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What's all this bevel up stuff anyway?

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Anonymous

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I have a serious question to ask as I am confused by what I am seeing lately

Just lately there seems to be many advocates of bevel up (i.e. Low Angle) bench planes and even jointers. Is there any reasoning behind this or is it simply a bandwagon and latest fad?

What's the deal here? As far as I am aware (and I could easily be wrong here), planes have been tested and developed to work very well over several hundred years. Surely Chippendale, to name one, must have used something akin to a 'standard' angle plane rather than bevel up to produce his rather impressive furniture?

If skilled craftsmen have been happy with the bevel down at the 'standard' angle, which must have been arrived at over tens or hundreds of years of R&D and practical use, why are we suddenly seeing a cry to favour LA planes? Often with re-ground blades to allow them to cut like bevel down planes? Especially interesting when one considers that high angle planes are accepted as working better on 'difficult ' woods.

I have an LA smoother and a bedrock smoother (same manufacturer) and the bedrock generally works best on the woods I use (Pine, Oak, Ash, Mahogany(s), Sycamore, Maple, Beech).

So why the favour towards LAs?
 

ike

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I think the LV bevel up planes in particular, are very popular due to their versatility afforded by the low cost, high angle blade option. You get all round functionlity at a much lower cost than having separate planes or as with LN's, a seperate frog (£50+) :shock:

Why earlier generations of planemakers never picked up on it and made a commercial success of the idea as LV have, is surprising.


Ike
 

dedee

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Tony,
an interesting post.
I will leave the technical side of the debate to others but as far as the historical aspect goes; does it necessarily follow that because nobody though about it hundreds of years ago that it is a fad or a bad idea? One could apply the same theory to Japanese pull saws for example.

Impossible to say of course but I suspect that Chippendale would have used these modern tools if they had been available to him.

Andy
 

ydb1md

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Personally, I never have cared for the bevel down designs, at all. I've been working wood for a long time and bevel downs have always given me fits. They are a royal PITA to adjust and by design they have too many parts. Having so many parts leaves lots of surfaces that might not mate quite right. When I got my first bevel up plane, i wanted to scream hallelujah. Here was a plane that would do what I needed it to -- with a minimum of futzing.

LA designs are cheaper because they are simpler in design and execution, not because they're inferior. Less parts means less machining -- where the bulk of a metal plane's cost is. I don't see how Lie Nielsen can get away with charging $295 for a bevel up jointer -- it's almost criminal, really. They are so much easier for the manufacturer to produce. I imagine the only reason that Lee Valley prices their LA designs close to their bevel up counterparts is so that the LA's don't steal sales from the "old" designs. I imagine that, when you get down to it, a bevel up design costs maybe half what it costs to produce (manufacture) a bevel down design. The profit margin for bevel down designs, i'm guessing, is pretty low while the bevel ups should give the manufacturers a little more bang for their buck.

Where the metal hits the wood, all that really matters is the effective angle between the iron and the grain. If you use a bedrock-design bevel down plane with an effective blade angle of 50 degrees and compare the quality of cut to a bevel up LA plane with an effective blade angle of 50 degrees, the difference in the surface finish should be minute, almost academic.

The fact that an LA plane can function as two or three different planes simply by swapping blades is amazing. I can't imagine swapping out the frog on a bedrock design to get the effect of a york pitch when I can swap out my blade in a matter of seconds.

Personally, I can't stand the complexity of the bevel down planes. The chip breakers, the frogs, etc. It leaves me having to play with so many variables when I'd rather be working the wood. I imagine there will be purists that hold the traditional design in high esteem. I just believe that no one realized the full potential of the bevel up design when it came out in the early part of the last century. Somehow I can't imagine a woodworker in the 1920's grinding a micro bevel on his iron just to see what would happen. I kind of envision them doing things "the way it's always been done" without giving it a second thought.

just my two cents . . . . :)
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Tony

There are several reasons why the LA planes have recently become so prized.

It is important to recognise that the original Stanley #62 and #164 were

(1) relatively specialised tools in their day, used for surfaces such as smoothing chopping blocks. That is, dedicated to end grain surfaces only.
(2) They were only available with 25 degree bevel blades and used in low angle mode, which made them unsuitable for most hardwoods and especially anything with reversing grain.
(3) The cast iron from which they were manufactured is a far cry from the ductile iron used by LV and LN. The design of these planes is such that the bed is thin and, thus, the mouth is fragile. Most of the original Stanley (including my #62) have damage to the rear of the mouth. I t is not a significant factor in practice, but the planes obtained a reputation as being unsuitable for the type of robust usage for which the bench planes excel. This problem was eliminated with the introduction of ductile iron.

