I have recently discovered that planes might be of some use, even for a
guy with modest skills like me. I asked a couple of questions here and
reaped quite a crop of answers. :)
I also mentioned that I had unearthed a couple of more unusual planes in
my Dad's garage. One was a Stanley 248, which was apparently specialized
for weatherstripping work. Blood & Gore gave it quite a scathing writeup.
I was knocking around in my own garage today and decided to tinker with
it, just for fun. Here's my "review". Please excuse any novice ignorance
and misuse of terms.
The tool was evidently built to plow grooves parallel to the edge of a
piece. Looking at my test piece and relying on memory, I'd say the
maximum distance from the edge of the work to the inside edge of the
groove is maybe 1-1/4". That distance is set with a fence that rides on
two rods that tighten down with thumbscrews. There are two other rods
that tighten with set screws that I take to be "stops" for saving a
Although there isn't much play - the rods fit snugly in the holes in the
fence - I think it is possible to (mistakenly) set the fence such that
it is not perfectly parallel to the, well, what is the bottom of a plane
called anyway? But this plane doesn't have a flat bottom plate, because
it's "bottom" must fit into the groove it cuts.
The 248 has a very narrow bottom indeed, even slightly narrower than
the 1/8" cutter. Possibly due to my inexperience, I found I had to
concentrate on keeping the tool body plumb; it's easy to allow it to
tilt from side to side.
The one I have does indeed say "248", which reportedly came with two
cutters, but I found five, in sixteenths from 1/8" to 3/8". On some of
them, but not all, the cutting edge flares out (is broader than the body
of the cutter).
The cutter slides into a groove and is fastened with two screws, one on
either side. It seems that the only way to adjust the aggressiveness of
the cut is to loosen both screws and manually slide the cutter in or out
a little bit. At first I invariably moved it too much, but I quickly
learned to just tap it lightly.
I "invented" the term "aggressiveness" to distinguish the depth cut with
each pass from the final depth of the groove. That final depth is set
with an adjustable depth stop, a small metal plate that eventually rides
along the face of the work when the set depth is reached.
As some may remember, my sharpening experience consists of a brief bout
with a block plane a couple of weeks ago, plus a few tries in shop class
back in 1972. I made only the most rudimentary attempt with each cutter
But it looks as though only one of them was ever used. You could tell
that someone had sharpened it at least once. The rest look brand new.
The 5/16" cutter was on the tool, so I tried that one first.
I took out a piece of 1x4 pine maybe a foot long. I set the fence for
about a 1" gap from the edge and started in. I had seen a video online
about a tongue-and-groove plane which showed that you should start near
the far end of the work and work your way closer to the near end as you
establish the groove. That seemed sensible to me for this plane also, so
that's what I did.
My "aggressiveness of cut" was too great at first, and the walls of my
first groove were not terribly clean. But it was surprisingly straight.
I say surprisingly, because I hadn't been sure I had managed to keep the
tool plumb and the fence against the work simultaneously.
I tinkered with the cutter depth until it felt better, flipped the wood
around and plowed another groove. This one was much better, and I was
impressed with how fairly easy it had been to cut the two parallel
grooves. The depth stop did its job; by eye, at least, those two grooves
look to be the same depth.
I moved on to the 3/16" next. That worked out nicely, partly due to the
11 or 12 minutes of experience I had built up with the tool. Next up,
the 1/8". I guessed that such a narrow groove would be easier; less
material to plow out.
That much was true, but it seemed to rub and bind and I did some damage
to the face of the wood on one side of the groove. By now I had 4
closely spaced grooves on one side of my board. I thought about what
might have caused the "binding" as I flipped the board over.
I'm not a terribly skilled woodworker, but I think I have a good head
for geometry, and I had wondered about the possibility of the fence
being slightly off parallel when I first tried to suss out how the tool
was supposed to work. I had not made any attempt to set it except by
"feel", and still have not. I imagine that this could be done with any
sort of spacer, or calipers.
I loosened the thumbscrews that lock the fence on its rods and tried to
adjust it so it "felt" straight. This seemed to make an improvement.
There was less binding and the grooves were nice and clean.
I finally put in the 3/8" cutter and made one more groove. There was an
inconvenient knot in the wood that only got worse as the groove got
deeper, but that gave me an idea. Several of the kind fellows here (plus
my own mounting experience) has taught me that you generally want to
plane "uphill". It occurred to me that you could easily turn the piece
around and reset the fence by putting the cutter in the existing groove
and tightening the fence against the opposite edge.
And indeed you could, if the piece was narrow enough. Mine wasn't. But
then I wondered if the cutter would follow the half-finished groove even
without the fence. I removed the fence and tried it. It worked pretty
decently, I thought, except that the knot was nearly as much of an
impediment in that direction. [As I'm writing this I remember that the
3/8" was one of the cutters that did not "flare" out, which might help
it follow the groove's walls better than the flared ones.]
And that (finishing the cut without the fence) has made me wonder if
this "curiosity" might eventually find some useful work in my shop. My
woodworking arsenal is pretty meager, but I do have a router. But I
wonder if I might need to, say, progressively tweak the depth of a 5/16"
groove someday to make something fit better. (that is already a level of
commitment and skill I have seldom attempted, but hey, you never know).
And I have some other ideas as well.
In brief (too late for that, I suppose), though I barely sharpened the
cutters and have scant experience with even basic planes, this tool
seemed to do its job, at least in the soft wood I tried it on. It was
fun to fool around with. I may yet find a use for it.