I am looking for some advise on how close to flat a 14 inch jack plane
should be. I picked up a plane yesterday and today I was checking it
out. The first thing I checked was the flatness of the sole relative
to the top of my table saw. There was a slight rock from corner to
corner. I measured this to be about 0.008 of an inch using a feeler
gage. The other thing I noticed is that the middle of the plane had
about a 0.007 inch gap using the feeler gage technique.
Is this plane sole good enough to be used as a scrub plane? It would
seem like it to me, but I am just guessing.
Is it flat enough to be used in less aggressive jack plane
applications? If not, then how flat and how straight should a 14 inch
jack plane's sole be?
I don't have experience using planes or tuning them, but I am willing
to try it.
My options are:
1) Use the plane as is.
2) Return it and try to get one that has a flatter sole.
3) Try to flatten the sole.
So what do the experienced woodworkers think? I would appreciate what
ever advice you may have.
Thanks In Advance,
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IMHO as a scrub lane it'll do OK to hog out wood. As a jointer or
smoother, I'd want no twist and a flatter sole (<.005). There are
those that will say <.001, but I'm just not that good with a plane
If it's new, take it back because of the twist. That is not
acceptable. Flattening the sole for the hollow is not a major job if
you don't mind pushing it on sheets of 60, 120, 150, 240, 400 grit
glued to a hunk of MDF. Probably an hour's work.
It sounds like flattening it down to less than 0.005 should be pretty
easy as you suggesty, but is that good enough? Flattening it down to
0.001 would require a better flat reference than my table saw top.
I would question how flat a piece of MDF is. It seems like it would
depend on how flat the tabel top the MDF is resting on. A little
pressure down on the MDF or any other flat plate of glass or marble,
while pushing down on the sand paper, would also force the MDF to
conform to the supporting table, which is probably not all that flat.
On the other hand this plan has two high spots, one at the toe and one
at the heal, and both are limited to about 1 to 1.5 inch from the end.
It seems like all I would have to do is work on one end of the plane on
the sand paper at a time.
I suspect (tho' can't prove) that the deflection of an 18" long hunk
of 1/2 (or 3/4) MDF under any reasonable hand pressure is so minimal
that it's not in the equation. Is MDF flat - well it sure seems to be.
My 1/1000 DI doesn't wiggle when I pass it across a clean piece
(actually passing the piece under the DI). You're not going to put a
heck of a lot of weight on it when sanding, at least not if you want
the paper to survive.
As I said in my original response, the twisting that causes the
rocking is far more of a problem than the absolute flatness of the
sole. And, as other posters have noted, good enough is good enough.
You can read Jeff's notes at
He's kinda considered an authority on "fetting" a plane.
Anyone know the origin of "fetting"? I've assumed it was a translation
from the Scots brogue, but maybe there's another reason for the term.
"N. English make or repair. -- Origin ME (in the general sense 'to
prepare'): from dial. fettle 'strip of material', from OE fetel, of
I assumed it was divergent from 'fiddle' but that's a different word
altogether, with its own origins.
This sounds like a good idea. However, I would like to get a flat
reference surface a little larger than this. The 9x12 could handle my
14 inch number 5 Jack plane, but I will needs something a little larger
for the longer planes. Do you know if these granite surface plates are
actually certified flat to a certain tolerance?
Check the Grizzly catalog. According to the copy, these are flat to plus or
minus .0001". Certified? I don't know. I've got the 9x12 and wish I'd gotten
the 12x18 or 18x24, but the shipping charges are ROUGH! No ledge 18x24 costs
$44.95, with $58 shipping. Add an 18x24 stand, at $49.95, and you add $38 to
Listen, I got the 12x18 and wish I'd gotten the 18x24, and I'm sure I'd
have still made wishes had I gotten that. :)
When I got them from enco (they have both grade B and A plates and the A
plates are only a few dollars more) and enough other stuff to bring my
total to $200 the shipping was free. BFG! Hey, is that a gloat?
Get a piece of glass. It's flat within the size of the finest grit you'll
be using to lap the sole. If you're using paper, which has no thickness
standard for either the backing or the thickness of the abrasive, MDF on
your TS will be fine.
Essence of lapping, after all is getting to an _average_ by keeping things
I would manualy flatten it on 100 grit, then 220 grit, then 600 aluminum oxide
wet dry paper made by Norton, the papers glued (3M super 77 spray) to a thick
piece of float glass. The glass, you might find cheaply at a local junk shop
did, new it is expensive, but mine is an awesome 3/4" thick. You could also use
an old piece of marble counter top.
