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what angle is good for maple?

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Posted · Report post

I typically have my #4 smoother sharpened at 30 degrees, and my #5 jack sharpened at 25 degrees. I am having some trouble with a maple table top I am making. The plane seems to cut too little or too heavy. I am thinking that maybe I need a steeper angle of attack. I use a veritas #4, and an English made stanley #5. Both are sharpened to 8000 with a microbevel.

I have been working with walnut a lot for the past few months, and both planes have performed perfectly - this is why I think it may be the angle of the blade.

Suggestions?

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Posted · Report post

are you going against the graim :) i know its a rookie mastake but it can happen. maybe try scraping it with card scrapers.

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Posted · Report post

are you going against the graim :) i know its a rookie mastake but it can happen. maybe try scraping it with card scrapers.

haha - nope. I am going with the grain!

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Posted · Report post

Not the blade angle. Blade angle has no impact in a bevel down plane. The problem is most likely the wood you are planing and the plane setting.

The too heavy cut is because you are taking too heavy of a cut :). Maple is REALLY tough stuff to plane. Especially if you are using rock maple (also called sugar maple or hard maple). Planing this stuff is like planing iron. By contrast, the walnut you have been using is absolutely wonderful for hand planing. There's no comparison between the two. I love walnut. As for maple, well, let's not go there.

The too light cut is probably because you are taking the correct thickness of cut for the maple but the board is likely not flat enough yet for you to take full length shavings. In order for a plane to take very thin, full length shavings, a couple of things have to happen. First, the plane sole has to be flat enough. I'm positive the sole of your Veritas is fine in this regard. The Stanley - maybe and maybe not. Second, the board has to be flat enough. It is likely not.

Think about it like this. In order for a plane to take a 1/1000" thick shaving (just using this number as an example, not saying this should be your goal), the board has to be flat to within 1/1000" (or at least not concave) over the length of the plane you are using, AND the plane sole has to be flat to within 1/1000" over it's length. Also, you will need to have VERY little camber in the blade to plane a shaving this thin; almost no camber at all. If there is more than 1/1000" of concavity in the board, then the plane will not cut in that concavity because the concavity is deeper than the depth of cut. Also, if the plane sole is concave by more than 1/1000", then its concavity too will be deeper than the depth of cut and again the plane will not cut. Finally, if the camber is significant, you'll only be cutting at the very center of the iron, IF the sole and board are flat enough. So a lot of things have to happen before you can cut this thin. I'm sure your Veritas plane is flat enough, however, your board is probably not. The plane is probably planing the high spots. If you are getting any little bit of tiny shavings or dust at any point in the planing stroke at all, this is probably the case. Keep at it and it should get flatter and start planing more wood.

You can try to deepen the cut VERY slightly, but I stress VERY slightly. Maple requires a very light setting, an extremely sharp blade, and a lot of patience to hand plane. Plus, as mentioned, the board also has to be extremely flat. I'd stick to the Veritas because it is likely flatter than the #5, but more importantly because it is shorter. A shorter plane can handle a less flat surface better than a longer one because it's sole will not bridge valleys as much as a longer sole. This is one of the reasons I prefer a very short smooth plane (my favorite is about the length of a block plane or a #2) to the longer and more often preferred #4 or #4½. Set it for a very fine cut, make sure the board is flat and be patient.

There's a reason we don't see much antique furniture from the 18th and early 19th centuries made from hard maple.

Thank you for your reply - thanks for your advice. I am glad I didn't re-grind my irons!

Maybe this is a silly question, but why does the angle of the iron not matter for a bevel down plane? Why so some prefer 25 degree or 35 degrees?

I never thought about antique furniture and the lack of maple - good observation!

Thanks again for the advice - much appreciated.

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Posted · Report post

In a bevel down plane, the effective cutting angle is determined by the angle of the frog or bed; in most cases 45 degrees. Increasing or decreasing the bevel angle on the plane does nothing to the angle that the wood actually sees. What an increase in the angle in a bevel down plane will do is make for a more durable edge, however, if you increase it too much (typically more than 35 degrees), you can run into clearance angle problems, which is a whole other discussion.

