Depth Setting a block plane, well known method or dumb luck?

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Forum topic by DeLayne Peck posted 10-16-2012 02:22 AM 1863 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DeLayne Peck

426 posts in 1668 days

10-16-2012 02:22 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane block plane depth setting

I am misfortunate with hand planes. I gave up years ago. But, all the discussion on LJs prompted me to buy a no-name block plane at a Antique Mall recently. I followed all the tuning step from videos and sharpened the blade using what I call the ”nary” sharp method.

Nice curl? Nope, just couldn’t get the depth set. Frustrated, I put the plane aside with doubts about my tuning and sharpening.

Today, on a whim, I walked the plane over to a very flat table and cut up an Extra Gum carton. Carton, not a gum wrapper. I shimmed the nose of the plane up with a flat piece of the carton and centered a straight edge of it in the throat. Then, I lowered the blade until it touched the table and just nudged the edge of the carton. Then, carefully locked it.

The heavens parted at my work bench! With the sacrid woosh, it produced a perfect curl! The carton Extra Gum comes in is 8/1000” of an inch thick.

Did I just rediscover America, was it dumb luck, or am I the founder of the Extra Flavorful school of hand plane setting?

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

16 replies so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2157 days

#1 posted 10-16-2012 02:48 AM

I like that tip a lot. I hate to admit but I do own a few hand planes and always have trouble setting the depth right and getting the blade square. All the hand plane gurus on here probably have a closely guarded secret method for doing this but I like your “Extra” technique.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 2158 days

#2 posted 10-16-2012 03:00 AM

I think you are an unheralded genius. Nice trick. I am going to give it a try.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 2526 days

#3 posted 10-16-2012 03:03 AM

If it works, use it, although for some woods and for many applications, .008” is a bit much to be removing at one time with a plane. That shaving might work for pine or poplar, but would be very difficult to push on rosewood or maple. My method for setting the depth on a plane is a bit more pragmatic. I simply clamp a scrap of the wood I am using in my vise. I then back off the blade until it does not cut. Then I simply advance the blade a little at a time until I make a pass that gives me a good shaving and leaves a smooth surface behind (for a smoothing plane). For tasks that don’t require a smooth surface, I will skip the part about the smooth surface left behind.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View oldnovice's profile


5733 posts in 2834 days

#4 posted 10-16-2012 03:12 AM

It’s plane to see you have found an easy solution to a common problem.

If you get some precision shim stock and you won’t eed the gum carton!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2625 days

#5 posted 10-16-2012 03:12 AM

That’s the way I do it, Doc!

-- jay,

View waho6o9's profile


7179 posts in 2044 days

#6 posted 10-16-2012 03:20 AM

Good trick DJPeck! I’m glad you had an epiphany.
Keep at it and I’m sure you’ll get better and better.
Sharp blades help a lot. Shave on.

View Mosquito's profile


8137 posts in 1759 days

#7 posted 10-16-2012 03:35 AM

depth is not as much an issue for me, but getting a blade square that doesn’t have a lateral adjustment can get annoying… For me, it usually results in me setting the blade, and not moving it until I need to sharpen it…

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

426 posts in 1668 days

#8 posted 10-16-2012 05:15 AM

Doc and all, thank you for your replies. I did test it on a piece of pine. So, 8/1000 would be on the deep side for a harder wood per Doc. Will have to try Doc’s method. Wonder if that will work on a $19 no-frills cheapo. And want to experiment with thinner material than a gum package.

Using an ultra thin shim and resting the plane on table top does solve the problem of squaring the blade to the sole without a lateral adjuster.

Hans, do folks understand that you really can’t control the puns? It is like an odd form of turrets syndrome.

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View oldnovice's profile


5733 posts in 2834 days

#9 posted 10-16-2012 08:29 AM

You did catch it! Just checking if your are really reading these!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Don W's profile

Don W

17971 posts in 2034 days

#10 posted 10-16-2012 12:36 PM

i use that trick on scrapers all the time. I never tried it on a block, but can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t work.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1213 posts in 1577 days

#11 posted 10-16-2012 01:02 PM

For most planes, I eyeball the blade for lateral adjustment while holding the sole up, retract the blade, put it on wood, and slowly advance the blade while taking initial strokes.

For fine smoothers, I’ll sometimes use the edge of a small, 1/4” thick scrap to see if I get similar shavings from both sides as I adjust laterally.

This is going to seem counterintuitive, but I make my fine lateral adjustments with a 4 oz. hammer, not the lever. Just tap the side of the blade that’s too far out, up near the top. This is far more precise than the lever. Try it!

View HorizontalMike's profile


7158 posts in 2381 days

#12 posted 10-16-2012 01:06 PM

If your block plane has an adjustable mouth, you will want to minimize the mouth opening until it is “just” wide enough to pass the shavings that you are making. In other words, close but not too close to block/clog the mouth of the plane. Doing that, you may even find that your cuts may get thinner as well.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View JohnChung's profile


372 posts in 1541 days

#13 posted 10-16-2012 02:06 PM

I usually hold the sole to the light and adjust the blade. You can take test shavings on each side of the blade to test it out. Just start with the smallest cut first and then adjust the depth. If it was a wooden plane then the sole to light is the way to go.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4457 posts in 3427 days

#14 posted 10-16-2012 02:11 PM

DJ, every so often ya just do what ya gotta do to make something work.
The nice part about our craft is that there are a zillion ways to achieve the same end.
Glad you are now comfortable with the “no name”.


View Don W's profile

Don W

17971 posts in 2034 days

#15 posted 10-16-2012 02:13 PM

about the middle of this thread a few of us chimed in on how we drop the iron.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

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