How to Adjust a Hand Plane

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Hand planes are suitable tools in carpentry; thus, it is no surprise that they are popular among hobbyists as well as professionals alike. These tools play a vital role in guaranteeing that wood surfaces are smooth, properly shaped, and flattened at all times.

It is evident that these are essential tools; it is crucial you understand how to adjust a hand plane properly so that it serves its purpose effectively. Therefore, we will take you through some of the tips to implement when adjusting your hand plane, and consequently, you will get to achieve quality and optimal results.​

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Furthermore, hand planes are usually available in different sizes, plus they perform various tasks, and the four kinds of hand planes include block planes, leveling planes, smoothing planes, and jack planes. With these different types of jack planes, you can carry out any task so long as the adjustments have been made correctly. Therefore, you must understand how to adjust your hand plane to ensure the wood surface you are working on is free of chatter marks.

Check for misalignment

Before you make any adjustment to your hand plane, you need first to confirm whether there is a need to make any adjustments. This is crucial to ensure the adjusting does not cause more damage. Thus, the first thing you need to do is holding the hand plane on its head and sight down the sole’s entire length, and you should be able to see the sole’s entire breadth broken by the minor bulge of the hand plane iron.

​If you cannot detect any protrusion on the hand plane, this means the iron has been pulled back into the plane’s body, thereby meaning it cannot cut any wood. Additionally, if too much of the iron is exposed, it means plane jams quickly hence making it difficult to push. In case the iron blade is not uniform on both sides of the hand plane, it means the blades are crooked and will scratch the wood.

Correcting the iron blades

When your hand plane is not making cuts that are deep enough, this means that the iron blade must have been pulled back into the plane’s body, thus should be pushed out slightly. When making adjustments to the iron blade, place the hand plane’s flat top above the scrap stock and then using a mallet, strike the iron blade’s end gently. You must ensure the taps are very soft and then test whether the cuts the iron blade is making are appropriate. If not, keep tapping its end gently and test it out again to see if the cut is satisfactory.

You should loosen the iron blade from the wedge in case its cuts are too deep. When using smaller hand planes, you can correct this issue by merely holding it and then striking its heel using a mallet, whereas holding the wedge and iron blades will also work. For bigger planes, you should position them vertically and then bang the heel placed on a robust wooden surface such as that of a benchtop. These thumps need light but firm.

Flattening the hand plane’s sole

For the hand plane’s sole to create a uniform finish, it needs to be well-flattened. If not, the wood you are working on will remain coarse, plus the hand plane might get damaged. Flattening the plane’s sole is very easy, and all you need to do is to put on pressure evenly on it similar to what you would do when doing actual planing. Consequently, move the sole through a rough abrasive on a flat surface, and after nonstop planing, the first signs will start to fade slowly, and you can then tell whether the pressure has been applied uniformly.

Mark lines through the sole and carry on with the abrasion until no line is noticeable and everything has faded evenly, with this a sign the plane’s sole is flat but not yet smooth.

Subsequently, inspect whether the sole and sides are square once you are done flattening the sole. You can make use of a straight edge to examine the sole’s flatness and an engineer’s try-square to inspect how square the sides are with respect to the plane’s sole.


If your hand plane skips or stutters through cuts, it means it has chattered, and this issue consequently leads to rippled wood surfaces. You occasionally can detect some roughness while planing, so you need to get rid of the chatter by making lighter cuts as well as applying pressure on the hand plane’s knob whenever it is moving. Moreover, it would be of great help if you re-sharpen your iron blade as well as increase the skew’s angle.

To reduce chatter, you also can camber the iron blade, especially when planing thick shavings that have a relatively hardwood or very hardwoods. If the blade is not cambered, there is a high probability for chatter, and skipping is much greater plus the force, as well as resistance required, will be considerably higher.

Furthermore, you can opt to take lighter cuts to avoid chatter. Usually, the depth of a cut should always be linked to the material being planed; thus, softwood allows a bigger depth cut in comparison to hardwood.

​Therefore, while planing hardwoods and you start to experience chatter or skipping, you need only to cut thin shavings since lighter cuts allow your hand plane to cut more effortlessly and gives you more control. You need to begin by pulling back your blade entirely by rotating the wheel adjuster in an anti-clockwise direction. Once the iron blade has retracted completely, move your hand plane through a flat wooden board, slowly advancing the iron blade by rotating the wheel adjuster clockwise and stop when the blade touches the board.

Additionally, take note of the position where the wood shavings are coming through the plane’s mouth. If the shavings are either leaning towards the right or left, move the lateral adjuster until the shavings come through the center of the hand plane’s mouth. For instance, if the wood shavings are appearing on the left side, swing the plane’s adjuster lever towards the left side and vice versa. When the shavings start coming up through the mouth’s venter, then the lateral adjustment is ideal.

Hand plane not cutting

After using the hand plane successfully for a specific duration, you might start to realize a sudden drop in its performance. In case this happens, you need to inspect its mouth for clogs as well as attempt to bend the iron blade forward to produce deeper cuts successfully. Additionally, you need to examine whether the chip breaker has mediocre contact with the bleed, and another possible explanation might be that your blade needs to be re-sharpening.


A hand plane that is well-adjusted and well-fit will provide you with a flat plus smooth finish. However, if the plane is set up incorrectly, it will produce ridges or tracks on the wood surface hence meaning the iron blade needs to be laterally adjusted. To confirm that the adjustments are excellent, you need to make lighter cuts. Furthermore, when re-sharpening the iron blade, you must push the corners downwards as this creates a cambered edge by releasing the corners marginally.

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Ensure the iron is always polished

Any time you notice the blade is outside the hand plane, you need to carefully examine its edge to see whether the blade is dulled or has any nicks to sharpen it. It is advisable to periodically polish your blades to ensure they are in optimal condition, thereby guaranteeing the quality of work done is exceptional, and you have an easier time too. This is because a dull iron blade requires you to use lots of energy, trying to get the hand tool to produce remarkable results.

As a woodworker, knowing how to sharpen your iron blade is essential, and there are numerous ways of sharpening these blades. However, all these methods have one goal, and that is to create a sharp edge with the zero-radius intersection of the two planed wood surfaces. If you ensure the edge is refined as close as possible to zero, then you can be sure the edge will be as sharp as it can get.


Despite the hand plane being a straightforward tool with a few parts, it is of great importance if you want a smooth woodworking experience. Additionally, whereas its structure is relatively simple, there still are plenty of complexities to ensure its performance is optimal, which is always achieving a smooth finish. If your hand plane does not produce a sleek finish, it means you need to make some adjustments either to the squareness of the sole’s sides, the sole’s flatness, or the iron blade.

Fortunately, you can fix all these problems with easily and gently by following those as mentioned above easy and quick guidelines on how to adjust a hand plane. By implementing these, you will be able to attain a smooth finish on all your woodworking projects.

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