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When teaching beginners, one of the most common phrases I hear is: “I can’t get this to work (insert instrument name). What’s wrong?”
They give me the tool and the fun begins.
Although block planes are simple hand planes, there are some important points about them that are rarely discussed in the literature. Here are the five most common problems I see with students learning to use a block plane.
1. Too tight. Many modern planes have a wheel that locks the lever cap to the tool body. Most of the students pushed it to the point where they could crush a titanium nut. This not only makes the tool difficult to use, but can also distort the sole. I have seen block planes that have a bump behind the mouth due to a too tight spinning wheel.
So how tight should it be? Looser than you think. It’s a balance: you should be able to adjust the iron with ease and the iron shouldn’t move during normal planing operations. With my block plane, I rotate the spinning wheel about three hours after I feel resistance. So relax, Francis.
2. Problems in the back of the mouth, part 1. After a dozen sturdy hits, I think it’s a good idea to get rid of the dust in the pocket between the iron and the body of the tool. I have seen many aircraft where this area is filled with so much dust that the aircraft cannot cut consistently (technically, they violated the draft angle of the tool, but I want to talk about the draft angle as much as it is). I was to talk about politics, religion and infected boils).
To get rid of the dust, I run my nail along the back of my throat, staying away from the cutting edge.
3. Problems in the back of the mouth, part 2. The other problem with one-piece planes comes after five or six sharpenings. With a block plane, it’s the flat back of the iron that takes the most abuse (wunks call this “wear bevel”). After a certain number of sharpenings, the wear bevel becomes pronounced and it is not possible to polish at the tip of the back of the tool.
The result: poor edge life and poor surface finish.
The solution: sharpen the block planes using the ruler trick, which polishes the wear bevel. Problem solved.
4. A dented sole. No matter how sharp the iron is, the wood will look like garbage if the sole has dents. Block planes take a lot of abuse, so it’s common to see the sole edge warped from hitting other tools on the bench.
A small dent in the sole can ruin an entire side of the carcass in just a few strokes. So I regularly check the sole while gliding. Anything that looks or looks like a dent is sanded or (in severe cases) filed with a fine needle file.
5. Traces of the plane. If you use the block plane to produce the final surfaces, you need to thread the corners of the iron into the body of the plane. This means that you should sharpen a curve on the iron or file the corners.
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