Text Resize

  • -A
  • +A
  • Your rating: None (8 votes)

    Handplaning 101

    By Chris Gochnour

    The smoothing plane is one of my best friends in the shop, and I reach for it  frequently. A sharp smoothing plane meticulously shaves the surface of a board, creating a glass-smooth sheen that highlights the wood’s figure while leaving a dead-flat surface in its wake. For most furniture parts, a handplaned surface is good enough for finishing. But not everyone has success with the handplane. Many who buy a smoothing plane have so much trouble getting good results that they set the tool on a shelf, where it becomes a dusty spectator to the real action in the shop.

    Problems occur for three main reasons: The blade is not sharp, the tool is out of tune, or it’s not being used properly. This article focuses on the third factor, showing how to set up and adjust a traditional bevel-down plane, and how to use it for optimal performance. For space reasons, we will assume a handplane is in good working order with a blade that is razor-sharp.

    Install the chipbreaker and blade

    The first task is to understand the parts of the plane and to make sure they are assembled correctly. Mounted on top of the blade, the chipbreaker deflects shavings up and out of the plane. The first step in setting up the plane is to secure the chipbreaker to the blade.

     Set the chipbreaker 

    Set the chipbreaker. Keep the leading edge slightly inset from the front of the blade, and parallel of it.

    Put the assembly on the frog (the angled bed that connects the plane body to the iron) and secure it with the lever cap. Set the tension on the lever cap just enough to hold the blade assembly in place while allowing for blade adjustments.

     Set the mouth opening 

    Set the mouth opening. Use the small screws by the mouth opening to adjust and accomodate heavy or light cuts. For finer cuts, open the mouth 1/64-in. to 1/32-in. For more aggressive cuts, open the mouth 1/16-in.

    Open the mouth

    As the plane cuts, shavings pass through an opening in the sole called the mouth.
    How wide you open the mouth depends on how thick you want the shavings. Heavier cuts need a larger opening, while lighter cuts need a smaller one.

    To adjust the mouth opening, advance the blade until it barely projects through the plane’s mouth. Then move the frog forward or backward until you get the desired mouth opening. The bedrockstyle frog offered by Stanley, lie-Nielsen, and Clifton makes these adjustments convenient. Simply loosen the two side screws at the rear of the frog, then use the central adjusting screw to move the frog to open or close the mouth. Once set, tighten the side screws to lock the frog in position. The Bailey pattern planes require the blade to be removed to access the frog screws, making the adjustments a little less convenient.

    Adjust the blade

    With the mouth opening set, it’s time to adjust the blade laterally and to fine-tune the depth of cut. First adjust the blade laterally so that the shaving is coming through the mouth in the center.

     Retract and rotate 

    Retract and rotate. With the blade retracted fully, move the plane across a flat board, slowly advancing the blade with the depth-of-cut knob. Stop when the blade contacts the board.

    Now set the depth of cut by advancing the blade. Aim for a shaving about 0.001 in. to 0.002 in. thick that’s near full width and tapers to nothing at its edges. A cut is too heavy if it causes excessive strain on the user, causes the plane to jump and chatter, or leaves unsightly plane tracks on the surface.

     Lateral adjustment 

    Lateral adjustment. Move the lever toward the heavy side of the cut to bring the shaving to the center.

    If the cut is too heavy, lighten it by rotating the adjustment knob counterclockwise. After raising the blade in this manner, remove the backlash, or slop, from the plane’s
    adjusting mechanism. Rotating the knob clockwise until it is snug does it. Eliminating
    backlash prevents the cut from changing as you plane.

     Now move forward 

    Now move forward. Advance the blade until you’re cutting a gossamer-thin, near full-width shaving that tapers to nothing at its edges. Now you’re ready for the real work.

    Anyone can plane like a pro

    If you’ve struggled with your plane, it may surprise you to know that a handplane  naturally wants to make surfaces flat and smooth. But to get there, you need to pay
    attention to your grip, stance, and planing motion—all at the same time.