In the area of bevel down planes it is now accepted that the Bed Rock design is superior to that of the standard bench plane. Here we are talking about the frog design of the Bed Rock, which extends to the beginning of the mouth, so supporting the blade much further than the standard frog. Manufacturers such a LN, Clifton and (in their own unique way) LV have adopted these design principles.

Following on from this is the advantage offered by the bevel up planes. The most important issue here is that the blade is supported over an even greater area than even the Bed Rock design. As a result, the bevel up planes offer the potential for performance greater than ever before.

But wait .... there is even more! The bevel up planes offer great versatility since it is easy to change the cutting angle from LA to HA simply by using a blade with a different bevel angle. This is only possible with bevel down planes to a very limited extent (if you use back bevels), and is considerably less convenient in this particular format.

The irony is that bevel up planes are not only better design, but they are simpler in construction, and therefore cheaper to manufacture, than bevel up bench planes. No doubt we are going to see the growth of this design in the future.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 
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Anonymous

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Really interesting points and reasoning so far. Thanks for the responses, they make very interesting reading.

However, my LN4.5 still performs better than my LN #164 which suggests to me that the only real advantages are the price due to simplicity, and possibly the greater blade support area :?

I do not really see that having two blades ground to a different angles is an advantage as it takes too long to swap and set up a blade correctly and there is plenty of scope for error in the initial setting. I am personally happier to have 2 planes, one high angle and one standard/low angle - both set up correctly all the time

On the blade support front, I believe that it is only crucial near the cutting edge and would have expected a bedrock design to be perfectly good enough here when used with a blade of decent thickness? Is this not the case?
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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it takes too long to swap and set up a blade correctly
Tony, this may be so for the LN, but it is not the case with the LV. I know of several LN-users who have since swapped their #164s and #62s for LV's.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

Alf

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Okay, so you're sick of me on this subject, but never mind, here's my take on it... :roll:

So the first question is; if they're so d*** great, why didn't the old timers use them then? Where are all the old #62's and #164's

I believe the answer to be; materials. When planes were first made, it soon became apparent that the favoured material - wood - was frankly hopeless below a certain angle. Make your bedding angle too shallow and it flexes (if you're lucky) breaks etc etc. No good at all. That's why metal planes first came to be; for mitre planes and such. But even metal planes weren't always the answer. What does Blood & Gore tell us is one of the main problems with old Stanley #62's? Chipping at the back of the mouth. The idea was there, but the cast arn wasn't up to the task - and no old timer worth his tool chest wants an expensive plane chipping behind the mouth. Now I'm no metals expert, but I assume the steel soles of infill mitre and shoulder planes were better able to take the required low angle, so they were the popular face of the low angle plane. But expensive. So the old timers all got used to the idea that bevel up planes, unless they were infills, were never any good - and we inherited that view. Nowadays we have ductile this and that, and chipping behind the mouth is not an issue. Suddenly a cast low bedding angle is economically viable, and we're having to unlearn the knowledge we inherited from the old timers.

Also, the materials we're all planing have changed. The vast proportion of planes sold in the past were for carpenters and joiners. Pretty undemanding softwood. A 45deg bevel down plane is just dandy for that, with the added advantage that you don't have to worry about the angle you're sharpening your bevel to - great for site work. And for the difficult woods for the cabinetmakers? Why, there were infills of course. Expensive infills. One task, inflexible infills. Okay if you're doing the same task day in, day out, and the plane is your living. Perhaps more of an issue to a lot of hobbyist woodworkers these days - particularly if they already have many hundreds or thousands of pounds tied up in machinery. How many times does someone say they "want to get into hand tools. What plane (singular) should I get?" So yes, a sort of bandwagon if you like. And we're planing even more difficult woods these days, as the long, clear boards simply aren't available any more. We're asking more of our planes; better performance, lower cost, easier to adjust, less taking up of space (a router and cutters can replace whole shelves of moulders, why shouldn't one plane replace whole shelves of bench planes?) etc etc. It's an ideal situation for the bevel-up plane.

