Is it possible to hand plane hard maple?

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 04-04-2015 02:58 AM 2550 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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349 posts in 1553 days

04-04-2015 02:58 AM

I was trying to hand plane a piece of hard maple about 1 inch wide to get it to fit right.
Basically the blade would glide along and at some point catch and put a gouge in it.
By the time I gave up it looked like an animal gnawed on it.
I am using a Bailey #4 plane with a Hock blade that is very sharp.
For a sanity check I tried it on cedar and it cut like butter.
Then also on Sapele and Ash. Worked great on those too but the Ash was some effort.
I have noticed how Sapele is such a great wood to work with, its pretty too.
I am wonder if the blade needs to be at a shallower angle for hard maple.
I’ll admit I don’t have much experience with planing.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

7 replies so far

View johnstoneb's profile


3033 posts in 2344 days

#1 posted 04-04-2015 03:18 AM

It sound like you have some wild grain on the maple. Hard maple is hard only in relation to soft maple. It is about the same hardness as sapele. A lower angle wood wood work in figured grain.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 2061 days

#2 posted 04-04-2015 03:30 AM

Personally it sounds like it isn’t sharp enough.

I had the same thing happen when i first tried to plane Purpleheart.

Everything else cut fine but it jumped and did anything but cut.

I think Sapele works easier than maple personally. Could be the grain structure, or just me!

View MC's profile


234 posts in 2519 days

#3 posted 04-04-2015 11:19 AM

If you blade is sharp it sounds like an issue with the direction of grain or the wood could have a lot of figure. Make sure that you are working with the gran and not against it. If the wood has a log of figure I would try a scraping plane or in a pinch a sanding block.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18988 posts in 2739 days

#4 posted 04-04-2015 11:27 AM

Has the #4 been tuned?

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

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Fred Hargis

5136 posts in 2665 days

#5 posted 04-04-2015 11:32 AM

Just finished a new bench top out of hard maple. I used hand planes to flush up joints and had the same problem you have. These planes (like yours) are very sharp, and I think it’s just the nature of the grain changing directions that Bruce referred to. A higher frog angle might help, but that’s a fairly expensive way to solve the problem. What I did was go both directions when I hit the squirrelly grain; that’s not perfect either but still beats sanding.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View JayT's profile


5926 posts in 2383 days

#6 posted 04-04-2015 12:50 PM

A lot depends on what you mean by:

Basically the blade would glide along and at some point catch and put a gouge in it.

If by glide along, you were taking a shaving easily and then the iron would catch, then reversing grain could be the culprit. One solution is to resharpen and put a bit of a back bevel on the iron. The higher attack angle works better on figured and reversing grain. If the grain is really tricky, you might have to scrape instead of plane.

If by glide along, you meant the plane was gliding over the wood and not cutting at all until it caught, then that is a classic symptom of not being sharp. Some species plane easier than others—cedar is one of the easiest, so not usually a good indication if an iron is sharp. That you were also having some issues with ash makes me think the plane could be sharper.

When starting with hand planes, I thought I was doing a good job sharpening. Then I received a plane in trade from another LJ and realized how much room there still was for improvement—the plane he sent was tuned and sharpened far beyond what I had been doing up to that point. Gave a new goal to shoot for and I’ve had much better results since.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View bondogaposis's profile


5048 posts in 2523 days

#7 posted 04-04-2015 12:53 PM

Is it possible to hand plane hard maple?

Yes, it is quite possible, I do it all of time. Maple w/ figure is difficult, is your piece figured? I know you said you were sharp, but sharpen again and watch grain direction.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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