Nope, you don't run off the end, anyway, unless you want a chip. Finesse,
not force on a low angle block with a sharp edge and sufficient skew. On a
full-size butcher block, low angle smoother. Worked a treat on some slabs
of various woods for the kiddies to count the rings.
You've gotten lots of good advice on this already, but I'll sum up
my approach. The iron has to be extremely sharp. I finish mine on a
sheet of the 0.5 micron microfinishing film. Depending on the size of
the piece I'm working on, I use either a low-angle block or a low-angle
smoother. Either way, I set the iron for a very light cut and close the
mouth up pretty tight.
So I don't have to worry about chipout at the end of the stroke, I
mark the cut and take a block plane to put a bit of a bevel down to the
point where I want the cut to end. (I do this all around the end of the
board.) This has the added advantage of giving me an extra visual
reference point. (I.e., when the bevel is gone, I should be right
I clamp the board end-up in my leg vise (keeping it as low in the
jaws as possible so it doesn't flex or wobble) and skew the plane
slightly as I go. Skewing helps two ways: It gives you a slicing cut
and it helps balance the plane better than approaching it from
Finally, even on endgrain you need to go with the grain. Do a test
cut to find which direction leaves a better surface. It is usually very
Do all of these things, and you'll soon find yourself making little
endgrain curlies that crumble when you try to pick them up.
BTW, in my experience, it's harder to plane endgrain *pine* than it
is maple or other harder woods.
Prolly got a half dozen block planes around here and they'll all do
Ya gotta unnerstan that most block planes (even the LN skew, which is
my current favorite) are kits - and don't run just right, the way they
show up at your door.
You gotta tune the suckers up.
First, ya gotta flatten the iron and this may take some time. I like
to work the flat down on a piece of roughish paper laid in a bed of
water on a chunk of float glass that's at least 3/8" thick.
Keep working through the grits until you get a mirror finish at least
an inch back from the bevel.
As a break from working on this, you can tune up the sole of the
plane. Same deal, work through the grits until you can see yourself.
Some folks will think that's a bit extreme, I don't.
Then do the same thing to the bevel of the iron. Look at the edge
under a magnifying glass (a 10X is fine, if you keep going, you wind
up with Jonathan Swift syndrome, where nothing looks good - depending
on the scale).
Then you gotta tune up the throat of the plane. Most of them are a
little rough and need smoothing. You can start with a file, if
you're handy with it but I like to at least finish off with increasing
grits of wet or dry that I wrap around an old plane iron.
When you get so that the nice flat iron lays on the nice flat throat -
Now, the throat opening should be set pretty tight to plane end grain.
The iron should project evenly and a minimal amount, to start off
with. Set a light up so that you can see that nice shiny iron begin
to peek out above the nice shiny sole of the plane.
If'n you get some chatter after all of this, call up Ronny Hock and
order a plane iron of decent thickness - you won't regret it.
Now, ya got yaself a decent instrument - it's time to play some music.
End grain is as directional as face grain. You want to ride the waves
of the grain so that the iron is riding uphill on the grain pattern.
If you go the other way, you'll never get where you want to go.
When you've really done it right, you'll be able to take that 10X
magnifying glass and see something that the sanders among us never get
to see -clean cut open pores. When you put a finish on that sucker,
you'll get to see a play of light on the cut surfaces that has
everything to do with why people become Neanders.
Good Luck and Godspeed.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.)
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)
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