Posted tagged ‘hand planing’


March 18, 2015

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!


Ode to a Filletster and a Roubo bench update

February 26, 2012

Whether you call it a filletster,  fillester, rebate or rabbet, using a moving fillester plane is just “plane” fun.  Long pigtails of stock come shooting through the side escapement.  The wooden version of the plane absolutely “sings” as it works (some folks might call it more of a howl).  For me, the process of working with handtools is every bit as important as the end product.  So the tactility matters a lot.  But top that off with the auditory pleasure of heaing a well tuned handplane working and you’ve got a real winning combination.  Folks come into the shop and are surprised that I don’t have a radio or disc player (and I’ve been a musician all of my adult life).  I simply tell them that the tools make the music in this place.

L - Sargent 79 Duplex Rabbet, R - Sandusky Tool Moving Fillester

I broke the fillester out to rabbet (rebate for our readers in other parts of the English speaking world) the bottom of the tool tray on the Roubo bench.

Using a rabbert plane is pretty much foolproof, given, of course, that it is well honed and the depth stop and fence are correctly adjusted.  The one challenge is to insure that you keep the plane at right angles to the surface being planed.  There’s no real secret method here.  Just keep your fingers out of the way of the escapement so shaving don’t clog up the throat and concentrate on what you’re doing.  And, remember to move and use your body weight to your advantage.  This is when that extra ten pounds you put on during the holidays will really pay off.

So here’s where I’m at with the small Roubo (little splayed French) bench top.  The work surface is only 13″ wide, but the 8″ wide tool tray should more than make up for the top’s narrow width.  Hopefully, tools will find their way to the tray, not to the working surface (as they have for the last thirty-eight years on the current bench).

Back beveling plane irons – a few more thoughts

February 12, 2012

For some reason, I started thinking about back bevels, again, about a week ago.  Maybe it was because Les brought up David Charlesworth’s book, “Furniture-Making Techniques”.  So I spent a little time with Charlesworth and Garrett Hack (The Handplane Book).  Okay.  We know that higher cutting angles work better on certain species.  Chris Schwarz has weighed in, stating that a 62 1/2 degree is perfect for curly maple.  And I agree, as earlier posts on this blog will attest.  But I decided that we should be looking at simple ways the produce repeatable results.  So I went out and cut several wedges that should help in setting the back bevel, when (if ever) it’s called for.

Using a 3/8″ carriage bolt, a nut, couple of washers and a wing nut, we can make a rudimentary jig that will allow us to maintain the back bevel angle.

Instead of pushing the iron back and forth on the hone, I prefer a lateral “sweeping” motion.  I find that this allows me to apply pressure on either side and maintain the crown that I’ve already introduced to the iron.

There’s still a few “twists” that you’ll have to contend with.  Adding 5 degrees will put you up to York pitch, the old English standard for hardwood.  Adding 10 degrees will put you up to Middle pitch, which is great for lightly figured stock.   But, keep in mind if you’re working with an old Norris or Speers Plane, you’ll be struck by the fact that the iron looks to be about 3/16″ thick.  It probably is pretty close to that dimension.  You don’t get much chatter from one of those beauties.  But when you start cranking up the back bevel on your basic Stanley iron, prepare yourself.  After you cross the “York Pitch Boundary Line”, chatter will be a constant companion.  But with some fettling, you’ll probably able to eliminate the bulk of it.

The other thing that you’ll immediately notice is the greatly increased amount of effort that is required to push a plane with a substantial back bevel.  You’ll be shocked as you feel your heart rate increase as you remove a shaving that is .0002″ (or thinner).

I’ll keep this discussion alive.  There’s gotta be a couple of trade secrets out there about how to shear cut highly figured stock that have been lost to modernity.  I’d welcome any thoughts.

If I could have just one bench plane…….

August 27, 2011

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked by fledgling hand plane afficionados, what type of bench plane  would I choose, if I could  have only one?  The answer is really very simple, a Bedrock style 605 1/2.  The 605 1/2 is not an easy plane to find, if you’re looking for a good original Stanley.  But they’re well worth the high dollar that you’ll likely have to pay to take it home.  If a 605 1/2 isn’t available, a 605 (or one of the new planes that emulate the Bedrock) is a decent alternative.

