Luthier Tips du Jour - Hand Planes

Uploaded by OBrienGuitars on 10.05.2012

Hand planes can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
If you know how to set them up and use them properly they are really a joy to work with.
It is also important that you choose the right hand plane for the task at hand.
So, let me show you how to set up and use your hand plane.
Basically, there are two categories of planes: bench planes or block planes.
Bench planes have the cutting iron with the bevel facing down
and attached to a chipbreaker.
Block planes do not have chip breakers and the cutting iron is bedded with the bevel up.
There are many themes and variations for both bench and block planes
and each type is designed to perform different tasks.
The rear handle is called the tote.
The front handle is called the knob.
The brass part that holds the assembly together is called the lever cap.
Adjusting this screw determines how tight or loose the lever cap is.
You should not have to apply a lot of pressure to close the lever cap assembly.
The next two parts are attached.
On top is the chipbreaker and underneath is the iron or blade.
You want to be careful when removing these parts
so you don’t damage the business end of the iron.
Now you can see with the chipbreaker on top and the iron below
that indeed the bevel is on the bottom.
This assembly must be separated in order to sharpen the iron.
To do this loosen the screw and carefully slide the chipbreaker
back away from the front edge of the iron.
Make sure that no metal hits the front edge of the plane iron.
Now just turn the plane iron sideways
and slide it forward so that the screw on the chipbreaker
slides out through the keyhole in the iron.
Now would be a good time to sharpen the iron if needed.
For more info on this watch my sharpening video.
In it I show how to sharpen a chisel.
The principle is the same except you will perhaps have a different angle
and you do not want to strop the plane iron when finished sharpening.
The next part is called the frog and I have no idea how it got this name.
This part has the screw that adjusts the tightness of the lever cap.
A good frog has a lot of machined surface on it.
On the end of the frog is a lateral adjuster.
This little round part sits in a slot on the blade
and when the lateral adjuster is moved left or right
it adjusts the blade left or right as well.
The depth adjuster is the wheel below and behind the frog.
There is a yoke attached to the wheel.
As the wheel is adjusted the yoke pivots on a pin inside the frog
and moves this pin which engages in a slot on the chipbreaker.
This allows the iron to move in and out of the plane sole.
Also on the bottom and behind the frog are three screws.
The two outside screws release pressure on these two pins.
This is what holds the frog down to the main casting.
The larger screw in the middle moves the frog forward and back on the main casting
and this determines how open or closed the mouth of the plane is.
If you want a really fine shaving then you want the front edge of your blade
to be about as close to the front edge of the mouth
as the thickness of the shaving you desire.
On higher end planes that have screws for the frog adjustment
you can adjust them while the blade assembly is on the frog
allowing you to see where the blade is relative to the mouth.
Some planes have the adjustment screws on the front side of the frog
and in this case you must remove the blade assembly to make the adjustment.
The last part is the main casting.
There isn’t really anything to do with this part other than make sure it is flat.
To do this, run it across a flat surface with sandpaper attached to it.
Make sure the plane is fully assembled with the blade retracted.
You can use a marker on the bottom of the sole to know when it is flat.
When flattening the sole the most important parts are the front edge,
just in front of and just behind the mouth and the heel.
When re-assembling the chipbreaker and plane iron
make sure the chipbreaker is a skoshe back from the edge of the iron.
This is what supports the thin fragile part of the iron used to make the cut.
The more support you have the better the cut.
Also, when re-inserting the assembly back onto the frog
be careful not to hit the main casting with the edge of the iron.
The first thing you need to do is set the cutting depth.
I recommend doing this on scrap wood and not your 500 dollar set of guitar wood.
Start by adjusting the depth adjuster screw counterclockwise or clockwise
to retract or extend the blade until it is flush with the plane sole.
A light pass with your finger will tell you if it is sticking out farther on the left
or right of the sole.
Use the lateral adjuster to square the iron with the sole.
If your eyes are good enough you can also turn the plane over and site down the sole
to make the lateral adjustment to the iron.
Make a light pass on a piece of wood making small depth adjustments
until the iron begins to make contact with the wood.
When this happens place the extreme left or right of the plane sole on the scrap wood
and make another pass.
In my case here you can see that the right side of the iron is making contact with the wood
and creating a shaving.
I now make a pass with the left side of the sole.
It did not make contact with the wood so this tells me my blade is low on the right side.
I make lateral adjustments with the blade
until I get a uniform shaving on both sides of the iron as well as in the middle.
This tells me my blade is square to the sole.
Ideally you want your shavings to be uniform thickness and full width.
The lever cap on this block plane has a set screw to apply downward pressure.
Loosening the screw allows you to remove the cap.
There is no chipbreaker on a block plane
and we can’t have one because the bevel on the iron is facing up.
Therefore, because you don’t have the added support of a chipbreaker,
the iron is thicker than on a bench plane.
There also is no frog on a block plane.
The blade sits directly on the casting.
There is a screw with a flange on it that catches on the iron.
When screwed in or out the iron extends or retracts in the casting.
Because block planes don’t have frogs
which allow you to adjust the opening of the mouth on the sole,
some block planes have a part of the casting that is moveable
therefore allowing you to adjust the mouth opening.
By loosening the knob you can adjust the opening.
For bigger shavings you want a bigger opening and vice versa.
To adjust the iron square with the sole release the tension of the set screw
and push the iron left or right. Then retighten the screw.
Here is a smaller version of a block plane that is very useful for luthiers.
It doesn’t have an adjustable mouth but the design is very simple
and all adjustments are basically the same as the larger block plane I just showed.
If it is sharp and set up properly
you can get amazing shavings!
There are many variations on the block plane
with many different features like adjustable mouths and lateral adjusters.
It all depends on how much you want to pay.