Hand plane question

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Forum topic by jasonpaul posted 10-31-2014 02:39 PM 1475 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1759 days

10-31-2014 02:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip maple walnut plane finishing joining sharpening

I am looking into getting a new hand plane and I am obviously stuck between a bevel up and a bevel down plane. I know the bevel up is more versatile in the angles it can cut at because of the ease of changing out the blades. But I also like the feel and adjustability of the bevel down planes. I was at the lie nielsen hand tool even last week and got to try out the low angle jack on a piece of walnut that had straight, wavy grain and a knot and it delt with it all beautifully.
I also got to try a sauerandsteiner smoothing infill plane that was amazing. It glided through some hard maple with reversing grain with ease no matter what side i started from and even though it had a higher angle it was not that difficult to push at all.

Whats going on. As far as I can figure if you have a super, super sharp blade you can go through anything with no tear out. Now this would be the first plane I own and I would be using it primarily on walnut and maple

10 replies so far

View Julian's profile


1478 posts in 3145 days

#1 posted 10-31-2014 02:50 PM

Get the best plane you can afford. A quality tool will last a lifetime. I do not have any bevel up planes so I can’t comment on that. But as you mentioned; a sharp blade makes a big difference.

-- Julian

View OSU55's profile


2381 posts in 2444 days

#2 posted 10-31-2014 02:58 PM

Here is my opinion on 1st handplanes . A super sharp blade and a 60° cut angle will deal with about any grain/knots, but won’t be pleasant for a lot of other tasks, especially end grain. There is a reason for different plane lengths, bedding/cutting angles, and some of the other design elements of planes – fitting the tool to the task (a lot of it is mktg snake oil, too).

View JayT's profile


6243 posts in 2666 days

#3 posted 10-31-2014 03:08 PM

You might want to read this blog post by Paul Sellers. He make some very good point in it about BU vs BD.

I do not have a bevel up plane (other than block planes), all of my planes are vintage bevel down, but I haven’t run into a situation yet that hasn’t been able to be be done by a bevel down. You can increase the attack angle on a bevel down by adding a back bevel. This can really help with tricky and reversing grain.

IMHO, you’ve already hit on the key point.

As far as I can figure if you have a super, super sharp blade you can go through anything with no tear out.

Though I would add the qualifier of almost anything. There are some pieces of lumber than just don’t plane well. That’s where scrapers come in.

BTW, totally jealous about this:

I also got to try a sauerandsteiner smoothing infill plane that was amazing.

I think the Sauer & Steiner planes are some of the most beautiful tools made and every report is that they work like a dream. I would love to have the opportunity to try one someday.

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

View jasonpaul's profile


6 posts in 1759 days

#4 posted 10-31-2014 03:15 PM

thanks for the comments guys. I have read the sellers blog its pretty helpful. OSU55 ill be reading your post for sure as well when i get a chance. And yes the Sauer & stiener planes are awesome. Even after testing a lie nielsen it was like night and day, I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Like i said in a previous post i plan on doing a walnut slab coffee table next summer and plan on using a router to flatten it. The smoother would pretty much be a dedicated smoother so I think I am leaning towards one of the veritas planes with a 55 angle on in. But there is lots of time to research and confuse myself a bit more lol. Although the BU Jack from LN did a great job at smoothing as well….oh god here we go again running myself in circles haha

View OSU55's profile


2381 posts in 2444 days

#5 posted 10-31-2014 08:12 PM

Just to add to your confusion you should try some Lee Valley Veritas planes. I know they make the woodworking show circuit.

View jasonpaul's profile


6 posts in 1759 days

#6 posted 10-31-2014 08:50 PM

I am not far from one and they are pretty good. The custom smoother is really nice and comfortable

View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 4091 days

#7 posted 11-03-2014 12:31 AM

I am far from an expert on hand planes. The first time I disassembled one I had to think for quite a while which way the bevel was suppose to go on reassembly. I have since restored a number of them and learned one thing for sure; if the iron is super sharp just about any plane will do a pretty good job.

I agree you should get the best you can afford and if you only ever plan on buying just one (I dare you.) getting a LN or Veritas would be a smart investment. but you will soon find out that there is no such thing as too many planes if you can afford multiple Cadillacs in your garage, God bless your good fortune However even Mitt Romney drives a Ford truck.

My point is there are some very good planes out there for a lot less. Are they made in the US? No! Do they perform well? Absolutely! Am I a good enough of a woodworker/plane user to tell the difference? Probably not. A LN will perform excellently right out of the box. Others will require 10 minutes of clean up and maybe a little honing/polishing the iron.

I am referring to the third generation of Wood River planes from Woodcraft. They are on sale this month and in my opinion a good investment. I was sold on them after watching a demonstration by Craig Bentzly. Although he works for Woodcraft, he is not afraid to point out any flaws. But in this case there really were none. So for a little more than price of one LN smoothing plane you could probably get a smoother and a jack plane from Woodcraft. I would love to have few LN planes but for the same money I can own quite a few more medium priced Wood River that allows me to do more woodworking and that’s what it’s all about.

Didn’t really answer your bevel question but hopefully some food for thought.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

View Don W's profile

Don W

19295 posts in 3022 days

#8 posted 11-03-2014 12:43 AM

there is a reason there is about 10 BU planes for every BD plane. Each has a use, but you’ll find in 9 out of 10 cases, the BD will work just fine.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4102 days

#9 posted 11-03-2014 02:45 AM

With a very sharp iron ground to the correct angle
for the work, you can plane just about anything
with either style of hand plane. Bevel up planes
have wear bevel issues. On a trade-off, it’s obviously
easier to raise the effective cutting angle above
45 degrees or figured woods However you can
achieve those angles on a standard plane using
back beveling.

Standard plane frogs are easier to adjust on the
fly and the irons can take deeper cambers.

I would recommend starting with old Bailey style
planes and getting your sharpening totally dialed-in
before progressing to premium planes.

I use the Burns sharpening system. It does back-
beveling effectively and is fast for standard honing
as well because one can bear down quite a lot
and use the entire stone surface.

View OSU55's profile


2381 posts in 2444 days

#10 posted 11-03-2014 04:33 PM

I use both BD and BU. While end grain can be cut with a 45° BD plane, I find the low 37° angle provided by the BU much better. I smooth a lot of reversing, twisting, sometimes notty grain. Standard 45° BD planes create tear out in places, no matter how sharp. Yes, back bevels can be put on BD blades, but I find large back bevels a pita to deal with – ok if that’s all you have, but there are much better ways. BU blades can have any bevel angle and are much easier to deal with vs back bevels. In fact, the versatility of the BU plane is the advantage – I can use my Veritas BU jack on the shooting board and for any smoothing duties (except small stuff). One can actually have fewer planes with the BU design. Wear bevels exist for both designs (and are easily dealt with – see my blog), but the BD can get more strokes before the edge needs tending.

I started with BD planes, and acquired the BU planes to address the end grain and smoothing shortcomings of the BD. I still use BD – heavier material removal, initial panel flattening, other misc stuff – because they do work very well.

A standard Bailey #4 is still the best place to start. They’re cheap, and as Paul Sellers demonstrates, very versatile. If you stick with hand planes, you can always find a use for it. If you don’t, you haven’t invested much.

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