An orignal Stanley Bedrock 605 1/2

So what is it about this plane that makes it so useful?  First is the frog design.  It allows the user to adjust the mouth opening while the iron is in place on the frog.  The Bailey pattern requires the removal of the iron before the frog can be loosened to allow for adjustment.  This makes for a lot of fettling to get the mouth opening “just right”.  The second is it’s length and width.  It is 1″ longer and 1/4″ wider than the standard 605 (60 indicates the Bedrock type frog, 5 indicates jack plane).  It could correctly be classed as a panel plane by English standards.  But how does this extra size translate into performance?  The extra length allows the user to do smaller joining tasks and surface truing (i.e. panel leveling, hence the term panel plane).  The extra width clearly puts it in the class of a large smoother.

The Lie-Nielsen 605 1/2

Different irons for different tasks.  To fully exploit the potential of any jackplane, several different irons are required.  For dimensioning/thicknessing, an iron with a 1/16″ to 3/32″ crown is appropriate.  This is the crown that would be commonly used on a “foreplane”.

For general smoothing, an iron that is “gently” crowned (think .003″ to .005″) is the order of the day.  When this iron is properly sharpened and honed, it will produce a glass-like surface.  For highly figured work, an iron that is “gently” crowned and back beveled to create a cutting angle of 60 to 65 degrees will produce a surface that is free of tearout, i.e. curly maple.  (Lie-Nielsen offers several different frogs with bedding angles ranging from 50 degrees, “York” pitch, to 55 degrees “Middle” pitch)

Lee Valley jack plane - tote and frog move fore and aft as a unit - lateral and depth adjustment are made via a "Norris" type adjuster

For really gnarly wood such as burl or crotch, the handplane user might consider a toothing iron.  While not commonly available for bench planes, one could be made by simply filing or chiseling teeth (grooves) on the bevel side of the iron.  The iron is then reversed.  This reversal creates a cutting angle of 70-75 degrees, which is the traditional standard for toothing planes.  Just a caveat – not all bench plane designs will allow for running the iron reversed.  The relationship of the chip breaker to the depth control pawl will be the dictating factor.  So try it before you go to the bother of making a toothing iron.

The Woodriver #5 from Woodcraft

So, one plane, three or four irons and you’ve covered 95 percent of your benchplane chores.  Plus, you’ll save space and, very likely, a fair amount of money. 

Just a parting thought about replacement irons.  Woodcraft, Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley and others sell high quality replacement irons for original Stanley planes.  IBC irons from Woodcraft are my personal favorites.  Be sure that the irons you order are designed to allow for the use of the original chip breaker, or you may find that you’ll have to purchase a new breaker as well.

The Crowning Touch

September 3, 2010

Call it camber, call it radiusing, call it rounding, call it what you will.  The questions is, why crown your plane irons?  Well, there are three very good reasons.  First, a gentle crown on smoothing and polishing planes will eliminate lap marks or “tracking”.  Second, a heavy crown on scrub and fore planes will allow cross grain planing without tear out.  Third, a medium crown on jack planes will allow for the removal of thicker shavings while planing with the grain.

The first order of business is to determine the thickness of the heaviest shaving you intend to remove with a particular plane.  This dimension will become the “arc height” of the crown you establish on the iron.  Now, here’s where the science comes in to play.  Because the iron is bedded at an angle (other than 90 degrees to the sole), the actual arc height must be increased.  Why?  Because as the cutting angle decreases, so does the arc height.  The simple chart will demonstrate this geometric conundrum and provide you with the approximate increase in arc height required.

Chart indicating cutting angle/arc height relationship

For example:  If you wanted a .001 crown on an iron that would have a cutting angle of 45 degrees, you would divide .001 by .71 (71%).  The actual arc height would be .0014 (give or take a “squeak”).

Remember, crowning can be achieved by simply applying alternating pressure to the edges of the iron while you’re honing.  It’s just not that tough.

Happy Planing

A tale of two planes

August 18, 2010

Lie-Nielsen has benefitted the entire woodworking community by providing bench planes based on the venerable Stanley Bedrock designs.  The Record company provided bench planes that were clearly based on the Bailey patent system.  Interestingly enough, Garrett Wade Company also became involved in the “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” business when it offered the Paragon Plane.  The Paragon brand was identified as a “Premium” plane and carried a reasonable, but somewhat higher price than its competitors.

I had pretty much forgotten about the Paragon, until a friend of mine gave me one that he had purchased when Garrett Wade first introduced the line.  I knew that I had seen that design before, but where?  It didn’t take long for me to identify the design as that of the Millers Falls Type 4, that was produced from 1955 to 1966.

The Millers Falls plane was made in the United States, the Paragon in England.

The unique, two-piece lever cap, patented by Millers Falls was incorporated into the Paragon.

