Saturday, October 17, 2015

About wooden plane restoration Part 3 Fine tuning

Were we finally get ready to make some shavings...

Part 1 Identification
Part 2 Initial Assessment

I normally would go thru these steps once I have a need or an urge to do it, but for our purpose, we will just keep going.

Once the plane has been given sufficient time to fully dry and acclimatize itself to its environment (it is after all wood, remember) it is time to re-assemble it and fine tune its critical parts.

First up to bat is the critical interface between the bed, the iron and the wedge locking everything in place. If we cannot get this right, everything else is futile.

Here is a different plane to show areas in need of improvements.
Notice the gaps between the wedge and the blade and the bed.

A good visual with strong raking light would reveal any bumps on the bed area.
Often, these bumps are made up of rust incrustations and you should be able to scrape them clean.  Go easy, we don't want to cause damages, just clean up the bed.

One of my favorite tool for that operation is a chisel with a blunt 90 degrees square edge.   It will not cut, but will scrape.  Don't have one? Sure you do, take one of your chisel with a nicked edge, file it flat across the edge to take out all the nicks, you now have one... until you finish sharpening it :-)
Take care not to cause blow out at the critical mouth edge. A regular sharp chisel work also but it is too easy to dig in the bed surface, you have to be very careful and methodical.  Again and again... less is more.

The two sizes chisels I used. One has to be small enough to fit inside the wedge mortise, the other wide as possible but not too thick to injured the critical mouth area. The black crud on the bench is from scraping. That's all you need to remove to ensure a better fit, NOT wood. The black crud is rust incrustations.

Next we put the iron to the bed and slide it up and down.  Feel and see how it fit.
There shall be no rocking !
This may require a combination of touching up the back of the iron, including part of the tang and the bed itself. Go easy, check often. Stop when the blade sit solidly, no rocking, on the bed.

Insert the blade as usual, from the bottom.
Feel how it slides in.

Especially as the business end of the blade start to touch the bed

Slide up and down and ensure it is smooth, feel no bumps or rough spots

At this point you probably noticed how easy is this to bend the narrow tang. It is made of wrought iron, then there is a small piece of tool steel forged welded at the blade end (on the better blades).  Later blade (not tapered) are sometimes made entirely of tool steel. Easy to tell, the tang would be less bendy and shiny.

Notice the shiny tang, this blade is all tool steel, bonus ! 

The tang part sticking out the plane stock is not critical, but try to make sure the whole blade is straight, and flat.  NO twist.

See that small hump, it should be removed...very gently.
NO ham fist, just gentle pressure. Go very easy, you don't want to weaken and break it. As long as the area inside the mortise is flat, STOP

Once your blade is flat where it count, be careful when taking it out of the plane to sharpen it, it is very malleable iron (wrought iron) and it bend all too easily.
A gentle squeeze in your wooden faced vise would be more than sufficient and easy on it.  If you tap it with a hammer chances are you will leave marks which should then be sanded out, try to avoid that !

Next we introduce the wedge.  One thing I forgot to mentioned on my assessment part (part 2) is that I check to see how well the wedge fit in its mortise.  Reasons are, often the wedge is not original.  It either got mixed up (easy to do trust me), broke or got damaged and was replaced.

Since this one has a tapered iron, the wedge 
should obviously show a tapered fit

Checking how the wedge fit without the blade, 
don't force it, just hand pressure. The mortise opening and the wedge are often damaged when trying to wiggle out the wedge.

Good time as any to remind you how to properly set and remove the wedge, in ANY plane using a wedge.

Remember the wedging action caused by the ramp? If you rap the plane stock with a sharp blow on the toe (front) the blade will advance (rank)
If you rap the back, the blade will retract in the body, but the wedge will loosen and the blade may drop out.  Hint one of my hand is under the blade, or above the wedge if holding the plane upside down,.
ALWAYS hold the plane anticipating the wedge action so that you don't drop the blade out... And after any adjustment, tap on the wedge to lock your setting.

NEVER try to tap out the wedge with blow on the bottom of its round finial.
NEVER wiggle the wedge to loosen it. These two actions will damaged the wedge and / or the mortise mouth on top

ALWAYS used a wooden mallet (or wooden faced mallet) to tap the body or the wedge.
And preferably a metal instrument to tap the blade tang.
RULE TO GO BY Wood on wood - Metal on metal.