Why favour a bevel-up against a bevel-down? Putting aside the flexibility of changing the bevel to change the pitch (which is a big put aside!), firstly the blade is solidly on a bed which is part of the plane body. Don't let the whole "adjustable frog" thing fool you. My guess is the best (only?) way to get a 45 deg, or higher, pitch frog is to cast it seperately from the main body of the plane. I'm also guessing only later did it dawn on anyone to claim it was a "feature". It's just another place for things not to bed down correctly, shift out of square etc etc. What's one of the feature of infills that people go on about? The solid bedding of the blade. Secondly, the adjustable mouth. Why that never caught on as an option on bevel down planes, I don't know. Would have given away the frog thing I s'pose... :wink: It's sooooooo much easier to just loosen the front knob, move the mouth, tighten again. A 2 second job. Even on an L-N Bedrock, you're looking for a screwdriver before you even start.

There's probably lots more that I'll remember I wanted to say once I've hit "Submit", but that's more than enough conjecture and guessing for one afternoon... :lol:

Cheers, Alf

Okay, everybody else's beaten me to it, 'cos I got kicked off my connection, but heck, I've typed it all up now... :roll:
 

ike

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However, my LN4.5 still performs better than my LN #164
So is the performance of the former "superlative" and the latter "bloody good"?. How do you quantify the performance? Arguably, the performance of an LV LA is as good as an LN 164. The quality modern planes are all so good, don't you think that for most people it comes down to bang for bucks?
 

Alf

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ike":202jdqls said:
However, my LN4.5 still performs better than my LN #164
So is the performance of the former "superlative" and the latter "bloody good"?. How do you quantify the performance? Arguably, the performance of an LV LA is as good as an LN 164. The quality modern planes are all so good, don't you think that for most people it comes down to bang for bucks?
Wrong question, ike. You should be asking at what effective pitch angles? For what tasks? I can stand up and say my LN #164 performs better than my LN #4.5 and I wouldn't be lying, and it doesn't make Tony wrong either (hey, gotta be a first time, right? :wink: ) FWIW, I'm talking about on end grain with the supplied, standard frog/blade angle.

Cheers, Alf
 
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ike":3rxk2tkx said:
However, my LN4.5 still performs better than my LN #164
So is the performance of the former "superlative" and the latter "bloody good"?. How do you quantify the performance?
The performance of a plane is VERY easy to quantify. Simply use it!!

Yes, both are exceptional tools - but that has nothing to do with the question I asked when I started this thread and is irrelevant.

The 4.5 is easier to use than the #164. The extra mass helps it to take long fine shavings and I find the #164 sometimes seems to 'skip' over areas when I am at a long reach on , for example, a large table top.

I get less breakout on most of the woods I plane using the 4.5. I prefer the grip on the 4.5 as my finger rests against the frog, I still cannot feel comfortable with the lack of frog and all fingers around the handle.

I find the mass of the 4.5 is also useful on the shooting board and often resort to using it in preference to the #164. The #164 does give a better finish on the shooting board and I often start with the 4.5 to get the bulk planed away and then finish with the #164.

I use the #164 to plane dovetail joints after assembly where it excels way beyond the 4.5

Arguably, the performance of an LV LA is as good as an LN 164.
This is not neccesarily the case as Derek's post shows.

Would I buy the LN#164 or the LV if I were starting again?
No.
Neither.
I would buy one of the LA jacks which is larger and heavier and after using one at Woodex, I can say that it ismore suited to the way I plane.
 
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Alf":1j3bb2oy said:
Tony wrong either (hey, gotta be a first time, right? :wink: )

Cheers, Alf
Cheeky :twisted:

FWIW, I'm talking about on end grain with the supplied, standard frog/blade angle.
Canot argue with that. No contest. #164 is used to clean end grain on all my dovetails.

BTW Alf, I found your reasoning in your first post very interesting and well argued.
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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Tony

An observation. Your reply (below) can be separated into two groups:

The first has to do with comfort and personal preferrence -

The 4.5 is easier to use than the #164. The extra mass helps it to take long fine shavings and I find the #164 sometimes seems to 'skip' over areas when I am at a long reach on , for example, a large table top.

I prefer the grip on the 4.5 as my finger rests against the frog, I still cannot feel comfortable with the lack of frog and all fingers around the handle.

I find the mass of the 4.5 is also useful on the shooting board and often resort to using it in preference to the #164.
Then there is the second group. This deals with the results of planing, per se:

I get less breakout on most of the woods I plane using the 4.5.

The #164 does give a better finish on the shooting board and I often start with the 4.5 to get the bulk planed away and then finish with the #164.

