What is the perfect pitch for plane irons?
The pitch of a plane’s iron is its angle in relation to the sole, or bottom, of the plane.
In a metal plane, the degree of pitch is determined by the frog – the wedge on which the blade is bedded, or seated.
In a traditional wooden plane, there is no frog as such – just an inclined bed on which the blade sits, held in place by a wooden wedge.
However, some wooden planes do have metal frog inserts.
Generally, the greater the angle, the smoother the finish on the wood will be.
For example, a wooden moulding plane, used for cutting decorative shapes along wood, will have its blade bedded at 60 degrees, or "half pitch".
Wonkee's quick guide to pitches and their uses in woodworking projects
20 degrees and under
This pitch is used for low-angle planes such as block planes and shoulder planes that are often used for planing end grain. Irons for low-angle planes are bedded with the bevel up, which has the effect of increasing the overall cutting angle. The cutting angle is the pitch plus the angle of the iron's bevel.
Seefor more information.
45 degrees (known as common pitch)
Used for most bench planes, including wooden-bodied ones and the Stanley / Bailey metal type.
A bedding angle of 45 degrees is ideal for most softwoods and straight-grained hardwoods. The blade is bedded with the bevel down, and has a chip breaker in most cases.
50 degrees (known as York pitch)
Used in bench planes for planing hardwoods. This pitch is useful for "difficult" grain which rises and falls, or even spirals, along the length of the wood.
York pitch is also used for rebate (rabbet) planes and some grooving planes.
55 degrees (known as middle pitch)
This pitch is mainly used for moulding planes for use on softwoods.
60 degrees (known as half pitch)
Used for moulding planes, for use on hardwoods.
70 degrees to 90 degrees
Used for toothing planes and side rebate (rabbet) planes.
Toothing planes are rarities. They look like a high-angle block plane, but are equipped with a serrated-edge iron – for planing wood that has a difficult grain.
The serrated blade can handle rising, falling, swirling and spiralling grain without causing tear-out. A conventional bench plane is then used to smooth off the scratches left by the toothing plane.
A side rebate plane is designed to trim, widen, or straighten the side walls of a groove or dado.
90 degrees plus
Used for scraper, or scraping, planes.
These planes are comparatively rare, and used in very fine woodworking or cabinet making, to produce the smoothest finish on wood.
Second frog adds versatility
For some metal planes, you can buy a second frog (the metal wedge that the blade sits on) with its bed at a different angle, so that you can use the same plane with blades at different pitches for different jobs.