The size of the instrument matter less than you think.  A bigger mallet or hammer will not cause more damages than a smaller one, IF you are choking on it and using less force.
Too small one and you may have to rap sharper on the body to effect changes.
And a smaller faced mallet or hammer will leave ding marks.

Typical ding marks on the heel. Obviously using a metal hammer...

Bottom line a proper plane hammer is a good thing and a very personal choice.
After a while it becomes second nature to tap judiciously the plane body and blade to effect minute changes.


Remember that all the cuts that made the plane were mostly done by hands and there are therefore lots of small variations ( just look at the variety of bed angles found in my sizing up H&R)

The wedge was originally fitted to a specific plane body... Hint, there are sometimes marked with matching marking on the stock,  it is a good thing...

Pay also attention to the tip of the wedge, it plays an important role in ejecting the shavings.

Moulding planes are used at the bench going Right to Left, that means most of them eject their shavings toward the bench (mouth opening on the Right hand side of plane)  Others eject on the other side (off the bench) as opposed to bench planes which as you know eject their shavings on the top.

Here is an modern example of a very poorly designed rabbet plane.
The size of the mouth , the clunky wedge, poorly shaped, are all indications of modern fabrication without paying attention to all the important design features of a once perfectly executed plane design refined a long time ago...

Are the shavings ejecting to the left?

Or are the shavings ejecting to the right?

Look at the chunky wedge tip and huge gaping mouth.

The wedge tip has a triangular tip and the mouth has the same chamfered opening on both sides. Which way are the shavings going to eject?
The rounded openings are so far away from the shaving actions, it won't contributed to much...

Here is for comparison, a properly executed rabbet plane.
This one clearly eject the shavings to the left.

That rabbet plane was made by Casey Kitchell & Co, Auburn NY (inc)

In order to throw the shavings the right or to the left, the tip of the wedge is shaped with a ramp, forcing the shavings to turn right or left.
When that tip is broken or misshapen, that function is impaired and the plane will choke.  The all too familiar bunching of accordion folded shaving in the mouth.

This one has a round chamfered opening on the side of the mouth 
to help curve and eject the shavings better. Is it necessary?
 NO, but the wedge tip is still critical

A more modern metallic plane such as Stanley No 78 rely on the cap shape (equivalent to the wedge) to throw the shavings left.

See the small rounded ridge on the right hand side of the cap?

You can clearly see it here. That is all there is to turn those shavings out.
And yes, it is often choking with a bunch of shavings piling in up in there.
In this design defense, our hand location on the fence contributes to that choking.

Here is a properly wedge shape. it is from the plane we are working on, the R.Mason's one

View from side.

View from bottom, see the black oxidation spots from the iron.

View from top. It should come to a nice pointy end.

This is the wedge from the first one pictured at the beginning. 
That rust incrustation is preventing the wedge to sit properly on the iron and must be removed.

This is how I fixed my wedges. A gentle sanding action (220 grit) on the faces that mattered the most, the bottom which is pressing on the iron, which most often would be showing signs of rust incrustations. If the pointy end is not flat on the iron, chances are shavings will get trapped between it. But before you go sanding down that wedge too much, remember that will make the wedge narrower and it will go down more into the mortise.  Sometimes it is best to cut back and reshape the pointy end. guess it;  Less is More

I also do a quick pass on all sides. Very gentle pass, I still want to ensure a good friction fit, but nothing to impair, or stop its fitting on the bearing surfaces .

With the wedge solidly locked, you should not be able to move the exposed large end of the blade.

Wedge is simply pushed in by hand, not locked.
Notice how I can move (rock) the blade between both pics.

That should not happened if wedge is locking correctly. 

You probably noticed that some planes have tapered irons (older ones) and some have a flat iron (newer ones).  The tapered one, work better with the wedge action, because we have in effect opposing wedges. Tapping the top of the wedge locks things up, but the blade trying to push back up from planing wood also lock things up in this case.  Makes for a very solid connection!
But for all that to work, everything must fit nicely within the confines of the mortise for the blade/wedge.

For now just tap the wedge in to lock the blade and check how the tip of the blade is supported. If the wedging action of the tip of the wedge is further up the blade (short wedge) two things start to happens:
1- The blade will be more prone to chattering, and
2- The tip of the wedge is too far up to properly help ejecting the shavings out of the  throat.  Can you say...choking or jamming!

