• Creator
  • #2030528
    Avatar Of KeatsKeats
    Post count: 1

    Hi there!


    Relatively new to traditional, hand-tool woodworking, and though absolutely loving it, I’m having a bit of frustrations when it comes to planing the face of a board.

    I’m able to get very silky smooth finishes on sides, and sometimes even end-grain, when my iron is fresh off the stones, but for whatever reason, I cannot seem to get a smooth face on a board!


    I have been using a #5, and a #4, and I even put a camber on my #4’s blade to prevent the track marks. I cannot seem to get the face to be even or smooth when removing stock.

    I’m assuming that it is either my technique, or my sharpening technique to be the issue. I always try to “scoop” out the middle by varying pressure between the toe, middle, and heel of the plane sole. My sharpening routine usually includes normal bevel and back flattening work, using Norton water stones, starting with 220g when needed, then moving to 1000g, 4000g, and then 25-30 passes on a strop. I’d like to get an 8000g stone, but cost is a bit steep at the moment.. I’m assuming that is not the issue at all.



    Any thoughts on what I can try to troubleshoot this issue?


    Looking forward to hearing responses. Enjoy the week everyone.



Viewing 1 reply thread
  • Author
    • Avatar Of Mike In TnMike in TN
      Post count: 301

      Hi Keats,

      There is a lot of good information on the basic process already available on this site and from the many videos on the internet so I’m just going to mention the high points. Some wood is just stubborn. Species and grain structure makes a huge difference in how you have to approach the work. That is why traditional woodworkers have developed scrapers, toothed blades, and high angle frogs. I doubt that your sharpening is the cause of your  issues.

      First thing to consider is the stock itself and I would recommend you practice with some straight grain material until you get more experience. Details like rising and falling grain, figure such as curls, crotch, and birdseye creates special circumstances that are considered advanced and should be attempted after the basic skills are mastered. I don’t know the condition of the stock you are starting with but I am assuming that it is just basic rough sawn or machine planed stock and will start there. Make sure that you do remove any wire edge that might remain on your blade, set the chip breaker close to the edge (after you tune it to fit properly of course) and make sure your plane mouth is relatively tight ( on the smoother)to minimize tear-out. The #5 is normally used as a true jack and can be used to do the rougher work if it has a slight camber and needs wider (than the smoother) mouth to pass the shavings. It is a two step process with the jack doing the basic shaping and the smoother doing what the name implies. I normally use a flat, or minimal camber on my smoothers and just round the corners to eliminate plane tracks. Others prefer cambering the smoother and if you prefer that method I won’t argue. Do use a straight edge and winding sticks to establish the areas that need to be reduced in order to make the face into a flat plane(geometrically speaking). Later on you learn to use the plane edge to function as a straight edge in some applications. Be sure and hold the stock secure to prevent movement but don’t use so much pressure that you distort the stock. You want to be able to work the entire surface without damaging the tools and you might need to shim the stock to prevent rocking. Keep in mind that you are hitting high parts of the stock most of the time instead of running shavings the entire length of the board and much of the work may be limited to specific areas at this point.

      The work with the jack should leave the stock flat but not “smooth”. With straight grain stock, this should have left you with a minimum of tear-out so that the smoother only needs to take off the high spots from the previous work. You should then gradually (finely set blades take thin shavings) bring the rough surface down to the desired degree of smoothness but you do need to keep in mind that overly aggressive smoothing can throw off your flatness and that aspect of your work should be checked repeatedly with the winding sticks and straight edge. The good news is that a finely set smoother should only be removing about 1 to 2 thousands of an inch with each pass. Again, you can restrict your passes to trouble areas and there is no requirement to do passes along the entire length. You can skew the plane, make “circle passes” when working isolated areas, or can reverse the planning direction for rising grain. Don’t become obsessive over the quality of the shavings in the process. It is the surface of the stock that matters, not how pretty the shavings are. Later on you will learn to “read” the shavings to help diagnose what the plane is doing but that will come later. Lastly, get and learn to use a scraper.

      One thing to keep in mind with “traditional” woodworking is that many surfaces in old pieces were never worked with a smoother. Some surfaces such as undersides of drawer bottoms, insides of table rails and back surfaces of cabinet back boards were left straight off of the jack and fore planes. The “old timers” were often working under pressure and left the finer work to surfaces that were for show or where it was important to have a better surface for reference for other operations. Their experience told them where it mattered and where they could cut corners. It wasn’t considered  poor work because it didn’t change the appearance during normal use and didn’t affect the strength of the piece. It was the standard of  the work.

      Have fun.

      • Avatar Of Syntheseisersyntheseiser
        Post count: 1

        Thanks for your in-depth answer. I’m a new woodworker as well, coming from a mechanical background and it’s hard for me to think about leaving surfaces less than perfect.

        • Avatar Of Mike In TnMike in TN
          Post count: 301

          Hi syntheseiser,

          I worked in machine shops for about ten years myself. Think about the fact that machined parts are designed within tolerances intended to produce the desired results. “Perfection? is simply a theoretical ideal and specifications include deviations that are allowable that will still allow for the parts to perform their intended purposes. Wooden parts (normally, with exceptions for some disciplines) are no different except that, because of the mechanical properties of wood and craft traditions, tolerances are not normally specified. Mortises and tenons have to go together well enough to make a strong joint for a specific application, etc. As a matter of fact, many parts can vary from the ideal and still be perfectly fine. Consider paired table rails; it is less important that they are an exact length than the fact that the distance between shoulders of the paired rails are the same in order that the table ends up square (provided that is the maker’s intention). Also consider that because of the visual separation of individual rail parts, minor differences in rail width (or thickness) make little difference in the appearance of the piece in normal use.

          There are places in nearly any woodworking projects where acceptable tolerances are tight, particularly in joinery, and in many of those cases it is simply a matter of the individual pieces working well with the mating parts. A table can be built, and can look and function very well, with all of the joints having different dimensions.  Who cares how well the interior of a table rail is planed since it doesn’t affect the performance or appearance of the piece? Realistically, we all would give it some attention due to our personal standard of work, but in the past, especially when cabinet makers really had to struggle to produce enough product to keep the business open and feed the offspring, choices were made as to what was important to the piece and what wasn’t. Experience guided that process. Hobbyists are lucky in that they can choose to be as exacting with their work as they want without the pressure keeping a business alive.

          So the next time you cut that table rail (or leg, or top, or box sides, etc.) 1/16 too short, just cut the shoulders at the planned dimension since you needed a little glue relief anyway. If that doesn’t work for you, just saw the paired rail at the same dimension since it won’t make any real difference in the look of the finished piece.

          Traditional woodworking thought has promoted the idea that surfaces should be smooth as a sign of high art but who can deny the beauty of  a well finished  undulating textured surface proving the hand of a practiced human hand guided by an artistic choice, instead of a machined surface  Most woodworking is like that and ain’t it grand.

          Have fun

    • Avatar Of Filmore1850filmore1850
      Post count: 2


      Where do I post questions on here. I can’t figure out how to start a post…lol…???


Viewing 1 reply thread
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.