In the case of a bevel up (commonly called low angle) plane, the cutting angle that the wood sees is a combination of the bed angle and the angle of the bevel. So if the bed angle is 20 degrees and the bevel angle is 25 degrees, you get an effective cutting angle of 45 degrees. Increase the bevel angle to 35 degrees and the effective cutting angle that the wood sees becomes 55 degrees.

franklin pug likes this

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Posted · Report post

Bob did a great job explaining why blade bevel angle doesn't help much with a bevel down plane.

That said, my hands-down favorite for difficult woods is a bevel UP plane, equipped with a bevel grind that sets the final cutting angle in the range of 55-62 degrees. normally towards the 62. In fact, with the 62 degree cutting angle, I can even go so far as to plane AGAINST the grain, with zero tearout.

I was recently match planing some tiger maple for a table top. A standard #8 and a power jointer ate the edge for lunch. A high angle cut left a beautiful gluing edge, as well as a nicely planed final top. There are grain reversals along the glue line, too...

Be aware, I am not a neandrathal woodworker. I dimension my stock with machines, but feel hand tools get me to a better surface, faster than sanding.

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Posted · Report post

Bob, what are your thoughts on putting a back bevel (not a micro bevel) on a bevel down plane iron? Would this accomplish the steeper cutting angle that franklin pug is talking about? I'm referring to Brian Burns' work on double bevels for standard BD planes. I've never tried this myself but am considering it for the figured maple that I'm currently working on.

The illustration below comes from a 2010 blog post by Ron Hock, which shows the details of the double bevel found on the inside cover of Brian Burns' book, "Double Bevel Sharpening."

post-6179-0-49009600-1342755110_thumb.jp

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Posted · Report post

Like Barry, I usually use power tools where I can. That said, I planed tiger maple for a current project with a 55 degree attack. Could go either direction with a very minimal tear out; raised the angle closer to 60 and that tearout went away. Use that only for the final passes unless you have Popeye arms.

Gary likes this

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Posted · Report post

Bob, what are your thoughts on putting a back bevel (not a micro bevel) on a bevel down plane iron? Would this accomplish the steeper cutting angle that franklin pug is talking about? I'm referring to Brian Burns' work on double bevels for standard BD planes. I've never tried this myself but am considering it for the figured maple that I'm currently working on.

The illustration below comes from a 2010 blog post by Ron Hock, which shows the details of the double bevel found on the inside cover of Brian Burns' book, "Double Bevel Sharpening."

post-6179-0-49009600-1342755110_thumb.jp

The back bevel works great. You should definitely try it. The only downside to it is that you would need to grind past the back bevel to return that iron back to common pitch. For planes like old Stanleys and the new LNs and such, you can just get a spare iron to reserve for back beveling and switch back to the original iron for common pitch. That way you don't have to worry about regrinding and wasting steel. However, for old planes like the woodies I use, I don't like to play with back bevels because it is extremely unlikely that I will ever find another iron to fit the plane. With the woodies it's better to get another smooth plane and keep its iron back beveled all the time for tough grain, or find a second plane with high bed angle. These old planes are inexpensive enough that it's not worth trying to find a spare iron. It's easier to just buy a whole new plane.

I have two smoothers. One is a larger one, about the length of a #3 (~8") and about the width of a #4½ (~3") that is bedded at common pitch (~45°). I don't use back bevels with these planes so the plane is always cutting at common pitch. My second smoother is very small, about 6½" long and about 1-5/8" wide, and is bedded about 55°. This plane handles most of the tough grain situations I encounter. Anything that can't be handled by these two planes gets scraped.

croessler likes this

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Posted · Report post

Really Great Info Bob. I am embarking on a maple tool cabinet and making similar discoveries. I had more of a workout than I bargained for last night doing my dovetails.

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Posted · Report post

I think my new process for responding to hand tool questions on this forum will be just to wait until Bob responds, then chime in with a "ditto". Nice work Bob!

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Posted · Report post

Thanks, Bob and Shannon! Having you two guys answer hand tool questions on the forum is wonderful - let me know where to send the checks... :)

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Posted · Report post

I'm going to chime in here just to say thanks to Bob for that explanation.

I've played around with planes, read a good book, seen demos, and that few paragraphs Bob wrote just nailed it for me. I'm going home to kiss my Stanley #4 and apologize to it for swearing at it last night. :-)

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