumb. You shouldn’t see or feel more than a very thin line of iron. If you see any iron odds are it is set too thick. If the iron looks “right” try a shaving, I usually hope for no shaving on the first pass. If the iron is too thin start with a very light tap followed by a tap on the wedge, if too thick a tap on the back or on top of the plane body forward of the iron either works about as well as the other, each tap on either iron or body should be follow by a tap on the wedge. If there is a secret, it is light taps followed by checking progress. You shouldn’t need to “knock it out and start over”. While the wedge and iron need to be set, it doesn’t need to be “guerrilla” tight if the ramp, iron and wedge are true and fit. If it takes heavy taps to set either the iron or the wedge there is a problem with the wedge, the pin, or the ramp and you may need to fret that plane or find another.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2991 days

#5 posted 05-02-2012 07:02 AM

You are probably setting the wedge too tightly. I can grab the wedge and pull it out by hand without resorting to banging on my planes. At most a light tap on the back of the plane while pulling on the wedge.

Friction keeps the iron in place, not pressure from the wedge.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2378 days

#6 posted 05-03-2012 01:42 AM

thanks for the info, I have found what one of you said to be true, the try plane does back out better than the smaller rabbet plane. I got the rabbet plane working decently this evening on some scrap wood, though I still need a lot of practice with it before I’ll be able to use it on an actual project.

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

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