large vs. medium shoulder plane

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Forum topic by Millo posted 05-20-2012 04:41 PM 2983 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3020 days

05-20-2012 04:41 PM

Yet another noob question from me.

Just wondering, would the awkwardness of holding a ginormous shoulder plane on small pieces lead to inaccuracies? If not, and if one is looking for one shoulder plane to take care of tenons in a workbench, and large breadboard ends, etc, is a large shoulder plane (like Lie-Nielsen’s or Veritas’) more versatile than a medium one?


Would a 1-1/4” blade wide shoulder plane make the job too awkward to be accurate/make it difficult to actually see what you are doing when cutting shoulders for indoor furniture, when maybe most indoor furniture tenon shoulders are 3/16”~3/8” maybe a whole 1/2” in large pieces? Is the only really practical function of this tool to work on VERY LARGE joinery like that in workbenches, very large cases, traditional “architectural” joinery, etc?

If the owners of these tools could relate how often they actually reach for this tool vs. reaching for a medium shoulder plane (or not using a shoulder plane at all) when building typical furniture with mortise/tenon joinery? What other applications do you have for your large shoulder planes? If one were to own ONE shoulder plane, would it be smarter to spend the $220-240 in a large premium shoulder plane over the far more reasonable price of the medium-size versions?


3 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10283 posts in 3618 days

#1 posted 05-20-2012 04:44 PM

I recommend a large one if you only can get one.

I had the bigger Stanley 93 plane and it was a pathetic performer
in contrast to the 4 lb. Record I got later (same pattern as the
big Lie-Nielsen). The Stanley simply lacked the mass to do good
work. The manufacturing and blade quality were fine and accurate –
the tool was just too light weight for chatter-free shoulder cuts
in firm hardwoods.

Successfully clean shoulder cuts in end grain will be determined
in part by sharpness, blade angle and so on – but the width of
the blade engaged in the cut as well. You want to take a very
fine, even cut, not a scrape. The lighter weight planes jitter
and lift away from the cut in use. The wood pushes the plane
away from the cut, basically, so the more weight you’ve got in
the plane the better. The sides of a shoulder plane is fine-ground
to make a good reference surface for shoulder cuts, but the
fine grind also, in my opinion, helps the plane sort of “suck” up
against the cheek of the tenon. The concentration of downward
pressure from the weight of the plane (assuming you’re trimming
shoulders with the cheek-face clamped parallel to the bench top)
helps register a straight and clean cut on the perpendicular end

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2663 days

#2 posted 05-20-2012 04:46 PM

Like Loren, I prefer a ginormous one. I’m fascinated with shoulder planes, so I have several; but the most used is the big boy.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3020 days

#3 posted 05-20-2012 05:17 PM

Wow you guys are fast and make me very glad you cleared my mind.

I already own that swetheart re-issure, which I have only used once on walnut tenons. Ugh. At times it seemd thing worked out sometimes didn’t. Of course, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I have also never REALLY tested for sqaure, and I loaned it to someone else in the glass, who is a troglodyte, who nicked the blade. Thinking about the possiblity of trying my hand at a workbench sometime this year (I waited too long to get a load of material that would have made it easy for me to build it in the Summer, now I have to wait until another offer like that one comes along for $$$ sake) I thought about a larger premiurm shoulder plane.

Another thing that got me thinking about it was the fact that while test-driving Lie-Nielsen bench planes, I found the ginormous no.8 easier to use than the no.7. Of course, I didn’t spend 4 hrs flattening boards with it which might make things a bit different. I personally found it easier even on a 3/4” edge (at that time it was even less, b/c everyone was planing that board) while some other people (not everyone) preferred the 7 for that task—of course, I didn’t know what I was doing ;-). I thought maybe this apparent extra “ease of use” the extra weight provided might also be true with shoulder planes…and you guys say it was so because you’re cutting endgrain…makes perfect sense!

Bertha, I know you do keepsake boxes and humidors—do you ever do small boxes in frame and panel construction with mortises and tenons? Have ever tried that huge tool on itty-bitty shoulders? What about the tops, any that are mortised-and-tenoned frames? Would you then secure the plane and run the piece of wood? Am I being a bit silly here with these small-box questions? Something tells me I AM. ;-)

Thanks guys!

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