While the cheeks of the plane are a little higher on the Paragon, the similarities between the two planes are striking.  The M-F used Padauk for the knob and tote.  It appears that the Paragon also uses the same specie with a little different finish. Note the “upright” design of the totes.   The massive adjuster nut is common to both planes.

Both planes are excellent in performance.  But, I’d have to give the edge to the M-F.  The casting, machining and plating just seems to be a little better.  But, in fairness, the adjustments on both are smooth and with minimal lash.  Either one of these smoothers would be an excellent addition to the shop.

Back beveling bench plane irons

August 6, 2010

Recently, a lot of folks have asked me what my opinion is about back beveling bench plane irons.  I’ve tried to be courtesy as I explain to them that this is like asking a theologian about the number of angels you can comfortably seat on the head of a pin. 

Back beveling seems harmless enough.  But, in fact, there are a number of things to consider before you do anything other than develop a bright, mirror-like, flat (yes, I said FLAT) surface on the back of your bench plane irons.

Just as an aside; many of those asking for my opinion are folks who are not happy with the performance of their bench planes.  My first response to this is to ask them if their irons are sharp, really sharp.  It still amazes me how many people, experienced woodworkers, have never learned to sharpen their tools.  Sharpening is THE gateway skill.  So, for the sake of argument, I’m assuming that your irons are SHARP!


There are two types of planes.  The BLOCK plane iron is seated with the bevel pointing up, toward the user.  The BENCH plane iron is seated with the bevel pointing down, away from the user.  In most cases, bench planes will be fitted with a chip breaker.  The bedding and cutting angles on a block plane are not the same.  The bedding and cutting angles on a bench plane (unless a back bevel is employed) are the same.

Block plane with bevel up

Bench plane - with chip breaker and bevel down


If you’re going to be serious about hand planing, you have to be aware that there are a number of angles which determine cutting efficiency.  The plane body itself provides the BED ANGLE.  When we talk about the iron we have to consider the INITIAL (ground) ANGLE, THE SECONDARY ANGLE and the BACK BEVEL, if one is to be employed.  The sum of all of this information is the CUTTING ANGLE.


What is performance?  How are you going to use the plane?  Will you be using the same plane while working various species of wood?  Will you be using the plane for initial truing?  Will you be thicknessing with this plane?  Will you be using the plane for smoothing the finish surface on softwoods?  Do you want the ability to vary shaving thickness?  Is your goal to remove the thinest possible shaving?  Will the plane be used to smooth highly figured stock, such as curly maple?

Well, if your answer was that you want to be able to smooth highly figured stock, then continue reading.  If you were answering yes to the other questions, keep the back of your iron flat and polished and have a nice day.


Conventional wisdom is based on the collective experience of many people who have separately accomplished the same or similar tasks.  In the case of planing wood, this conventional wisdom has been developed over, at least, fifteen hundred years.  And the conventional wisdom is this; when using a bench plane, a forty-five degree cutting angle provides the best overall performance over a broad range of wood species and job requirements?

Roman plane - wooden body - "shod" in metal - single iron set at 45 degrees


In a word, back beveling changes the CUTTING angle (some folks like to refer to this as the attack angle).  It has long been known that optimal cutting angles vary, depending on the wood species being planed.  For example; soft, straight grained species like redwood or cedar are best planed using a low cutting angle, something between 35 and 40 degrees.  Highly figured hardwoods like curly hard maple need to be planed using a cutting angle that could be as high as 90 degrees, but 60 to 65 degrees seems to provide the best performance.


After you’ve determined your new cutting angle (cutting angle minus bed angle equals back bevel), you’re ready to start honing your back bevel.  Remember, the back bevel really doesn’t need to be any longer than the thickness of the maximum shaving you intend to remove.  1/64 of an inch is sufficient.  Making the bevel length any longer than this creates two potential problems.  First, if you should want to eliminate the back bevel at some point, you’ll find that you need to waste a lot of stock in order to re-establish a true single bevel.  Second, back bevel length actually determines the position, and subsequent support (strength), of the cutting edge (arris).


One of the rules of the woodworker’s universe is this – increasing cutting angle means an increase in required effort.  In other words, you’ve got to work harder to remove a shaving of the same thickness as you increase the cutting angle.  So the logical conclusion is that you should expect to keep the shaving thickness to an absolute minimum. 