Mark the sole with a full length and width squiggle with a permanent marker and
have at it, this is so you can see the details of the hills and valleys, and the
progression of your work.
It takes hours and elbow grease to get it done. But, I have done it with a few
hand planes, and if you're on a budget or prefer to be, it is well worth it.
Their are several websites that explain how to tune a handplane as well. But once
done, it will work beautifully. "Tuning a --" being the key word idea for 'net
You can also have the plane refurbed by Mike_In_Katy (Texas). He does new baked-
on japanning, and new totes and knobs in different woods... did an awesome bit of
work on my #8, and new cherry. He does offer a warentee on the japanning.
...hope this helps,
Alex - "newbie_neander" woodworker
Using a straight edge, and holding 6 of my planes up against sunlight,
the gaps were bad.
I sanded and sanded, going as low as 60 wt sandpaper. Then 120 wet dry.
After two weeks of this, the soles still had hollow patches near the
mouth and heel & toe dips. The guys on oldtools.org informed me that
only my No. 3,4,4 1/2 and 5 plane need to be dead flat. I was getting
nowhere, and had expended $25 on sandpaper.
So I asked my neighbor, a machinist by trade, if his workplace had a
good surface grinder. He said they make MRI equipment for hospitals. I
gave him about 50lbs of planes and he returned two days later with
The soles were within .0005" flat, with no hollows anywhere. And, the
soles are at 90 square with the sides. I gave him $50 for his trouble
and consider myself lucky. These are all Pre-WWII planes. Some are pre
I've heard of guys using a belt sander clamped in a vise to accomplish
the same thing. By hand, you might be digging the proverbial tunnel to
None of my LV plane's soles are perfectly FLAT. The aren't supposed to
be. In order not to rock, they are deliberately machined ever so
slightly "hollow", by design. I've spoken with them to confirm what I'd
already suspected; if you run a new LV plane over 600+ paper, it will
polish only the edges. The interior of the plane's sole is maybe a .001
recessed from the edges. My shoulder planes are dead flat, but the 22"
jointer plane, LA smoother, and scraper plane all have identically
machined soles and they work well. I just checked the LA block
plane--same thing. I trust LV to design their planes well, so I have no
issue with the planes never being truly, literally FLAT. They cringe on
the phone if someone says they have lapped the soles of their LV planes.
Bruce, I don't own, nor have I ever used, a wooden plane. What
advantages and disadvantages do they possess? Except for one tiny
cheapy, all have are the LV planes ductile cast iron planes. (I think
that's the correct description)
The scraper is a bit convex?
I'm not an expert, but I have one (1) wooden/Japanese plane I bought
about 20 years ago, and the Toshio Odate book on planes.
The slight concavity of the sole I described is to reduce friction.
No. You scrape fron one side to the other side - across the grain.
If you look at the side of the plane, it touches the surface at the
front edge, near the throat, and at the end.
I think the LV planes have sides that touch the surface. This is
different from the Japanese style of reducing friction, where the
sides do not touch the surface.
A long Japanese joiner can have several "points" of contact, so the
bottom is like a "wave" if you understand what I mean.
As to advantages - Wooden planes can be cheaper, and you can modify it
easier, and you can make your own wooden plane easier than making an
IMHO the biggest difference is that you pull the Japanese plane
towards you, instead of pushing. The blades tend to be made from two
kinds of metal, and are thicker. These bi-metal blades allow a harder
edge, while retaining flexibility. You can now get bi-metal blades for
metal planes, and thicker blades.
A second difference, given my limited experience of one, is that the
budget Japanese plane REQUIRED tuning. One can use a cheap metal plane
without tuning (if one is woefully ignorant), but until I tuned my
Japanese plane, I couldn't even get the blade to approach the throat.
Here's a short article on tuning a Japanese plane.
The Odate book gives more detail.
You have to remove the blade when you are not using it. Moisture
changes etc. Metal planes are indifferent to humidity.
I can't compare a western style wooden plane to a Japanese style, and
I don't know if I have covered everything. Perhaps Mr. Knight and
others will elaborate and correct my mis-understandings?
I think the biggest and more important thing is how well the plane is
tuned. A well-tuned metal plane will out-perform a poorly tuned wooden
plane, and vice versa.
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