Handplanes #2: Cap Iron, and Lever Cap Positioning

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 08-19-2009 08:04 PM 16522 reads 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: What was your first experience with handplanes? Part 2 of Handplanes series Part 3: Fore play ...err... Fore plane that is. »


I’ve seen these questions raised on several threads, and for many years didn’t know the answer to these myself. I just stumbled upon the “answers” which reminded me of the questions, so I figured I’d post it here for anyone that might be able to use it. I stumbled upon these on Lee-Valley website which is a golden fountain of knowledge if you know how to find it (some of their articles and tips are not visible, nor easy to come upon unless you stumble upon it by chance , or really searching hard for it).

Cap Iron (for Bevel Down planes)

So, how much should the blade protrude from the end of the cap iron for planing applications?

for smoothing and working with figured wood – the blade should protrude about 1/64” from the end of the cap iron, to give a very fine, and light shave before the shavings contact the cap iron and curl upwards.

for rougher cuts, and faster material removal, the blade should be set 1/32” – 1/16” from the end of the cap iron – the more it protrudes, the rougher and faster the material removal will be, softer wood can take a rouger cut, while hardwoods might cause the plane to choke, so a little trial and error is required to get a feel for it.

Lever Cap

How tight should the Lever Cap be set? and this also relates to the question: can blade adjustments be made when the lever cap is locked? or do I need to unlock the lever cap to make those modifications?

The Lever Cap screw should be tightened down 1/4 of a turn after it makes contact with the cap/blade. This creates enough pressure for the Lever Cap to hold the blade securely in place, while still allowing enough freedom for the adjustment screws to push the blade in/out and lateral movements. In this case – it is not necessary to unlock the lever cap in order to make changes to the blade positioning (in/out, left/right). the adjustment screws and lateral adjustor should move freely, as should the blade (although pressed firmly against the plane’s frog/body).

if the adjustment mechanisms are hard to use when the blade is locked in place – then either the lever cap is locked too tightly, or the adjustment mechanisms aren’t clean. be careful as putting too much force on those might break them off.

Special Thanks to Lee Valley for putting out this info out there for anyone to use.

Edit: here is an illustration (from Lee Valley which has excellent guides and information) of the handplane which shows the Lever Cap (which holds the blade to the plane) and the Cap Iron, which on Bevel down bench planes curls the shavings and controls the penetration of the blade in the wood:

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

8 comments so far

View Derrek LeRouax's profile

Derrek LeRouax

129 posts in 4376 days

#1 posted 08-19-2009 09:06 PM


This might be a little to “elementary”, but is there anyway that you could post photos indicating what a “CAp Iron” and “Lever Cap” are? I am new to planes, but just bought a low angle block plane from Rockler and would like to know more… Thanks.

-- Derrek L.

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4730 days

#2 posted 08-19-2009 09:25 PM

Derrek , it is elementary, but proper, as without knowing the parts – understanding their purpose is useless. thanks for bringing this up.

in your case, and in any block plane – you would not have the cap iron, as your blade is installed Bevel-Up, and thus has it’s own built-in chip breaker functionality which in Bevel down planes is what the Cap Iron does.

I’ve added an illustration above that shows the different parts I refer to.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Woodlander's profile


9 posts in 4409 days

#3 posted 08-20-2009 03:52 AM


it’s been great reading your posts! you’ve done crazy things to a bowling alley…

just a quick point – here’s a really easy way to find stuff online…

use as the search engine (if you want, there are much more advanced ones to use, but for now it’ll work)... type in the following (this is an example)...

this gives you access to search the site from the “backdoor” if you will…

So… for example, if you do [ “Lever Cap” ] with the parenthases only acting as the outside of the search box, it will search the lee valley site (only) for the exact term “lever cap”...

Anyway… hope this helps… this will enable you to search any site in this manner (ie. I work for Cooper Industries, maker of the Crescent Wrenches, Luftkin Tape Measures, Nicholson Rasps, Weller Soldering products, etc.) you would search the following weller to search the cooper tools site for info and pages about weller….

again… this is all super simple…. there’s much better ways to do it… but hopefully this helps for now.

I can do this, but unfortunately have not yet figured out how to make a zero clearance insert for my R4511. Oh well… never mind my dado set.

-- "Government "help" to business is just as disastrous as government persecution... the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off. " - Ayn Rand

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4730 days

#4 posted 08-20-2009 04:01 AM

Thanks Woodlander. that is indeed an easy way to find things online, highly recommended. thats how I personally do most of my online work.

on a side note – if I’m able to incorporate all the information into 1 post, and not force people to go and google things- I think it’s easier to stay focused on the subject.

And thank you for your kind words.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Derrek LeRouax's profile

Derrek LeRouax

129 posts in 4376 days

#5 posted 08-20-2009 01:55 PM


Thanks for the edit and update. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have these types of educational blogs done by people who do this on a regular basis. I don’t have anyone close to me that I can learn from, so this is the place of “higher education”. Thanks again.

-- Derrek L.

View RustyGoldman's profile


3 posts in 3747 days

#6 posted 02-07-2011 10:55 AM

I have seen many DIY sites, however I must reaffirm that yours is designed brilliantly and is full of practical information. Far too often the sites are full of advertisement and leaves readers wondering what the real intent is!

-- Rusty -

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4730 days

#7 posted 02-07-2011 06:16 PM

Thank you for the comments, glad it is found useful. I know these are sometimes not the most obvious parts and context.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View paulsalisbury's profile


9 posts in 3695 days

#8 posted 04-04-2011 08:58 AM

Lee Valley is probably one of my favourite tool shops. Prompt service, knowledgeable staff and if I want a hard-to-find tool, I am certain that they will have it. The only downside is shipping costs. I’ve also noticed a steady increase in prices over the past few years. But granted, they are still one of the best there is.

-- Paul -

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