For most hand plane aficionados, the tool’s value is best determined by the thinness of the shaving it can remove.  Many’s the man who swells with pride when he says, “I’ve got this baby set up so I can take ‘half a thou’ consistently.”

“Half a thou” is fine for a polishing plane.  But I’ve had people tell me that they’ve got their old No. 6 set up to take a “half a thou.”  My immediate thought is that this statement is coming from the mouth of someone who likes to “tinker” with tools but probably doesn’t do a lot of hand planing.  My opinion is based on simple math.  Let’s say I have to remove an 1/8″ from a board I’m jointing.  If I take that 1/8″ off by a “half a thou” at a time, it will take me 250 strokes to complete the task.  If I have my No. 6 set up to take a 1/64″ chip, I’ll do the job in 8 strokes.  I love to work with my planes.  But there is such a thing as “too much love”.

Old timers would tell you that when planing, you want to be able to remove the maximum amount required, while maintaining a surface finish that is appropriate to the task.  So remember that adjustable mouths and movable frogs are designed to allow for maximum shaving thickness, as well as minimum.

Back to work!


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2 Comments on “.125/.0005=250”

  1. kmhatch Says:

    LMAO….That is known as cutting to the chase. Shaving thickness is on the same level as sharpening….thin enough and sharp enough to do the job at hand.



  2. I intended to respond to this earlier. Matthew had seen this guy on a video who claimed that Japanese planes made shavings in the 8-10 micron range. Our math finally resolved that to be ~.00025-.0003 in. When I came across a dial indicator that read in ten-thousandths, we gave it a try. Yeah, in certain fine-grained woods like Port Orford cedar, but not in everyday use, not in oak. I try to set the jointer to take 1/32″ in ten passes, and have another set superfine for the fit up. Thanks for the compliment…

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