Tearout - I'm loosing my mind

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Forum topic by djang000 posted 03-15-2015 01:49 AM 1589 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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67 posts in 2526 days

03-15-2015 01:49 AM

Topic tags/keywords: handplane tearout

Hey guys

I want to love handplane. I really want to. By seems like they don’t want my love. Tonight I was putting the finishing touch on a project before glue-up. I wanted to erase pencil marks so I fetch my #4. Blade is extra sharp. I back it off and start planning, advancing the blade 1/6 of a turn every pass until the blade barely touch the surface of the wood. Even if I’m producing really thin shaving, I get tear out. I flip the board thinking I’m going against the grain. Same story.

I’m orienting the plane at 45 degrees, taking really thin shaving, with a freshly touched up blade and the only thing I’m getting is frustration at every pass on the board.

What’s wrong? :’(


25 replies so far

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 2188 days

#1 posted 03-15-2015 02:13 AM

That knot and its surrounding reversing grain are what are giving you grief. In a situation like that, there is no ‘with’ or ‘against’ the grain because it’s going both ways.

You can get set your chipbreaker as close as you dare, and potentially hone a back bevel on your iron to increase the cutting angle. Or better yet, get a dedicated smoothing plane with a high angle frog (if bevel down) or blade (if bevel up). Or use a scraper to work areas like that.

Skewing the plane in this situation will make thing worse, as you are effectively lowering the cutting angle by doing that. It’s a good trick for end grain, but not for taming tearout on face grain.

View waho6o9's profile


8652 posts in 2971 days

#2 posted 03-15-2015 02:15 AM

+1 for Mykos scraper.

View djang000's profile


67 posts in 2526 days

#3 posted 03-15-2015 02:41 AM

Thanks Mykos. Didn’t know that I was worsening the situation by skewing the plane. I’ll try grinding a back bevel to my blade I guess.

The thing is; I sometimes get the same situation without any warning (no knots) :

Got this 5 mins after while trying to remove the blade mark… :S

View waho6o9's profile


8652 posts in 2971 days

#4 posted 03-15-2015 02:44 AM

Maybe strop the blade after sharpening.

I use green honing compound on a piece of leather

glued to baltic birch.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1616 days

#5 posted 03-15-2015 02:44 AM

Look at the sides of the board for grain direction, on flat sawn lumber is crazy enough but when it isn’t forested as well as it should, it can be different from one side to another and or change direction a couple feet down the board. Plane down grain, if it’s moving up and down skew cut to minimize damage, skewing provides a smaller profile to the grain. The angle of the plane can make a significant difference in the cut too. You can get chatter if the blade isn’t tight enough too, also you might try waxing the plane bed

-- I meant to do that!

View TheFridge's profile


10858 posts in 1880 days

#6 posted 03-15-2015 03:43 AM

theres something wrong with the plane if it’s tearing out like that in what looks like a solid piece of maple.

If someone on the “hand planes of your dreams” thread can’t help then I don’t know who can.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1323 posts in 2329 days

#7 posted 03-15-2015 04:41 AM

I won’t get too deep into it, but I somewhat share your sentiments. I really wish handplanes could do everything they advertise, but the honest truth is that they can’t. It’s not because we can’t sharpen or the chipbreaker is set up wrong or the bed angle is wrong. There are sometimes just places where handplanes won’t work. In this situation, I go to a scraper or sandpaper. I could go on forever on this, but in the end, this is the exact reason I shy away from smoothing large table tops with a handplane alone. I might plane a lot of it, but I’ll end up scraping some of it and sanding it all with 220 or 320 after the fact. A handplane is never my last step before finish because it is just too risky. And I doubt you’d find many professional woodworkers who argued with that.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2754 days

#8 posted 03-15-2015 04:45 AM

As to the first situation, I like Mykos’ advice.

As to the second situation—
At this point, I think it would be prudent to have a look at the plane. In no particular order: check the sole for flatness—I have never (ever) lapped any of the planes I have, but I can imagine a situation where a sole is sufficiently screwed up as to require it.
Pay particular attention to area ahead of mouth.
Next check frog for tightness and position in relation to mouth.
Lastly, check chipbreaker, lever cap and iron for any irregularities.

