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Thread: Benchmarking hand plane performance, what are the correct methods?

  1. #1
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    Benchmarking hand plane performance, what are the correct methods?

    All the discussion about correct method of plane bottom flattening and how to measure flatness of hand plane bodies made me wonder if there's a correct method for testing hand plane performance?

    I've been benchmarking my various hand planes and creating "gossamer wings shavings" to quote a PBS star. I started with a Veritas BU jointer and two blades, one at 38*, the other at 50*. I then planed various woods from soft pine to walnut, red oak, purple heart, chechen and cocabolo. After a few hours of experiments with mouth size, angle and depth I was able to create 0.5~0.6 mil shavings in various pine planks without any effort using the 38* blade (0.0005"~0.0006"). Hard woods were reliability surfaced with minimal tearout when the 50* blade was used. I then moved on to a Lie Nielsen 162 with 38* and 50* blades and duplicated the Veritas bu jointer's results within minutes. I basically duplicated the esteemed Derek Cohen's results.

    Having these results I moved on to my Stanley corrugated type 19 #3, #5, and #7 with Hock O1 blades and breakers (blade sharpened at 25*). It took a some critical adjusting but within tens of minutes each of those planes were ripping 0.5~0.6 mil shavings in various pine planks. These planes are box-stock with the exception of the blade/breaker. Never had any surfacing or machining of any sort. I've never really measured the flatness other than visual on surface plate.

    I think these vintage Stanley planes are well working based on the fact I can duplicate the results I have with Veritas and Lie Nielsen.

    - Other than generating "gossamer wing" shavings and inspecting the surface quality what benchmarks should I be using?

    - Am I deluding myself thinking my Stanleys are well working for their intended use and compare favorably to their Lie Nielsen counterparts? (I've never used LN bench planes and don't have any reference other my bu planes.)
    Last edited by Eric Danstrom; 12-07-2019 at 1:56 PM. Reason: Speling

  2. #2
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    As one comment on here recently said “sharp trumps flat”. If you can sharpen well your planes will work well, sounds like you can sharpen based on your shavings. Working well is all about shavings, I’m not aware of any ‘standards’. If the shavings are consistent and even leaving a smooth surface that is as good as it gets.
    I have a recent Stanley smoother whose blade won’t hold a good edge, unlike all my other planes, it won’t work well until I get a better blade.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  3. #3
    I'm an old fashioned proponent of the KISS principal. If the blade is sharp and the plane is producing the kind of surface I want the plane is perfect. Thin shavings by themselves are more a fetish than an efficient way to get to where you want to go, especially if you are doing fore plane or dado work.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

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    I sharpen using a Veritas mkII guide on fine and extra fine DMT plates then hone on a 30 year old King 8000g. Nothing fancy just the basics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Anderson NH View Post
    ....Thin shavings by themselves are more a fetish than an efficient way to get to where you want to go, especially if you are doing fore plane or dado work.
    Thats what the PBS guy says but what else can one do to verify the plane is well working? I was extrapolating that if a plane can make sub mil shavings then it's good for any task it was designed for. Fully functional for all expected tasks. Perhaps a plane is just fine even if it can't pull sub mil shavings but if a plane is pulling sub mil shavings it's working very well?

  6. #6
    The benchmark is "Does it work the way you need it to?"


    Measuring shaving thickness is an internet thing. No one used to do that before the web, except maybe some hand plane fettling fetishists who wrote articles for FWW. Normally you take the heaviest (not thinnest) shaving you can for the task, so you spend less time planing. It would take forever to plane a table top at a half thou a pass.

    If you look at an average woodworker tool inventory prior to about 1990 (when cheap Asian machinist tools became available) you basically never saw the following items: surface plates, micrometers, calibrated straight edges. The most accurate tool in most woodworkers' possession was a combo square, and usually a Craftsman at that.

    Remember that Chippendales, Sheratons, and Hepplewhites were made with wood planes and wood rulers.

