ARRRRRRGGG!! Stupid Hand Planes!

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Forum topic by Bsmith posted 06-19-2013 05:16 PM 1564 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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330 posts in 2727 days

06-19-2013 05:16 PM

Am I doing something wrong? Purchased some old Stanley Planes. Flattened bottom, scary sharp on the irons, skew the plan a little when using, cuts good on the board edges, but when I try it on face of a panel… %#@#!!!! Digs in, chatter and over all leaves it looking worse that when I started. I’ve glued up a cherry table top. Trying to smooth out the glue joint a little and causing more harm than good. Am I destined to joint the edges and rely on sanding to level it out? How many of you are actually using your planes to flatten boards?

-- Bryan

17 replies so far

View LarryB's profile


97 posts in 2685 days

#1 posted 06-19-2013 07:00 PM

Okay, Bryan. I have both a recommendation and a suggestion:

Recommendation: Contact Randy Maxey, Senior Editor of ShopNotes Magazine. He’s a master with the smoothing plane. I sat in on a seminar with Randy at a Woodsmith seminar and learned a lot.

Since then I have restored my grandfather’s old Shelton No. 9 plane and it works wonderfully.

Suggestion: Practice on scrap glueups before you ever touch your project. It’ll save you lots of frustration as well as save your project.

Once you learn this technique you’ll not only use it more often, but use it with confidence. Good luck!

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2896 days

#2 posted 06-19-2013 07:06 PM

Grain direction?
Was the top dead flat before you started with the smoother?
You want to be taking a thou off.
Are the corners of the iron 90 degrees?
Is the frog tuned?
How large do you have the mouth set?

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15380 posts in 2675 days

#3 posted 06-19-2013 07:08 PM

I use planes to flatten boards. Blogged extensive in my Roubo Cabinet series here on LJs. Dave speaks truth.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2542 days

#4 posted 06-19-2013 07:18 PM

Grain direction is the most important factor. The plane can be perfectly tuned but if you push it against the grain, you’re gonna have a bad time. Check this out.

-- Brian Timmons -

View pintodeluxe's profile


5726 posts in 2870 days

#5 posted 06-19-2013 07:18 PM

I have a Veritas plane that works well, but it has a feature that many older planes do not… an adjustable throat. You slide the plate very close to the blade to limit tearout.

Truth be told, for large tabletops I take them to a local woodworking shop with a 50” drum sander. For a nominal cost, I smile as the monstrous sander yields a perfectly flat top. No tearout, no gouges, just perfect.

For smaller coffee tables, and dresser tops I use a different approach. I glue up pairs of boards. Then I plane down these planks while they still fit in my planer. Then I will glue the two planks together. That way, I only have one glue line to sand flush.

Are you familiar with the “I’s and O’s” technique on the jointer? It helps to produce flat tops that don’t need much sanding… about half way down the page there is a description.

Good luck!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3705 days

#6 posted 06-19-2013 07:19 PM

sounds like you are going against the grain which can lead to digging in, chatter, pooooooor finish (tears and rips)...

if you glued up your panel with boards alternating grain direction than it’s more tricky to smooth those out, as 1 of those boards will always be addressed against the grain.

things to try:
  • on top of skewing the handplane, also plane at 45 degrees to the grain (not parallel to grain)
  • Try pulling the blade even further to take super-light passes,
  • use a scraper instead of a handplane.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7609 posts in 2857 days

#7 posted 06-19-2013 07:33 PM

I had the same problem. Then I realized I had the blade in backwards. And I was planing on concrete, not wood. And I was using an airplane, not a hand plane. And I was having a dream.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3704 days

#8 posted 06-19-2013 07:44 PM

Set the chipbreaker very close to the edge for cherry, like
1/32” back. The chipbreaker should be polished on top
and the bottom of the front edge flattened so it bears
evenly against the iron.

For smoothing, set the mouth fine. Camber the iron
a bit and set it for a fine cut.

You still have to watch the grain direction and cherry
is not one of the easier woods to work with hand planes.
You’ll need to scrape here and there, perhaps a lot.

When you encounter an area where the grain reverses,
mark the surface with a pencil so you can see where
the reversal is. This way you can move on and do
some more work going in direction A. Then, after
you’ve got some satisfactory work done in direction
A, go back and plane in direction B. Be careful to stop
your strokes so you don’t tear up direction A areas
you’ve already planed. Some areas will still be tricky,
but most of the surface should be workable with
a plane this way.

You can also “back bevel” the iron by 5 degrees
and this will raise the effective pitch of the plane
to 50 degrees, resulting in a more scraping cut
that handles wiley grain better.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2747 days

#9 posted 06-19-2013 07:53 PM

Scraper card – much easier for fixing up glue joints. Works on the pull instead of the push, much easier to control.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18791 posts in 2624 days

#10 posted 06-19-2013 10:34 PM

Chatter is usually a dull blade, taking to much at once, loose frog, loose cap, bad chip breaker,

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

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3879 days

#11 posted 06-20-2013 02:23 AM

Loren instructions to set the chip breaker as close to edge of blade is bang on and should show great rewards. If you still get chatter the frog opening needs to be closed down some…good luck

View 1750carl's profile


4 posts in 1912 days

#12 posted 06-20-2013 05:31 AM

I am always impressed with the helping hands on this website. Easily my favorite website.

View Bsmith's profile


330 posts in 2727 days

#13 posted 06-20-2013 11:41 AM

Your so right Carl. Great web site. Once again my faith is restored in the lowly hand plane. Patience and perseverance. Dave – I am watching grain direction, but with Cherry it’s hard for me to tell. I did grind the corners down which helped a lot. Smitty – I’m heading to your blog for more lessons. Purplev – I’m having pretty fair luck with a card scraper, but need to flatten the tops more before I can use the scraper. Stumpy – Silly man, you can’t plane concrete with a wood plane. Besides, concrete is what I’m using to sharpen the blades. Don – My Stanley #6 is working pretty good. I think I just need to hone the blade along with my technic.

Thanks all for your input.

-- Bryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15380 posts in 2675 days

#14 posted 06-20-2013 11:48 AM

I will say that cherry can be tough re: tearout. You picked a tough customer for an early trial… But you’ll get there! Good luck.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8520 posts in 2039 days

#15 posted 06-20-2013 12:04 PM

After all the good advice, I just encourage you to persevere. Hand planes are kind of like learning to ride a bike- there is a large learning curve in the beginning. If you can push past it, you’ll be cruising. And you’ll be very glad you did.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

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