Looking back at the pictures of that modern, poorly designed rabbet plane above, you can guess that it will never be able to work satisfactorily!
So why on earth did I get it?  It is a perfect, bad example :-)

Think twice before starting to plane down that wedge.  Are you sure you have the right wedge?  How much are we talking about?  Hint a light sanding should be all that is required.  As with any kind of restorations, less is more.  Proper action is when the blade is solidly locked, flat to the bed, no visible gap between the interface bed/blade/wedge
Watch out for a twist in the blade, it is very easy to introduce twist while sharpening, using a jig such as Ralph's is a big help to prevent that.

Once everything is lining up solidly, it's time to check it out.
I touched up the blade some more, but understand that moulding planes do not have to be extremely sharp to work.  Nonetheless, they should be sharpen for the wood at hand. If it is tearing up, go back and revisit the edge.
If its leaving a nice burnish surface, leave it alone.
When the edge start to crumble, scratches lines start to appear. Stop and touch up the blade before you need to regrind the profile to go past those scratches.

The initial bevel on them was between 25 and 30 degrees.  If it becomes blunt too fast, make it steeper (toward 30), if you need it sharper, go toward 25 (shallower).  The type of woods you use and the bedding angle (pitch) both affect the ideal blade geometry.
Moulding planes intended to be used for carpentry work (mostly in softer pine etc) are bedded at common or regular pitch (45). Between higher pitch: 50 (half pitch) and 60 (York pitch), they were intended for working hardwoods.
Harder woods need a steeper blade bevel (toward 30)

Just remember that every-time you touch up that edge, ensure you did not inadvertently changed the blade profile, nor its width.  To change the bevel angle you can use micro bevels.

Blade is sharp, bedded solidly. Profile is a good match to the sole. 
Wedging action is proper. Ready to try on wood and tweak 
the edge of the blade as required. 

The plane has no fence, and only its sole profile to guide it, it could use some help to get started ...
You could use a fence, but its kinda cumbersome and not always feasible.

You need some sort of a groove to help you get the plane started.
This is getting rather long so we will see that on the next part.

Next will also do something fun to introduce you to the possibilities afforded by having a few of them in your tool chest.

We will need:
- Ralph's moulding iron sharpening jig, and sharpening medium
- Bob's H&R table
- A stick moulding jig, sized to your bench (explained on next part)
- One pair of Hollow & Round planes
- One or two gouges (Size of Hollow and gouges depend on the scale of your work)
- A flat chisel or gouge
- A Rabbet plane or Shoulder plane, or Duplex plane (Stanley No 78)
- A template, sized to our tools
- Some pieces of clear straight grain hardwood. Avoid highly figured wood, moulding planes are designed to be used on clear, straight grain hard or softwoods.  You get crispier results in hardwoods.

A suivre... (Stay tuned)

Bob, gathering materials and tools...and sharpening


  1. Good post with a lot of excellent tips. I especially paid attention to the wedge portion. I lot of my wedges look like they have been chewed by a dog. Is part 4 on making a new one please?

  2. Hum, no, its about using them , sorry :-)
    But, fear not, I just happens to have a few woodies that could used new wedges.
    Can't promise when I'll get to it, but I would in the near future...

    I also have a narrow round (1/4) that need a new nose section, I have been keeping that one as a future experiment to see If I could salvaged it.
    It is currently missing in action, along with about 4 of my H&Rs somewhere...

  3. Bob,

    Very good posts, looking forward the ones to follow.

  4. Thanks Ken
    There would probably be a few days delays before my next ones, but I'll get Round TUIT :-)
    Heather finish her palliative radiation treatments Tuesday, then she start a clinical studies and hopefully she had the "right" kind of cancer to try some of the new promising drugs.
    Bob, the eternal optimist

  5. Great stuff, Bob. Thanks, as always for dispersing so much knowledge.

  6. Thanks Matt You're welcome, I try :-)
    If you have any special request like Ralph, just ask

  7. Hi Bob,
    oh that are great posts about the rounds. I've bought my first ones a few weeks ago on the flea market. From my point of view they are in pretty good condition. I just cleaned and sharpened the irons and I could do some shavings.
    I will revise my work with the help of your posts.

  8. HI Stefan
    Glad you like them. They are often found in good conditions since they stop using them a long time ago, the electric router replaced them. But the irony is that you can do so much more than with a router, you can cut profile impossible with a rotary bit. Just a bit of a warning, they can become s highly addictive :-)
    In no time we will have you cut your own profiles to match your work instead of being dictate the work by the available profiles, and making Linenfold panels, stay tuned


  9. Nice article indeed. I have found a helpful article on it: