Body done, wedge done, plane iron done. If you are anything like me, eagerness to see some shavings has replaced all other desires at this stage! With a bit of luck, paper thin shavings will be curling out of the mouth. Isn’t it great! If not, don’t despair….
LET’S FINE TUNE:
1. True the plane sole. This is done with the blade in place but well away from the mouth and the wedge set up tightly as it would be in use. Why? With the wedge set, our plane is in “tension”. The wood actually distorts a little, especially just behind the iron.
Clamp a long strip of sandpaper to the table saw top or, if you really want to be fancy, stick it onto a piece of float glass. With little more pressure than the weight of the plane, take a light pass and have a look at the sole. Any high spots will reveal themselves as abraded areas. Usually there will be one just behind the iron. Continue sanding with a light touch, checking on progress often, until the entire sole has been evenly abraded. Take off only the minimum; the more we take off, the more we open the mouth. We don’t want that!
How do I get the wedge out?
So you whacked the wedge in tightly, the sole is beautifully true and now we can’t get the frigging wedge out! Like many things, it is easy, if you know how. Give the back end of the plane a firm tap or two with a small hammer (4-6 oz.) A little brass hammer will be perfect for this.
2. With the iron in place, have a look at the mouth. Ideally, we want the opening the same as the thickness of a shaving. If it is too tight, carefully file with a needle file or similar. Angle the file so the opening is not parallel to the blade when looking from the side. At the same time, ensure that the opening remains parallel to the blade when viewed from the bottom.
3. Check the width of the plane body against the width of the blade. Ideally the blade should protrude just a wee bit on either side. Either reduce the blade width by grinding or reduce the width of the body by sanding on a flat surface.
WHY IS A TIGHT MOUTH SO IMPORTANT?
As I said before, ideally we want the mouth thickness the same as the thickness of the shaving. Why? Quite simple really. If we have an area ahead of the shaving that is not supported by the sole of the plane, in other words, an open mouth, the likeliness of tear out is greatly increased.
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO ADJUST THE BLADE ON THIS THING?
Place the blade in the plane and let the wedge sit loosely in its position. Now rest the plane on some wood and have the blade just touch the surface of the board. Gently tap the wedge into place with a small hammer. Now give the plane a try and it should make the finest shavings. To bring the plane into a deeper cut, gently tapping on the toe (the front) will bring the blade forward. The cutting depth of the iron can also be controlled by tapping it downward. This approach is more direct and for fine adjustments I prefer tapping the toe.
Some prefer to sight the cutting depth from the back of the plane; I prefer to do it from the front. Tilt the plane up until you are looking directly along the sole’s surface. The cutting edge should be just above that surface and parallel to it.
If the cut is too aggressive, tap gently on the back of the plane to vibrate the iron to a less coarse cut. To back the iron out completely, tap a bit harder. Hold the plane with your palm under the iron to keep it in place when the wedge loosens.
With a little practice, you will be adjusting this plane to cut beautiful shavings in less time than possible with a metal plane that has all the bells and whistles! Don’t believe me? Give it some time and dedication….
An added benefit of your wooden plane is that it slides over the surface with much less friction than a metal-bodied plane. A little bees wax rubbed on the sole will reduce friction even more, and it smells good!
Off course, wooden planes don’t rust either….
I prefer a simple coat or 2 of boiled linseed oil, followed by some wax the next day. Bright finishes do not belong on working planes. Save that for the show plane!
Crankiness in a wooden plane is most commonly due to a high spot or bump behind the iron. It may show itself in at least two ways: If the iron grabs as you start the cut and then skips when the planes is entirely on the surface, check the area directly behind the iron. Use a straight edge and check across the plane’s width and along its length.
When it seems that either one corner of the iron or the other persists to dig in, suspect a bump! (I’m assuming the iron is evenly and properly set…)
THE WEIGHT OF THE PLANE.
Proponents of metal planes site their weight as a big plus for better planing. True, but we can do something about that! Counter bore some holes into the section ahead of the iron and glue in lead weights or even lead shot. If the holes are plugged and pared flush, it will hardly be noticeable.
Once you have the frog out of its throat, your newly created instrument can be singing!
That is the end of my song and I thank the LJ’s who were playing with! If you have any problems, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.
I trust my little blog will inspire many more LJ’s to take up the very satisfying pastime of building their own plane.
Yours in sawdust
-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."