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I am trying to plane the end grain of some relatively cheap and soft (pine) timber (2x6s) with a no.4 Stanley Bailey hand plane.

I've sharpened my plane to a degree which I think should be more than satisfactory (up to 6000grit).

However I am getting a lot of tear out when the plane gets to the edge. I know there are few tricks you can do to stop this from happening (such as clamping a dummy block to the end) but my real question is - do better grades of wood, especially hard woods, fare better or worse in this regard?

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Planing end grain is not an easy task and getting a nice result should be taken as a good indicator of sharpness, especially in softwoods.

It's impossible for most beginners and very difficult for a lot of learner woodworkers to get good results planing end grain at every attempt. And it seems paradoxical but the end grain of hardwoods is generally much easier to plane than that of softwoods, which is one of the reasons that working with softwoods is actually quite challenging.

I've sharpened my plane to a degree which I think should be more than satisfactory (up to 6000grit).

Final grit isn't an indication of sharpness.

Finer grits do tend to produce a more refined, ultimately sharper, edge but it's quite possible to hone on a fine waterstone or ceramic stone and for the tool to still be blunt. This can be due to poor technique, or the incomplete removal of the previous wear bevel (something that is surprisingly common).

And it's possible to produce a superb edge on a stone much less fine than this — this was actually still the norm only a generation or so ago, when very fine stones were still not commonplace in Western workshops.

If it helps you might like a quick read of these previous Q&As:
How can I tell if wood turning (lathe) chisels are sharp?
Is the "paper test" actually relevant to sharpening chisels and planes?

However I am getting a lot of tear out when the plane gets to the edge.

This is perfectly normal. As you say there are some tricks to prevent this, as covered in an early Question, How do you plane end grain?

but my real question is - do better grades of wood, especially hard woods, fare better or worse in this regard?

Splitting out of long grain, also called spelching, during planing (and sanding) of adjacent end grain is common to all woods and some hardwoods are actually worse for it than softwoods because they're very stringy, or brittle.

  • Thanks for the comprehensive answer. Yep I realise tht grit isn't the be all and end all - I am very used to sharpening knives but am still perfecting my technique on chisels and planes - although I think I am doing "alright". Your comment put me at easy - I thought it might be the case that softer woods are more prone to issues. I'll be sure to checkout your links too. – 111111 Oct 27 '19 at 9:51
  • Welcome. There's quite a bit on sharpening here (and elsewhere online of course) but if you need any input on sharpness, honing technique and other related things like camber on plane irons I'd be happy to try to help. It's a tricky subject to get a handle on initially because there's so much info out there, and too much of it contradicts (or seems to) other sources. – Graphus Oct 28 '19 at 8:16
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You might have better results if you use a low-angle block plane, such as a Stanley G12-060. I think all of the previous comments are also relevant, as a sharp blade is going to make a big difference. It also helps to skew the plane as much as possible and try for more of a slice (rather than a straight-on cut). Even with all of these suggestions, end grain is the most challenging cut and a very slow process.

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    Low-angle planes can give reduced resistance when planing end grain but actually most end grain has been and continues to be planed with standard bench planes. The main thing though is this wouldn't improve on the problem, spelching is just inherent to the operation and not a byproduct of the plane used or its bedding angle — you can get spelching paring across end grain with a paring chisel honed to 17-20° o_O – Graphus Oct 30 '19 at 8:19

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