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Thread: Newbie question on bench plane use with hard wood

  1. #1

    Newbie question on bench plane use with hard wood

    Hello, new here to the site, and have a question for all the hand tool experts. I'm new to the use of hand planes, but needed one to help flatten a table top, so just acquired one. The plane I selected is a 5 1/4 Veritas bench plane, which is a beautiful tool. I've done a fair bit of reading and am pretty sure it is set up correctly. Initially, I just honed the microbevel (35 degrees per the instructions), and it would cut soft wood nicely. However, my table top is white oak, very hard, and of course that means full-width shavings. Initially, I could not get the plane to budge, just wanted to dig into the surface, even with a very minor amount of exposed blade. So the instructions said to add a shallow back-bevel to the blade (I used 10 degrees). Now I can get results, but have to use short, very forceful strokes, with a bit of a "running start"; definitely not a smooth continuous stroke. There are lots of videos out there showing guys making smooth surface planing strokes for several feet without stopping, mostly on walnut or some unknown stock. And this size of plane ("jack plane", "fore plane") is supposed to be good at hogging out wood as opposed to super-thin shavings.

    So here are my questions:
    1. Should I have been able to make a continuous face shaving out of the box with this plane, with no back bevel ?
    2. I realize that the back bevel increases the force necessary by increasing the effective planing angle, but even with that, should I be able to make a continuous stroke on this stock?
    3. What do you think is most likely my issue (e.g., blade *still* not quite sharp enough, no camber on blade edge, technique, other?)

    I have the chip breaker between 1/32 and 1/16th back, the mouth opening about 1/16, and am taking shavings between .002 and .008. I am fairly strong, or at least that has never been my issue with the use of a tool before.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    You donít need a back bevel normally. I suspect you just had the blade too far projected. It might be easier to dial it in on a softer piece of wood.

    Also, the chip breaker should be set closer to the edge. This will help prevent the blade from diving in and tearing out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    South West Ontario
    Ron, Iím sure you will get lots of advice on blade angles and use. Iíve never had an edge tool ready for use out of the box, except my Barr chisels. Many on here donít use back bevels, myself included. I sharpen my bevel down planes at 25 degrees. Most of my work is hardwood.
    So to answer your questions in order: Yes you should not need a back bevel, no it wonít work out of the box. Yes even with a back bevel you can get good shavings, depending on the wood and how sharp your edge.

    Your main issue is learning to sharpen your edge. It takes time to sharpen well, good technique essential, good stones nice to have but even simple oil stones can get a good edge. As for bevels, experiment; decide for yourself. Back bevels are a pain to remove to regain a good edge.

    Your plane is capable of very fine results, long shavings, full width. You just need some time and sharpening practice. I would practice with the chip breaker very close to the blade edge, it will have to be behind the back bevel until you remove it.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  4. #4
    You generally don't hog white oak unless you have a scrub plane or a jack with a heavy camber. Your looking to do more of a finish planing, which is going to be a full width shaving. I'm still pretty strong for my age, but even I tend to prefer a #3 on white oak (the same width but shorter than you 5 1/4) over a #4. My guess is that you are either are trying to take too thick of a shaving, or you rounded the edge when you did your secondary/micro bevel. This is much easier to do than most folks new to sharpening realize. I generally don't do any back bevels, short of slightly raising the blade when flattening the back so the force is directed at the edge of the blade. When you do your secondary/micro bevel, realize you are only doing the very edge of the blade somewhere around 30 - 35 degrees and you only need to do it for a few seconds on the stone. Each time you touch up the blade, it will take a little longer as you are removing more material. You redo the primary bevel when it takes annoyingly long to touch up the secondary bevel.

    Sharpening isn't hard, but it isn't easy to pick up from a video or book or blog. If possible, have someone experienced show you how. If you give your location and are nearby, one of us old salts would probably be happy to show you (it makes us feel useful and knowledgeable).

    The same thing goes for planing, it isn't hard, but it takes a little while to get the hang of it. I wouldn't start with a table top you want to be nice while you are learning, particularly a white oak one especially if it has any vertical grain. You are going to tear grain out, leave ridges, and possibly chip out the edges. If you have a random orbit sander, break down and use that, and gradually work your way into hand planing.

