Bobby Slack

Why Bevel Up? Why Bevel Down?

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I am very new to the use of handtools. Of course like many of us, influenced first by Marc showing how you can fine tune a joint and make it perrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect. Fair enough. This became like an addiction when you go to the weight room ans as you get better, the goals change and you become more and more a lifter.

More and more a user of handtools and consider them more as a mainstream part of a shop rather than the exception.

Having said all of that I decided to invest all in one company because my belief that loyalty pays off, and it has.

Putting that aside. Ford Vs Chevy (I drive a Toyota). ....

Putting that aside. What is the feature that a bevel up tool will provide versus a bevel down? I am talking about adjustments, change of the angle, sharpening etc.

Many recommend the bevel up and I am curious. I like buying my planes and only sharpening them at 30degrees like Daneb's article states on Fine Woodworking.

OK I said enough! Let the games begin!

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Thanks a lot for sharing this. These plains look pricey to me. I invest quite a bit of money on Lie Nielsen's tools, one day I will have a few of these ones as well.

Take care.

Bobby,

No games, I'm just tired of it all--burned out on it. There's some information on this on Konrad Sauer's blog and I said all I need to in the comments there.

http://sauerandsteiner.blogspot.com/2010/07/up-down-bevels-that-it.html

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Bobby,

Lie-Nielsen makes a full line of bench planes that don't have the clearance angle issues of the 12º bevel-up planes. In the comments on Konrad's blog there was some confusion between 20º and 12º bevel-up planes and I have to wonder if it wasn't intentional. 20º bedding is a different animal and Stanley knew what they were doing offering both 12º and 20º bedded block planes.

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I like bevel down planes. The good thing about bevel down planes is that it's easier to manage the wear bevel when sharpening.

The wear bevel occurs due to the wood abrading against the part of the plane blade that's facing downward. For a bevel down plane, the wear bevel appears on the bevel. For a bevel up plane, the wear bevel will be on the back of the blade. This is one of those situations where a picture is really worth a thousand words:

BU%20vs.%20BD.jpg

The red area is where the wear bevel will happen. In real life, the wear bevel won't be as long. I exaggerated it to show it easier.

Where bevel down planes have an advantage here is that to get rid of the wear bevel you just have to work on the bevel side of the blade, and you're done You have a sharp blade.

For the bevel up plane, you either have to work the back side, or work on the bevel side long enough to get past the wear bevel, either of which will be a lot more work than just working on the bevel side of the bevel down plane blade.

One other issue with bevel up planes has to do with cambering the plane blade. Camber is your friend when using any plane. If you have a certain amount of camber on a bevel down plane, you need to have a more curved profile to the blade to get the same effect on a bevel up plane.

Where bevel up planes have an advantage is that you can have a number of blades with different bevels to allow you to convert your plane from a lower effective bed angle to a higher effective bed angle by swapping blades. I actually don't know any woodworkers who really do this on a regular basis. The ones who really need planes with different bed angles wind up getting more planes. After all, it's always better to have more planes than to be proud of your collection of plane blades, right? ;)

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main 2 strengths of Bevel UP planes are:

1. the ability to swap between differently ground blades and change the plane from low angle to high angle plane to address different wood requirements

2. the ability to grind the blades bevel to provide you with a low angle plane (bevel up planes can only be set to medium to high attack angle which is limited by the bed angle where as bevel up attach angle is determined by the angle which you grind your bevel) Low angle planes are great for end grain, and in many cases are easier to work with (more of a slice action than a scrap action) with the exception of highly figured woods which require high angle planes - in which case you can have a 2nd blade for the BU plane to make your BU plane a high attack angle plane.

bottom line, they are just more versatile for different applications, whereas the bevel down planes needs to be set and tuned for a unique application (generally speaking) so you'd need more planes to address different scenarios

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Thank you for this great post. I actually own a bunch of Lie-Nielsen bevel down planes. The reason for my decision is that I wanted to keep everything the same since I am pretty new at using unplugged tools.

Is amazing that great cabinetmakers who use incredible accessories don't know that every joint can be perfect. This is all new to me.

My approach was to go conventional, partner (I consider my suppliers partners). I partnered with Lie-Nielsen and took the approach of using all bevel down planes.

But ... I read so much about bevel up planes ... why? I don't question them, I just wanted to know what is it that they provide to make some people like them so much? There must be a reason so I wanted to find out.

The idea behind my post was to learn more why go one way versus the other, is it capricious or is it scientific? This is just an intellectual curiosity that could be the basis of investing on a tool for the right application in the future and the time to learn is before you need it.

Thank you again.

I like bevel down planes. The good thing about bevel down planes is that it's easier to manage the wear bevel when sharpening.

The wear bevel occurs due to the wood abrading against the part of the plane blade that's facing downward. For a bevel down plane, the wear bevel appears on the bevel. For a bevel up plane, the wear bevel will be on the back of the blade. This is one of those situations where a picture is really worth a thousand words:

BU%20vs.%20BD.jpg

The red area is where the wear bevel will happen. In real life, the wear bevel won't be as long. I exaggerated it to show it easier.

Where bevel down planes have an advantage here is that to get rid of the wear bevel you just have to work on the bevel side of the blade, and you're done You have a sharp blade.

For the bevel up plane, you either have to work the back side, or work on the bevel side long enough to get past the wear bevel, either of which will be a lot more work than just working on the bevel side of the bevel down plane blade.

One other issue with bevel up planes has to do with cambering the plane blade. Camber is your friend when using any plane. If you have a certain amount of camber on a bevel down plane, you need to have a more curved profile to the blade to get the same effect on a bevel up plane.

