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I have a block plane that I picked up from Lowes a few months ago. I took it apart recently to clean the blade but when I tried to put it back together I was unable to get consistent results when passing the plane over the wood. There was significant tear-out, leading me to believe I may have put the blade in wrong?

I've looked for comprehensive instructions on how a plane is disassembled/reassembled but have not found a good canonical source of this information. Can anyone provide some details in this regard?

  • Block planes are typically bevel-up, and it's pretty obvious if you put the blade in backwards. Make sure to re-hone the blade periodically, and don't take too large a bite. – rob Apr 18 '15 at 3:23
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For mere assembly, please see http://www.tooltrip.com/tooltrip9/stanley/stan-bpl/edsheets.pdf These are the instructions created by Stanley Tools years ago and apply generally to all 'vanilla' hand planes.

The steps for tuning the plane are many depending on the use you have in mind. Generally, they include:

  • flattening the bed,
  • ensuring that the frog sits well,
  • flattening the back of the iron,
  • honing the edge of the blade,
  • ensuring the cap sit well on the blade, and
  • adjusting the depth of cut.

There are several sources to track down. The first ones that comes to mind are by author Christopher Schwarz. He has a youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAYcwubAO2E regarding the setup of a brand new plane, a book on hand planes, Handplane Essentials, which covers setup and a dvd, Super-Tune a Handplane. There are others, just he sprang to mind immediately.

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  • Great answer! The Stanley document is a good reference for bevel-down planes, but it would be nice to also include a reference for bevel-up block and bench planes, which do not have separate chipbreakers. – rob Mar 19 '15 at 5:07
  • By Charles Schwartz, you mean Christopher Schwarz, right? – rob Mar 19 '15 at 5:23
  • I have Schwarz's DVD called Super-Tune a Handplane and it goes into a great deal of detail. I'd go so far as to call it a 'canonical' source. He covers every aspect of refurbishment. – glw Mar 21 '15 at 20:23
  • Purchase Schwarz's video here: shopwoodworking.com/super-tuning-a-hand-plane-dvd-u3934 – glw Mar 21 '15 at 21:05
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The first rule is, the blade should be sharp. SHARP.

But then there are some things about plane assembly that you pick up with experience and aren't clearly addressed in the usual instructional resources.

One of these relates to runout in the blade adjusting mechanism and play in the blade holding mechanism. Basically, when you re-place the blade on the frog/in the plane, set the blade "pin" in the right groove for the right blade penetration through the mouth. Then place the lever cap on, and tighten it using the cam-lever. That lever should be turned all the way, but you can adjust the force applied using a flathead screwdriver. It should be tight, but you should be able to wiggle around the lever cap using moderate hand pressure.

--> the key here is that if it's too loose, the blade will never sit properly. But if it's too tight your adjustment attempts (laterally) wont do anything.

As part of this lever cap placement, pull the blade back as far as it will go, then flick the cam lever.

now, turn the plane over, and adjust the lateral position of the blade so that the blade edge is square to the mouth.

Finally, back out the blade, then slowly bring it back in while making test passes on some wood.

One final note: some woods are prone to tearout no matter what (those with interlocking grain), and a block plane with its low angle of attack only exacerbates the situation.

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