    Secure the board to the bench—Be sure the grain is oriented in the direction you wish to plane (for more on finding grain direction, see Rules of Thumb: “Determining Grain Direction,” FWW #172). The best way to hold the board is with the benchdogs on a cabinetmaker’s bench. Do this by opening the tail vise, placing the board between the dogs, and closing the vise to clamp the board. Do not overtighten the vise because this will bow the board upward. Complete the clamping process by tapping each dog slightly downward with a hammer. This draws the board firmly against the bench. Alternatively, a planing stop, which is basically a wood strip that is secured across the width of your bench, will do the trick.

    Power through the cut—Once the board is secured, grasp the plane by the tote (the rear handle) and the knob. Use a three-fingered grasp on the tote with the index finger pointing forward. Hold the knob in a way that feels comfortable. Some use a fingertip grasp, while others hold it in the palm of their hand.

     Full contact 

    Full contact. Once the plane’s sole is completely on the board, apply pressure equally to both the tote and knob. Skewing the plane will reduce
    resistance and help eliminate chatter. Be sure to maintain your wide
    stance and use your body to drive the tool forward.

    I also recommend skewing (angling) the plane throughout the cut. Skewing lowers the blade’s cutting angle, reducing resistance and helping to eliminate chatter, which is especially useful on unruly grain. A skewed plane is also the most natural and comfortable way to hold the tool. Because your stance is in a slightly forward position, it’s awkward to align your hands one in front of the other. It is far more natural to have them spread apart, side to side.

    Use your entire body to drive the plane. At the beginning of the cut, concentrate pressure on the knob to counter the natural tendency of your hands to rock the plane as it meets the board. Then transfer pressure to both the knob and tote  evenly. As you exit the cut, put more pressure on the tote and tease up on the knob. Then transfer pressure to both the knob and tote evenly. As you exit the cut, put more pressure on the tote and tease up on the knob.

     Use your entire body. 

    Power the plane. Use your entire body to drive the plane.

    On the return stroke, it’s OK to maintain contact with the board, but tilt the plane slightly on edge so as not to add needless wear to the cutting edge.

    Continue planing end to end, working from the near edge to the far edge with consistent, overlapping passes. (It is a lot like mowing the lawn, but far more enjoyable.) Repeat the pattern until all the mill marks and snipe are eliminated, leaving a surface ready for finishing.

    Simple solutions to common problems

    A smoothing plane is not a complex tool, so it’s pretty easy to diagnose and cure the most common ills. By the way, none of these solutions will work if the blade isn’t sharp.

    Chatter--When your plane stutters or skips through a cut, it’s called chatter. The
    problem often leaves a rippled surface, but you usually can feel it happening as you
    plane. To avoid chatter, take a lighter cut; put more pressure on the knob as you power into the cut; increase the angle of skew; or resharpen the blade.

     Avoiding chatter. 

    Avoiding chatter. You can cut down on chatter by taking lighter cuts, putting more pressure on the knob, increasing the angle of skew, or re-sharpening the blade.

    Tearout--Tearout is one of the most common problems associated with planing. Instead of shaving the wood cleanly, the iron pulls up the wood fibers, leaving a fuzzy, rough surface. Combat tearout by taking a lighter cut; changing planing direction; planing straight on (don’t skew the plane) and/or resharpening the blade.

    Plane not cutting--Sometimes a plane stops cutting, even after successful passes.
    Check for a clogged mouth; advance the blade to take a heavier cut; inspect the  chipbreaker for poor contact with the blade; or resharpen the blade.

     Plane not cutting 

    Plane not cutting. When a plane quits cutting, check for a clogged mouth.

    Tracks--A plane is supposed to leave a smooth, flat surface in its wake. But a plane
    that’s not set up right can make tracks, or ridges, in the surface. When this happens, readjust the blade laterally; take a lighter cut, or, when resharpening the blade, push down on the corners to relieve them slightly, creating a cambered edge.

    Photos by Thomas McKenna; drawings by John Tetreault

    This article originally appeared in Fine Woodworking #204.



