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Thread: Wooden Plane help

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada

    Wooden Plane help

    Ok so i have spent a whole week sorting out my planes. Yup believe it or not its taken a bunch of time. But i will post a separate post at a later stage.

    I have one more day to go an would like to put at least this one to bed before i begin work again.

    I have an old birch wooden Mathieson English plane handed down from my Dad.

    This has a very thick what looks like hand forged plane that starts off think an gets to around 3/16 or more thick.

    So i sharpen this thick blade, make sure to lap the bottom edge of the chipbreaker and lap the back of the plane blade etc. It has a wedge that is cut out in the middle and slides uniformly down the side of the plane blade.

    I flattened the sole to ensure it was absolutely perfect because there was a little ding just before the cutting edge on the throat.

    Ok so all set everything that can be done is done. Try to set it and boy what a tough job. Then i start to back off the chip breaker right back more than 1/2 inch from the edge. This is bevel down plane.

    Ok now i am getting a cut but its still to thick. Beauty to cut across the full width of the blade,There is no room for the blade to drift side to side. But still i thought for the cutting angle and length these planes are smoothers so how to get them adjusted and what should i expect. I can run this plane and take a 1.25 inch wide shaving off a block of cherry for the full length but man you gotta get you hand behind it and its not excactly comfortable with the extended plane blade pressing into the top of your hand.

    So those of you that have any ideas or know can you throw some light on how i might improve on what i am doing or is this just how these planes work. Oh just so you know my blade is scary sharp so there is no question as to how sharp the blade is.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Rob, here is a link to Logan Cabinet Shoppe Blog which should help you. I follow Bob Rozaieski all the time and enjoy his podcasts.
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    How are you setting it, Rob?

    With a woodie, the best way to set it is with a mallet - BUT NEVER TAP ON THE BLADE.

    You make sure the wedge is snugly set, then tap lightly on the front of the plane to lower the blade, and on the back of the plane to retract it. Emphasis on lightly here, becaue it takes hardly any force to move the blade this way.

    Some old planes have brass or hardwood buttons set into the nose or tail for this purpose, and oriental planes are designed for the same sort of adjustment, but are typically adjusted using a purpose-made metal hammer.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    When flattening the sole, did you have the blade on it and fixed with the wedge?

    It is advisable to put the blade in, and fix it with the wedge retracted 2 or 3 mm from the throat so that you don't damage the edge when sanding the sole down.

    This puts the normal tension on the body of the plane while at work, if not done this way the body may deform under tension and the flat sole you achieved will not be flat anymore slightly but concave.

    As per adjusting the depth of cut, what Jim says is true, with wooden planes the position of the chipbreaker is also important.
    Best regards,

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    I also dream of a shop with north light where my hands can be busy, my soul rest and my mind wander...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Bill thanks i also go there from time to time and i appreciate the link to the video. But all he did was to mention how to adjust the plane. That i already knew its how these things are used that has me puzzled.

    Thanks Jim and Toni yup to both. Toni i have been sure to do this with all my planes having learnt the hardway.

    I think i can share some of my experimenting and findings.

    This morning i scoured the web for info and found some trouble is i did not keep the link will look for it again.

    In a nutshell the one thing that came up from old writings is that these coffin type planes were usually skewed when cutting. That effectively reduce the angle to 30 degrees.

    I tried this out and it made a huge difference. But holding one of these coffin planes i would like to have shot the inventor. I surfaced planed some walnut i had resawed and boy my hands were sore after. Its not like El Torro Toni ( a Kenov style woodie) where the shape of the plane is ameanable to being held.

    Then i did a bunch of playing around because the writings i found on this plane differed with what is the norm. They said not to hammer at all. Seems the plane blade on the coffin type is supposed to be only snug and the wedge should not be hammered home.

    Well it did not work for me so i cannot agree with what i read.

    After much playing around i took the plane over to the window determined to get to the bottom of things and what would you know. The owner prior to me (my Dad) had obviously little knowledge that this is a smoother plane and had tampered with the throat. See few people that aint in the woodworking know how realize the throat should be tight for a smoother. In fact i myself only learnt this a year or two back. Its counter intuitive if one looks at a plane but we know the logic is different to that which is apparent.

