Plane iron camber without a grinder?

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Forum topic by Charlie posted 11-01-2012 10:50 PM 7535 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1100 posts in 2520 days

11-01-2012 10:50 PM

OK, another plane iron question. I don’t have a grinder to reshape the plane iron’s edge and I can see it needs some camber (radius) on it. I used the Scary Sharp method to make the plane irons just plain wicked sharp, but without some radius, my smoother (a #3 Stanley) is leaving tracks at the corners of the iron and so it my Millers Falls No. 14.

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to camber these irons without going out and buying a grinder. Partly because I can’t make up my mind about what grinder I’d buy and partly because I’m 60 years old and haven’t needed a grinder up til now and don’t want to spend a bunch of dollars (that are in shorter supply since I retired) for a grinder just to get few plane irons in shape.

Should I just resign myself to starting over on these with something like 120 grit wet/dry (on plate glass) and working them to get the camber and then bring them up again? And if so, my old guide won’t work because it won’t really be conducive to rocking these blades side to side a bit to sharpen the newly radiused edge. So I guess I’d need a way (grinder or not) to sharpen these evenly and symetrically across the radius.

There’s probably a simple way to do this and I’m probably over analyzing it because I’m good at that, but how do you take care of plane irons with a cambered edge? I feel like once I get the primary bevel I’l be in much better shape, but getting that radius has me a bit stumped.

Anyone got a box of clues? ‘Cause right now I feel clueless.

13 replies so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3342 days

#1 posted 11-01-2012 10:56 PM

When you use the scary sharp method, I am assuming you are using some type of sharpening jig to hold the iron. Try putting finger pressure on the edges, alternating each side as you make passes. This should produce a type of crowning on the edges which should prevent those hard marks that the edges of a plane iron cause on the wood.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3363 days

#2 posted 11-01-2012 10:58 PM


I don’t use the scary sharp system. However the camber you need is small. I use Japanese water stones and can easily add camber by applying the right pressure while working on the 800 grit stone. Its then a simple matter of going to 4000 and then 6000.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2520 days

#3 posted 11-01-2012 10:59 PM

Yes, I’m using a jig to hold the angle. Doesn’t seem to rock much. I should probably just go out there, and take one iron and start it over on the 120 grit and see how it goes. Just going to take a while I suppose :)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3342 days

#4 posted 11-01-2012 11:05 PM

It doesn’t have to rock a lot. Trust me, light finger pressure that focuses more on the edge will remove enough material to round it off a little. What happens when you focus on one edge is that the ends get more contact with the abrasive which causes the metal to retract a little further. Also, because you are pushing on one end, you will naturally push the jig in a slightly rounded motion which produces that crowning. When you run the plane across the wood, the extreme edges won’t contact the surface which minimizes that marking. You won’t have to go extreme, just a few passes holding each edge should do.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2801 days

#5 posted 11-01-2012 11:20 PM

I agree with David. I never use anything other than my finest dmt to camber my smoothers. You may need to experiment a little, but I’d start with about 10 strokes each side, then hit the center a few strokes, then each edge again to start.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

4223 posts in 2468 days

#6 posted 11-01-2012 11:24 PM

Yes, I agree it won’t take much and you don’t need to start over. A uniform camber across the plane is not required either, though it is desirable. A slight rounding of each corner of your blade can be easily achieved using the pressure methods above, or by hand on an abrasive plate 600 or finer. Don’t mess with the center of the blade, just slightly round the corners maybe 1/8” from each side.
You might try putting a shim under the center of your holding jig. Something like a piece of masking tape?

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL Now there's a face that would stop a clock! And seriously mess with small watches.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3185 days

#7 posted 11-01-2012 11:39 PM

Charlie, as Mr. Craig suggested, you can use very slight finger pressure to ease the corners of your blade, it works very well. Also, you can use a file to knock the corners off which also works nicely and will remove tracks left by the corners. That was a trick taught to our class by Chris Schwarz. Basically, you lay the blade flat with the bevel down, take a file lined up parallel (but not touching) to the honed edge, and then very lightly draw it in a semi circular motion from the edge side of the corner to the side of the blade. It doesn’t take much effort to make that corner disappear. Try on a dull blade first and make sure you do not ruin your edge where you want it to stay sharp.

