Hand Plane Sharpening Question

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Blog entry by woodmaker posted 08-22-2012 04:33 PM 2254 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay I can get the scary sharp blade, but do you have to file the chip breaker each time as well?

I get a gap and the wood chips want to just build up in the chip breaker. I have the blade set at aprox 1/8 but no more than a 1/16th and the gap is visible. If I place the chip breaker any further back, then the blade can’t be adjusted far enough back to not dig into the wood.

I’ve adjusted the chip breaker more ways than can be imagined.

It’s an old Stanley #4 smoother.

It’s hard being a rookie. :-)

-- Mike

16 comments so far

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 2140 days

#1 posted 08-22-2012 04:38 PM

You want the front of the chipbreaker as flat as possible so you don’t get the shavings jammed between it and the iron. Also, you want the chipbreaker flattened such that the leading edge is the only part that contacts the iron (see this page of Lee Valley’s website for a pictoral).

Chris Schwarz of Popular Woodworking suggests 1/16” of a gap between the end of the chipbreaker and the edge of the blade, so that’s what I go with.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View woodmaker's profile


321 posts in 2691 days

#2 posted 08-22-2012 04:55 PM

Hmm, looks like I have a lot of work to do on the chipbreaker. I don’t have that kind of angle in the picture.

Do you HAVE to have the chipbreaker in the plane? Seems like it’s in the way and all hassle to adjust?

See there’s a rookie question for ya. I have an electric plane, but that thing scares me.

-- Mike

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3006 days

#3 posted 08-22-2012 05:04 PM

Yes you absolutely need the chipbreaker in the plane. You can use the same scary sharp method on the edge of the chip breaker. A few swipes on some 220 should get there, no need to go any further, and you only need to do this once not every time you sharpen your iron. You want a nice tight mating surface with no gaps or else you get chips and shavings in there like you said and end up with a clogged mouth and bad performance.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View woodmaker's profile


321 posts in 2691 days

#4 posted 08-22-2012 05:11 PM

Umm here’s another rookie question.
Does the chipbreaker go on top or underneath the blade? You know breaker same side as bevel?

-- Mike

View Mosquito's profile


9305 posts in 2292 days

#5 posted 08-22-2012 05:15 PM

Breaker is opposite the bevel on a bench plane, and the bevel goes down.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2183 days

#6 posted 08-22-2012 05:18 PM

The chipbreaker gives rigidity to the plane iron. Without it, your blade will flex, causing tearout and annoyance. The only planes without chipbreakers have very thick plane irons (like scrub planes or Krenov-style planes).

chrisstef has you covered. The only thing I’d add is that you should keep the top of the chipbreaker below the level of the sharpening surface as you’re swiping the bottom, so you’re putting a slight back-angle to the edge of the chipbreaker. That way there’s more surface area where the chipbreaker is mated to the plane iron under tension.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Bsmith's profile


330 posts in 2670 days

#7 posted 08-22-2012 05:54 PM

What everyone one else said. Plus the chip breaker is just that, as the shavings are peeled up from the wood the chip breaker bends and breaks the wood so there is less tension as the wood is lifted up therefore leaving a much less chance of tear out.

-- Bryan

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2475 days

#8 posted 08-22-2012 06:20 PM

The obvious question is, are you sure the back of the blade is flat? It might not be the chip breaker but the blade that s not flat leaving a gap in between them. Before you go and mess with the chip breaker make sure the back of the blade is flat. Draw a few lines on the back with a sharpie and then pass through the lowest grit stone you have. If you still see sharpie lines (specially in the middle) then your blade is not flat.

If it is then go ahead and flatten the chip breaker lip.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Sylvain's profile


706 posts in 2499 days

#9 posted 08-22-2012 08:25 PM

For your flatened chip breaker to have a good contact with the back of the blade, you must of course ensure that the back of the blade is flat!

Curiously the “back of the blade” is in front, it is the face in contact with the chip breaker which itself must be above.
see Paul Sellers Blog:
in the search window type ”#4”
and look for plane related post

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3115 days

#10 posted 08-22-2012 09:03 PM

no you only have to deal with the chipbreaker once

be sure your back on the blade itself is 100% flat

when you put the chipbreaker back on the blade and thigten the screw
you will see there is a little spring builg in to the chipbreaker do to the curved form is have
if you see a gap after you have tighend the chipbreaker then you need to sharpen it as you call it
but you need to have the top of the chipbreaker under the level of your sandpaper / stone
and do it sideways instead of back and fourth
to make a steaper angle on the chipbreakers edge so it lay flat when you have thigtend the chipbreaker to the blade

there is vidioclips on you-tube where you can see how to setup a plane
where they show what I have tried to explain

best luck

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 2693 days

#11 posted 08-22-2012 09:17 PM

If you lay it on a flat surface and it doesn’t rest on the very edge with the rest of the breaker up in the air a bit, you might need to bend it a bit. Clip the edge in a vise and give it a bit of hand pressure. It should flex and “spring” a bit when you screw it onto the iron.

If the edge is wonky and gappy, file or stone it straight.

View woodmaker's profile


321 posts in 2691 days

#12 posted 08-23-2012 12:43 PM

Well thanks to everyone who responded, you guys and galsd are great!

First thing I did with the old plane was level the back of the iron and made sure the sole was flat. Flattining the sole took forever.

Now here comes that embarassing moment when I have to admit that I had the chiipbreaker installed on the wrong side of the blade. grfrazee the illustration you sent really set me straight.

When I got home last night and took the plane apart it was like the light bulb finally turned on. I fixed the issue and am plannning like a pro now. Okay maybe not a pro, but the plane feels good when you’re making nice thin shavings.

Again thanks eveyone, you guys rock. I also like no one made me feel stupid; I already had that one down pat. LOL!

-- Mike

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3006 days

#13 posted 08-23-2012 02:18 PM

Good to hear your makin shavings now Mike. I put things back together wrong all the time dont worry about it. Just ask the wife how she likes the casement window over the sink … only one window will open due to improper installation of the new faucet.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View woodmaker's profile


321 posts in 2691 days

#14 posted 08-23-2012 03:14 PM

chrisstef, sounds like my handiwork.

Wife wamted me to move a toilet paper holder over about 4 inches. By the time I was done I had a hole in the sheetrock about the size of a silver dollar. I could not get the plastic doobles to hold. So she went and bought a free standing TP holder. I patched the shhet rock sanded down the offending area and repainted. That turned out good.

That’ll teach her. :-)

-- Mike

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3115 days

#15 posted 08-23-2012 11:25 PM

fair mistake if you have heard people talk about bevel up or bevel down
but they have talked about two different planetypes


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