What are bevel-up and bevel-down planes?
The bevel of a plane’s iron, or blade, is the angle on the cutting end of the iron formed when it is initially sharpened (usually by the manufacturer).
Most scrub and bench planes are bevel down – that is, when the blade is secured in the plane, the bevelled edge is on the reverse side of the blade, facing down towards the workpiece.
Conversely, block plane irons are positioned bevel up – that is, the bevel resulting from the sharpening of the iron is on the upper side, facing away from the workpiece.
There are also some low-angle, bevel-up bench planes which are proving quite popular with woodworkers.
Seefor more information.
The blades of bevel-up planes are secured – or "bedded" – at a more acute angle to the sole of the plane than bevel-down planes.
How the bevel affects the cutting angle
With the bevel being on the top side of the iron rather than underneath, it effectively increases the cutting angle so that it's often not that far short of a "standard" bevel-down iron's cutting angle.
However, the irons of some bevel-up planes are bevelled at more acute angles than usual to give them more of a "slicing" action for end grain work.
No chip breaker
The design of a bevel-up plane is different from the Stanley / Bailey design in ways other than the bedding angle of the iron.
For instance, they don't have chip breakers, the bevel on the iron performs this function, and the depth and lateral adjusters for the iron are different, usually using what are known as Norris-style adjusters. Seefor further details. There is no cam on the lever cap – this function is provided by a wheel nut, or knob.
Some woodworkers think the lack of a chip breaker is beneficial, citing the chip breaker as the major cause of clogging: when shavings block up the gap between the leading edge of the mouth and the iron.
Changing the angle of attack
You can alter the "angle of attack" of a bevel-up plane by honing a new bevel on the iron.
If the bevel is down, the angle of the cut is always the angle at which the iron is bedded.
Easier mouth adjustment
Adjusting the mouth opening on a bevel-up plane is easier than with most Stanley / Bailey pattern planes.
Turning the front knob anti-clockwise enables you to slide the toe section of the sole closer or further away from the blade with ease. The knob is then re-tightened after adjustment.
Most Stanley / Bailey planes require the lever cap, chip breaker and iron to be removed and two securing screws to be loosened with a screwdriver before the frog adjustment screw can be turned, again with a screwdriver, to adjust the opening between the cutting edge and the leading edge of the mouth.
A later Stanley design, the Bedrock series, does have mouth adjustment without removal of the blade assembly, but it still requires the release of two screws and adjustment via another screw – again with a screwdriver.
Wonkee's best advice is . . .
Get a bevel-up plane if:
Get a bevel-down plane if:
Seeand for more information on how bevel up, bevel down and the angles of the blades and bevels affect the way planes perform.