Question on using a block plane

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Forum topic by birdman posted 09-23-2008 03:32 AM 4487 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 3532 days

09-23-2008 03:32 AM

Question – I am new at woodworking and I am having trouble using my new block plane. It’s a small one made by Buck Bros and it seems to “hang up” on the surface rather than peeling the wood off. I have not used it enough to dull the blade and currently there is very little edge exposed – less than 1/32. The edge cuts into the wood, different types of wood the same way, and subsequent passes are then stopped by the ridges that were left.

Does this sound like a familiar problem or am I just being stupid. (The latter is a good possibility.)

-- DavidP - still count on my fingers and toes - not for math, just inventory!

18 replies so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3743 days

#1 posted 09-23-2008 03:40 AM

sounds dull. even if it’s new, it will need to be honed.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3783 days

#2 posted 09-23-2008 03:54 AM

I second what Tim said. Give it a good honing (including the back) first. Search the site here or on the web if you need guidance with sharpening.

Another thought, David – do you know how to read the wood’s grain and to be sure to plane with the grain?

Welcome to LumberJocks! I’m a newbie as well (only been doing hand tools stuff for about a year), and have learned a lot here.

-- Eric at

View birdman's profile


17 posts in 3532 days

#3 posted 09-23-2008 04:17 AM

Thanks, Eric and Tim. Yes, I amgoing with the grain but I will also be planing some cross grain and down to the end grain. I am trying to round the face of a 1/2” board down by about 1/8 on the sides and graduate up to the top. I can’t really pull off this feat right now but working will help me learn.

-- DavidP - still count on my fingers and toes - not for math, just inventory!

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 3719 days

#4 posted 09-23-2008 05:23 AM

There is an article in the October issue of Popular Woodworking on this topic – “Taming Handplane Tear-out”, that might help.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3895 days

#5 posted 09-23-2008 05:33 AM

If you are using the plane straight out of the box – then the blade is dull. Yes, the blade could still cut flesh – and that is sharp to a point, but not sharp enough for what you want to do. Tim and Eric are right—give the blade a good sharpening and try again.

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

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3893 days

#6 posted 09-23-2008 05:56 AM

5 people didnt agree that you are stupid….....which is what you sorta asked

what are the odds all 5 are wrong?

you have to spend some serious change to buy planes that are “ready to shave”

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3707 days

#7 posted 09-23-2008 02:48 PM

Less than 1/32” is a HUGE amount. Unless you’re way less than 1/32 I’d expect nothing but tearout even if the blade is sharp. Turn the plane upside down and take a scrap stick around 6” long. Keep adjusting until you can run that stick over the blade and peel off full length paper thin edge shavings, and also check the lateral adjustment by making sure you’re getting the same cut on both sides of the iron. Then if you still feel you want a thicker cut, start sneaking up on it slow. You can also reduce tearout some by skewing the plane at an angle rather than going straight with the grain.

-- Use the fence Luke

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3893 days

#8 posted 09-23-2008 03:01 PM

I agree with Doug S…...............1/32 is waaaaay too much. You should produce shavings that are almost transparent they are so thin. very few planes come sharp…..even Lie Nielson ?........need to be honed

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3753 days

#9 posted 09-23-2008 03:34 PM

If you haven’t done initial tune up of the block plane then you are not going to have satisfactory results. If you haven’t already you need to lap the sole of the plane. 220 wet/dry on a sheet of glass until you have even scratches across the entire sole once there work it to 800 grit wet/dry. This will take a good while like 1 hour or so (it really depends upon the plane). Once that is done you will need to sharpen the blade. Start with the back then work on the bevel, once again search LJ’s and you will find a lot on the topic. Now you are ready to setup the plane for use. Turn it upside down look across the sole from toe to heel up at light source and slowly let the blade out, once you see it brake through the mouth stop and make sure the blade is square to the mouth using the lateral adjustment. If the mouth is adjustable open it by about a ~32nd, and test you should get a nice clean shaving. Hope this helps.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3727 days

#10 posted 09-23-2008 04:38 PM

Maybe I can get an answer to a question of my own. Isn’t a block plane for endgrain and a bench blain for longgrain? If so, do you need to plane “with the grain” with a block plane?

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3753 days

#11 posted 09-23-2008 06:20 PM


I a not an expert on hand planes. I have been working though the learning curve of the block plane and a Groz #4 1/2 Soothing plane. My low angle block plane is basically at a 42 degree angle and can be used for long grain, I use it all the time to remove saw blade marks from thin strips of wood. I do have to be careful as it is prone to tear out though. Honestly I have had the least amount of luck with end grain, but that is probably just me. Now a smoothing plane is used for long grain and works very well if the blade is extremely sharp.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3753 days

#12 posted 09-23-2008 06:23 PM


One other thing as your steel is new it was dull quickly, so frequent resharpening is needed. Now the question is when is frequent. If things seem to be working and then stop (you dig in or chatter) first check to make sure your setup hasn’t changed and if it hasn’t or that still doesn’t work you will need to touch up the blade. This shouldn’t take to long.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Chardt's profile


169 posts in 3601 days

#13 posted 09-23-2008 06:56 PM

Hand planes take some technique, and a lot of setup to get them to work well, and once they do, you’ll LOVE to use them.

I would make 2 recommendations.

1. Learn how to sharpen it/ set it up correctly.

2. Once you’ve set it up, ALWAYS take a swipe on a scrap piece first to make sure it’s set. Otherwise you risk gouging a piece on the corner, taking too deep of a cut, etc.

-- When my wife ask's what I have to show for my wood working hobby, I just show her the splinters.

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4194 days

#14 posted 09-23-2008 11:10 PM

A word about block planes and end grain. For planing end grain, you’ll want to use a low angle block plane like a Stanley 60 1/2 or Stanley 65. The blade is at about 12 degrees and when combined with the blade bevel angle, is lower than a standard block plane like a Stanley 9 1/2 or 220.
I’m not sure what other makers numbers are, as all I have are old Stanleys, but sharpness is critical and depth of cut should be minimal. I start by using a scrap and running down it without the blade cutting at all and keep doing that while turning the depth adjuster just a touch with each new pass until I get to where I like the cut. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3753 days

#15 posted 09-24-2008 02:58 AM

Nice tip SST!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

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