Where bevel up planes have an advantage is that you can have a number of blades with different bevels to allow you to convert your plane from a lower effective bed angle to a higher effective bed angle by swapping blades. I actually don't know any woodworkers who really do this on a regular basis. The ones who really need planes with different bed angles wind up getting more planes. After all, it's always better to have more planes than to be proud of your collection of plane blades, right? ;)

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2. the ability to grind the blades bevel to provide you with a low angle plane (bevel up planes can only be set to medium to high attack angle which is limited by the bed angle where as bevel up attach angle is determined by the angle which you grind your bevel)

You can skew a bevel down plane to provide a lower effective bed angle. If you have a standard Stanley-type plane with a bed angle of 45º, skewing it 30º will give you the same effective bed angle as a low angle plane with a blade with a 25º bevel.

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There is enough data and discussion on this topic to fill several books. I have several of both varieties of planes and I agree with everything everyone has already said. Clearance angles in bevel down planes do make for easier sharpening in the long run, but I have never really seen this as a major problem. Maybe because I use a lot of A2 steel and it wears slower so my BU blades haven't been effected as much. Like PurpleLev says it does make it easier to swap blades for different geometries if you only have a few planes, but Wilbur is right that skewing can produce a similar low angle effect. So really the answer to this question is.....yes! Yes I know that is a cryptic answer, but really it may come down to personal preference. I think bevel up planes make things a little easier for the beginner because there are fewer moving parts to adjust and the angle of the bevel tells you how the plane will work. Veritas planes in particular are nice this way and they add set screws to control lateral adjustment making those planes repeatable for the noob. However, bevel up does provide easier adjustment while working. I'm sure I could provide a pro and counter pro for both styles of planes, but in my experience in working with these planes, they both do a great job. The long and short is get your hands on one of each and play around with it. Go to a LN tool event or the WIA marketplace and play around. Most important, just work some wood.

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great post!

If you really want to understand planes and their bevel angles then you should grab a copy of "the Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack. A common misconception of bench planes is that the cutting angle is limited to the angle of the frog in a bevel down plane. It is, to a point, except you can lower the cutting angle by skewing the plane as mentioned earlier. You can also increase the cutting angle by honing a back bevel on the iron. With a bevel up plane, it is easier to hone and maintain an increased angle on the bevel and so they have become more popular for increasing the cutting angle on tough grain patterns... as mentioned earlier.

A couple other positives to the bevel up planes is that their frogs tend to support the iron very well down to the sole of the plane. This helps eliminate chatter, although a plane based on the older bailey and bedrock designs does an excellent job keeping chatter at bay as well. Still, a bevel down iron does have arguably more play and potential to chatter by design than a bevel up iron.

Also, a nice feature of bevel up planes is the ability to set the iron, and then adjust the mouth opening by a sliding front toe without having to move the frog at all. It's a much better way to adjust the mouth than sliding the frog forward or back like bailey and bedrock designs. It's a shame plane manufacturers didn't incorporate this feature in all planes.

I wouldn't give up my bevel down planes because I have a strange infatuation with my planes that goes well beyond practical. However, if I was just starting out, had no romantic feelings towards old tools or old tool companies, and had no budget concerns, I would find a bevel up plane design superior to bevel down plane design... sorry Leonard Bailey, it hurts to even suggest it :(

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Here's a LN video about angles. Based on this, why would anyone want anything other than a low angle (blade up) plane? Blades with secondary bevels are much, MUCH cheaper than an assortment of frogs or planes.

I know that some Neanderthals collect planes for nostalgic or other cerebral reasons. I'm questioning from a functional/cost standpoint.

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Here's a LN video about angles. Based on this, why would anyone want anything other than a low angle (blade up) plane? Blades with secondary bevels are much, MUCH cheaper than an assortment of frogs or planes.

I know that some Neanderthals collect planes for nostalgic or other cerebral reasons. I'm questioning from a functional/cost standpoint.

From a functional standpoint, the wear bevel issue means that a bevel down plane gives you an advantage when sharpening, as I mentioned above.

Also, although an assortment of blades may be cheaper, it's more efficient from a time standpoint to have multiple planes already set up with different angles, instead of swapping blades in and out, whether they are multiple bevel down planes with different frogs, or multiple bevel up planes with blades with different secondary bevels. I know of many woodworkers in my area who started out with multiple blades with a low angle plane, and all wound up buying extra planes, and they are not collectors by any means.

As far as cost goes, the $185 difference between having one LV bevel up smoother with two blades or two LV bevel up smoothers set up differently really amounts to only an added $3 per month if you use these planes over a 5 year period. So you really are not saving that much money over the long haul.

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Here's a LN video about angles. Based on this, why would anyone want anything other than a low angle (blade up) plane? Blades with secondary bevels are much, MUCH cheaper than an assortment of frogs or planes.

I know that some Neanderthals collect planes for nostalgic or other cerebral reasons. I'm questioning from a functional/cost standpoint.

If, in your world, every plane is a smooth plane and you're willing to deal with the excessive grinding and sharpening headaches caused by inadequate clearance angles, bevel-up planes might be just the ticket. But make no mistake, bevel-up planes regardless of size function only as smooth planes and even Deneb shows them only used for taking the finest of cuts. Ideally, it's most desirable to get finished flat surfaces with a trying plane and avoid the surface irregularities caused by the smooth plane.

I suppose one could consider bevel-up planes versatile but that claimed "versatility" is over an incredibly narrow range. Traditionally, though, the main purpose of hand planes; whether working stock, joinery or moldings; is to quickly, accurately and efficiently move a lot of wood to get to a predetermined goal. Part of the efficiency is ease of sharpening and limited maintenance. If a woodworker only thinks in terms of smooth planes, they're missing out on about 99% of the capability of hand planes.

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