  7. #7
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    My benchmark is “what does the wood surface look like after planing?” Shaving thickness and length is a fun pursuit, but at the end of the day a plane is intended to change stock thickness and/or improve surface condition.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Danstrom View Post
    Thats what the PBS guy says but what else can one do to verify the plane is well working? I was extrapolating that if a plane can make sub mil shavings then it's good for any task it was designed for. Fully functional for all expected tasks. Perhaps a plane is just fine even if it can't pull sub mil shavings but if a plane is pulling sub mil shavings it's working very well?
    Eric, as others have mentioned pulling a sub-thou shaving is not the ultimate test. It does indicate a well sharpened blade. If it can be done without downward pressure on the plane it indicates a relatively flat sole on the plane, flat enough imo.

    It is also necessary for the plane to be able to take a thicker shaving. It might have been Garret Hack in one of his books who said something like, it is often touted about a plane being able to take a super thin shaving. The problem is often that is all such a plane is capable of doing.

    If a plane can not take a shaving of greater than 0.005-0.010" without great difficulty (make sure the cap iron is set back a bit), it has problems having nothing to do with the flatness of its sole.

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

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    This all started when I sold off several duplicate Stanleys and purchased a used LV bu jointer and a used LN 162 with the proceeds. I then followed Derek's ways and went to the limit of the boutique plane's performance as seen on the internet. I was planning to sell off all the rest of my Stanleys and buy an LN 3, 5 and 7. But before I did that I thought I'd see just what my run-of-the-mill type 19s could do. And all three Stanleys worked as well as my boutique bu planes. All of them have no problem pulling a 0.5 mil to 15mil shaving.

    So maybe I already have all the performance I can expect no matter Stanley user or LN work-of-art?
    Last edited by Eric Danstrom; 12-07-2019 at 3:45 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Danstrom View Post
    This all started when I sold off several duplicate Stanleys and purchased a used LV bu jointer and a used LN 162 with the proceeds. I then followed Derek's ways and went to the limit of the boutique plane's performance as seen on the internet. I was planning to sell off all the rest of my Stanleys and buy an LN 3, 5 and 7. But before I did that I thought I'd see just what my run-of-the-mill type 19s could do. And all three Stanleys worked as well as my boutique bu planes.

    So maybe I already have all the performance I can expect no matter Stanley user or LN work-of-art?
    The difference will mostly be a better finished plane. There will likely be less backlash in the depth adjuster and maybe even in the lateral adjusters. My best adjuster on my Stanley/Bailey planes is about 1/4 of a turn of backlash. Almost all of my lateral adjusters move freely if the plane is tilted from side to side. It doesn't bother me.

    The LN planes have the flat top sides like a Bedrock plane. To me the round top of the Baileys is more appealing.

    My Stanley/Bailey planes show their age, some have a nice patina, others have unsightly pitting or even a touch of rust.

    One of my #6 planes is a type 4, 1847-1884, and is still a good user. Two of my type 6, 1888-1892 smoothers look like they were chewed on by mechanical dogs and can still pull sub-thou shavings and take off much thicker shavings with ease.

    The only reason for me to replace them is if something with a little more shine on the shelf were desired.

    For that there is always my LN #1, #60-1/2 & #62. That is enough shiney on the shelf for me.

    My suggestion would be to save your money on the planes and find something else that will help in the shop like chisels or a speciality plane such as a rabbet or plow plane.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 12-07-2019 at 4:01 PM. Reason: wording
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
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  11. #11
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    Backlash...stupidest thing I ever did to a hand plane is snap the cast depth adjuster yoke whilst following fettling instructions I read somewhere pre-internet. Took weeks to get a replacement, this was before the internet/ebay. I bought a stamped Record yoke from Woodcraft and filed it to fit. Kicked myself for years and no longer worry about backlash. Had a good belly laugh years later when I read "Blood & Guts" reference snapping the yoke in a futile attempt to fix something that ain't broke.

  12. #12
    I use and treat my bench as the bed of a surface planer, and it is quite flat, so probably have a different approach to flattening stock than most.
    I don't hold down the work and plane the work supported or allow any chance for errors as I am laminating stuff from reclaimed iroko.
    Using the bench for reference is in my opinion a better way to understand what is precisely going on if you have questions on your technique.

