First Plane Ever

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Forum topic by bbqking posted 07-03-2008 03:29 AM 2040 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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328 posts in 3897 days

07-03-2008 03:29 AM

Believe it or not, after years in woodworking I have purchased my first plane. I have never had any luck with them in the past, probably from lack of instruction and perseverance. The idea was to tune tenon faces more quickly so I purchased an inexpensive European style rabbet plane. If I can get this one to work the way I need it to I will cough it up for a nice one like I have always admired. Some questions:

1. This plane cost 60 bucks brand new. Will I ever get it to work or is that just too cheap of a plane?

2. If this plane can be tuned to work, what do I need to do to it? So far I have taken it out if the box and placed it on my bench. I have read about stuff you need to do to the iron & etc. but need some guidance.

3. The blade is held in place with a wooden wedge. I have toyed with adjusting the blade for a super thin cut, the kind I can imagine I would need for my tenons, but when I tap the wedge to lock that depth, it pushes the blade out to a much deeper cutting position. What’s up with this?

Just so you know, I was inspired to learn to work a plane from you people on this site. Hearing people I relate to talking about it is a lot better than reading magazine articles or a book about it. (I have done both with sad results.)

Any and all help will be appreciated. As always, bbqKing

-- bbqKing, Lawrenceville

16 replies so far

View Earle Wright's profile

Earle Wright

121 posts in 3894 days

#1 posted 07-03-2008 03:40 AM

For starters, the plane you want for trimming tenons is a ‘shoulder plane’. The blade on a shoulder plane is equal to, or slightly greater in width than the plane itself. This allows you to trim the entire tenon, all the way to the shoulder.

-- Earle Wright, Lenoir City, Tennessee

View bbqking's profile


328 posts in 3897 days

#2 posted 07-03-2008 04:06 AM

The blade on this plane is 1/16” wider than the plane body. Believe me, I know that much.

-- bbqKing, Lawrenceville

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4070 days

#3 posted 07-03-2008 04:12 AM

Pick up Garrett Hack’s book – “The Hand Plane Book.” It is a great book from history to tuning to using.

If you belong to Finewoodworking online magazine – they have a lot of really good videos on using hand planes.

What kind of sole does the plane have. I’m assuming it’s wood since it has a wooden wedge.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

716 posts in 3793 days

#4 posted 07-03-2008 04:17 AM

The depth of cut on a wooden plane is adjusted by tapping the front or back end of the plane body. It’s either the front or back to lower the iron or raise the iron, I never seem to remember witch. I have Bailey planes so forgive me for the incomplete answer.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View bbqking's profile


328 posts in 3897 days

#5 posted 07-03-2008 04:29 AM

Yes, Betsy the sole is rosewood, as is the entire plane body.

-- bbqKing, Lawrenceville

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4070 days

#6 posted 07-03-2008 04:42 AM

I’m not sure about tuning a completely wooden plane. I’d really pick up Hack’s book. It will get you going in the right direction. You can probably get a used copy at Half-Priced Books or off Amazon. It would be worth the money.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3812 days

#7 posted 07-03-2008 05:08 AM

BBQ, it sounds like you picked up a good plane, just going for the wrong application, kind of like eating soup with a fork…

I won’t pretend to be an expert here, there are lot’s of talented folks who can steer you in the right direction to fit your need… just look at this as my cheering section pep talk.

I love my planes. You’ll fall in love with yours when you want to smooth up some old barn siding or tweak an edge on a piece that you want to give a warm ‘non machined’ look. It isn’t as quick as your power planer, but it’s a whole lot more personal.

Like Don, I’m a Bailey fan as well, my site box has a #3,#4,#5,#6,#110, #115, #180 and my absolute favorite is my 120 year old #103… If I load light and leave my box at home you’ll see me pull out my #5 and my #103.

There is no denying the difference in feel between a wooden plane and a steel bottom. The best I can describe the two is wood on wood is warm and softer feel, whereas the steel has a cooler cut…


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 4021 days

#8 posted 07-03-2008 05:28 AM

Does the blade extend above the wedge when tight? if not I would trim alittle to allow you to set the wedge and then fine tune the blade. have you noticed if the sole remains true when the wedge it set? If not, try sanding the bottom of the wedge and the corresponding surface of the blade with 220 on a smooth surface to see if you can get the blade locked in place using less wedge pressure. if afterwards the sole is still not flat you’ll have to re-flatten it. Unfortunately this will open the throat and you may have to replace the throat area to close this gap, which really isn’t a big deal and wouldn’t take an hour. As far as price goes often times we pay an substantial premium for names and as long as the blade will take and hold a decent edge I would be satisfied.
Although the shoulder planes I have made are rough, they really are indispensable tools on the bench when fine tuning your tenons. Now I hate to even mention this but I do also have an old Record 073 that works beautifully and will outlive me many times. I am sure one of the regular posters here on LJ who build some truly extraordinary planes will catch this post eventually and help you out if your still having problems.

