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Handplane Tuneup


What are the essential steps to tune up an old handplane? Are there any good articles on tuning from Fine Woodworking? – Jim Bradley


Al Breed replies: Frog – this controls the throat opening and carries the blade adjustment. Take it off, clean it and oil it. It should line up with the casting or be forward of the casting at the throat.

  • Blade – Sharpen at about 25 degrees, hollow ground. Any pits in the blade will result in tiny ridges in the work. Grind the corners very slightly round so that they won’t dig in. Work should look polished. If the blade will not reach the work, it may be so ground down that you’ll need a new one.
  • Cap Iron – Needs to be ground so that the edge is tight up to the blade with no small cracks for chips to get stuck in. For general work, it’s about 1/16th from the edge, closer for a light fine cut. Plane will clog if it’s too close and chatter if it’s too far.
  • Throat of Plane – For fine work like tiger maple, set the blade in the plane and move the frog up for the desired opening. If the throat clogs in a fine cut, file the inside of the throat to bevel the metal away from the iron. This will remove any obstacles in the way of the exiting chip. File only the inside of the throat, do not enlarge the opening at the sole.
  • Lever Cap – This should be just tight enough to keep the iron in place. Too tight and you may break the cap or adjustments will be hard. A very slight turn on the screw increases the pressure considerably.
  • Sole of the Plane – I pay virtually no attention to this unless it’s obviously warped or bent. If so, flatten it on a granite stone with waterproof black paper. Waxing the sole will reduce the amount of effort to push the plane an astounding amount.

When planing, I always tip the plane very slightly on the return stroke so that the blade does not drag on the work. This dragging will quickly burnish over the edge and dull it. Take long strokes, starting at the end of the board and working back towards you. Put pressure on the front of the plane at the beginning of the stroke and on the back at the handle as you finish.

Most Importantly – The plane will never work out of the box no matter how much you paid for it. Blades always need to be sharpened and trued up and their corners rounded unless it’s a rabbet plane.

Tags: Hand Planes, Tools