How to set up a wooden bench plane
Traditional wooden bench planes are generally much simpler than metal ones.
However, although there are fewer parts to contend with, adjusting them can at first seem a little fiddly.
Some of steps involved in setting up a wooden plane are similar to those for metal planes – for instance, lapping (flattening) soles and sharpening blades.
But adjustment of the iron, for depth and lateral position, differs greatly – we are talking mallets and hammers here!
A hammer and mallet combined in a single tool is ideal for adjusting the irons of wooden planes.
Of course, there are always exceptions. For instance, some wooden planes are designed, or adapted, to take Stanley / Bailey-style or Norris-type adjusters, in which case adjusting the irons is just as described in.
Here, Wonkee looks at setting up a no frills, traditional wooden plane.
Step 1 – Check and flatten sole
The sole of a plane needs to be perfectly flat for it to work accurately. You can easily check the flatness and correct it if it's found to be less than perfect.
Seefor a step-by-step guide to doing this.
Step 2 – Check iron's shape
The shape of the iron's cutting edge can be cambered, straight or straight with rounded corners, depending on the type of work you want to do with it.
If the shape is incorrect, you will need to make a new bevel on the blade, using an electrically-powered grinder, before honing – sharpening the blade – on a sharpening stone. Or you can take the blade to a specialist workshop for re-cambering.
Seeto determine what shape your cutting edge needs to be.
You might need more than one iron for your plane so that you can do different jobs without having to continually reshape the cutting edge.
Step 3 – Check sharpness of iron
Check the sharpness of the blade. If it isn't cutting smoothly through the surface of the wood, it probably needs sharpening.
Run a finger lightly across the blade (not along it - you might cut your finger!) and feel the sharpness. If it's less than razor sharp, or has chips in it, or both, you will need to sharpen it.
Step 4 – Remove iron from plane
Tap the top front of the stock or, if it has one, the plane's strike button with the wooden head of the mallet to release the wedge and iron. One or two fairly light taps should do the trick.
If there's a strike button, you'll find it on the top of the stock forward of the throat area.
Step 5 – Check iron for flatness
With the iron out of the plane, you can now check it for flatness. The iron needs to be perfectly flat for it to cut correctly.
Seefor a step-by-step guide to doing this.
Step 6 – Sharpening iron
If the iron needs sharpening, do it after the iron has been flattened. Seefor a step-by-step guide to sharpening your blade.
Step 7 – Check and clean bed or frog area
Make a close inspection of the bed, or frog area, of the stock to see if it is holding any debris. If it is, clean it out with a rag or small brush, otherwise it will affect the position of the iron, and therefore the accuracy of the cutting.
Step 8 – Replace iron
After flattening and sharpening, slide the iron back into the stock, behind the wedge stops or the wedge bar, whichever your plane has. Place a piece of flat waste wood under the plane to stop the cutting edge of the blade without damage to either worktop or iron.
Place the wedge on top of the iron. The wedge must be located behind the wedge stops, or the clamp bar, whichever your plane has.
Wedge stops, or wedge mortises, are cut into the inner cheeks of the plane. The wedge fits behind them, tightening against the iron as it is pressed or tapped down.
Some wooden bench planes don't have wedge stops, but are fitted with a clamp bar, also known as a cross-pin, which goes across the throat, fitting into the sides of the plane. The wedge fits behind the bar, tightening against the iron as it is pressed or tapped down.
Press down on the wedge but don't tighten it too much at this stage.
Step 9 – Adjust iron
Lift the plane from the bench and tap the top edge of of the iron with the hammer to advance it through the mouth. Sight along the sole of the plane to see the projection of the iron.
The projection needs to be just a whisker for smoothing planes but a little more for jacks, fores and jointers. It's difficult to measure so go with your instinct and adjust further if the plane produces shavings that are too thin or too thick.
To adjust the iron laterally (to make it parallel across the width of the sole), tap the left side of the iron to increase the projection on the right and reduce it on the left, and vice versa.
Step 10 – Ensure iron is secure
Lightly tap the top of the wedge to ensure the iron is held firmly, but check that this hasn't altered your iron setting before starting to plane.
Readjust as necessary once you see the progress of the plane and the thickness of shaving it is making.