    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
    khoir mifta writes: Thanks for sharing the great post. http://jualperedamsuararuangan.blogspot.com
    rak minimarket writes: this is about www.rakminimarket.net is racking system that very useful to out business. i also called www.minimarketrak.com very great business
    Santoso Iman writes: Hi, thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has importaciones your hard work and experience you have got in This field. Brilliant reading. I love it My Personal Living Room Design.
    galaxy apply writes: Thanks for sharing the great post have a look at it. bigg boss 9
    Alifandra Rizkyani writes: On your photos in above, wahtas meaning it's? for Door? or etc? matching this handle for Gerobak Aluminium like this http://goo.gl/gekUFZ
    Steve Knight writes: I've definitely learnt a thing or two about woodwork from this site, which has helped me with my work, I need a functional work-space so I can work on system errors and other technical stuff, uninterrupted.
    Ebel Pete writes: Thank you for share this information regarding simple solutions to common problems. I hope this content will very helpful for woodworkers. I’ve read numerous content and bought several online woodworking blueprints and this is clearly the best in every aspect.
    Anna Mukarubibi writes: Thank for this article. I support your cause. my french website mutuelle devis mutuelle santé
    laarns mancso writes: Thanks for posting! :) increase soundcloud services
    robin quizeo writes: Cool! Very informative post thanks for sharing this to us increase soundcloud services
    rizky ismail writes: We are presently focusing on an assignment and I have been exploring your website for several hours. I'm appreciate your the idea proved valuable for me Obat Kutil Kelamin
    sean mao writes: When ripping, the fence is used to guide the stock. |
    Agathe Bienvenu writes: Top! Thank for the info my french website mutuelle Comparatif mutuelle santé
    Cloe Dillen writes: Perfect ! Thank you for this article my french website mutuelle xn--abras-stratgie-lkb.com/
    jepara online writes: I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation t hat's at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best posting. Furniture jepara for some of the authors, I held up two thumbs up. website design is also nice. Thanks the author Mebel Jepara you publish articles that may be useful to those who seek it. thank you, O authors.
    Danielsson Fresco writes: These restaurant trends are actually impressive. A few weeks ago, AMC invited 10 top chefs to a cooking challenge, with this occasion, they tested products from AMusinGlass . It was a fun event, people watched the chefs doing their jobs and in the same time, the products were tested and the company found out the chefs` opinions about the kitchen furniture.
    faraz ahmed writes: My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more! Buy Facebook fans
    wiolom khoro writes: We stand behind our products quality and ensure that people can use them without any worries http://7star.pk/ http://7star.pk/33_citizen-watches http://7star.pk/new-products
    Melanie Gesquiere writes: Top! Thank you for the info my french website mutuelle http://www.comparateur-mutuelle.co/
    kayaba akihiko writes:
    The beautiful PIXMA ip2770 consolidates. if you need the driver printer, you can check at and quality pixma ip2770 combines Exceptional in the printing scene, Canon's exclusive Fine™ print head innovation if you need the driver printer, you can check at world printing unique in the Samsung made this space and all credit to Sami for that. if you need the gadgets info, you can check at all space samsung created this the HUMMER H3 is evidence positive that great things can come in little bundles. if you need the last info about car automotive, you can check at positive is the hummer h3 Kalau dollar naik penghasilan kita juga naik, jadi walaupun harga di pasar naik tidak akan terasa. Trus kalau dollarnya turun; if you need the last info update about technology, you can check at all space samsung created this Print delightful photographs and pictures up to A4 size if you need more info about geophysics, you can check at images and print beautiful photo excellent photograph papers for uncommon lab-quality prints
    jams bond writes: I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this sitefriv 45
    johnb6174 johnb6174 writes: i read a lot of stuff and i found that the way of writing to clearifing that exactly want to say was very good so i am impressed and ilike to come again in future.. backlinks
    dondon soon writes:

    this page is very informative.. it attracts readers to view and visit this page repeatedly. keep posting such topics..


    shane vons writes:

    hi' excellent post of yours. i like this kind of post.

    looking forward for more updates keep on publishing Purchase Soundcloud Reposts

    shane vons writes:

    hi' excellent post of yours. i like this kind of post.

    looking forward for more updates keep on publishing Purchase Soundcloud Reposts

    shane vons writes:

    hi' excellent post of yours. i like this kind of post.

    looking forward for more updates keep on publishing Purchase Soundcloud Reposts

    son james writes:

    Thanks for the tips man, now I know how to to intall blade and how to use it properly. Keep for posting more.

