Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wood Planes That Always Clog and Wear Angles

Many of us get into using moulding planes through antiques. Most antique planes can be made to function to the same standard as new planes. Like old Stanley planes you may find at a garage sale, some antique wooden planes are better than others and all will need a varying amount of work before being put to wood.

I'm often asked about choosing antique planes. The simplest and shortest advice is to look at the condition of the mouth. A damaged mouth likely means that the plane has a problem other than being in need of a fresh hone. The mouth, whether it is damaged or ill-dimensioned, can and must be fixed. (Knowing why the mouth was damaged and how to fix that is another subject.)

The wear angle of a plane is highlighted here.

The wear angle is nearly parallel to the iron and is an example of a piece of technology in this type of tool. It allows for the plane's sole to be flattened without opening the mouth to any large degree. It also allows a more uniform, tight mouth opening over the width of a wide, deep profile.

There are many things that can be incorrect about this facet. Sometimes the mouth can be damaged in use and the wear angle needs to be reestablished to rid the plane of the damage. If you've made your own planes or they were made by prison labor 100 years ago, then the geometry of the angle may be incorrect before taking the first successful shaving. Any one of these things will render the plane useless because the shaving will clog the mouth at the beginning of every intended pass.

The best tool for removing any wood from the wear angle is a push cheek float.

Be aware that only a few teeth will be engaged with the wear angle. You are likely to get a rippled wear like this one below:

This wavy surface WILL result in a mouth that clogs like this:

The clog above occurred within an inch of starting a cut. If I stop immediately and simply smooth out the the wavy surface then my plane will function appropriately. 

I smooth the wear angle with my 150 grit "float."

If I tried to force the shaving to eject then I WILL damage the mouth by forcing a large amount of material into a small area, thus compressing the grain or chipping the mouth. I will then need to open the mouth because it is damaged, not because it is too tight.

Another common mistake is to try to keep the wear angle parallel to the iron. Know that there is no such thing as parallel in woodworking just like there is no such thing as flat, only varying degrees of concavity and convexity. The wear angle is going to progressively open as the shaving travels up through the escapement or it is going to progressively close. The angle must open.

Here is a wear angle that is parallel or slightly closing:

and the resulting shaving and clog:

Follow the process above before you damage the mouth and all will be well again:

Look at the mouth of any plane you are considering to purchase. The condition of the mouth can tell you how successful the last person to use it was. It can be indicative of how the plane will perform with a slight amount of work.

Remember that there are several reasons a plane may clog. Addressing the mouth and the wear angle incorrectly will not fix the main problem and only add another.

If you choose to pursue using antique planes then make a few for yourself. The first time you need to fit your wedge into your mortise you will know what a properly fitting wedge shall feel like. The first time you need to bed your iron to your plane body you will know how to bed an iron on an antique, which may be necessary. The first time you need to match your iron's profile to that of the plane, you will work to a new tolerance.

Additionally, the first time you need to address the geometry of the mouth and wear angle then you will know how to fix it.

Good luck out there...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Podcast and A Plug

I recently recorded a few podcasts with the gentlemen at 360 Woodworking. You can check out the first over at 360 Woodworking.

Chuck Bender, one of the proprietors at 360, is one of the three members of the our woodworking community that were truly instrumental in me starting this years long endeavor of making planes.

I have been fascinated by Chuck's work for a long time and use any excuse to spend time in his shop. As a result, I will be teaching two classes out in Cincinnati in early November.

In the first session I will teach the of making side escapement planes by walking the small class through the process of making a round. Each student will then leave with the material, skill and tool (hollow) to make the mating round.

In the second two-day class we will learn the process of how to use hollows and rounds to make repeatable and desirable profiles with a series of tools that have no fences or depth stops and are difficult to steer.

Over these years I have learned that each woodworking school is different. Chuck's school is geared toward small groups, which means that there is a lot of one-on-one interaction so more subjects can be thoroughly covered. Additionally, the shop helper, Chuck, has not only made the various subjects his classes focus upon, but he built an obviously successful career in selling them. He uses this type of tool in his professional work so he comes to the subject fully knowledgable and from a different prospective.

Who knows, maybe we'll even get Mr. Machine himself, Glen Huey, to try one out. So consider coming for the knowledge and experience or just Glen's handtool intervention where we address the subject 'Safety With Power Equipment: Fact or Fabrication.'

Friday, August 5, 2016

Skew vs. Square

One of the many questions that I get asked through emails or at tool shows is in regards to skewed irons vs. square. This is an important and relevant question because we have all seen both out in the wild and in use. There are advantages to skew; there are disadvantages. The same applies to square.

The main advantage to square irons is apparent when working with the grain using a plane that has no fence (read hollows, rounds, etc.). When there is no fence the planes will tend to pull in the direction of the skew. This tendency is far from ideal in a plane that can already be difficult to steer.

