Hand Planes: Flat Sole vs. Corrugated

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Forum topic by Crickett posted 05-29-2014 06:51 PM 3386 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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137 posts in 1473 days

05-29-2014 06:51 PM

I consider myself a bit of a hybrid worker and recently discovered as awesome antique tool dealer close to my house who has some older hand planes. It’s always been my opinion that the heart of a good plane is in the blade (good metalurgy, sharpening techniques, and of course how you use it) rather than the body casting. I know I can flatten any sole, so my question is whether to fork up the money for a Lie-Nielsen with a flat sole, or does the corrugated sole of older planes really reduce friction? Paying to have nicce cherry/mahogany/maple handles to me is not important as a plane is simply a utility tool. I’m from the camp that a well fitted Hock blade can turn any plane into a gem.

27 replies so far

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2978 days

#1 posted 05-09-2014 05:44 PM

Corrugated or not, I have not found a large difference. I have both and like both, but as long as the sole is true, I say use what you’ve got. I own one premium plane, and it is a Veritas low angle block. Absolutely love it, also love my old Stanleys.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Crickett's profile


137 posts in 1473 days

#2 posted 05-09-2014 06:23 PM

Do you happen to notice less tearout with a solid surface sole than a corrugated sole b/c with a solid face you’d have equal pressure throughout the cut?

View bigblockyeti's profile


5111 posts in 1714 days

#3 posted 05-09-2014 06:31 PM

I’ve use a plane with a corrugated sole and really didn’t notice much difference from a friction standpoint. I did notice that when getting into tricky grain it was more difficult to hold the plane at a skew angle as the corrugations tended to guide the plane in a longitudinal direction only as it rode over the high spots which was annoying. I won’t buy one that I plan on using regularly.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10372 posts in 3641 days

#4 posted 05-09-2014 06:41 PM

Doesn’t matter much. Lie Nielsen’s are very well made though
and will be a lot flatter than just about any vintage plane you’ll
find. Flattening a plane sole can be pretty tedious. There’s
a fellow here, UnBob I think, who has some pithy insights about
how to get an old plane real flat.

I think corrugated soles work better on pitchy woods like pine.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4928 posts in 3954 days

#5 posted 05-09-2014 06:52 PM

I have both flat and corrugated in my Stanley collection (all users), and don’t see a big difference in the functionality.


View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2251 days

#6 posted 05-09-2014 07:44 PM

The only time Corrugated sucks is when you are trying to plane an edge that is less than 1/2”. Tends to tilt over in to a groove.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15341 posts in 2612 days

#7 posted 05-09-2014 07:57 PM

Skewing the plane solves that, daycare.

Flat is overrated when it comes to the soles of bench planes. So are premium irons in vintage planes.

Regarding corrugated, the only problem (and it’s a mild one) I have with them is when sighting the iron. Harder to see the edge project when the plane is inverted with a C casting. Not impossible, just need to concentrate a bit more. Oh, and they’re easier to flatten if you’re so moved because there’s less surface area to work up (or off).

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

View bandit571's profile


19948 posts in 2676 days

#8 posted 05-09-2014 07:57 PM

I have three jack planes, one of which is a “c” model. Not the slightest difference between them. I had two #6s , one was a smooth sole the other not. On the panels I planed with them, I liked ( and kept) the c model.

Flatten a jack plane’s sole? Come on… is a JACK plane. For taking things down to a almost flat level, before a smooth plane takes over. As long as it doesn’t rock on a surface like your benchtop. use it.

Hock blades might be nise to start out….until you have to sharpen them back up. Vintage irons are way easier to sharpen than these newer “Boutique” irons. And YES, YOU WILL NEED to learn the HOW TO SHARPEN an iron tricks. ALL irons get a bit dull after use.

A sole that is 0.00001” flat? BFD! You are working across a wood surface. it has dips, and high spots. It will move as the weather changes. You are working on a piece of wood, NOT making a “High Precision Metal Object.

Two myths: “I have to buy an after-market iron to make my plane work” and..”I need the sole of my plane to be perfectly flat to use it” Yep…MYTHS.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2561 days

#9 posted 05-09-2014 08:12 PM

I’m with deycart. I would rather have a smooth jointer. And although I agree with Smitty, I find skewing a jointer when jointing difficult to skew and keep square. But then I can’t chew gum and walk a straight line either. With all that said, my jointer is corrugated and works just fine. Its what I found, its tuned to my liking so its never been replaced.

As for LN or vintage? I’ll let you look through my post and guess.

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

View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2907 days

#10 posted 05-09-2014 09:00 PM

To me, the key here is the chipper and blade. While the old planes (I have ~20) can be sharpened to the nth degree, they are made with rather thin gauge steel. They tend to chatter on difficult wood. The newer iron hand planes take advantage of all those old “lessons learned” over the past +100yr and have thicker gauge blades and chippers. This helps reduced/eliminate chatter when in use. Chatter will ruin your day quickly ;-).

Suggestion if going “new” and do not want to break the bank, check out the WoodRiver hand planes (WoodCraft).

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

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2251 days

#11 posted 05-09-2014 09:35 PM

I can get the board square in a few strokes with the plane straight, but when I skew, it is very hard to get the boards square.

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 1897 days

#12 posted 05-09-2014 09:42 PM

Ha! the eye opener for me was trying a friends LN hand planes.
Oh well, I cant spend several thousands for a set of those, but I did buy 2 complete sets of the Bailey type “No 3 to No 8” for less then the price of a single LN hand plane.

If possible I would suggest trying a LN plane.
They say, the soles are flat to 1/2 of one thousand of an inch. I found with those and the sole being flat, they don’t rock as the surface being worked becomes flatter. They don’t leave edge tracks from rocking side to side making chamfering the blade edges not needed.
The Bailey planes are generally pretty bad, having twist and warp. But good results can still be had with most, one just has to work at it more. Some call that technique!
With a truly flat and well tuned plane, straight even strokes will get a surface flat, little or no technique.
Sanding the soles of old planes does help, but on a surface that is wider then the plane, the plane will rock a little due to sanding works the edges of the sole more, making them convex.

This is how and why I use hand planes.
I use machines to break the wood down to usable size, but as noted, wood warps after a short time.
If I am gluing up edges, I will re-straighten the edges with just a few strokes of a jointer plane right at the time. The true running plane does that very quick and leaves a surface smoother then my machines can. At times totally invisible glue lines, very nice.
I am leaning more and more to finish scraping the wood, seems to give some woods more of a glow, then sanding.
There, a really good working smoothing plane saves considerable time.

On the C type soles, I cant say they work better or worse, but they take more time to hand scrape flat ” look up machine way scraping” for info on that process to make a metal surface flat.

View bandit571's profile


19948 posts in 2676 days

#13 posted 05-09-2014 09:46 PM


Maybe put it on a TV show? No, wait, there is one already…...Mythbusters…LOL

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2354 days

#14 posted 05-09-2014 09:47 PM

I like bandit571’s attitude. (post#8)

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 1897 days

#15 posted 05-09-2014 09:52 PM

Oops one of those 1/16” is good enough wood workers, or perhaps one of those trying to pawn off restored hand planes experts.
Actually, it doesnt matter to me at all, see, I do not offer this as a service, but I can show what a truly precision plane looks like.

Its not hard to do, but is time consuming, myself its well worth the effort.
There is a discussion on the practical machinist web site on hand scraping hand planes flat, its a problem that is solved on the metal working end of things. Well they are a metal object after all.

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