I, like most other hand planing fanciers, recognize the therapeutic value of removing “whisper” thin shavings and leaving a “glass-like” surface.  But, if I have to take a 1/4″ of twist out of a board, I’d like to remove the thickest shaving that I can, without having a heart attack, of course.  So I won’t be putting a back bevel on anything but my smoothing plane.


As cutting angles and effort increase, so does potential for vibration or “chatter“.  You may find that the chip-breaker needs to be bent back in order to provide more “purchase” on the iron.  Yes, one of the things that the chip-breaker does is to dampen vibration, especially in thin irons.  It’s interesting to note that many very expensive smoothing planes have no chip breakers.  Their performance depends on the use of very thick irons and very small mouth openings.

Small smoother by Wayne Anderson - note the absence of a chip breaker, the high cutting angle and the incredibly thick iron


If you find that back beveling helps you in working with certain species and figures, by all means, do it.  But…chose the plane (or planes) that you’ll use and dedicate it (or them) to that purpose.  An alternative solution, is to have additional plane irons that are back beveled to provide a range of cutting angles.  It’s not a bad idea to use a “magic marker” to indicate the cutting angle on the iron. 


Gramps would tell me to set that chip breaker as close to the cutting edge as possible.  And, generally, like all things that he taught me, that is true.  However…when removing very thin shavings, the contact point between the chip breaker and the iron, if not perfectly seated, can easily become clogged.  This is especially true when a back bevel is employed.  There are two simple solutions to prevent this:  First, make sure that the chip breaker has been undercut and honed dead flat across.  This will insure constant contact between the chip breaker and iron.  The lead outside surface of the chip breaker should be smooth and free of any nicks.  Second, set the chip breaker well away from the trailing edge of the back bevel (1/64 – 1 /32″).  Remember that the back bevel itself will actually begin to “roll” the chip before it ever comes in contact with the chip breaker.

Well, enough talk.  Happy planing!

SHARPENING – Getting started with the right edge shape

January 15, 2010

As promised, we’re going to start talking about the number one Gateway skill, sharpening.  I’m sure that  all experienced woodworkers agree that there are three distinct steps to the sharpening process; shaping (grinding), honing and polishing.  Today, we’re going to take a look at the first step, shaping the cutting edge.  But there are several things to keep in mind as they’ll influence the way we look at the information.  This presentation is based on sharpening edge tools such as chisels, plane irons and knives.  The study of various cutting geometries has become a separate discipline within the realms of mechanical and industrial engineering.  In order to keep this simple and understandable, we’re going to assume that every tool discussed today has a shaped edge angle of twenty-five (25)degrees.  Over the years, toolmakers have settled on the notion that this is an angle that will provide the best performance in the majority of circumstances.  However, you should understand that this is a compromise.  There are two considerations that dictate this compromise, sharpness and durability.  And one will always influence the other.  Let’s get started. 

The three basic shapes for shearing tools

 Hollow grinding produces an edge that can be honed and polished to extraordinary sharpness in a very short time.  The shape is created by grinding on a convex abrasive surface, such as a low or high speed grinder, slow-wet grinder or a foot powered wheel.  The depth of the hollow is determined by the diameter of the abrasive media.  Honing a hollow ground tool is made easier as you need only to ensure that both the “heel” and “toe” of the ground edge are in contact with the honing surface.  The down side of the hollow ground edge is that it is the least durable of the three shapes.  The hollow ground shape should be used in situations where there is very little or no impact on the tool, ie paring chisels and other shearing tools.  The most exaggerated example of a delicate hollow ground tool is the straight razor, which in fact is “double hollow ground”.  Woodwind players who use cane reeds will be familiar with the reed knife, which bears a striking resemblance to the razor (and is, indeed, a very simple tool to make).  Anyone who has dropped either of these tools onto a hard surface will be able to testify as to just how fragile the edge can be. 

The flat grind provides increased cutting edge durability as well as excellent sharpness.  Bench chisels, plane irons and other edge tools that are subject to intermittent, low impact benefit from this shape.  The flat grind can be created with coarse hand stones or by using any of the numerous “flat” grinders that are currently available. 

The convex or rounded edge shape is the most difficult to create and to maintain.  However, it offers superior durability and, when properly maintained, very good cutting capability.  This edge shape should be used for tools that see high impact (i.e. mortising chisels) or prying activities (i.e. carving tools, drawknives). 