  5. #5
    Do you know of any good woodworkers near you? Most would he happy to teach you how to sharpen and set up the plane. One other thing I would suggest is to double check and make sure you're going with the grain. Just my $.02

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Baton Rouge, LA
    Having never planed white oak, take this with a grain of salt.

    -No back bevel, unless needed to prevent tear out, but chip breaker should handle that if set closely.

    -There is what you think is sharp when new to planing, and then there is really sharp. Really sharp makes a difference.

    -Ease the the corners of the blade or put a slight camber on the blade.

    -Wax the sole of the plane. It is amazing how much difference wax makes in how easy it is to push the plane. Apply wax often.

  7. #7
    Have you got a decent reference for working to?
    A long straight edge, spirit level, or two long planks that you can joint the edges on, making both absolutely parallel so you can check them against each other.
    I.e... Flip one over to double the error if there's any spooning happening for want of a better word.

    I use a temporary bench top of composite material and shim accordingly, the testing beams should be the length of the bench if you are doing the same,
    or if you are making a straight edge long enough to get reference for your table top, make sure its the length of the work.
    A long reach angle poise regular old school lamp with 60w bulb is the tool for the job, none of these horrible LED lamps, they are not very good for the job atall.

    Bearing in mind I haven't seen the shavings...
    To me it sounds like you were taking too heavy a cut, and going by technique alone.
    To take a shaving at the depth you are cutting now probably requires more camber (timber permitting)
    Saying that you can get into bother a lot faster if you had such a setting without decent reference.
    Either way you need the reference in the end, and to be productive and accurate

    I don't know what size your table top is, so unsure if you can use the bench as reference for spotting high spots in contact with the bench.
    But you get the idea that you would advance the cutter working on the ends of this example shown.

    Not so easy with a tabletop, so you will need the straight edge and rely on the lamp, along with checking
    if the straight edge will spin like a propellor in the middle or pivots from each edge whilst checking from the other end.
    Look up David Charlesworth for stopped shavings as it explains it better than anyone "full stop."

    The flatter things go your cut will get slightly heavier as your not just skimming over the high areas.
    This might not be that noticeable but maybe a factor also.

    I don't know if your frog is set forward, which is much less effective than using the cap iron and makes it real real hard to push
    You have a back bevel now, so have temporarily disabled the cap from working until its gone.
    I hope the bevel isn't that large.
    The back bevel technique is only suitable for thin shavings, compared to a more versatile cap iron what you can set at a reduced influence setting and set it closer when/if needed.
    Set the frog all the way back and experiment with the cap iron if you're getting tearout it will eliminate it completely.

    Get some candle wax or canning wax will make the plane take off when you get things right.

    It would be nice to have two planes for the job here, one with a bit more camber than the other
    Have you got another plane?

    Last edited by Tom Trees; 11-13-2019 at 12:37 AM.

  8. #8
    Another thing is material deflection, ,make sure the work is supported if needed.
    Easing the corners is absolute blasphemy I say

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    DVD Door Build, that should do.JPG
    Wood is ash. Plane is a Millers Falls No. 14 (#5 size)....jointing two edges at once, for a glue joint..
    DVD Door Build, almost done.JPG
    Other plane is a Stanley #5-1/2....
    DVD Door Build, the good side.JPG
    Panel was then trimmed and then raised..
    DVD Door, all bevels done.JPG
    End grain with a #3 and #4....long grain was with the jack plane.....

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    Howdy Ron and welcome to the Creek.

    As others have stated, sharp cures many ills.

    If the blade frog and all are tight and securely in place, then it might be the depth of cut causing your problem. One way is to sneak up on the setting by retracting the blade until it doesn't engage the wood. Then while moving the plane over the work slowly advance the blade until it just starts cutting. After this you may have to adjust the lateral setting of the blade.

    An old post on the subject might be of help >

    There is a post at the end with more information about setting the cap iron closer to the edge. What is in the original post has worked for me in most cases. Setting the cap iron super close is best used when the wood has a shifting grain.

    It is from the Neanderthal archives >

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

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Stone Mountain, GA
    Face planing can be pretty tough, especially at first. A lot tougher than planing a 3/4" edge like most demonstrations show. It's real work!

