Always Keep in mind while using a hand plane to get a perfect cut or shave in a wooden piece that it’s not just the blade; it’s about the whole setup. Everything the cap, screw, flatness of the sole, and the lever will play a significant role in the work.
You must put equal concentrate and effort into making sure every element of the plane is in perfect sync. A correctly set up hand tool will surely provide you with an elegant and efficient cut.
In this article, I’m going to talk about how to set up a hand plane.
Setting Up a Hand Plane: In Seven Easy Steps
Step 1: Flatten the Sole
The plane’s sole should be as flat as possible; the easiest way to check for flatness is to use the 120 grit abrasive paper on a known flat surface. You can use a piece of MDF and stick it down with some spray adhesive if you have some.
Back off the cutting iron so that it’s not getting in the way of flattening the sole. It’s better to leave the cutting iron fitted rather than taking it out entirely, as the tension of the lever cap, when the cap and cutting irons are fitted, can alter the shape of the sole very slightly.
Draw some lines on the plane’s sole with a marker pen from one side to the other all the way down the length of the sole. Then sand the sole, and if the pen marks are still visible in some areas, that means it’s not entirely flat.
So you’ll want to do some more sanding. If it seems badly out of shape, you might want to start with a more aggressive paper like 80 grit, which will remove material more quickly before using 120 grit. There’s no need to go above 120 grit as that is plenty smooth enough.
Once the sole is flat, It’s really important to lubricate it, which I’ll talk about a bit later
Step 2: Sharpening Cutting Iron Blade
A sharp cutting edge will make the hand plane cut cleaner and easier to use as it will be less resistant. Here, I will recommend a sharpening method. In this method, you will flatten and polish the very tip of the back of the cutting iron from edge to edge. Then you should lubricate the stones with some soapy water and work your way up from three hundred sixty grit to 6,000 grits and then rub on a piece of leather charged with a green polishing compound.
Then fit the cutting iron into a honing guide and sharpen through the Grits once more. Now you can remove the cutting iron from the honing guide and polish the cutting edge by hand on the leather strop.
By this point, you can feel a burr along with the cutting iron, which can be removed by rubbing on the leather strop. You can test its sharpness using a piece of paper, and when it cuts cleanly, you will know that you have got the right cutting edge.
Step 3: Cap Iron Set.
Once your cutting iron is nice and sharp, you want to reattach it to the cap iron. Its job is to deflect the shavings out through the top of the plane and reduce tear out. Loosen the screw to adjust it and maneuver it into place. Also, be careful not to let it rub against the cutting iron tip that will dull the blade. I like to set mine 2 millimeters away from the cutting iron tip, then tighten the screw to set it.
Moreover, you can also flatten the cap iron tip to make sure it makes good contact with the cutting guide, which will help prevent chips from getting caught in there.
Step 4: Lever Cap Setting
The lever cap allows you to quickly remove and refit the cap iron and cutting iron at the flick of the lever. You’ll see an adjustment screw securing it to the plane, which controls how tight the lever mechanism is and how tight the blade height adjustment knob is to turn.
You can adjust this until you get it operating just the way you want it. I like to set mine so that the adjustment knob could be twisted with one finger, which allows me to adjust it quickly and easily.
Step 5: Blade Cutting Depth and Alignment
To set the blade’s cutting depth using the screw knob on the back, you should hold the plane right up to one eye aiming towards the light, then close other eye and sight down the length of the sole, turning the knob until you can see just the very tip of the cutting edge protruding from the mouth.
If one side is protruding more than the other, you should use the alignment lever to angle the blade so that it’s level and straight. Then back off the blade by one or two turns and give it a try on a piece of wood, advancing the blade with each pass until you get a shaving.
To test the alignment, use one side of the blade and then the other, and look for both shavings to be the same thickness. When the thickness is the same, the blade is correctly aligned.
Step 6: Mouth with Frog Adjustment
The distance between the front of the mouth and the cutting iron can be increased or decreased depending on how much material you want to remove with the blade. To adjust it, remove the lever cap iron and cutting iron. The part of the plane where both cutting iron and lever cap iron lay is called the frog. There are a couple of screws securing the front to the base of the plane; loosen those screws, and on the back, you’ll see an adjustment screw at the bottom.
This can be turned clockwise to advance the frog or counterclockwise to back it off and make the mouth wider. Then you can secure the frog to the base with the screws. I like to set the distance between the front of the mouth and the cutting iron to 2 millimeters, giving good results.
If you find that shavings get caught in the mouth as you’re working and you have to remove them by hand, then that’s usually a sign that the opening is too narrow to you’ll probably want to open it up a bit.
Step 7: Lubrication
This one is sometimes overlooked, but it makes hand planning so much easier. Regularly lubricate the sole of the plane between and during use. It makes the plane glide much easier and takes a lot less effort. It also protects the metal parts of the plane from rust.
So, lubricate the plane’s sole, the sides, the cutting iron, and the cap iron. You can either use a lubricating wax or just a bit of regular oil on a piece of cloth, but for making the sole of the plane glide smoothly, In my opinion, you cannot beat a bit of candle wax.
The goal of the article was to provide you an overall idea about how to set up a hand plane. I tried to share the essence and gesture of my research in this article. So if you follow these simple steps, you should get good results with your hand plane.
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