What is backlash?

 
     
     
 Shop for Woodworking Hand Planes 
     
     
   

Backlash is the term given to the amount of free play in the iron depth adjustment mechanism, and the problems it can cause.

 
     
   

The problem

 
 Using a jack plane; blacklash can cause the blade to stop cutting; woodworking planes 

As the plane is being used, free play sometimes allows the blade to move upwards on its own after it has been adjusted to the desired position. It happens after the blade has been adjusted upwards, or retracted slightly, using the thumbwheel adjuster.

 
     
 Depth setting of bench plane iron 

What types of adjuster are affected?

There are two main types of mechanism for adjusting the depth of the irons on woodworking hand planes.

 
     
 Norris and Stanley Bailey style iron depth adjusters 

One is the mechanism developed by Leonard Bailey in the U.S., and later used by major manufacturer Stanley.

 

The other is the Norris-style adjuster developed in the UK (see What is a Norris-style adjuster?).

 
     
 Backlash means the iron might stop cutting part-way through a job 

Planes with either type of adjuster can suffer from backlash. 

 

 
     
   

The solution

 
 Turn thumbwheel clockwise to avoid backlash 

Remove the upwards free play

The solution is to always make the final depth adjustment by advancing the blade (turning the wheel adjuster clockwise, as shown) rather than retracting it. This removes free play that could cause backlash from the mechanism, ensuring the iron stays at the right depth.

 

When reducing the projection of the blade to take a finer shaving, retract it a little more than necessary, then advance it slightly to complete the setting.

 
     
 Turning Norris adjuster clockwise to remove backlash 

It can sometimes take several turns of the wheel adjuster to get the free play out of the mechanism.

 
     
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