More on Wood Planes


The cutting edge is said to have "lead" in proportion to the distance it is in advance of the cap-iron. The cap can be set some little distance from the edge for the jack-plane, as far as an eighth of an inch, but with the fore-plane and smoothing-plane it must be set quite close to the edge, the distance varying according to the character of the wood. The more crooked or cross-grained the wood, the nearer the dull iron is brought down towards the edge of the sharp one. The nearer the edge, the smoother the result, but the harder to work the plane. Something more than the break-iron is required, however, to insure breaking the shavings. There must be an angle, against which they can be broken, close in front of the cutting edge and above the shaving. This angle is the forward edge of the mouth or slot in the sole through which the iron projects (Fig. 631). Thus the width of the mouth makes a difference in the smoothness of the surface, for a narrow mouth is necessary to ensure the shaving being readily broken by the cap. With a wide mouth, the shaving will not be broken by the cap in time, because there is no corner against which to break it.

Plane Fig. 631

With straight-grained wood this does not make so much difference, but with crooked and broken grain narrowness of mouth is quite essential to a smooth surface, provided that the opening is wide enough to allow the shaving to pass through freely. Rough and knotty wood requires the mouth very narrow and the iron set very fine (i. e., projecting but very little from the sole) and the cap quite near the edge.

The modern iron planes have simple appliances for setting or adjusting the projection of the iron from the sole and thus regulating the thickness of the shaving. If, however, you are obliged to use the old-fashioned wooden planes, you raise the iron in the same way that you loosen it for removal, by lightly tapping on the top of the fore end of the stock, keeping hold of the plane with the left hand so as to prevent the iron falling through if loosened too much. When the iron is raised enough, fix it in place by tapping on top of the " chip " or wedge which holds it in place. To lower the cutting edge, loosen as before and, checking the edge with the finger, let it project the required distance, which you can tell about by looking along the sole (Fig. 632), and fix in place by tapping the "chip" as before. This is the process used in removing the iron for sharpening and replacing it, the chip being removed as well as the iron. Any carpenter will show you the operation. Always hold the plane in the left hand in all these adjusting operations. Do not strike or tap any part of it while it rests on the bench or on anything solid.

To smooth a rough piece of wood, use first the jack-plane, to remove the rough surface and superfluous wood, and then the fore-plane, to straighten and smooth the surface. If there is no need to have the surface true, but only smooth, you can omit using the fore-plane and follow the jack-plane at once by the smoothing-plane. With ordinary machine-planed stock you do not usually need the jack-plane, though it is sometimes useful in reducing a piece of wood to a given shape.

Before beginning to plane, see that all dirt or grit which might dull the tool is brushed from the surface.

Turn the plane over and sight along the sole (Fig. 632), not merely to see that the iron projects to the required degree, but also to see that it projects equally, lest one side or corner of the iron should cut more deeply than the other, and thus make a groove or scratch on the wood (Fig. 633). The latest iron planes have appliances to adjust any inequality of this sort, but if your plane is not so arranged a little tapping on one side of the upper end of the iron will correct the trouble. Try the plane on a waste piece before beginning on nice work.

Plane with the grain, as a rule, and the fibres will be cut off cleanly where they crop up to the surface and your work will be left smooth. If you plane against the grain, some of the fibres will tend to splinter or chip off just below the surface before they are cut off (Fig. 634).

Stand behind the work with the plane before you. Plane with the arms (and from the shoulder), not with the whole body. Try to shove the plane straight ahead, also to plane as equally and evenly as possible over the surface; for while it is comparatively easy to get a surface smooth it is quite another thing to keep it true or to make it true if warped or winding.

The natural tendency, and a common fault, is to begin and end the stroke as shown in Fig. 635. Rolling the body back and forth, instead of pushing steadily with the arms from the shoulder, aggravates this trouble. The result of this way (which is unconscious at first) is that the surface after planing is apt to be as shown in Fig. 636. To prevent this, press down with the left hand on the forward part of the plane during the first part of the stroke, and with the right hand on the rear part of the plane during the last part of the stroke (Fig. 637) In planing wood which is dirty or rough, it is best to lift the plane from the work when drawing it back for a fresh stroke, or to draw it back so that only the point touches the board, or to draw it back on edge, but in planing small surfaces of clean wood it is not usually worth while to take this precaution.


In planing pieces with crooked grain, turn the piece when practicable, so as to plane as much of it with the grain as you can. But many pieces are so crooked in grain that you cannot do this. So at times it is well to turn your plane sideways to get a slicing cut and cross the grain at an angle (Fig. 638); but as a rule the plane should be pushed straight forward.



A few drops of oil rubbed over the face of the plane will make it run more smoothly, particularly on hard wood.

Test the accuracy of your planing of broad surfaces with a straight-edge, the blade of a square, or the edge of the plane itself (if straight). By applying such a straight-edge across the surface or lengthways or diagonally you can tell whether your work is straight and true (Fig. 639). Also "sight" with your eye. If the surface is large or long, winding-sticks can be used. In planing edges test lengthways with the eye and straight-edge of some sort, and crossways by applying the try-square (Fig. 640).

It is, of course, harder to plane a broad surface, as the side of a board, than a narrow one, as the edge. When planing a flat surface, as a board, be careful not to plane off more at the edges than elsewhere (Fig. 641), as you will be quite likely to do if you allow the plane to tip sideways over the edge instead of keeping the sole parallel with the flat surface.


When planing across end-grain with the block-plane or smoothing-plane, either secure a waste piece of wood at the side where the planing ends, to prevent the edge chipping off, as shown in Fig. 642, or plane from both edges toward the middle (Fig. 643). The use of the straight-edge will give the necessary clue to the process of making warped surfaces true.



Whenever you make nice articles from wood planed by an ordinary cylinder planer, the wood will seem quite smooth just as it is, but do not neglect to smooth it carefully so as to take out all the " planer-marks " or those little corrugations across the grain left by the machine will often show clear across the room as soon as the work is finished.



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