How to set up a metal bench plane
Most planes will need setting up before first use. Even new planes straight out of the box usually need some checking and adjusting.
Here's Wonkee's quick guide to setting up a metal bench plane to get the most out of it.
Step 1 – Check and flatten sole
The sole needs to be perfectly flat and smooth for the plane to work properly.
Seefor a step-by-step guide to checking and lapping (flattening) them.
Step 2 – Check iron's shape
The shape of the iron's cutting edge needs to be checked. It can be cambered or straight, or straight with rounded corners, depending on the type of work you want to do with it. Seeto determine which shape you need.
If the shape is incorrect for your plane and the work you want to do with it, you will need to make a new bevel on the iron, using an electrically-powered grinder, before honing – sharpening the iron – on a sharpening stone.
Or you can take the blade to a specialist workshop for re-cambering.
Step 3 – Check iron for sharpness
Check the sharpness of the blade. If is isn't cutting smoothly through the surface of the wood, it probably needs sharpening.
Run a finger gently across the blade (not along it, unless you like the sight of blood!) and feel its sharpness. If it feels less than razor sharp, has chips in it, or both, again you will need to sharpen it. Seefor a step-by-step guide to doing this.
Step 4 – Remove iron from plane
To remove the iron from the plane:
If it's a standard Stanley / Bailey-type plane, lift the cam lever at the top of the lever cap.
If the lever cap has a thumbscrew rather than a cam (as on a low-angle plane), turn it anti-clockwise to release the pressure.
You should now be able to lift the lever cap from under the head of the lever cap screw via the wider part of the keyhole slot.
You now have access the the chip breaker and the iron – or just the iron in the case of low-angle bench planes.
Lift them, or it, out over the lever cap screw.
Step 5 – Check chip breaker
The bottom edge of the chip breaker must sit flat and tightly on top of the cutting iron. This perfect fit allows the cap iron to curl the shavings away from the cutting edge. Even a slight gap allows shavings to become caught and cause a jam.
To check the fit, with the chip breaker and iron fastened firmly together with the chip breaker screw, hold them up to a bright light source. If you see a sliver of light between the edge of the chip breaker and the iron, you need to flatten the edge.
Step 6 – Separate chip breaker and iron
If there is a chip breaker with the iron and you find its edge needs flattening, first separate the two parts by undoing the screw on the back of the iron.
Step 7 – Flatten edge of chip breaker
Run the bottom edge of the chip breaker along an oil or water stone to quickly flatten it. Check the fit again afterwards to be sure it's perfectly flat.
Step 8 – Check iron for flatness
The non-bevelled side of the iron needs to be perfectly flat for the iron to cut correctly.
Seefor a step-by-step guide to doing this.
Step 9 – Sharpen iron
If the iron needs sharpening, do it after the iron has been flattened. Seefor a guide to sharpening your blade.
Step 10 – Position chip breaker
There needs to be a gap of between 0.4mm (1/64”) and 3mm (1/8”) between the bottom edge of the chip breaker and the cutting edge of the blade. The actual gap set depends on the kind of planing – it should be smaller when smoothing and bigger when reducing or levelling wood.
Screw the chip breaker and iron together with the chip breaker screw which goes from the back of the iron, through its long slot, and into the a threaded hole in the back of the chip breaker. Do not fully tighten at this stage.
Position the chip breaker with the desired gap between its bottom edge and the cutting edge of the blade, then tighten the chip breaker screw.
Step 11 – Check frog
With a Stanley-Bailey pattern plane, check the frog while the lever cap, iron and chip breaker (if there is one) are still removed from the plane.
The frog in a low-angle plane is cast with the body as one piece, so cannot be removed.
Remove the Stanley / Bailey frog by undoing the securing screws. In some planes – for instance, the Stanley Bed Rock series – the screws are in the back of the frog rather than the in the frog's base.
You may also need to slacken the frog adjustment screw, which is in the back of the frog.
After lifting the frog from the body, check for any metal filings or other debris on the underside of the frog and the frog bed.
Step 12 – Clean frog and bed
Using a rag or small brush, clear any metal filings or other debris from all sides of the frog
Do the same with the frog seating area of the plane's body. New planes may have metal filings left over from the milling process – when the frog and frog seating were ground by a machine for a perfect fit.
Step 13 – Replace frog
Relocate the frog on the bed, replace the securing screws but don't tighten them completely at this stage.
Step 14 – Adjust mouth (Stanley / Bailey-type plane)
Replace the iron (together with the chipbreaker, which you attached to the iron in Step 10) on the frog and hold it in place while examining the gap between the cutting edge of the iron and the leading (front) edge of the mouth (Stanley/Bailey-style plane). Ensure the lug or dowel of the blade depth adjustment mechanism engages with the appropriate slot in the chip breaker.
(On a low-angle bench plane, the mouth plate can be adjusted with the iron and lever cap secured in the plane, so mouth adjustment can come later in the sequence.)
To increase or reduce the gap, turn the adjustment screw located on the rear of the frog to the left of the wheel adjuster with a screwdriver.
Getting exactly the right setting may take some trial and error. You may have to make more adjustments after you start planing.
You need a small gap between the iron's cutting edge and the leading edge of the mouth for making fine shavings (for instance, when smoothing wood) and a bigger gap when reducing or levelling, making thicker shavings.
After adjusting the gap accordingly, remove the iron and fully tighten the frog securing screws.
Step 15 – Replace and adjust iron
Replace the iron, together with the chip breaker if there is one, on the bed of the frog, ensuring the lug or dowel of the blade depth adjustment mechanism engages with the appropriate slot in the chip breaker (Stanley / Bailey) or iron (low-angle plane).
Replace the lever cap over the top of the blade, locking the cam or turning the lever cap thumbscrew clockwise to lever the cap against the chip breaker and/or iron.
Step 16 – Lateral adjustment of iron
Sighting along the sole, check that the cutting edge of the iron is horizontal across the width of the sole. If it's not...
Stanley / Bailey type:
...With your thumb or forefinger, move the lateral adjustment lever left or right. Moving it to the right will skew the blade to the right, and vice versa.
The blade depth adjustment knob or wheel also serves as the lateral adjuster. Move it to the left or right to correct the blade's lateral angle.
You can further check the lateral angle by planing a piece of wood and studying the resultant shaving. If it's thicker at one edge than it is at the other, the lateral adjustment needs more attention.
Step 17 – Adjust depth of iron
Stanley / Bailey type:
Turn the wheel adjuster clockwise with the forefinger or middle finger of the dominant hand to advance the iron, and anti-clockwise to retract. Sight along the sole of the plane from front to back to see the projection of the blade through the mouth. A tiny projection is set for smoothing wood, and a larger one for reducing and straightening work.
Follow a procedure similar to the above, but you will need a completely free hand to turn the Norris-style iron depth adjuster knob or wheel, which is not easily reached while gripping the tote. You may need to slacken the lever cap thumbscrew a quarter of a turn or so to enable iron depth adjustment. Tighten it again after making the adjustment.
Step 18 – Adjust mouth (low-angle plane)
Mouth adjustment is easier with low-angle bench planes.
First, turn the front knob anti-clockwise.
If there is a mouth adjustment lever below the knob, turn this left or right to move the mouth adjustment plate and increase or reduce the mouth opening.
If there's no lever, move the adjustment plate backwards or forwards with pressure on the the knob until the mouth is the right size.
Re-tighten the knob.
|You're now ready to begin planing!|