A well-set blade creates thin wood shavings leaving a flat, smooth surface. It is particularly essential when making finishes on wood furniture. Apart from smoothing surfaces hand planers perform a range of other tasks including scrubbing, shooting and shaping. It all depends on how you fine-tune the blade. We look at how to set hand planer blades to perform these functions:
- White vinegar
- Hand plane
- Stiff brush
Check the Shape of the Iron
Start by inspecting the shape of the cutting edge to ensure it is suitable for the project. It can be straight, cambered or straight with rounded corners depending on the task. If the shape is not appropriate for the job, consider making an angle on the blade using a bench grinder. Alternatively, visit a specialist workshop for re-cambering.
Clean the Blade
If the blade has rust, soak it in white vinegar for a few hours. You may need to soak for a more extended period if it is severely rusted. Then, scrape off dirt using a stiff brush. Alternatively, apply paint and glue on the plane and use a card scraper to remove dirt.
Install the Frog
Ensure the frog (the part that connects the iron and the plane body) fits correctly to prevent the body from buckling. You can also work the surface using 180/249 grit abrasive paper.
Secure the Chipbreaker
The chip breaker is mounted atop the blade, and it wards off shavings up and out of the plane. Ensure it fits securely on the hand plane before setting the blade. Proceed to set enough tension on the lever cap to hold the assembly while leaving room for blade adjustment.
Adjust the Mouth
When planing wood surfaces, shavings pass through a cavity called the mouth. The breadth of the mouth determines the thickness of the shavings. As such, larger openings create thick shavings while a small opening leads to a light cut.
To fine-tune the mouth, push the blade until it projects through the mouth of the plane. Proceed to move the frog forward to achieve the desired opening. Hand planers with a bedrock style frog make it easy to adjust the mount as you only need to loosen the screws at the rear of the frog and move the frog using the central adjusting screw. When it is set, tighten the side screws to lock in the frog.
Getting the right fit may need some trial and error as you may need to make additional adjustments once you start planing. Remember to leave a small gap between the cutting edge and the leading edge to make fine shavings and a big gap when levelling or when you want to make thick shavings.
Adjust the Blade
Proceed to fine-tune the blade and the depth of the cut as well. Begin by adjusting the blade sideways, so the shaving comes through the center. Then, push the blade forward to adjust the depth of the cut. It should produce a shaving with a thickness of 0.001-0.002 inches.
If the cut is too deep, it will create excessive strain on your hand, leave unsightly plane tracks on the workpiece or cause the plane to chatter. Rotate the adjustment knob anti-clockwise to lighten the cut. Check for any backlash as it prevents the cut from changing when planning.
Difference Between Adjusting Metal and Wood Hand Planes
Setting blades on metal and wood hand planers is similar. The only difference is that you need mechanical aides to set metal hand planers. Also, wooden planes have fewer parts than metal hand planers. Thus, if the plane is not cutting deep enough, you only need to place the sole down on a piece of scrap stock to adjust the blade.
How to Solve Common Blade Problems
- Chattering: It occurs when your planer skips a cut creating a rippled surface. To avoid it, make a light cut on the wood and apply pressure on the knob, sharpen the blade or increase the angle of the slope
- Plane is not cutting: Find out if the mouth is clogged, check if the chip breaker is in contact with the blade, push the blade forward to make a heavier cut or re-sharpen the blade
- Tearout: If it occurs, make a lighter cut, plane straight without skewing the plane, or change the direction of the plane