Hand Planes and Hardwood


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This is my first attempt to use a plane, a brand new Anant Kamal No. 5 Jack Plane. I tuned it up, as best I could. I was practicing on some scrap cypress and managed to get reasonably decent shavings. I moved on to hard maple and now I get nothing but sawdust. I tweaked the plane a bit, but still get nothing but dust.

Is hardwood planed differently than soft?

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Tony,

Basic planing technique is the same on hard and soft woods. The biggesst difference is harder woods are less forgiving, and Hard maple is definatley at the top of the hardness scale. The cypress cuts real easy, so it's not too diffucult to get a decent shaving. For hardwoods, you need a razor sharp iron, and by razor sharp, I mean sharp enough to shave with. You also need a well tuned plane, which means it has to have a dead flat sole, and must be adjusted propperly. Finally, you need propper technique - And writing about propper technique is kind of like dancing about architecture, if that makes any sense...

Anyway, Break it down into those three steps. Once the plane iron is razor sharp, and you have it tuned propperly, the only element left is technique.

If there are questions along the way, I'd be happy to help

-gp

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Tony,

Just wanted to let you know that I've been able to get an Anant #4 tuned to be a really good plane. I've had success with cyprus, maple, cherry, walnut, douglas fir, all hardnesses of wood. I'd expect you could get that jack plane going well too.

Make sure the the forward-most edge of the chip breaker is actually pressing on the plane iron... you may need to grind/sand/file/hone the blade face of the chip breaker to a very small angle to make sure the edge is on the plane iron. If it's not, your plane iron is going to flex and chatter and you're not going to get very good shavings.

Don't forget to flatten the frog under the blade, and square the edges of the mouth of the plane with a file. Lots of folks miss these steps on a brand new plane. Once you've got that done, you probably never need to check them again.

Greg is right about razor sharp irons. I'm an uber-sharpener... I polish the back, bevel, and microbevel to a mirror finish and then finish it off with a leather strop. I can then really easily touch up the irons with the stropping leather and I'm back to razor sharp! I only need a full sharpening cycle every 2 or 3 weeks.

(I also sharpen my bench chisels the same way... I use wet-dry sandpaper adhered to plate glass, and I go at least as high as 1500 grit on a full sharpening. Other times it's simply the strop. I may be overkilling the process, but it works for me.)

Mark

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Mark and Gregory,

Many thanks for the tips. There is no way I could shave with the blade the way it is now, and it seems I have more work to tune up my plane (I never touched the chip breaker).

Long term, this is a skill I want to develop. Short term, I just learned that I've inherited an electric planer. So, I'll have the best of both worlds.

Thanks again!

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I'd like to throw this in. I actually met Roy Underhill once at Plimouth Plantation and asked him this very thing. He told me that it's pretty difficult but can be done with razor sharp iron and good technique. He further elaborated that back in the day, woodworkers would typically split hardwood off the log and plane it while it was maybe not green but not completely dried either. He said it's much easier to plane that way. The kiln-dried stuff that we have access to is much more difficult.

I've planed the edges of oak and maple before but haven't tried planing the wide surface. Just doing the edges works up quite a sweat.

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Given that the plane is tuned up to your satisfaction, and having a freshly scary sharp blade, then it is all about technique.

Do an experiment. Take your maple and clamp it up securely, then keeping your plane in line with the direction of your planing stroke, take a swipe or two. Now, take your plane and rotate it from 30-45* and push forward. You will notice that the effort is greatly reduced. This is called skewing the plane, or blade. This attitude offers the blade at a lower effective angle to the face of the wood, you will be taking a shaving that is not as wide as your shaving when keeping the plane parallel to the direction of travel, but it will be much easier to push.

Did you check the grain directions of the wood you are working with? If you are planing against the grain, you are going to have problems. I just finished working up some hard maple that had grain reversals all over the boards. Requiring planing in all different directions. I like to fine tune the surface with a card scraper when I am done anyways.

Just random thoughts, and hope this helps.

Roger

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I agree with the sharpening camp. I think you need to sharpen your iron. The anant has a nice thick iron that sharpens up nicely, but I don't know that the steel holds an edge as long as a good hock iron. I never did a shop comparison, might be something fun to test out in the future.

still, since you were able to get a decent shaving before then I would touch up your iron and give it a try.

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ive been tuning my hand planes for a while now and still have problems with maple. I was planing oak and it planes just fine. I bought all antiques and all needed some amount of work to get working either in condition of the plane or condition of the iron. usually the irons have a chip or knick in them. Once I have managed to shave a nice bald spot in my arm its sharp enough to cut any wood. even on woods like pine a dull iron will start to crush the wood. it seems like it took me a while to learn to sharpen as well.

think of it like this when you use your chisels there really isnt a difference in hardwood vs softwood if they are sharp.

ps i will add this hardwood vs softwood is a misnomer among woodworkers. hardwood means the shells around seeds are hard softwood means the shell around the seeds are soft. sometimes hardwoods can be as soft as pine. sometimes softwoods cane be as hard as oak. all woods have their own characteristics beyond typical hardness scale. how they plane is a key characteristic. oak cherry and mahogany all plane easily i am told i only have experience with oak. maple can be challenging, the grain changes directions etc.

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