Question about planing

I've read that block planes, which are smaller and have a lower blade angle than smoothing planes, are meant primarily for cutting end grain.
Is there any reason why a block plane with a 12 degree blade angle is unsuitable for planing a face or edge? Is it simply a matter of taking longer to remove the same material, or that the smaller sole is more difficult to obtain square faces with? Is there another reason why a block plane shouldn't be used to cut with the grain?
Thanks, Adam
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I use my block plane for all kinds of planing, subject to certain conditions.
If you have squirrely grain, the low angle of the blade is more likely to cause tear-out.
The utility of a small plane for squaring up surfaces is limited to small planed surfaces. One cannot reliably square up a long board with a short plane.
Trying to smooth plane a large surface with a little plane would take a looong time.
Many times I use my block plane to clean up board edges fresh from the table saw prior to gluing. I take a very fine cut, just enough to remove the saw marks, but not enough to risk making the edges unsquare or unstraight.
--
John Snow
"If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn't be here"
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There are two separate factors in play: the size of the plane and the cutting angle of the blade (and maybe the amount of blade support close to the cutting edge).
A block plane (called because they were used to trim end grain on butcher blocks) will have a bed angle of 12 degrees, but because the blade is held bevel-up, you will need to add your bevel angle to get the total cutting angle, close to 35-38 degrees. That angle is ideal for slicing end grain.
When cutting face grain, you have a chance of tearout, and in general, a higher cutting angle (> 45 degrees) reduces chances of tearout but increases the difficulty of pushing the plane through your material. See http://www.leevalley.com/shopping/Instructions.asp?pageI520 for some pictures of tearout. You could put a higher angle onto another blade and use your block plane on face grain. (With traditional bevel-down planes, your bed angle is your cutting angle unless you play with back bevels on your blade...)
As for the size of the sole, it may affect your accuracy over large surfaces but it is sure nicer to use a small plane where finer control is desired.
- Daniel
Jacobe Hazzard wrote:

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Hey, that looks like the face of the boards I tried planing with a block plane.
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Thanks Hitch and Daniel, for the prompt and informative replies. I think I'm going to like this group :-)
Based this new intelligence, I think I probably need a low angle block plane in addition to a smaller higher angle plane for those times when a smooth plane is too large.
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On Tue, 26 Oct 2004 14:43:32 -0400, "Jacobe Hazzard"

block planes are fine for that application.
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snipped-for-privacy@thanks.com wrote:

So you don't agree that a lower blade angle is less ideal for face grain?
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On Tue, 26 Oct 2004 19:13:10 -0400, "Jacobe Hazzard"

there are better tools for that, but often for a quick lick a block plane is fine. better for edges than faces, for sure, but if what you need is to work a lump off of a face before running through the thickness sander or as prep for paint you can open the throat and use it as a scrub. a dedicated scrub plane will work better, sure, but if what you have is a block, use it.
the block plane is _versatile_. it should probably be the first plane you buy for that reason. soon after though you should probably be shopping for a smoother, a jointer and a card scraper.
bottom line is get your block plane nice and sharp and tuned up and see how far you can take it. it's fun....
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snipped-for-privacy@thanks.com wrote:

A new block plane will be my second plane, after the ancient stanley smooth plane I've been resurrecting. As a follow-up question, which of 12 and 21 degree blade angle block planes are more versatile? I'm thinking it's best if I go for the low angle, because I may eventually buy a smaller plane with a steeper angle, and then I would have more options.
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On Tue, 26 Oct 2004 21:11:30 -0400, "Jacobe Hazzard"

depends how you'll be using it. if you're carrying it on a job site, get one that fits in your pocket. if it's strictly for in the shop, go a bit bigger.
; ^ )
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Jacobe Hazzard wrote:

Note that if you buy a separate blade and hone a bevel with a steep angle on it, you can use it to achieve a high cutting angle, and mitigate your tearout ("photo 4" in the link I posted earlier).
If you are getting multiple planes, it's nice to leave each one set up, ready to use when you grab it. If cost is an issue, you can buy one low-angle plane and swap in blades of varying bevel angles to get the cutting angle you need.
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Daniel H wrote:

Great suggestions. Thanks again, guys.
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wrote:

When I bought my block plane, I spoke with Rob Cosman who is the Lie-Nielsen rep in Canada. He suggested I buy the adjustable-mouth low-angle block plane. He was right. This plane has done everything I asked of it and is a joy to use. I cut figured woods and exotics as well as the usual North American species with never a problem. I'm not suggesting you buy Lie-Niesen as I know Veritas is also a very good product, but I am saying that for a plane you'll find you use constantly, you should buy a good quality one. Another poster here once wrote, "Buy quality once, cry once. Buy poor quality, cry constantly" or something like that.
Ed
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Nope.
http://www.lie-nielsen.com/tool.html?id 4
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?pageI708&category=1,41182,48944&ccurrency=2&SID
wrote:

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You have described the concept behind a low angle smoothing plane.
Think of a block plane as you know it, made larger.
There are many discussions of these, on the hand tools forum at www.woodcentral.com Beware that some of these CAN get a bit esoteric. Some folks there take there hand planes very seriously.
By the way, these planes work very well, particularly on heavily figured woods.
Patriarch
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patriarch < wrote:

As well as some of us here. :-)

Yep. Despite some folks reporting problems with planing figured grain, there are a few of us who rely heavily on our low-angle smoothers for all kinds of work. The keys to having them work succesfully on tricky grain are: Keep the iron *very* sharp (no, sharper than that); set the mouth for an opening that's *just* large enough to pass the shaving; and extend the iron just *barely* below the sole.
Bevel-up planes with sensitive depth-adjustment and adjustable mouths make all the these conditions (except the sharpening, obviously) easy to achieve (and repeat). Plus they offer extremely solid bedding that's closer to the end of the iron than a standard bevel-down plane. Finally, if you want to vary the effective cutting angle, all you have to do is buy an extra iron and sharpen it to whatever angle you want; the bedding angle plus the sharpening angle will be your cutting angle. So given a bevel-up plane with a 12 degree bedding angle, you can easily achieve an effective angle of over the standard 45 of bevel-down planes by simply sharpening your iron at above 33 degrees.
FWIW, Lee Valley's design that incorporates side set-screws is a very handy improvement, IMHO. Since it basically eliminates any worries about lateral adjustment, it actually encourages you to be quicker to re-hone your irons, which is a Good Thing, especially when working with tricky grain.
Chuck Vance (no affilliation, blah, blah, blah)
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