What would work better on curly cherry, a Stanley Bailey #4 or #4 1/2
clone with back bevel or a bevel up smoother? Thinking of getting Lee
Valley or Lie-Niesen smoother, BU or regular.
Would the same apply to jack & jointer?
A lot of great work has been done over the decades with Stanley planes
and if you have one, you're most of the way there already. It'll need a
good blade (ahem) if it doesn't already have one since a plane is just a
holder for a blade -- it'll never work well without a good blade in it.
All that having been said, let's talk a little about angle of attack.
The basic rule is that difficult-grained woods require a steeper angle
of attack -- the cutting angle of the blade as it enters the wood. Most
woods can be planed beautifully with the standard 45-degree angle of
attack, but woods with complicated, curly grain can often be planed with
less tear-out with a steeper angle of attack -- all the way up to
vertical and even a few degrees beyond (leaning forward like a true
scraper.) The downsides of steeper angles of attack are that they
require more power to push the plane and the resultant surface, while
smooth, won't have that satiny shine that we get when planing at lower
The angle of attack is determined, in a bevel-down plane (like that
Stanley of yours), by the plane's bed angle since the flat back of the
blade is being presented to the wood. In a bevel-up plane, the angle of
attack is the sum of the bed angle and the bevel angle. One advantage to
a bevel-up plane is that the angle of attack can be adjusted by simply
changing the blade's bevel angle. But you can do that with your Stanley,
bevel-down plane as well: simply put a small bevel on the back of the
blade and you've increased the angle of attack. I know woodworkers who
always back-bevel their blades and swear by it for day-to-day use
(including jointer and planer knives, btw. They claim better finish and
longer edge life.) For more on back-bevels sharpening:
Bottom line is, your Stanleys can do anything the newer planes can do if
they're tuned up a bit and adjusted properly. Just that simple.
And if you need a good blade...
If you're not already aware of this, Ron isn't some random spammer
trying to get more hits on his website - he's a well-respected plane
and plane-iron maker. You got some good advice. I won't add much to
the bevel advice, but I'll second the recommendation to get a good
aftermarket blade for your old Stanley - Ron Hock, Lee Valley, and Lie
Nielsen are the names that regularly come up for top-notch replacement
Also, I've had good luck smoothing figured woods with a card scraper
or cabinet scraper (needs some practice to sharpen, but very effective
once you get it tuned, and quite inexpensive). Additionally, I
recently bought an inexpensive "high angle smooth plane" like the Hong
Kong style sold by LV that works well on figured woods - basically
this has a steep blade angle with a super-fine mouth opening, and any
plane with that combination should theoretically do well on figured
Thank you, Ron, I have 3 of your blades and like them a lot.
One is in my Record 60 1/2, one in Bailey #5 and one is for my Bailey
#4 1/2 (project).
I do not have a working smoother and am looking for one. Lee Valley or
Lie Niesen is in my price range,
and, from a blade standpoint, the bevel uppers have much thicker
blades than their conventional
cousins, up to 1/4" thick. That can't be too bad.
If one has a choice, which one is better?
What are the tradeoffs between bevel up and regular bench planes when
it comes to curly woods?
Did anyone try using both on difficult grain?
A 5 - 10 degree back bevel might be a bit more work for me, but not a
show stopper if conventional
planes are the better choice.
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