Don’t know what else to suggest, except for this—If you have any other planes and they can successfully work that piece of maple, then it’s not the operator and you can focus on the plane.

View Robert's profile


3403 posts in 1874 days

#9 posted 03-15-2015 01:00 PM

Looks like you might have had your blade set a little deep?

It’s most likely not the plane’s fault, but you should still check the plane first:

1. Razor (and I mean razor) sharp blade.
2. Set for extremely light cut. (Take a practice piece and a micrometer you want your shavings < .002).
3. Close the mouth down as much as possible.
4. Make sure you’ve got plenty of pressure on the front tote.
5. Last but not least, make sure your plane sole is flat, especially in the mouth area (mark with sharpie, take a few passes over 120 grit sandpaper and check wear pattern on sole. Make sure blade and cap iron are in place and tensioned.) If you’re using an old Stanley, this is especially critical.

Doc – I’ve actually had 2 old Stanleys with warped/unflat sole. One, a #4 I was able to correct and the other, a #6 I would have had to have machined to make usable. I admit my standards are high, but I’ve been around the block too many times with old refurbished planes…..

If there’s nothing wrong with your plane, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us.
Sounds like you’ve tried to use good technique with swirling, skewed strokes.

Its all about grain direction and the species of wood. For example, oak is one of the most notorious for tear out. Its also about the figure, like you’re dealing with. The more figure, then more grain direction changes. Its very frustrating for the beginner because even when you think you’ve read the grain right, the wood can do strange things.

The only solution I know of in your situation where you have a swirling grain pattern around a knot is to either use a high angle plane or a scraper.

For me, myself and I, I’m eventually going to break down and put a spiral cutting head on my planer. At least then I can send it back through and try to salvage the piece.

I feel your pain, because the thing about tear out is you don’t know its happening until its too late. This is why I never save the final hand planing until the end.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View dhazelton's profile


2837 posts in 2690 days

#10 posted 03-15-2015 01:11 PM

Planing out pencil marks? Isn’t that too aggressive? Fine sandpaper seems more appropriate.

View Mike67's profile


97 posts in 3730 days

#11 posted 03-15-2015 01:29 PM

I had the same issues for a long time and sometimes still do so I feel for you. Hard to tell from the pics but it looks like those shavings are a bit thick. rwe is right – go for something like two thousandths thick or less. If you don’t have a micrometer, think in terms of about half the thickness of what you’ve got. To get there, advance the blade less than the 1/6 of a turn at a time that you’re using. Then, when it just begins to cut, take a handful of passes before you advance it anymore. What happens is that initially, you’re just cutting the high spots so it feels like you need to advance the cutter to get a bigger bite, but this is the time to be patient. Take a few more passes to knock down the high spots and soon you’ll be getting full, thin cuts.

View RandyinFlorida's profile


257 posts in 2461 days

#12 posted 03-15-2015 02:21 PM

Sam, I’m no expert but here’s my say. It looks to me like chatter. Other’s have listed all the reasons. When that has happened to me I found the chip breaker was too far back on the blade. Don’t give up.

-- Randy in Crestview Florida, Wood Rocks!

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 1730 days

#13 posted 03-15-2015 03:51 PM

Card scraper polished and sharpened a la William Ng. I’ve never experienced tear out with my card scraper even on wild grain. Nice curly shavings. I dont even sand after scraping. I burnish the wood also a la Ng. He’s got a great video on YouTube.

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2297 days

#14 posted 03-15-2015 04:54 PM

I have some western maple that really likes to tear out like that.
At every stage of working it-re-saw, jointer,planer, then hand plane and scrape, the cutters need to be wicked sharp. I use the hand plane to get it closer to a reasonable scraping point.
Working that wood with a handplane, the wicked sharp edge degrades rapidly, and needs to be touched up often. Otherwise, the edge begins to rub on the harder areas and dig into the softer or reverse grain areas.

View a1Jim's profile


117627 posts in 3971 days

#15 posted 03-15-2015 05:46 PM

I agree with using a well-sharpened card scraper or even better when removing pencil marks erase with an eraser and then wipe off with lacquer thinner.

showing 1 through 15 of 25 replies

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