Whenever possible, jigs, guides and toolrests should be used when shaping the cutting edge.  A light touch at the grinder is an absolute necessity.  Many an edge tool has been ruined by overheating.  Keeping a finger in contact with the back of the tool while grinding will serve to notify you if you’re building up too much heat.  When it feels hot, it should be cooled by dipping it in water.  Another “trick” that will help minimize the possibility of overheating, is to rub paraffin or some other hard wax onto the the grinding wheel.  As heat builds during the shaping process, the was begins to melt and draws heat away from the edge being ground.  The “wax melt” method can be very useful, especially when large amounts of stock must be removed, but be prepared to deal with the clean-up.  It can be a little messy. 

Okay, so now you should be able to select the edge shape you want for a particular tool.  After we’ve created the shaped edge, we’ll have to hone it.  We’ll talk about honing and polishing over the next few days.  And remember, “your best work can only be done with sharp tools”.

The Shape of Bench Plane Irons (the truth revealed)

December 27, 2009

The modern woodworking community seems to be obsessed with jigs and fixtures and that’s probably a good thing.  Accuracy of construction has continued to improve over the millenia.  But, as with so many things in life,  there are occasions when “less is more”.  The wholesale use of sharpening jigs may well be one of these things.  True, they do assist the sharpener in creating perfectly flat surfaces and the intersection of two perfectly flat surfaces, forming a perfect angle, is, certainly, the classic definition of “sharpness”.  They also make it simpler to create a perfectly straight edge which is square to the length of the iron.  And “straight and square” are absolutely necessary when sharpening irons for tools like rabbet and shoulder planes (and most chisels).  But when dealing with the class of tools known as bench planes, straight and square is not always the most advantageous condition.

Rabbet, shoulder, molding and other types of specialty planes are used to create structual or ornamental details and, in some cases, used to remove miniscule amounts of material in situations like the final fitting process.  Bench planes are used to create true and finished surfaces to a given dimension.  As this process may require the removal of significant amounts of material, the use of tools that have been “fettled” to remove very small amounts of material with a high level of accuracy may not provide optimal productivity.  In other words, when you’re “rough” planing a board to dimension, you probably want to do as quickly as possible – especially if you’re getting paid by the job, not by the hour. 

Roman Jack plane found in Pompei excavations - "shod" in wrought iron on both sole and top of body - single iron

Planes, as we know them, have been in use for several thousand years.  When looking at the irons of antique planes, modern woodworkers are often struck by the fact that most of them are not “straight across”.  In fact many have a significant arc to the cutting edge.  The exceptions are usually smoothing, panel and jointer planes.

Try planes (called fore planes in North America), scrub planes and jack planes are tools used to establish the “A” or primary data (a reference surface from which other angles and measurements are based) and/or dimensions.  The surface condition left by these planes looks and feels “wavy”, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the width of the iron and the arc height of the crown (curve of the cutting edge).  Most hand built antique furniture will have unseen surfaces that are, in most cases, left in this condition.

Working with a set of winding sticks, the craftsman will determine whether the first surface to be trued has any cup, warp or twist that must be dealt with.  Affected areas will be marked and trimmed with the Try or Scrub plane.  After the “A” data has been planed flat and true, the craftsman will use a thickness marking gauge and mark the required dimension.  If the amount to be removed is minimal, the craftsman may elect to plane the “B” data to thickness with the Try plane (as it takes wider cuts than the other crowned planes).  However if there is a fair amount of stock to be removed, a Scrub plane will be employed.  When using any crowned (radiused) plane, the craftsman will move the plane diagonally or completely cross grain, as a heavily radiused plane can lift and tear fiber bundles and create voids in the surface that are below the desired elevation.

The radiuses employed are determined by the experience of the individual craftsman.  The type of work, material and its condition, are just a few factors that must be considered when “fettling” planes.  The goal, of course, is to achieve a product of acceptable quality with the minimum output of energy.  Radiuses are described in terms of arc heighth and they may range from as little as a 64th to as much as a 1/4″.  Again, only the user can determine what works best for him.  Below is a comparison of  typical radiuses found on older “working” handplanes (those used by professional woodworkers).

Typical plane iron radiuses

 We’ll talk more about how to properly sharpen a radiused iron and the proper sequence of planing stock in upcoming installments. 

Remember, making shavings is cheap therapy.

Understanding Handplanes – Part One – Benchplanes

August 22, 2009

Sweeping, sharpening, sawing to the line, planing – the first four lessons of the traditional apprenticeship.  So why do I meet so many experienced woodworkers who do not understand and enjoy handplaning?  The simple answer is that power tools allow us to “cut to the line” and “square up” our workpieces with ease and speed.  That being said, it must be asked why we should know how to use handplanes?  There are a number of reasons why handplaning is a “gateway” skill that all of us should possess.  Let’s take a look at them:

1.  Snipe is the enemy.  On both power joiners and planers, snipe, or the undercutting at entry to and exit from the machine, wastes as much as 6 to 8 linear inches on each board processed.  Scarcity and/or high cost of a particular species may make such waste unacceptable.  Handplaning is the obvious solution to this problem.

