Monday, March 29, 2010

Fettling a Wooden Plane

My little coffin smoother has always been good at chamfering an edge.

But try to take a full-width pass on the edge of a board, and the blade would either pull through, resulting in a thick shaving, or be knocked loose completely.

The plane is such a little thing, you'd think it would be able to do its job. But it's the little things within the structure and fittings that prevent it from doing that.

I spent a wee bit of time with the wee plane today and finally got it to take the wispy shavings for which it was made.

If you're tweaking a plane, one thing to check is the flatness of the bed. I used a thin straightedge which revealed a high spot in the middle. A file removed it with ease.

Another thing to check is whether or not the blade is in contact with the bed and the wedge. One way to determine if everything is seated properly is by waving your blade over a candle, so that soot is deposited on both sides. Insert your blade and wedge, remove it, and the soot will show where the contact points are located.

Uniform contact points on all surfaces is the ideal goal. I had good contact along the outer edge of the wedge, but the middle was a little hollow. A file makes quick work of eliminating the sooty spots, so the middle of the wedge also contacts the blade.

The next thing I checked was the flatness of the sole by holding a straightedge and the plane up to a light to find the low spots. The entire sole doesn't need to be flat, but if you're fixing up a wooden plane, you might as well make it so, since it's easy to do.

Slide the blade and wedge into your plane, but retract the blade a bit so it's protected. Tap it in place. Then rub the sole on a sheet of sandpaper that's clamped to a known-flat surface, like a table saw. The scuff marks from the sandpaper will tell you when it's flat.

If your wedge is still not holding your blade in place, try a trick that Jim Leamy taught me. Lay a file on the arms of your wedge and tap it with a mallet. The impression left by the file roughens up the surface, giving the wedge more gripping power.

The last thing I did was use my small mallet to seat the wedge. I had been using finger pressure only, but the mallet gave the wedge just enough of a push to provide the results I was hoping for.

Finally, the plane is finished.....until next season when the wood moves again. heh.


Bob Easton said...

Once again we get to see this gorgeous little plane. What a beauty Kari!

In a way, it's good it gave you some fits. That way the rest of us get an excellent lesson in tuning a wooden plane. Thanks for all the great tips.

However, there's a problem with one of the tips. Most of today's candles are so clean as to be sootless. Guess I need to make some tallow candles. But then, I don't have any mutton fat. Anyone have lambs for sale? ... SEE what you get us into. Gheeesh!

Fabulous article. Thanks!

Adrian Baird Ba Than said...

Looks like he/she is peeling them shavings like a pro now,very silky!
Another good tip is to put a little chalk on the contact points of the wedge.This is especially useful once these points get a little shiny after a few dozen sharpenings.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Bob! I just used a regular, old candle and it worked. Not sure where it came from, other than the junk drawer.

Kari Hultman said...

Good one, Black. It just so happens that I have a brand new box of chalk in my shop! The little one's name is Chip. (Didn't you name him?)

Larry Marshall said...

It's always nice to see Chip. I still can't get over how tiny he is. Good tips, all.

Cheers --- Larry

Tico Vogt said...

Great post and a sweet little carved plane. I'm looking forward to making a wooden plane, and these tips will come in handy.

Woodbloke said...

Hi Kari - nice 'how to' on fettling in a wooden plane. The critical thing is the sole...than bump in the middle just in front of the mouth is a definite 'no no', but easily removed.

Will the Swiss pear be made into something similar? I'd be inclined to find something hard and nasty and fit an additional sole. This would then give you the opportunity to make a plane with an adjustable mouth - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Larry. :o)

Tico, it's very rewarding to make your own planes. Have fun!

Rob, a friend gave me a piece of Lignum Vitae that would make great plane soles. If only I could find a way to cut the stuff. It's like a rock! haha

Tom Buhl said...

Good stuff, Kari. As usual, the photos are excellent. When I first visited your blog/personal site I was amazed at the photographic quality. Then I remembered that you are a graphic artist to pay the lumberyard and tool gods. Keep on the journey.
Tom Buhl

Gye Greene said...


Thx for the tips re: wooden wedges. As I often do, I saved your posting to HD, for later reference.

BTW -- Finally received my Pop. WW Mag. (Apr 2010 issue) in the mail today (I'm in Australia, so I get it late). Had no idea you're a contributor! (Maybe you'd mentioned it in a blog entry, and it just didn't register...) I hadn't realized that you were famous. :)


Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Tom. :o)

Gye, not famous, just lucky. ; )

Jan Michael Hedlund said...

its just so nice where did you learn to make planes and how long tim did it take to make this little plane.

Kari Hultman said...

Jan Michael, I took a class with Tod Herrli on making solid body planes, including making and heat treating the iron. It was an invaluable class. Not sure how long it took to make this little plane but I'd guess maybe 15 hours. I'm pretty slow, though. If you make lots of planes that time can be improved considerably.