    Cheap Vimeo Views

    david wayne writes: I gained so much information in this site and also it gives us new insight about the topic that is being discussed. I appreciate with this and if you have some more information please share it with me.online outlet
    david wayne writes:

    There are an assortment of local trees that help us in our every day lives with the distinctive woods wood that they process for our diverse needs.

    online moncler

    icih caroline writes:

    We are presently focusing on an assignment and I have been exploring your website for several hours. I'm appreciate your the idea proved valuable for me. penjual ace maxs obat ambeien

    back december writes:

    I am happy to find this site and have read it this information. This is really great site! I’ll definitely be back for updates. This is very interesting, and I am always searching for informative information like this. This site has informational purposes and it gives a lot help. I'm gonna try this right now.


    buy soundcloud likes

    bowen qi writes:

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! bgwatchmall

    tatsumi chihiro writes:

    Thanks for sharing your great thought to us. This post was very informative and widens my knowledge especially in this field of subject you are discussing. I gained so much information in this site and also it gives us new insight about the topic that is being discussed. I appreciate with this and if you have some more information please share it with me.
     here where to buy soundcloud likes.

    kelvin johanshon writes:

    The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. kiwibox, motormy and motorup

    rex xer writes:

    Thanks for sharing excellent information. I gained so much knowledge from this website, the information is very detailed and concise. I already bookmarked this site and I'll definitely be back here for updates. Once again thank you and God bless.


    wooden sunglasses

    Diana Burton writes:

    Thenslowly increase the pressure in the sixth line, the attempt to create a stud. You can always string, not the string you want to tune in to what will unfold tighten. It is more accurate. If you find that the string is too tight, but you still want to do it again just to guitar lessons atlanta relax, and be able to pick up the next.

    bensa keo writes:

    Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.You might explain it’s phenomenal. Your blog evaluation may thicken your hits Fifa 15 Coins

    weeh nheva writes: A very awesome blog post. I am really grateful for your blog You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Thanks for the post and please keep it up. Great work. buy soundcloud likes
    alexer02 mix writes: It's such a great post you'e shared to us.It can help other people for business. Im looking forward for more post from you.THANKS.

    buy low cost soundcloud likes;

    rex xer writes:

    Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. thoug i was a bit scared with this post!  Thanks a lot for sharing.


     Be with us to real soundcloud plays.

    iuliancezar cezar writes: This is one of those activities that require really steady hands like the guys from http://www.luthierscollection.com/acoustic.php need in order to achieve such great results. Nothing is safer than doing a thing with your own hands and satisfying also.
    anokhi susan writes:

    Wow amazing, Nice content I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion Thanks to sharing thanks! Mediation Training

    Jack Daniels writes:

    This is really a brilliant article, many credit for telling Great luck I found out concerning this particular blog site.

    Obat Wasir

    Obat Stroke

    Kasuert Nodde writes:

    Many have so much trouble getting good results Directory National

    sheshe mew writes:

    You really did a good job with this one and it has a valuable information in your content article and i like what you have shared to us about the handplanning.I will definitely be taking some tips from it!! keep posting for more updates.

    buy low cost soundcloud plays


    googl googl writes:

    i found this job too much difficult and otherwised more entertaining. yet i didnt have more experiece in wood working but this is good start for new carrier. buy low cost soundcloud likes

    Can YouSEEm3 writes:

    This article is such a nice and interesting one, I'm very satisfied with the provided contents. I hope more excellent articles would be posted in your website. Thanks for the tips and keep sharing.   

    Be with us to,  buy reverbnation video plays

    blod blod writes:

    You have unique shared post! keep sharing more interesting blogs it will also pushed us to be more interesting in other fields as long it is more knowledgeable. buy low cost soundcloud plays

    camp kawaii123 writes:

    Hi, Good day! Excellent post. I like it. Thanks for sharing such like this, I appreciate it. Looking forward for more. Keep it up. God bless.


    buy safe soundcloud services

    Login or register to post comments