Good Luck!

-- Mike

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2520 days

#8 posted 11-02-2012 01:29 AM

Thank you! one and all.

For the #3 I just did as suggested and started on the 800 and went up from there. The smoother didn’t need a lot of camber, but it needed some and I eased the corners a little. No more tracks and it’s leaving a finish so nice I don’t even think I’d need sandpaper after using it. Shavings are about .0025 in the middle if I’m being aggressive hehehe… I had them down to about .001 but they were kinda narrow. :) Anyways, that one seems squared away.

The Millers Falls No. 14 I really wanted a lot of camber in as it will get the heavier removal tasks. So onthat one I went back to 400 grit and started from there. That one took a while as I had to correct the primary angle. I followed what was there the first time but when I measured the angle it was closer to 38 degrees so I brought it back to 30 and will try it there for a while. It still doesn’t have as much camber as I wanted, but it definitely has more than the #3. On this one I also eased the corners.

Now both of these planes are performing really well.

Not bad for a couple of eBay fixer-uppers, neither of which cost over $20 (did I get lucky?)

While I was at it, I eased the corners on my #7 Anant. It mostly gets used for edges, but with the corners eased it does a nice job following the MF #14.

View lab7654's profile


266 posts in 2480 days

#9 posted 11-02-2012 02:53 AM

Kind of defeats the purpose if not spending money, but they make guides (Veritas MKII for example) that have a slightly oval shaped roller, so that you can rock the plane iron and get a uniform camber. You could probably fashion your own and put it on the guide, if the roller can come off. Just throwing this out there.

-- Tristin King -- When in doubt, sand it.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3342 days

#10 posted 11-02-2012 03:23 AM

Thanks for the update Charlie, I am glad the technique is working for you. I am always appreciiative when someone that has a question posts the results. I always like to know if my advice holds any water and, if not, know what worked to add to my limited knowledge base :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2520 days

#11 posted 11-02-2012 11:43 AM

Oh and I actually found I had TWO guides for sharpening. One is a Veritas with the detents for setting microbevels. It has a really wide roller and because of that, it doesn’t really allow much “rocking”.

Then I had another one, can’t remember the brand…probably came WITH something… and the roller on that one is narrow. Like about 3/4” narrow. That one ROCKS!

I also had an interesting conversation with an old friend and long time woodworker/carver . He said he’s not real fond of all of the multiple bevel angles some folks think will make their planes better. BUT, he said for a regular bench plane where the “standard” angle is generally 30 degrees, he grinds them back to 25 degrees. Even on a brand new plane iron. He doesn’t use a grinder. He does it on a stone. Takes that 25 degrees from the heel to just shy of the actual cutting edge and then hones the cutting edge to the 30 degree. This makes the highly polished cutting bevel really narrow. He said he’s learned that this has some of the advantages of starting with a hollow grind in that you are only ever honing a very narrow strip of metal. He said this takes some of the drudgery out of sharpening because you can sharpen an edge extremely fast because it’s so small.

So I’ll be on the hunt for a bench stone like he uses and will give this a try. It makes sense to me to have really sharp, but small bevels for cutting edges as it’s only the edge doing the cutting anyways. He said you can apply the same concept to a lot of different blade types, but you have to be careful you don’t defeat the designed geometry of the blade. Most were designed to be at a certain angle for a reason. BUT, he also says he has some that he’s taken away from the “normal” or “standard” angle because they just work better for him that way.

It was an interesting conversation. :)

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4037 days

#12 posted 11-02-2012 11:52 AM

Depending on which Veritas guide you have (MK. I or Mk.II), the newer ones are set up to apply a micro-bevel with about a 2 degree difference from the main bevel. That is really all you need to cut down the sharpening time.

Also note that if you have a Mk.2, there is a camber roller set you can quickly swap on and off to apply a camber to your blades.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3342 days

#13 posted 11-02-2012 01:03 PM

Charlie, you might want to check this video made by Paul Sellers. Another LJ who is quite established. He describes sharpening in a similar vein as your friend. It can probably help you kick the habit of using a jig for good. Of course, I am not there yet :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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