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 Possible problems when using a plane
and how to solve them

Shop for Woodworking Hand Planes
Tear-out of wood caused by wrongly adjusted hand plane Common problems encountered when using a hand plane can lead to unwanted marks in the wood’s surface, such as tear-out, or to the plane suddenly ceasing to cut.These problems can usually be overcome with some readjustment or sharpening of the iron, as described below. Some of these can be solved by using an electronic wood router instead. Wood routers are used on router tables and create smooth finishes to wood.

Wonkee Donkee on troubleshooting woodworking planes

PROBLEM SOLUTION
The result of hand plane chatter often looks like this

Sharpening the iron may eliminate chatter, woodworking hand planes

Chatter

  • Chatter is when your plane stutters and skips through a cut, often leaving a rippled surface in the wood.
  • Take a lighter cut (retract the iron slightly) or put more pressure on the knob as you start the cut.
  • Another possibility is that you have a blunt iron – see How to flatten and sharpen a bench plane iron for a step by step guide.
  • Check also that the iron and chip breaker are screwed tightly together and that the lever cap is putting sufficient pressure on the chip breaker to hold the iron firmly in place.
  • Chatter might also be caused by the iron not being bedded flat on the frog, or the frog itself not being seated flat. Remove and check for debris on the bed or seating.
PROBLEM SOLUTION
Tear-out when planing along the grain of the wood

Taking lighter cuts and reducing the mouth opening may reduce or eliminate tear-out, woodworking hand planes

Tear-out

  • This is a common problem -instead of shaving the wood cleanly, the iron pulls up the wood fibres, leaving a rough surface.
  • Taking a lighter cut and reducing the mouth opening may solve the problem. If the grain is difficult, sometimes changing the planing direction will help.
  • Sharpening the iron might be part, or even all, of the answer.
  • You can also try using a plane with a higher iron pitch, if available. The higher the blade’s angle, the less likely it is to tear out the wood.
PROBLEM SOLUTION
Clogged mouth of a bench plane

Backlash is caused by free play in a plane's adjustment mechanism, woodworking hand planes

Plane stops cutting

  • Sometimes the plane stops cutting, or takes a thinner or less consistent shaving, after a few successful passes. The problem may be clogging of the mouth with shavings, or backlash.
  • Clogging happens when the mouth opening is too small, or the bottom edge of the chip breaker – if the plane has one – does not fit perfectly against the iron. Widen the mouth opening or flatten the edge of the chip breaker – see How to set up a metal scrub plane for full details.
  • Backlash is upward movement of the blade due to free play in the depth adjustment mechanism. See What is backlash?for a more detailed description and how to solve the problem.