I use the #164 to plane dovetail joints after assembly where it excels way beyond the 4.5
Putting aside the comfort of use issues, the relevant infirmation is in the second group, and the issue that comes to the fore is what bevel angle is in the bevel up plane? If you are using a 25 degree bevel on the #164, then you are not comparing apples with apples. Especially if the #4-1/2 has the 50 degree frog. This would account for the better performance of the #164 on end grain and the better performance of the #4-1/2 on interlinked face grain.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

Derek Cohen (Perth Oz)

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How interesting is it that many of us are asking the same questions and making the same observations, then posting them similtaneously.

Regards from Perth

Derek
 

bugbear

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Arguing against the versatiliy of transforming the cutting action of a bevel up plane with a differently ground blade...

I am personally happier to have 2 planes, one high angle and one standard/low angle - both set up correctly all the time
Given the lower cost of bevel up planes, that would remain an argument in their favour.

BugBear
 

Philly

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I was in Yandles today-they have the LV low angle smoother for sale at £117. That is very low for such a high performing plane!!! I find this plane a piece of cake to use and adjust-definitely an advantage for folk new to hand planes. And so few bits and pieces between the handles-makes my Cliftons look fussy.......
Performance is a difficult thing to describe-only by using a tool and comparing that to your previous tool experiences can you reach a worthwhile conclusion, and that may not agree with other users. But these planes, while not exactly "new", are a step forward in the price/quality stakes.
Tony, you should not have to consider dumping your beloved #4.5 because a new plane on the block is getting all the press. Go with what works for you personally, for your needs.
Mind you-it's a great excuse to buy more planes, though. Isn't it? :twisted:
Cheers
PlaneCrazyPhilly :D
 
A

Anonymous

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So here's my two cents:

I think it all boils down to preference, and a certain amount of faddism (word?). With any thing that revolves around preference there isn't any right or wrong answer in my opinion, but lets not get carried away.

As you mentioned Tony, people have been getting excellent results out of standard planes for years and years, and that is what counts. A LA or Bevel Up plane has certain technical advantages with regards to manufacture and use, but it will ultimately do the same thing as anyother plane.

The fact is that companies have realized there is a large and growing group of customers who will pay for supposedly superior tools, and that is incentive enough to manufacture them I'd say. I'm not knocking the innovation and inventiveness of these people, not at all, I think standard plane design had hit its peak around 1920, and so its time for something new. But do these planes really do anything new, or significantly better? I'd say no.

Do you plane faster with a LA then a standard? Does it provide any better finish? Not at all, in fact I'd wager any speed and finish differences come down to technique and experience.

That said, its nice to have companies that are interested in producing quality tools for us woodworkers, and actually trying new things.

Cheers

Regan
 

bugbear

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A LA or Bevel Up plane has certain technical advantages with regards to manufacture and use, but it will ultimately do the same thing as anyother plane.
If those are the facts, and given that BU are cheaper, they should (logically) come to completely dominate the market.

Same results for less cost is a clear win.

BugBear
 

Alf

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Regan":3ab9h69k said:
I think it all boils down to preference, and a certain amount of faddism (word?).
I can't speak for anyone else's reasons, but that isn't the case for me. I didn't want to like bevel-up planes. I was quite happy regarding my #164 as a glorified block plane and considered Lee Valley were off their collective nuts to bother bringing more bevel up planes to the market when LN seemed to have it covered. To be honest, I can't see the point of the heavy smoother or the eventual jointer either, 'cos the jack is brilliant and I don't see why you'd want anything else. But I've learnt a bit, I hope, and will wait and see. I didn't want to get the bug and have people avoiding me in the street in an effort to escape the latest sermon on the wonders of high angle blades in bevel up planes. I didn't want to neglect all my bevel down planes. I certainly didn't want to never see my (then) newly acquired LN #4.5 'cos it usually stays in its plane sock these days. But a fad?

n. A fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time; a craze.

Well first define a brief period of time. I intend to be found with that jack in my cold, dead (and sore*) hands**, and I hope to be around for a while yet. :wink:

Just out of interest, Regan, do you own a bevel up plane? If yes, have you used a higher angle blade in it?

Cheers, Alf

**Not in the pay of LV - for some reason they've taken to sending me planes and I try and review them for you lot as honestly as I can. Sometimes I keep 'em, sometimes they become prizes on the forum, and sometimes they're sold for forum funds. I fully expect I could slate one of them, and as long as I had the facts to back up that slating, Rob wouldn't suddenly not know me. Occasionally they've asked me for an opinion, and I give it. I think it's about 50/50 so far as to whether we've agreed... If I didn't truly believe what I was saying, I wouldn't say it. *Oh, and I still hate the rear tote...
Sorry, felt maybe that needed to be said. :roll: :wink:
 
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