In my last post, I mentioned using a hand plane across the grain, so I could remove more wood, faster and more easily. In fact, if I had my plane set to the same depth of cut as I do when working across the grain, I’d likely just stick the iron into the wood and the plane would go no further.
The first time I used a hand plane to work across the grain, I was a bit surprised by the type of shavings it produced, and at the relative easy I could work. I thought it might prove useful/interesting to show some shavings I took this evening, from the Soft Maple board, and discuss it a bit.
The photo above is something like you might expect to see, if the iron in your plane has some camber. Specifically, notice the edges of the shaving are very slightly tapering, so you might see them getting thinner. If I’d been using my Lie-Nielsen #8 Jointer Plane, and had my heavier camber iron in (I have one with just a little camber, and one that is more significant), the thinning edges would be more obvious. If I had no camber on an iron, and used it across the grain, it may not release completely from the board on one side or the other.
I held my middle finger and thumb against the cross grain shaving above, and just lightly separated them, which was enough to cause it to break into two pieces. There is relatively low strength in this direction, and why you can plane a thicker shaving, with less effort than expected. Also notice how the shaving almost just separated, rather than really broke or tore.
Last is the shaving from my plane going with the grain of the wood (on the right in the photo above), which may look like what you are used to seeing when you think of a plane shaving. This shaving, even though it is fairly light and not very thick, is still much stronger if you were to try pulling it apart from each end. You can hopefully see the difference in the edges, compared to the cross grain shaving (left in photo above), as well as the overall structure of the two types of shaving.
I hope that might fill in a blank or two, or answer some unasked questions.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I was planing some hard 10/4 Pecan last night, that had all sorts of craziness going on in the grain, including some spalting (both of which were nice looking). I was using a smaller plane (a No. 3), and had an iron in it with a little more camber than I usually used in my smoothing planes. I chose this sized plane since this board had so many peaks and valleys, of which some were fairly significant, and the plane’s length and camber allowed me to focus my efforts on smaller sections, to more rapidly bring the board into square. There was so much warp and twistiness, occurring during the drying process, that I basically saved this board from the burn pile. I don’t mind putting some extra effort into this type of board, especially when there is some cool figure and the starting thickness is enough that after bringing to square, I can still end up with something usable.
I was making decent progress, with the iron set efficiently deep, and after what seemed like a couple of hours (ok, it was nowhere near that long, but this plane’s old iron really holds an edge), I could tell it needed to hit the sharpening stones. I was getting pretty close to calling it a night, and it seemed like I could be as close as about 15 minutes from finishing the planing on this board, so instead I grabbed my other No. 3 plane. My second No. 3 was underneath my bench’s top, sharpened up to the usual razor’s edge, but I’d forgotten that I was testing the chipbreaker with it set much closer to the cutting edge of the iron. I normally setup my smoothing planes with the chipbreaker set around 1/32″ – 1/16″ back from the cutting edge, and get a great surface from almost any wood, but I want to see if I could notice any difference with it set closer. The chipbreaker I had prepared for testing, was setup about as close to the cutting edge as I can see (older eyes have something to do with this measurement), without the two being set so the edges are flush to one another. (Setting them completely flush with each other doesn’t work at all, so if you ever wondered, don’t waste your time trying this.)
Well, I had set the second plane up for a little heavier cut, since I prefer to be as efficient as possible, when using hand planes. If there is a decent amount of wood to remove, I want to get the bulk off quickly with a heavier shaving, and then come back in and follow up with a super light cut for a great surface. While adjusting the iron for this heavier efficient shaving, I completely overlooked the alternate chipbreaker setting. Even with this setup, the second plane performed admirably for the first 10-20 passes, but all of a sudden it felt like it hit something hard in the wood. I took a look into the mouth of the plane and it was jammed up just as if I’d run over a thick shaving laying on the surface of the board. I used my Lie-Nielsen bench brush to see if I could just sweep it out of the mouth, but even with this handy brush, the shaving(s) didn’t budge.
I took the plane apart, and when I removed the iron/chipbreaker combo, this is what I saw (photo below).
There was wood debris wedged in between the chipbreaker and the iron, even though they mate solidly, without any hint of a gap.
With no other known problems with this plane, nor previous occurrences of jamming at any time, it is likely the main factor in this case was taking too heavy a shaving with the chipbreaker set so close to the cutting edge. If the chipbreaker had been set further back from the cutting edge, I expect this would have provided the needed margin for error, and no jam would’ve occurred. I’m actually a bit curious whether there might be some shifting that occur between iron and chipbreakers, while we plane, that are so small in nature that we just don’t notice or perceive. Maybe that is getting into the “Tree falling in the forest…” territory though, and is better left alone,
I hope everyone will either keep up or work to improve their hand tool skills, as I think it’s amazing to have the level of control they afford. Thank you for checking out this article and let me know if you have any comments or questions.
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