Hand Plane Usage

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Forum topic by Walnut_Weasel posted 08-26-2009 02:47 PM 2183 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 2646 days

08-26-2009 02:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane use using hand

As most of you may know by now I am very new to woodworking. I have decided to go down the path of hand planes rather than power planing. At first this decision was based on lack of money to buy a planer/jointer. However last night I actually used a hand plane for the first time and I must admit, it was a lot of fun! It was really not hard work at all as some would claim and it was really nice to work without ear plugs, safety glasses, and a dust mask. Not to mention how satisfying it was to see the big mound of shavings that were left…plus those shavings clean up easy!

However one thing was clear…I don’t know what the heck I am doing!! I am currently working on an end table and I have glued up three pieces of wood. While I was able to get the three pieces fairly leveled out with the plane, there were lots of fairly deep plane marks left on the board. I had hard time getting the plane to start cutting…it would either not cut at all, or with just a small turn of the knob it would take off far too thick of cuts. I finally stumbled onto something that worked semi-well but I think it was mostly due to luck.

I have searched around the site and I don’t see any good thread about how to REALLY use a plane. I have found lots of stuff on web sites telling how to make adjustments to the plane, but not what effect those changes have.

So LJ’s…let me have it!

-- James -

17 replies so far

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13347 posts in 3096 days

#1 posted 08-26-2009 02:53 PM

I use my planer for thicknessing boards, and my hand planes for finishing.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 08-26-2009 03:12 PM

This is a great book that covers all the bases:

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 3001 days

#3 posted 08-26-2009 03:41 PM

Hey James
the way you plane is you start by checking how flat you wood is with a straight edge and some winding sicks(do a search on these) them assuming you have cupping,twisting.(also search these if you don’t know what this is) Then put some squiggle’s across the board from edge to edge up and down the board . Now you start planning first at diagonals first one side then the other to form kind of a chevron shape, and then you plan straight up and down the board. all this is subject to how bad the board is.

-- Custom furniture

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3319 days

#4 posted 08-26-2009 03:47 PM

There are basically 3 steps. Sharpening the iron properly, setting up & adjusting the plane, and properly using the plane. There are tons of great books out there like the one CharlieM pointed. I struggled for a long time trying to learn to use a plane. If any of the three items above are not right, you’ll struggle and get discouraged. For me, it took books, magazine articles, trial and error… and then one day I read a book by Michael Dunbar on restoring old hand planes. It was like a light was turned on for me. When you have the plane set up for the particular operation (for example, rough planing), it works smooth as silk.

-- Sam

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3072 days

#5 posted 08-26-2009 04:17 PM

you didn’t state how you tuned your hand plane (what you did to it, and to what extent) so I assume your plane is perfectly tuned and setup:

as Sam mentioned above – a plane is setup for a particular type of cut – either a rough deep cut, or a shallow smooth cut. this does have something to do with the depth the blade is set to – but also/more depends on how much the blade extends beyond the cap-iron. the more it extends, the deeper/rougher the cut will be

a good book to read which goes through the different handplanes, different settings, usage, and history would be Garrett Hack's The Handplane Book

generally speaking though – if you dial the blade and it takes too deep chunks- there’s GOTTA be a setting to take smaller bites as well. just have to find it – maybe youre adjustments to the depth dial are too big.

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

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3319 days

#6 posted 08-26-2009 04:41 PM

There are a few items that once you get past them, learning to use the plane becomes fun. One such item for you to research is how to round the corners of the iron. This helps tremendously when you’re first starting out (all my plane irons are rounded on the corners) as it helps eliminate accidentally digging in and cutting deep troughs. Before you try this on your plane, please try it on an old flea market iron first. Here’s some links:

-- Sam

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 2646 days

#7 posted 08-26-2009 10:02 PM


Thanks for all the information! This is why I like this site so well – loads of people not only willing to help, but also very knowledgeable with a wide range of perspective.

Looks like I have plenty of reading to do!

-- James -

View David Blair's profile

David Blair

3 posts in 2621 days

#8 posted 09-03-2009 10:39 PM

Fine Woodworking Magazine # 204 April 2009 has 2 very good short articles both by Chris Gochnour. “Handplaning 101” on page 30 and “Plane Like a Pro” on page46.

-- Dyye

View Chuck 's profile


88 posts in 2623 days

#9 posted 09-04-2009 03:04 AM

I know this sounds simple but,
are you planing with the grain, not against it? If so, are the three boards you glued up oriented with the grain in the same diredtion?

-- Chuck, Washington D.C.

View CreekWoodworker's profile


409 posts in 2721 days

#10 posted 09-04-2009 03:39 AM

I agree with Chuck, watch the grain. You will get a lot of chip out going against the grain. As far as getting plane marks you might be changing the lateral adjustment when you are changing the depth of cut. I’ve done that without realizing it until I took a couple passes with the plane. I learned after that to adjust the depth of cut then double check the lateral adjustment.

A side note, you might want to consider a cabinet scraper for the final smoothing but still need to make sure you go with the grain.

-- Mike ...Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction

View WayneC's profile


12642 posts in 3521 days

#11 posted 09-04-2009 08:16 AM

Videos are also a good source of info. They have the added benefit of being able to see the plane in action.

I have some links to handplane videos in one of my blog entries if your interested.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Blake's profile


3442 posts in 3298 days

#12 posted 09-04-2009 06:12 PM

You won’t ever be able to use hand tools successfully until you have a system in place to keep them RAZOR sharp.

There are hundreds of ways of doing this, from low-tech to high-tech, cheep to expensive.

The best advice I can give you is learn how to sharpen your tools correctly before trying to use them.

That tear-out you are getting is probably due to your tools not being sharp enough.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 2646 days

#13 posted 09-07-2009 04:52 AM

Well today I finally took the time to completely work over the blade in the plane I have (Groz – i am poor!) I did get it sharp enough that the hair peeled easily off my arms and I was able to get super fine shavings from a piece of walnut. However, by the time I finished all 4 sides of one short and pretty rough board (maybe 20”) I could have rode to town on the blade. Do planes always dull that quickly or is this a symptom of the cheap tool?

-- James -

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3309 days

#14 posted 09-07-2009 05:43 AM

If you are serious about using a plane I just purchased and read this book, link below, and it is great you should read it.
When looking for information about using hand tools Chris Schwarz who wrote the above book is a very good source. He is the editor of Popular Woodworking and Woodworking magazine and has several books and Cd’s on hand tools and woodworking.
Garrett Hack is also a good source for WWing information I have several of his books too.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 2646 days

#15 posted 09-08-2009 12:34 AM

Thanks again for all the input from everyone. I just ordered Garrett Hack’s book recommended by PurpLev. I have read several great reviews on the book. If that does not teach me all that I need to know then I will get the other book that you all recommended by Christopher Schwarz. They both seem like great books but I was able to find the book by Hack several dollars cheaper so I thought I would give it a go first.

The bad thing is – I really need a decent bench in order to plane well and I cannot really afford the massive amount of pre-milled lumber needed for a bench. If I had a bench, I could plane my own lumber…but if I had a bench to plane my own, I would not need the lumber. Oh such a vicious circle!!

-- James -

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

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