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Using Old Wooden Planes

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AdrianUK

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I guess like many, I’ve a fair few old wooden planes, the look of them appeals, and when you pick up a jointer, you know from its weight and bulk it’ means business.

So, just recently, I’ve started attempting to use a few, in particular a 17” and a couple of beading planes with limited & varying degrees of success.

Not as easy as I had lulled myself into thinking, they are going to take time to learn the knack to using them and plenty of patience.

In their time, I guess they were judged to a different standard, today, it’s easy to measure them against an easily adjustable metal plane and think, these are too difficult to work with.

Does anyone use old woodies regularly? Any tips please.

Am finding adjusting the depth frustrating mostly, little taps but often go to far, then have to remove the wedge and start over.

Interestingly, I’d not noticed until I started to use them, particularly on moulding/beading planes, if the wedge sits taller then the end of the iron, this makes the adjustment more fiddly.

There is also the sharpening to master, the 17” woodie has a very thick tapered iron, so haven’t reshaped the angle, just touched up the edge.

The beading planes will be a challenge, am wondering just how sharp the old timers managed to get these, even with today’s superior materials, getting these really sharp looks like a challenge.

Definitely seeing these in a new light, and the old timers that knew no better and got the best from them.
 

Adam W.

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I use wooden planes all the time. Theres a load of information on moulding planes on my BA thread if you care to look.


I'll also be using them for circular work on the fan vault thread in a couple of weeks.

You could also take a look at the Larry Williams and Don Mcconnell videos.
 
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Jacob

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I use a 26" wooden jointer occasionally, mainly for preparing very long stuff for the PT. Once into the swing of it no problem, but it took time to get used to it in the first place. Maybe that's it - just stick with one plane until you have it tamed?
Also use an ECE scrub for scrubbing old timbers and that is very easy to use and to sharpen.
I fiddle about with tools a lot and picked up a little coffin woody and had a go but it was hopeless - with a very jagged cut. Had a close look and realised the blade wasn't tight against a slightly uneven bed and hence vibrated. Simple solution to that - not to straighten the bed but to bend the blade. Bashed it with a lump hammer on a little anvil (block of steel) with two nails under the blade. It now sits tight at the mouth and top of the bed and cuts very nicely!
I do wonder if this is a general solution to woody problems - bash blade with lump hammer to bend it for a tight fit? :unsure:
 
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Jacob

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Am finding adjusting the depth frustrating mostly, little taps but often go to far, then have to remove the wedge and start over.
Tap the rounded top corner of the heel to retract the blade and then tap the wedge to tighten it again
.

Interestingly, I’d not noticed until I started to use them, particularly on moulding/beading planes, if the wedge sits taller then the end of the iron, this makes the adjustment more fiddly.
That's a worn out blade. Still usable but as you say difficult to adjust and check that it sits tight against the bed. See previous post for lump hammer technique
There is also the sharpening to master, the 17” woodie has a very thick tapered iron, so haven’t reshaped the angle, just touched up the edge.
Always take a good bit off the whole bevel with a coarse stone first, before touching the edge otherwise you are storing up a problem and will have to machine grind eventually. Do not go anywhere near a honing jig, that way madness lies.
 

jcassidy

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I hestitate to mention PS - but here goes.. (helmet on!)

Paul Sellers has this on youtube about sharpening the moulding planes, it's pretty easy to do. I've gotten satisfactory results putting nice mouldings on the edges of things.
 

D_W

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I use a lot of wooden planes (or rather, use them a lot, there's not that many used on a regular basis, but my jack plane is the same size as the 17" plane you mention).

If you're using a jack and try plane and then a smoother, inevitably, the two former on dry wood aren't working thin shavings (the try plane, maybe relatively) - getting them to work well is a matter of getting the bottom flat, getting the iron and cap iron fit well and the cap iron in good shape for actual work (especially on smoothers and try planes) and getting the wedge and bed fitted well to the iron and cap.

If you can get all of that done, the planes should be very easy to use (and if a smoother is a nuisance, use a stanley or record for smoothing and maybe set aside a wooden plane set at a fixed set that's a little coarser than smoothing.

With moulding planes, you just need experience, and you need an iron that matches the sole in key places, and no cheating to try to get away without sharpening.

I buff the backs of beading planes to round over the face of the blade slightly and then stone the bevel side. It improves the tearout reduction on irons, and I"ve seen a lot of older planes where someone treated the edges by hand (not with buffer) like that. It's not much fun to remake things due to tearout from beading.
 

Fitzroy

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I started with a mix of woodies and metal planes, over the years I have moved away from them except for a couple of tasks. I have a highly radiused scrub plane, and a long plane I use for jointing long edges. I started with woodies as they were cheap.

I found a small pin hammer was the answer to depth setting, not too heavy nor light. As Jacob said you shouldn't need to take the iron out unless you're sharpening it, a tap on the back of the plane will raise the iron.

Overall I prefer working with the woodies as I find them less tiring, but I've never managed the finesse of a metal plane without lots of fettling/faffing hence my long jointer is left set once it's working and where I need to adjust the cut more frequently I use a metal plane.
 

D_W

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I tend to not use things other than plane, but for practical work, keep a metal jointer along with the metal smoother. Sometimes, it's nice to have a fine adjuster when jointing.