    The issue is the shaving width. A full width shaving for that plane is 2" wide. For a hard wood like white oak, if you are taking a 2" wide shaving even at 0.002" thick, it is going to be very difficult to push. It's just going to stop you in your tracks at 0.008". I like to take full width shavings for my final passes, with a smoothing plane (same 2" width), but I am probably taking shavings that are 0.001" or less. So that's one approach, to take full width shavings but keep the shaving depth very small.

    One thing you have to keep in mind is that if you set up for a very thin shaving and the surface is not very flat, you will not be taking shavings except in a handful of high spots. It will feel like basically nothing is happening. The temptation is to think you don't have enough blade projection, so you increase the setting and then all of a sudden get stopped in your tracks. What you need to do is stick with your very conservative depth setting, and work down those high spots until they become larger and merge into the general table surface. Eventually you will be able to get those long shavings.

    Now if you have much material to remove, that will be very slow. And you have to keep the blade very very sharp to take 1 thou shavings, so you will be sharpening frequently. There is a way to take thicker shavings, and that is to narrow the shaving width by shaping the edge of the iron into a curve. The more curve on the edge, the narrower the shaving. With a dramatic curve you can take very thick shavings, like almost 1/32", even in white oak, but the shaving will be maybe 1/2" wide.

    Typically you have about three bench planes in your arsenal to deal with face planing, and the most important difference between them is the amount of camber (curve) on the irons. The jack plane has the most, and is used to take heavy shavings on rough lumber to remove the worst of the high spots and twist. The try plane has a modest camber, and takes wider shavings. It takes the scalloped surface left by the jack plane down to something flat, where it can be followed by the smoother taking very thin shavings with an iron that is just barely cambered.

    So, what kind of shape is your tabletop in? If this is your only plane, I would go ahead and put a modest camber on it. Assuming you are sharpening with a jig, you add the camber on your medium stone by alternating the pressure from side to side. So 10 strokes with the pressure concentrated on the left, then 10 concentrated on the right, followed by a few strokes where you move the pressure from side to side to blend everything together. Repeat this on the finish stone. Now set the plane for about a 0.002 shaving (I would set this by planing an edge of a test piece in the vise, that's the easiest way. Use the lateral adjuster to center the curve, so the deepest part of the cut is in the center. Now see what happens on your table top. The shaving should be a bit narrower, and it should be easier to push. Maybe you can even increase the depth some. If you want to go even deeper, add some more camber next time you sharpen. If you decide at some point that you want less camber, just sharpen normally without the alternating pressure, instead keeping the pressure in the center only.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Stone Mountain, GA
    About the back bevel- get rid of it. It's just going to add to the force required. Hopefully you kept it very small, so you just need to work the bevel side on your stones until its gone.

    Set the chipbreaker at around 1/64". I wouldn't bother trying to measure that, but its going to seem very close. If you have a modest camber on your blade, the straight edge of the chipbreaker should be almost touching the edge at the corners of the iron, with the center of the iron protruding a bit more. That should be in the right ballpark. If the shavings are getting crinkled and accordion-like, the chipbreaker is too close. When its set just right the shavings will seem to jump straight out of the plane instead of curling up. For now I would err on the side of having it set back too far, rather than too close. My suggestion above should mitigate egregious tearout but not require too much extra force. White oak is usually not too bad about tearout, so you shouldn't need a super close setting (I don't consider 1/64 to be super close, though this varies with shaving thickness. At 1/32 the breaker isn't doing much of anything). Just try to plane with the grain as much as possible, should be doable on a tabletop.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
    I was going to post something, but I read Robert's posts before I started. I don't need to add anything to what he said, because I absolutely agree with every point he made. All the information needed is already in good posts in this thread.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Dickinson, Texas
    Blog Entries

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Lots of good advice above. My only observation is that if the panel is not flat, you are not going to get full width, full length shavings with a plane. The full width, full length shavings are one of the indicators you are getting to flat.

    Start with the iron retracted, and advance little by little until the iron catches. Keep in mind that if it is catching on a low spot, it can be too aggressive when you get to a high spot.

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