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View bbqking's profile


328 posts in 3897 days

#9 posted 07-04-2008 03:20 AM

Thank you everyone for your time in responding. I guess I’d like to say first that a shoulder plane is a precision made rabbet plane, Earle. I am kind of sorry I started this forum in that I was actually looking for advice rather waxing nostalgic about planes I have known and used. I was hoping that someone would say, ” When you get a new plane, you need to do (whatever) to sharpen the blade so you can shave with it. Then you need to do (whatever) so that the blade stays where you want it. If you have more questions email me.” I will continue to stumble along with this one. Please everyone keep responding.

-- bbqKing, Lawrenceville

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 4121 days

#10 posted 07-04-2008 04:23 AM

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 4165 days

#11 posted 07-04-2008 04:30 AM

Like the others I am mainly a Stanley type plane user; please let us know if you find any additional information.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View Scotach's profile


72 posts in 3793 days

#12 posted 07-04-2008 05:41 AM

Well, from my experience with my home made wood plane, and my Bailey’s, you first need to make sure the the cutting edge of your plane is square. If it is you need to sharpen and hone it to obtain as near a zero radius as you can. If it is not square you’ll have to take it to the bench grinder and make it so. Be careful, go slow and quench the blade often. Then re-grind the bevel, sharpen and hone the cutting edge.

You will want to make sure the sole of the plane is flat and square. This would require a combination square, machinist square or the like to make sure the sole is square to sides of the plane. Also make sure it is flat, sandpaper works for this. On a very flat table, or other precision flat surface, lay out some sandpaper and run it across. But, if you do it too much you will open the throat too much and will have to fix it. Relatively easy stuff, but take your time and be careful during all steps.

Here’s a link to a 9 minute video about tuning up a new shoulder plane, mid you it shows metal plane..might be off help. Or I recently was on the Hock tools website and they had a link to a video dealing with their plane kits. There is a “how to” video on truing the sole, and adjusting the blade in the video. Seemed pretty good. Hope this helps in some way.

-- Brian S. --- "If you’ve worked on the building of a boat, it belongs to you the rest of your life." -Bob Prothero

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3888 days

#13 posted 07-04-2008 06:01 AM


I have a small shoulder plane that I bought new at a woodworking show for 30 bucks. Nothing special about it. It’s got a wooden wedge and steel iron, wooden sole. I’m a sole believer that a tool doesn’t have to cost a fortune to work well.

To prep your plane (sole flat, blade sharpened, etc) there is good advice above (keep in mind, you don’t need to flatten the sole every single time, only after lots of use and wear or when new). When I do all that in the beginning, and I’m ready to start working with it, then I clamp a piece of pine in the vice, 3/4 edeg side up. I put the blade in the plane, then the wedge. Before the wedge is tapped in, I get the blade as square as I can by hand. Then, I put the cutting edge of the blade absolutely even with the sole of the plane (like it couldn’t cut anything at all because the blade isn’t protruding). Tap in the wedge so that the blade is secure and see how much the blade protrudes. You can do this by sight, you don’t need some fancy micrometer. Use this distance as a guideline when you adjust the iron for future uses.

Once you see how much it protrudes, I back out the wedge and loosen the blade. Square up the blade in the thoat like before, only this time, bring the iron back into the plane the distance that is protruded after you oringinally tapped in the wedge, minus about a thousandth of an inch. This time, when you tap the wedge in, your plane iron should only protrude 1000th of and inch. This sounds insane, like you couldn’t see a 1000th, but you can. It’s easier than it sounds…

Now, go over to your 3/4 pine 1×4 that you clamped up in the vise. Run the plane over it. If it’s too thick of a shaving, tap the wedge out and secure the blade over again (or, you can tap the back of the plane to back off the iron and reduce the thickness of the cut/ shaving). If it’s too thin or not at all, then tap the wedge a little or reajust the iron. I run the left side of the plane over the wood, then the right separatly. This tells me if the blade is square with the sole of the plane by looking at the thickness of the left shaving compared to the right. If the right shaving is thicker, then tap the top of the iron slightly left and make more shavings. If the left shaving is thicker, then tap the top of the iron slightly right, etc…..

I’m not a plane expert, and there is probably a much easier way to do it, but this has worked for me for years.

It’ll create shavings that you can see thru if your iron is sharp.