    With this in mind to me its become obvious to me, that using a close set cap iron is the proper test of a plane.
    Can you take a narrow shaving through the middle of a perfectly flat board on edge, with your cap set closer than a 32", or... will it take a wider and therefore thicker shaving
    at the beginning of the cut?

    Depending on your timbers you might not benefit from using the cap iron if your not getting tearout, or aren't working precisely with long timbers for laminations without a machine thicknesser.

    I'd need to scrape the work if I chose not to use the cap iron, so have it set close on nearly all of my planes.
    It is more difficult to get a hollowed surface which is glue ready, on say an inch thick board if the cap iron is involved, as it will always be less prone to take
    a narrow shaving as the radius is much less pronounced.
    This won't be apparent unless folks are actually using the cap iron, which is a wonder to me why someone hasn't brought it up.
    I see many threads about various things like sharpening, yet none relate to the use of the close set cap iron.

    I must get about doing some documentation on this when I have the time.
    I ain't interested in measuring shavings, I'm interested in not hindering the camber I use, as an error doubles if paired, and that's not so easily measured when you're working on the first board that gets jointed.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Trees View Post
    With this in mind to me its become obvious to me, that using a close set cap iron is the proper test of a plane.
    Can you take a narrow shaving through the middle of a perfectly flat board on edge, with your cap set closer than a 32", or... will it take a wider and therefore thicker shaving
    at the beginning of the cut?...
    Interesting, this makes sense and explains what I've seen on some Stanley bench planes I've fettled.

    To answer you question, yes the breaker edge is just off the blade edge within 20mil on the three I've discussed here. Hock blade/breaker sharpened at 90* without any camber with the finest training wheels money can buy These three have always worked well but until I was able to see the two boutique planes in action I didn't know what to expect. I'm out in the sticks so YouTube and forums are where I go.

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    Google > setting a cap iron < and you will find a post on Wood Central by David Weaver with more information than one will want to know about using the cap iron / chip breaker on bevel down planes.

    Can you take a narrow shaving through the middle of a perfectly flat board on edge, with your cap set closer than a 32", or... will it take a wider and therefore thicker shaving
    at the beginning of the cut?
    This seems to assume every woodworker either cambers or needs to camber their plane blades. Not everyone does. Either way, cambered or not, can produce great results.

    The OP, Eric, states,
    Hock blade/breaker sharpened at 90* without any camber
    My scrub planes have camber. My other planes are usually without camber. My smoothing planes are set to a light cut and when used with care do not leave tracks.

    None of my laminations or panels have come unglued in the past 2+ decades.

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

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post



    This seems to assume every woodworker either cambers or needs to camber their plane blades. Not everyone does. Either way, cambered or not, can produce great results.

    The OP, Eric, states,

    My scrub planes have camber. My other planes are usually without camber. My smoothing planes are set to a light cut and when used with care do not leave tracks.

    None of my laminations or panels have come unglued in the past 2+ decades.

    jtk
    So you would to do the same test with a wider piece and still experience the same,
    My bench is what I use for testing jointed edge, I don't really compare timbers to one another, so when that says I'm square and flat its finished.
    I often end up having the same errors about twice before the usual sub 2" timbers I have are jointed.
    My comment was trying to explain how little of a pass is needed when you need to, but yet still able to take light thin full length shavings.
    If its a thicker shaving then the corner can get sniped off , if its set for a thin shaving it wont cut anything but where you want.
    Obviously I have thought of easier ways to go about this if i were in someone else's workshop, like using a no.3, 4, or no.5, but I believe it will be quicker in the end of the day with the one no. 5 1/2 plane.
    I have work to do though, and don't want to do metalwork until I'm finished with my bench build and some other stuff, but am keen to do some testing of my own about this.
    Hopefully this will be evident fairly quickly of the same error happening on a few pieces, if I were to make a video of using my plane a before and after lapping the sole.
    Its just about tolerable at the moment so am putting it off.
    Tom

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