Bevel Up vs Bevel Down Jack Plane

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Forum topic by JADobson posted 08-12-2016 03:52 PM 1513 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JADobson's profile (online now)


1442 posts in 2496 days

08-12-2016 03:52 PM

Hi all,
My wife wants to get me a new plane for my birthday and I could use a new jack plane. I’m leaning towards the Veritas low angle jack plane (,41182,41186,49708 ). From almost everything I’ve read it’s a solid performer. However, I have seen some, Paul Sellers being the most notable, saying that the bevel down plane is really the way to go. In that case I’d be looking at this one (,41182 ). From what I understand of Seller’s statement, BU planes tend to tear the wood badly. Others say this isn’t a problem. I’m hoping to hear from people who have and use these planes, especially someone who has both.

A little about my work. I use exclusively handtools for the most part. I don’t have a planer or jointer so I use my planes a lot. Hardwood of any type is really expensive up here in the frozen wasteland of Canuckistan so I end up using a lot of SPF.

Any input would be appreciated (except for those who are just going to say, “Buy an old stanley”). Thanks.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

8 replies so far

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2380 days

#1 posted 08-12-2016 04:17 PM

I just decided on the LN low angle jack, though it hasn’t arrived yet.

The reason to get the low angle version is versatility. Sharpen different blades at different angles and it’s like multiple planes in one. I plan to keep one blade at 25deg for end grain, and another at 38deg for general use.

I saw a Sellers video where he used several jack planes to compare them and ultimately concluded that they all work just fine. Nothing in that video about excessive tearout. Unless, I suppose, you were using a low angle blade for surface plaining.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View KelleyCrafts's profile


3712 posts in 1124 days

#2 posted 08-12-2016 04:23 PM

I saw the same as Brian. He concluded that it doesn’t matter. He compared the low angle to the standard old Stanley’s/records/etc. and said he prefers the BU but said they all do a fine job. He has been doing it 50 years and that’s what he knows best so it’s normal for him to stick with it, and he shows how well he controls all of it so I don’t blame him.

Get which ever you would like to get, personally I have a bunch of old Stanley’s tuned up and ready to rock and I wouldn’t mind having a BU hanging around the shop to tinker with myself. I don’t have a need though.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View JADobson's profile (online now)


1442 posts in 2496 days

#3 posted 08-12-2016 04:27 PM

Thanks guys,
FYI – Here is the quote from Sellers I was referring to:

“In my view the type of edge sharpness I need at the bench for a bevel-up bench plane to work effectively AND efficiently is the same for a bevel-down plane, but if a bevel-up plane is going to go wrong in the grain it often goes very wrong big time. More so than the bevel-down planes for reasons of physics. When a bevel-up plane begins to tear out the grain it can and indeed does rip the grain out at the very root mercilessly and not rarely but commonly. Unfortunately, at shows, where salesmen sell planes, they never show this plane reality even though this is the reality of why bevel-up planes differ from bevel-downs and why they never replaced the bevel-down planes through the centuries or came anywhere close to them.”

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View JayT's profile


6199 posts in 2596 days

#4 posted 08-12-2016 04:30 PM

How are you wanting to use it?

If you are looking for a heavily cambered plane to use for scrubbing and dimensioning wood, then I would go bevel down. They are much easier to get a heavy camber on and take thick shavings with than a bevel up.

If you are wanting a multi purpose plane with lots of flexibility, then get the bevel up because of the reasons Brian mentioned.

If you are going to have it as a general purpose plane (oversized smoother & short jointer), either one will be fine.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View jmartel's profile


8456 posts in 2535 days

#5 posted 08-12-2016 04:33 PM

It depends on what other planes you have. Honestly, I think I’m going to get rid of my low angle smoother and get a bevel down #3 or #4 instead. It requires a lot more force to use a bevel up with a high angle compared to a bevel down with a close set chipbreaker. That being said, if you do work with end grain, a low angle is significantly better.

And honestly, for a jack plane, why buy new? You certainly can, of course. But I would spend the money on a nice Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen plane where it matters on a smoother or on a jointer. Jack planes are used for more rough work and don’t need to be as precise. I’m not going to say that buying new planes are stupid. Half of my planes are LV or LN. But they are planes where the better quality manufacturing makes a difference. You can buy a #5 or #5 1/2 already restored and set up for 1/3-1/2 the cost if you don’t want to clean it up yourself.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View MrRon's profile


5478 posts in 3629 days

#6 posted 08-12-2016 06:43 PM

It really doesn’t matter which plane you get. It’s all about the bevel angle on the blade and not whether it is bevel up or bevel down. The bevel can always be ground to suit the wood condition (end grain, surface). Ki7hy has the right idea; blades of different bevel angles.

View OSU55's profile


2297 posts in 2375 days

#7 posted 08-12-2016 07:36 PM

For jack plane work, i.e. getting timber to dimensions, a Stanley Bailey #5 is hard to beat. I can’t think of any need to buy an LN or LV plane of any model for scrub or jack plane work. If someone just wants to spend $ that way because they have it, ok, but there’s no need to. Smoothers or other models are a different discussion.

I much prefer the lighter #5 to my LV BU LAJ for such work, and I don’t chew up the nice sole of the LV and I’m not afraid of dropping or hitting something, damaging, the old #5. I use the LAJ for the shooting board, other end grain, and flattening panel glue ups if my #7 tears out due to grain. Sometimes use it to joint, and sometimes to smooth large panels. I have a #4 and an SB4 with heavily cambered blades for use as scrub planes. Lightness is a good thing with roughing tools, where mass is a good thing for super smoothers.

While I’m a fan of Paul Sellers, I don’t agree with him that a BU plane tears out more than a BD. All depends on the BU bevel angle. I have a blade at 38°, and it performs equal to a little better than my #5. If the 38° tears out, I go with a 50°. I remember reading that blog by Paul and was a bit surprised by his statement. It didn’t agree with my experience.

View JADobson's profile (online now)


1442 posts in 2496 days

#8 posted 08-13-2016 02:26 AM

Thanks for all the information folks, especially OSU55. Your last paragraph was exactly what I was hoping to know about. Got a couple of weeks yet before I actually get to buy but this has helped.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

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