When I sharpen my irons, always, always flatten the back like you would a chisel. Then, I sharpen my bevel. Once you flatten the back side, you shouldn’t have to do it again unless you sharpen it so much over the years that you wear it past what you originally flattened. If you ever get a plane with a chip breaker, make sure and flatten the bottom of the chip breaker, too (the curved part of the chip breaker that is closest to the cutting edge that actually rests on the iron). You’ll find that if you can flatten the iron and chip breaker where they touch to make it seamless, then you’ll not get any shavings in between them and it won’t clog the throat of the plane.

This sounds like a lot, but once you complete the prep work the first time and figure out the boundaries of the plane, it takes about 60 seconds to adjust the iron and get to work… Good luck…


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3822 days

#14 posted 07-04-2008 06:09 AM

Whack the back of the plane with a hammer or mallet to back
the iron off. I hit the top of the iron (tap-tap) to advance
it for the cut I want. This can eventually cause mushrooming
of the iron if you hit it too hard.

Manufactured European wood planes often have a “strike button”
you hit to advance the blade.

With a wooden rabbet plane you’ll want to assess whether the
sole is flat enough when the iron is wedged in place correctly.
Back the iron off so you can lay a straightedge across the sole.
If it’s straight it’ll probably cut tenon cheeks just fine.

Cutting tenon shoulders and cutting tenon cheeks are very different
cuts. Most any rabbet plane will do for the cheeks but for the
shoulder you’ll need an exceedingly fine cut. The mass and screw-
adjustment of the metal shoulder planes helps to achieve this
very fine cut.

Wooden planes work well for most general furnituremaking. You’ll
have to fuss with them more than with metal planes though.

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3812 days

#15 posted 07-04-2008 09:25 AM

Sorry about the wax. It wasn’t intended as a thread jacking, only encouragement in your endeavors.
You ever see a new father pull out pictures of his first baby, and all of a sudden everyone else pulls out pictures of their kids?

I’m real new to the forums and just trying to find a comfortable spot. I’ve had planes in my box since the 70’s so I’ll claim a comfortable relationship with them for my participation here. I’ve limited my usage for the wooden planes and the transition planes because of the relative simplicity of the metal planes for adjustment and tuning. This is purely my preference for the type of work I do. The biggest thing I’ve experienced between power tools and traditional woodworking tools is a transition of my mindset when going from one to the other. The best way I can describe it is that I cook differently when I grille outdoors, than when I cook in the house on the stove.

Here’s a nickel tour of my thinking that will surely have you asking for change when it’s over…

In reply to your question about your first plane purchase.
You asked… #1 (…paraphrased as I read your post…) Is $60 too cheap to work well? Will I be disappointed?

My answer …probably. The cost alone isn’t enough information, and you may already be frustrated. You didn’t identify the manufacturer or model of your most recent purchase but for what I’ve seen in current production, you may have answered your own question. It may be possible to bring this unit to provide good performance. Given your previous statement about this being your first plane,and previous problems with others you may not have the experience to tune this to a performance level you expect and may result in an overall disappointment. On the other hand you may have stumbled on a hidden talent or skill and find performance we’d all envy.

#2 (…again paraphrased as I read your post…) If it can be tuned, what do I need to do?

My answer is given cautiously. You’re looking for help, you want to succeed. My suggestion to one of my family members if they had asked this question and had given me a similar background as you described for yourself…”Previously no luck and no perseverance”… would be to put it back in the box for a while and buy a small block plane and a jack plane so you can learn technique for use and tuning on those. These can give you good results and basic experience that will enhance your woodworking skillset. From what I‘ve seen of your projects you’ve got great talent and should pickup good plane sense quickly. Good Stanley users are selling for $15 to $20 on E-bay and usually around $10 shipping. New Stanley #5’s are running around $40 to $50 at Lowes, Home Depot etc. There is plenty of argument that the new Stanley isn’t what it used to be…etc. etc. etc. but further discussion of that should go to another thread. I’m not endorsing Stanley, there are just a lot of them…A proven performance antique shoulder plane will run a little more money on eBay, but again, setup and tuning will be less of a hurdle than the wooden plane.

Because of how involved tuning and adjusting a wooden plane can be, my thinking is that it your purchase, given your stated previous experience, would be similar to someone who has never ridden a bike, buying a unicycle and looking for advice on how to ride, tune etc. My advice with the additional purchase is similar to suggesting purchasing a bicycle for your learning experience. Once you’ve achieved a comfort with the easier steel tools, then move up and challenge yourself with the wooden plane.

#3 ( …once again paraphrased as I read your post…) The blade, I hit it, it moves.

My answer. Yes.

Others have provided some wonderful links to great informational videos and very specific instructions about tuning. I’ve copied and bookmarked the links and instructions for my future use.

Best of luck with your efforts, keep us posted on how it turns out.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

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