2.  Some workpieces are simply too large or too small to process with available power tools and must be planed using handplanes.

3.  Some workpieces are highly figured and cannot be processed with power tools, other than sanders, because of tear-out.

4.  Handplaning creates a surface that requires little or no further work before final finishing.

5.  Therapeutic value; there’s simply no more satisfying task in woodworking than tuning a handplane, running it over the wood’s surface then seeing long, even, continuous shavings spill out, onto the bench, then to the floor below.  It is an elemental experience.


L-R: 26" Wooden Jointer; Stanley No.8 Jointer; 22" Wooden Tryplane; Long Jack; English pattern Jack, Stanley No.5 1/2

Smooth plane – used for polishing and smoothing.  Double iron may be ground with very slight crown (1/64 to 1/128 of an inch) to prevent lap marks on finished surface.  Bedding angles range from 40 to 60 degrees.  Stanley smoothing planes bedded at 45 degrees.  English smoothers like Norris and Spiers are usually bedded at 50 degrees (York pitch) or 55 degrees (Middle pitch).  This allows for more control while working figured wood.  However it severely limits the thickness of the chip that can be removed, really forcing them to dedicated use as a smoothing or polishing tool.  While most English and American wooden bodied planes are bedded at 45 degrees, many continental planes were set at 50 degrees.  English and American coffin patterned planes are often bedded at 50 degrees, as well.  (Stanley numbers 3,4,4 1/2)

Smoothing plane - Swiss pear wood

Smoothing plane - Swiss pear wood

Jack plane – the “jack of all trades” plane, can be used for heavier stock removal, truing up datums, joining shorter boards and smoothing.  Usually a double iron setup with the cutter being crowned from 1/64 to as much as 1/16 of an inch (depending on use).  It is an “all around” tool that would have been in the toolkit of all carpenters and joiners.  Typically between 11 and 17 inches in length, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2″ in width and bedded at 45 degrees.  (Stanley numbers 5, 5 1/4, 5 1/2)

Panel plane – a subdivision of the jackplane category, the Panel plane was used to true and smooth panels used in frame and panel joinery.  Spiers, Norris and other regionalized English planemakers are famous for their infilled panel planes which today can cost thousands of dollars.  Most panel planes are set at 50 degrees, with the exception of the Stanley 5 1/2 which is set at 45.  Lie-Nielsen company offers a choice of frogs that provide bedding at York (50 degrees) or Middle (55 degrees) for their 5 1/2, making it a true panel plane in every sense of the word.

Norris Infill Panel Plane - England

Norris Infill Panel Plane - England

Try plane –  A much misunderstood plane.  Some folks percieve it to be a long jack plane others think of it as a short jointer.  The tryplane was used to create the first datum or flat surface when planing.  The “trysquare” was used to indicate squareness of two intersecting surfaces.  The tryplane was used to insure that the initial datum was flat and without twist or “wind”.  “Winding sticks” would have been used by the craftsman to insure that there was no twist in the surface.  Tryplanes typically are between 17 and 22 inches in length and between 2 and 2 1/2 inches wide.  Irons could be single (wooden planes) or double (iron planes) and are well crowned (radiused), usually between a 1/16 and 3/32.  This crowning explains the gently undulating grooves that be felt on the non-visible surfaces of many pieces of antique furniture.  Tryplanes were popular for truing the edges of tongue and groove or butted flooring in the days before power planers and floor sanders.  (Stanley No. 6)

Tryplane - Maple & Amboyna burl

Tryplane - Maple & Amboyna burl

 Jointer Plane – The biggest of the handheld benchplanes.  So it must be used for taking off the biggest of chips, right?  Wrong!  The jointer is made long to provide a base that allows the craftsman to create the straightest edge possible thereby allowing two pieces to be “jointed” together with a nearly invisible “seam”.  The other important use for Jointers is to smooth critical surfaces after they were initially flattened with a tryplane.  Jointers range in length from 20 – 36 inches, with some wooden jointers having irons well over 3″ wide.  Single iron plans are not uncommon.  Irons are honed dead straight and mouths are kept as tight as possible.  (Stanley Numbers 7 & 8 )

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