(thanks to ebay, I have two nice planes from the UK that are hard to get over here - an older keen shape record 8, and a cherry I.sorby 7 (which is a fabulous plane). Both cost maybe slightly more than a used LN 7 together, but i Like either of them more than LNs 7s or 8s (and had one of each of those long ago when I started and followed "buy the best you can afford . I almost bought a holtey A13 in boxwood used once for $6500)

(the "best you can afford" advice is kind of dopey. Nobody knows what the best is, they just know what they have the money to buy. Some of Karl's experiments with steels, like S53, focus on specs that don't offer anything for woodworking (toughness in steel makes no difference if a steel doesn't have the strength not to deform in the first place).

I think karl is a dandy fellow, though - he's always been polite to me - not knocking him - he's looking to do something different because people buying stuff that high end aren't looking for a replacement iron off of amazon.
 

cowtown_eric

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I have a plethora of woodies, transitional as well as the iron planes.

The woodies are mostly moulding planes, and many of them are not sharp and ready to go.

So when I need to use one, it gets sharpened (back side only) and tuned up and tested on scrap til it's ready to go, and then put to use.

Transitional are, especially in larger sizes are so much lighter than iron planes, so truing a beam is much easier with a transitional than an iron plane, and not much trouble to tune up (UNLESS YER TRYING TO TUNE UP A FRANKEPLANE!) - I just tossed one out the other day that was impossible to make work

It don't take much research to get the basics of rikenology under yer belt, just gotta do it, otherwise those woodie molding planes become what they call "combustible quality" unleess you put in the minimal effort to make them usable. it gets easier with time

And you ain't gonna find no fancy steels for moulding plane blades anywhere, gotta deal with what you have, as did our fore-fathers for hundreds of years. Sharpen it, tune it, and use it, and if that ain't enuf motivation, learn how to do it so you can pass on the skill to the young folks.

Eric in the colonies
 

Adam W.

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The steel on moulding plane blades is usually very good anyway, so why would anyone want something other than what's there already ?
 

M_Chavez

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I've been using Krenov-style woodies for a lot of my woodwork for a few years now. Also have a Euro-style horn handled smoother (used as a softwood foreplane these days). I find tap-adjusting the blade depth is easier, faster and more accurate than on metal adjuster ones once you get the hang of it. You tap the blade to move it forward, tap the body to move the blade back, tap the blade sideways for alignment.

I also recently got a Marples tranny, which offers the combination of a metal adjuster with a wooden body. I really like the plane for working softwoods & light/medium hardwoods, but I see absolutely no benefit in having the frog vs the wedge & tap design, except for the issue below.

The main challenge with woodies, old & new, seems to be with the wedges. They need to be very well-fitted for the plane to work well. With home-made krenovs this is easy, because you make your own wedge & fit it, but I found that the wedges wear with time & use and lose their grip. With old woodies, the wedges always seem to be either poorly fitted by the previous owners, or, perhaps, the wedge & plane have warped with time, resulting in a poor fit.
A poor wedge very quickly transforms a dream plane into a nightmare. This is particularly noticeable if you use them to work hard woods with a very close cap iron setting.

So for soft & medium hardwoods I usually don't even reach for a metal-bodied plane - the woodies are just so much more pleasant to use. Give them a try, but get the wedge fitted, or ask somebody to fit a wedge for you.

For tough hardwoods, a heavy bedrock or BU plane is the way to go imho. Woodies can be used here, but my experience in many cases was far from pleasant.
 

HamsterJam

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My shoulder plane is wooden.
I also have some wooden moulding planes which I have played around with on scraps but not used in anger (yet?).
 

Jacob

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The main challenge with woodies, old & new, seems to be with the wedges. They need to be very well-fitted for the plane to work well. ...
Easily fixed by bending the blade, if it's a single. See earlier post. Blade needs to be close fit at the mouth and at the top of the bed.
 

Blaidd-Drwg

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I've been using 'woodies' for several years and now I have several that are tuned for specific tasks, so I don't need to tune them as frequently. I have found that, once they are tuned, they are very easy to use over long periods of time.
 

johnnyb

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sharpening moulders can be a pain. I also find thinner planes can twist making them impossible to use.
but me telling you won't help you to get one working. start with a rebate or a simple profile. don't give up till it's working well and these can work really well. then try a large hollow or round. large is much easier. finally try a bead or profile. beads are a bit tricksy as 75% of the cut happens on the little flat. the sides scrape and the last cut makes the bead. the little flat therefore needs a coarsish cut but the top and sides need a light cut!
 

johnnyb

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also the little flat is seeing loads more cuts so gets blunt. the obvious temptation is to only sharpen the tiny flat.nooooo! the whole thing needs sharpening...
 

AdrianUK

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Thanks everyone for your guidance and experience, all very useful and appreciated.

If I get to 1/10 of your standard Adam, I’ll be happy. Very useful to see the process of different cuts to get to the finished profile.

Checking the point regarding the wedges are providing a very good secure hold is a good heads up, which I’ll check, no point trying to preserve if the wedge isn’t effective, thanks Jacob / M_Chavez / DW.

I wasn’t aware the cutter can be retracted by tapping plane, thanks Fitzroy, will try it this week.
Tapping the toe or the heel ?

As always, sharpening I will play a huge part too….oops, apologies.

I have the luxury of time to learn, at my leisure, these old wood planes belonged to my g/f, and whilst I’ve been messing around with them on scraps, it got me thinking how he would have had to of learnt t to use woodies, when apprenticed. Probably a mix of using scraps too to get the basics right, but also on the job, under more pressure to not make mistakes.

In today’s world, mistakes can be quickly rectified with powered tools etc, but back a 100 years or more, not so simple.
 
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