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Thread: Frustrated with low angle plane

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
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    Itapevi, SP - Brazil
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    Question Frustrated with low angle plane

    Although I am an amateur woodworker for 30 years, just recently I turned attention from electric tools to hand tools working. After lots of researches I decided for a Jack plane from Lie Nielsen as my second serious plane after LN block plane. It looked the best plane for more difficults situations and much more simple to set up and to use for a newcomer...

    I started with Jacaranda, or Brazilian Rosewood, with acceptable results. It is a (very) hard wood common for furniture making in Brazil. Afterwards I went to white pine to make a TV table for my son and I got also good results except for one piece where I got tear out for its difficult fiber direction (changed constantly).

    Today I decided to make a small book case to use over my daughter's working table. I went to a piece of Mahogany I purchased 25 years ago - it is one of the favorites wood for fine woodworking here in Brazil. I milled it with no problems and my Makita box planer made a very good job but one edge was with some saw marking after to rip them to the size... great opportunity to use my Jack plane, I thought. But for my deception, all I got was a lot of tear out. Yes, I observed the fiber directions but as you probably know, it is common for Mahogany to have portions with a messing fiber direction and I really expected a low angle plane could cope with that better. It couldn't. Interestingly my electric tools look to work better with a such woods (box planer, saw, router and, of course, my salvation, sander).

    I studied a lot on the use of hand planes, reading and watching videos, but obviously it was not enough to avoid a such disaster. I need more practice but I would appreciate if you can share your experience in order to speed up my learn process.

    Thank you in advance for any feedback.
    All the best.

    Osvaldo.

  2. #2
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    My opinion, and it may be nothing more than my opinion, is a bevel up blade is more prone to lifting wood ahead of the blade's edge. A tight mouth is supposed to help in such cases, but in my experience this will be better handled by using a chip breaker set close on a very sharp blade.

    Maybe another way to look at this is the low angle bevel up blade is employing a slicing action where the bevel down blade is a shearing action.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
    I find mahogany relatively easy to plane with any kind of plane provided the train does not switch direction often as it can. Is your grain direction switching? I am however unsure the quality you have. I know here in the US many things are called mahogany.

    I suspect your wood not your plane.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
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    Lots of us are frustrated with low angle planes. Mine are barely used. Good for a shooting board.
    Some woods are fine but others need a higher angle, some a very high angle.
    If you are new to hand tools it is very unfortunate to start with a low angle plane, change to a regular plane.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  5. #5
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    How sharp is it? Can it slice unsupported paper like you might see chef do in a YouTube video? Is the mouth closed tight or wide open? How deep is the cut?

  6. #6
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    Aug 2012
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    Osvaldo, I use BU planes almost exclusively now. And before I go any further, Yes I know how to use the chip breaker on a BD plane. There is a learning curve to BU planes. The most important is the angle of the edge you are presenting to the wood. I have 12 blades for my BU jack, jointer, and smoother. They range from 25* (presents about 37* to the wood), to 50* (presents about 62* to the wood). That I believe is key to success. I have not run into any wood that I can not plane with success. I’m not saying that there is not some wood that I can’t plane, just haven’t run into it yet. I still own BD planes but I don’t use them anymore. Not because they don’t work but they are more difficult for me to use because of back problems. I think Derek Cohen has some good posts about bevel angles for BU planes along with others on the forum.
    Jim

  7. #7
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    Mahogany can absolutely be frustrating to plane, it has some ribbon stripe figure with alternating sections that causes you to plane in the wrong direction no matter what you do. I am using some now that has that exact problem but fortunately I have the tools to deal with it.

    The first thing you need to be sure of is you blades are shaving sharp. That is critical to get good results, especially in difficult woods. I find Mahogany dulls my blades relatively quickly due to all the silica in the wood. Sharpen often.

    I assume you know what sharp is due to your research so I think you have another issue that you're not thinking about. It is my opinion that your blades attack angle is probably too shallow for this difficult ribbon stripe wood. A bevel up plane out of the box actually planes wood at a lower angle than a bevel down plane. Typically these bevel up planes have a bed angle of around 12deg. The Lie Nielsen blades usually come with a primary bevel of 25deg which I usually sharpen at 30deg. If you sharpen at the original 25deg then you end up with a total of 37deg planing angle. If you sharpen at 30deg then you end up with a planing angle of 42deg. A standard bevel down plane typically has a frog angle of 45deg and the angle you sharpen at doesn't change the planing angle.

    This is a simplified explanation of this theory but you ultimately need to increase your planing angle to deal with this tear-out. I recommend starting with 50deg and working up from there. The higher this angle is the more difficult it is to push the plane and the less shiny your surface will end up. This means you need to put a micro-bevel of 38deg to get 50 deg.

    I have linked to good article on the subject below. There is a lot of information of taming tearout with a bevel-up (low angle) hand plane.
    https://www.popularwoodworking.com/a...lane_tear-out/

    The other option is use a standard Baily style bevel down plane and use the chipbreaker to tame that tearout. There is a bunch of information out there about this method as well and I promise you that it works great. The key is getting that chipbreaker set close enough to the edge to make this work. But I assume you don't have one of these planes but you can certainly get good results with the plane you already have. Hope this helps!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Osvaldo Cristo View Post
    Although I am an amateur woodworker for 30 years, just recently I turned attention from electric tools to hand tools working. After lots of researches I decided for a Jack plane from Lie Nielsen as my second serious plane after LN block plane. It looked the best plane for more difficults situations and much more simple to set up and to use for a newcomer...

    I started with Jacaranda, or Brazilian Rosewood, with acceptable results. It is a (very) hard wood common for furniture making in Brazil. Afterwards I went to white pine to make a TV table for my son and I got also good results except for one piece where I got tear out for its difficult fiber direction (changed constantly).

    Today I decided to make a small book case to use over my daughter's working table. I went to a piece of Mahogany I purchased 25 years ago - it is one of the favorites wood for fine woodworking here in Brazil. I milled it with no problems and my Makita box planer made a very good job but one edge was with some saw marking after to rip them to the size... great opportunity to use my Jack plane, I thought. But for my deception, all I got was a lot of tear out. Yes, I observed the fiber directions but as you probably know, it is common for Mahogany to have portions with a messing fiber direction and I really expected a low angle plane could cope with that better. It couldn't. Interestingly my electric tools look to work better with a such woods (box planer, saw, router and, of course, my salvation, sander).

    I studied a lot on the use of hand planes, reading and watching videos, but obviously it was not enough to avoid a such disaster. I need more practice but I would appreciate if you can share your experience in order to speed up my learn process.

    Thank you in advance for any feedback.
    I have the LN low angle jack, and the advantage of it is that it is a very well-made tool, capable of very precise adjustments. You could say that it's _too_ good, I prefer a plane of that length with some slight sole concavity (maybe a thou or so.) It can produce a good result, provided that the mouth is very tight, _almost_ to the point of clogging but not beyond. And, that the plane is used at a significant angle to the direction of travel. The blade is excellent.

    I don't use it much, my vintage Stanleys seem to be more than sufficient.

  9. #9
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    I am a bevel-up fan in that I use both and favor neither on general principles . Like Jim, I do find that for any tricky figure I swap my Jack's iron for a 50 degree or use another plane. I read where a few folks have left their LA Jack behind after buying other planes. I have other planes but the Veritas LA Jack is still a go-to for me. This may be due to my having three irons early on and just getting used to the expected result from each. Don't blame the BU or the plane itself; for such work I prefer a plane with a chip breaker.
    She said “How many woodworking tools do you need?”
    I said “Why? Do you know someone who is selling some?”


  10. #10
    Oswaldo, I feel your pain. I have an end table right next to me made of mahogany. It was one of the first projects that I hand planed. The top still has the ugly tear out. For me, I take light passes (pretty thin shavings) and try to follow the grain direction. But mahogany can still be difficult for me to plane, several years later.

    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
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    6,035
    These days I use BD double iron bench planes more than high angle BU bench planes. However, the latter do get used and I retain a huge respect for their ability.

    It is horses for courses. The huge advantage of BU planes is that they can be set up so easily, which is why beginners love them. With a high cutting angle (50 degree bevel for a 62 degree included angle), there is little they cannot smooth. Those that become disenchanted with BU planes do so most commonly because (1) the cutting angle is set too low for the wood, (2) they are frustrated with the difficulty in creating a camber on the blade, and/or (3) they tend to be forced into thin shavings for most tasks. BU planes excel for the extremes of cutting angles: low (37 degrees) for end grain, and high (62 degrees) for face or edge grain. The middle ground is not special.

    There are woods that will challenge all planes, such as Mahogany. This tends to have alternating strips of grain that run against one another, so at some point you are always planing into the grain. It is similar to planing the intersection of a book-matched panel. This is where a BD double iron planes wins out every time.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  12. Another technique is to plane across the grain to level and then sand smooth. You still need to be as sharp and fine as possible, with a camber to the edge. Surprisingly little sanding is needed.

  13. #13
    There is also the dampening effect of having a chip breaker "spring loaded" against the cutting edge of a bevel down plane iron, which is an advantage not to be underestimated.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Will you explain that Doug?

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    Osvaldo, I use BU planes almost exclusively now. And before I go any further, Yes I know how to use the chip breaker on a BD plane. There is a learning curve to BU planes. The most important is the angle of the edge you are presenting to the wood. I have 12 blades for my BU jack, jointer, and smoother. They range from 25* (presents about 37* to the wood), to 50* (presents about 62* to the wood). That I believe is key to success. I have not run into any wood that I can not plane with success. I’m not saying that there is not some wood that I can’t plane, just haven’t run into it yet. I still own BD planes but I don’t use them anymore. Not because they don’t work but they are more difficult for me to use because of back problems. I think Derek Cohen has some good posts about bevel angles for BU planes along with others on the forum.
    Jim
    Well said Jim. I have the Veritas BU Smoother. It came with a 38 degree blade (giving me a 50 degree total to the wood). Works great most of the time. However, I'm building a new workbench out of European Beech and was having trouble with tearout. I put a 50* micro bevel on the blade (62* to the wood) and that seems to have solved the problem. It still pushes fairly easy. I also bought a Veritas Cabinet Scraper which works quite well also. You would have to go and mention the BU Jack and Jointer........I can see those in my future. Is there no end to this! LOL

    Disclaimer: I'm a lifelong machine woodworker and a new hand tool convert.

    Another Jim

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