Welcome! Forums General Woodworking Discussions Tools and Tool Maintenance/Restoration Can't get a flat surface out of my #4 plane

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    I have an inexpensive #4 style plane that I can’t get to work right. I have the blade super sharp and I can adjust it to take very fine shavings. The problem is it always leaves a line on the board along where the plane went across and if I surface plane a board the surface will never come out smooth. I can then follow up with a scraper and get back to work but watching Paul’s videos and seeing his results I’m certain my plane isn’t adjusted right, or isn’t capable of being adjusted right.

    I have flattened the sole, inspected the frog, made sure the blade is 90 degrees to the long side, rounded off the corner of the blade like Paul, and I’m starting to wonder if I have a bad plane?

    Does anyone have any advice? I have an “Olympia” brand #4 plane.

    Thank you. Hoyt


    When you say the plane leaves a line on the board, are you talking about the “tramlines” where the edges of the plane stop cutting the wood, or are you talking about lines in the cut itself? Tramlines are basically unavoidable, atleast to some extent. Less cut means less visible tramlines, but in a wide board, the blade has to stop cutting somewhere. If you’re talking about lines inside that area, it’s entirely possible there is a nick somewhere in your blade edge, where the blade doesn’t cut properly.

    Without some pictorial evidence to go from, it’s going to be very difficult to tell you more.


    Yes I am talking about the tramlines (I learned some more terminology today!). I guess I’ve been under the impression that the plane should leave a smooth surface once I get to the level of taking very fine shavings. Am I wrong about this?

    Thank you for the advice.


    In short… Yes. Atleast in my experience. Although if your plane is set up correctly with (in the case of smoothing planes) a very straight cutting edge, and a very light cut, they should be very shallow.

    You can see in one of Paul’s videos on the Occasional Table project that you can make these marks more visible by rubbing the surface with a piece of wood. In this case it’s on the underside of the tabletop, where it’s been left unfinished.

    Under ideal circumstances, the tramlines should be sufficiently light that they can be easily removed by light sanding or scraping without significantly altering the surface. The goal with the smoothing plane isn’t to create a perfectly smooth reference surface, but rather to remove local high spots.

    That said, I can’t say I’ve really noticed massive tramlines in my own work, so maybe you’re taking a thicker shaving than you think you are. Maybe post a picture of a shaving you think of as thin, and see what other people think. Working on your own there is no reference for what things should be, and I’ve personally noticed studying with others that when they first try to use a plane, they set the depth of cut to like, 2-3mm.


    Awesome thanks for the info. I’m going to head back into the shop and try to evaluate if it’s my plane or me being too picky. Like I said I thought I was magically supposed to get this super smooth surface after hand planning and I’ve been working towards that but now I know I need to adjust my expectations a little bit.

    I will post some pictures when I get a chance to get back out there.

    Thank you again!


    With me I donR