The main disadvantage to square irons is noticeable when working across the grain. The surface left by a square iron isn't as smooth when the iron is not 100% sharp.

The opposite of these attributes is true with skewed blades. Skewed irons are nice with a fenced plane because the skew is oriented in a manner to pull the plane into the fence, affording the end user one less thing he must pay heed to (at least reducing the amount of attention given).

The skew can be a nice feature when working with the grain, but is ideal when working across it. The skewed iron will leave a much nicer surface than a square iron with a plane that is similarly sharp.

Generally, I suggest skewing a plane only when the intended use involves a significant amount of cross grain work, i.e. table tops, drawer lips, etc. In these instances the plane will be traveling across the grain 50% of the time.

Drawer lips are also an ideal time to have, not only a skewed plane, but a dedicated one, too. A series of drawers will place multiples of the profile next to each other and true uniformity is ideal.

There are a few other instances where square or skew excel. Most of that is involved in the manufacture or cost of manufacture.

All of that being said, you will likely swear that the type of plane you start with is ideal because it is what you've learned with and have already overcome the deficiencies.

Finally, if you've noticed that there have been a lot fewer blogs posted by the woodworking community recently it may be because everybody has moved to Instagram. I've been using Instagram for a month or so now and there is a lot of activity over there.

P. S. I have a thumbnail plane like the one above for sale and ready to ship. The plane is $360 plus shipping. Please send an email to if you are interested. (Note: this is the first time I've used the blog to do this, sorry)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


My favorite emails in my inbox always include a few pictures of successful work created with planes I made or by people who have read my book and put the process I describe to work.

I received several pictures from a customer, FF, a while back and thought that I'd include them here. You can clearly see the process followed below:

There is a moderate amount of work with the rabbet plane, but not too much with the profiled hollows and rounds.

I have said it before and I will say it again: the beauty of these planes is that you can embellish your work in the fashion you want. You need not rely upon your router bit selection nor Woodcraft's.

If you want to make a profile out of a single piece instead of building it up, you can.

FF may never make this profile again, but he will certainly use the same tools and the same process.

 Big and small, well done!

I will be teaching this process this weekend at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, ME. You will learn the process to make the profiles above and much, much more.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Weekend at Lie-Nielsen

I will be teaching a Weekend Workshop at Lie-Nielsen in Warren, ME from May 21-22.

These classes are a great opportunity for somebody that is interested in learning how to use moulding planes, specifically, hollows and rounds. We will be using pairs of 6s, 10s and a rabbet plane to make more than a dozen very different moulding profiles.

We will discuss plane selection (hollows vs. rounds, hollows vs. snipesbills, rounds vs. side rounds) and plane maintenance (from sharpening to seasonal maintenance). We will execute coves, ovolos, cove and ovolos, ogees and more.

The purpose of the class is to build your understanding of how to lay out and execute simple moulding profiles, like coves and ovolos, and then build that knowledge into laying out and executing those that are much more complex.

Are you interested in making your own planes? Come and ask questions. Are you interested in tuning up antiques? Bring them along. Though the class does not focus on these subjects, it's inevitable that they will be discussed.

Do you have a moulding for a current project you want to make? Bring that too. 

Do you need to have your own planes? Absolutely not. I'm bringing all of these and many others for the students to use and, if you're interested, many will be for sale.

The class will culminate with making this picture frame.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Making Planes at CVSW

This weekend I will be teaching a class at The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. The students attending this two day class will build a round and leave with the tools, material and understanding to make the matching hollow at home.

We will cover all of the essential elements included in the process: including making a proper fitting wedge, bedding an iron, profiling the sole, creating the matching iron and sharpening profiled edges.

Whether someone intends to make a series of planes for themselves or rehabilitate antique planes, these specific steps are the major necessities.

Come join us!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Brothers Separated at Birth

When I produce a pair of planes I always make them out of a single piece of wood. I try to make sets out of as few pieces as possible. I spend a lot of time indexing my beech to keep everything in order. I spend more time lining up sap lines and other silly things, but I digress. Rabbet planes and dedicated planes usually get made from the odd leftover pieces: the fifth foot in a 5 foot length.

Today I separately packaged a group of three rabbet planes that were all made from the same piece of wood since I had run low on the aforementioned 'extras'. Each plane was boxed and 7/8" in width. One was left handed and bedded at my normal 50 degrees and two were right handed and bedded at 55.

I found myself staring at these three planes that effectively look exactly the same. One is going to England, one outside of Boston and the third is going to Hawaii. It was fun to think that three people, separated by thousands of miles, will be using the same plane and the planes will never see each other again.

The whole thing, this wonderful job, etc., just struck me and left me staring for a few minutes.

 I again thank my patient customers.