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I tend to like power tools, because I need a lot less 'skill' to get the same quality product. However, I do like learning hand tool techniques and sometimes they are just as good or better than power tools. Sometimes faster if you only have one or two 'pieces' to do, instead of setting up the power tools to do it.

So I keep catching comments in different places about planing end grain. Do you need special planes? Special technique? Just use a beltsander? :)

What kind of plane and how do you use it (them) to plane the end grain of a board and are there any gotchas to look out for?

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In Western woodworking at least low-angle block planes are favoured for planing end grain. These will generally give the best result, but any plane can do it if the iron is sharp enough and you take a very light cut.

Terminology note: a plane's blade is traditionally referred to as an iron, in older books sometimes as the cutter.

are there any gotchas to look out for?

Yes, tearout of the long grain at the edge of the board is always a concern. There are three common ways of dealing with this.

The first is to plane in from both ends, but I find this least satisfactory because you tend to see an obvious difference in the finish of the end grain when planed from opposing directions.

The second is possibly the simplest and most effective, which is to clamp a piece of scrap wood onto the edge of the board which supports the long grain at the end of the cut. This is the method I favour personally.

The above techniques are shown in this image. enter image description here

The third method is to plane a small chamfer onto the end of the board, then plane down to meet it.

Another general tip that can help regardless of the technique used is to dampen the end grain, which makes it softer and therefore easier to shear through. You can use water, although you risk raising the grain on the faces of the board, so some woodworkers use denatured alcohol.

Just use a beltsander? :)

Joking aside that isn't the worst way to deal with finishing end grain on a board, as long as you can hold the 90° angle accurately. Although you will commonly want to sand beyond the grit that belts are available in.

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For end grain a razor-sharp blade is most important, and you can skew your cut to slice the fibers rather than chop them.

The type of plane isn't particularly important, but one with a low cutting angle works best. For instance, you can use a low-angle block plane or a bevel-up jack plane with its blade sharpened to a low angle. You can also convert a bevel-down bench plane to a low-angle plane by replacing its frog with a low-angle frog.

For reference, a low-angle block plane typically has a 12 degree bed angle and 25 degree bevel angle, for a combined 37 degrees.

  • I like this much better than your first attempt! – bowlturner Apr 3 '15 at 16:09
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I just hand-planed several dozen blocks for an end grain cutting board using my shooting board.

It worked pretty well, there was minimal tearout on maybe 10% of the blocks. I could have improved on this with a sharper blade and tighter tolerances on the shooting board.

A temporary shooting board is pretty easy to make, might be worth a shot!

  • +1 on the shooting board method. Super easy to make and use. There are multiple articles and videos on how to set one up. – DarklingPlain Oct 6 '17 at 16:07
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Use mineral spirits to wet the grain. More lubricity than water or DNA, stays wet longer than DNA, and does not raise the grain

  • 1
    DeNatured Alcohol – Ben Sep 18 '17 at 1:41

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