    So this coffin plane has its front edge of the throat opened up. So you can imagine why its a workout to drive it and to get the blade to set decently at any height.

    I am still puzzled by the chipbreaker because its tough to get it close with the blade edge. Did find today it seemed to go a little further after a bit more trial and erro fitting making sure the alignment of the edges of the chipbreaker were even with the plane iron edge rather than worrying about it being square with the plane cutting edge.

    I did get it to work like a bomb with the sharpe blade but more like scrub plane because of the throat and it jammed up with shavings all the time. Thats what led me to examine the throat a little closer. Naturally if this plane was taking fine gossamer cuts for smoothing, these would clear easily as opposed to jamming like they did with the rough cuts.

    What i will do is use the "Carol" router mortising jig as a milling machine and mill a piece out of the sole in front of the throat. Then insert a nice thick piece of brass and close up the throat. This will restore it to the original aperture and i will try again once i have done that.

    One thing i am fascinated by is the blade on this unit. It is definitely hand forged and in itself is a serious wedge if one looks at it sideways.

    This seems to speak to me about the reading i did as to not using any mallet or hammer. If you look at these birch coffin planes from Mathieson (this is around WW2 version because Dad had it from the Navy when they still had wooden decks on battle ships) the wood looks like it was machined on a milling machine and all fits very snug as far as the wedge is concerned. With the blade being a wedge itself seems the two wedges work together. But i cannot see how one can get it to stay put without a light blow.

    Then one other issue i found is there is absolutely no side to side adjustment so i presume one has to take that into account when grinding.

    Bill, Toni, Jim what angle you think these should be ground to. They bevel down anyhow so with a thick chunck of metal at the cutting egde i dont see that it makes that big a difference. When i first took this one out having had it handed down and never touched it, it was a very low angle around 17 to 20 degrees. I changed that to around 28 to 30 with the fresh grind.

    Any thoughts on a back bevel like Mr Lee refers to in his book.

    See this extract from the instructions for sharpening on the Lee Valley smoother planes taken from their site.


    In a bench plane, the blade is used bevel down, so the bevel angle has no bearing on the cutting angle. This is determined by the angle of the bed which, in this case, is 45°. In the past when steeper cutting angles were desired, particularly for smoothing, special planes were produced with bed angles of 50° or 55°. However, the same net effect of altering the cutting angle can be achieved by introducing a back bevel on the face of the blade. In this way, a 5° back bevel will yield an effective cutting angle of 50° (commonly known as a York pitch). A back bevel of 15° will yield a cutting angle of 60° (see
    Figure 5); this will result in an entirely
    different cutting action from the standard 45°, producing what is known as a Type II chip (or shaving) as opposed to a Type I (reference:

    The Complete Guide to Sharpening). With this type of chip the wood shaving fails right at the cutting edge, eliminating tear-out and enabling the working of diffi cult grain patterns. This type of cutting action is similar to that produced by a scraper. The higher cutting angle increases the force necessary to propel the plane and is not required when working with the grain. However, when you have to work wood with widely varying grain
    (e.g., bird’s-eye maple) it’s handy to have a back bevelled blade at hand. Changing blades has the same effect as using a high-pitch plane.
    We recommend a back bevel of 15° to 20° for most diffi cult planing situations, which yields a cutting angle from 60° to 65°. Note that even within this range, there is a signifi cant difference in how the plane performs. At 60°, the plane will cut well against the grain, except around knots and the more dramatic grain swirls. Increasing the angle to 65° will all but eliminate tear-out, even around knots and rippled grain
    such as found in bird’s-eye or curly maple. The 5° increase will, however, make the plane noticeably more diffi cult to push. We therefore recommend beginning with a 15° back bevel to produce a 60° cutting angle, and only increase it by another 5° to 65° if you still experience tear-out. It is also important not to skew the plane in use when a back bevel is employed as described here as this has the effect of

    the included angle.

    So have any of you tried a back bevel and ever happen to have done it on a wooden coffin type?

    I note Mr Lee particularly points out not to skew the plane if this is done. Good luck to pushing these coffins without skewing.


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