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.