Low Angle/Bevel up planes?

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  • #9304
    Brian Loran
    Participant

    I have heard Paul say several times that bevel up planes are more of a specialty plane and have their place. What is their place? When would you want to use a bevel up plane instead of a good ole Stanely?

    #9331
    Dave
    Participant

    Hi Brian,  I am not too sure and would like to hear Paul discuss this as well.  From what I have read the low angle allows easier end grain planing.  That’s the sales pitch anyway. Most manufacturers of these planes also sell blades with different blade angles so you can swap out blades depending on the kind of wood you are working.  End grain you would use the low angle blade,  highly figured wood you would use a blade with the high angle grind.  Personally I have tried them and prefer the standard no. 4 design.  Although mine is a veritas no. 4 I assume it functions the same way as a Stanley.   I haven’t had any problems on end grain and have used it on hardwood like birch and maple.  As long as the blade is sharp that is 🙂

     

    -Canada

    #9341
    Ken
    Participant
    #9410
    Brian Loran
    Participant

    Thanks for links Ken.

    I know a low angle jack plane makes a good shooting plane but what other uses are there? And what about bevel up jointer and smoothing planes?

    #9411
    Ken
    Participant
    #9414
    Rob Young
    Participant

    A few rambling thoughts:

    The term “low angle” is a bit of a misnomer, it refers to the BEDDING ANGLE, not necessarily the effective cutting angle.  Typically, one sharpens an iron at 25 degrees or higher.  Bedded at 12-1/2 degrees, that is a minimum of 37-1/2 degrees.  Some “low angle planes” use a bedding angle of 20 degrees, for a minimum cutting angle of 45 degrees, same as your garden variety bench plane (Stanley #4).  Most steel alloys used hold their edge better at 30 degrees or more so unless you really enjoy sharpening, plan on a minimum of 42-1/2 degrees.  Skewing changes the effective cutting angle and is left as an exercise to the reader.

    For me, the two greatest advantages of the low angle jack plane and low angle smoothing plane designs are that you can modify the effective cutting angle almost at will all the way to nearly 70 degrees.  That is the blurry line between a planing cut and a scraping cut.  And many designs let you fiddle with the size of the mouth opening, meaning you can go wide open to tiny sliver.  Useful for modifying the behavior of the plane from jack/scrub/fore to small jointer to finishing (polishing) plane without changing the bevel angle.  Although I expect to sharpen the blade after using it as a fore or small jointer plane and before starting in on smoothing.

    With respect to bevel up JOINTER planes (Lie-Nielsen 7-1/2 or the Lee Valley model), I think it is somewhat telling that there seem to be no classic versions around.  That is to say, they are modern inventions.

    To me this says two things:

    1) The machining technology and materials technology did not exist until the late 20th century to support such manufacture.  I’m speaking of CNC machining and quality ductile iron, precision heat treating, “fancy” steel alloys, etc.

    2) They didn’t exist because they weren’t needed.

    I could very well be wrong on both of these points.

    This is NOT to say they, the low angle jointers, don’t work.  They work very well.  Furthermore, the low angle jack (LAJ) designs similar to the Stanley 62 and low angle smoothers work very, very well.  But they work differently from bench planes.  They feel different in the hands, adjust differently for various cuts and sharpen differently.

    Also, it is very difficult to properly use a wooden body plane that beds the iron at angles below 40 degrees (bevel up or down) and use friction fit wedges.  They have a strong tendency to loosen during use and the blade pushes back.  The bevel down design (cap iron or no cap iron) with its higher bedding angle works better in wooden bodies, of which there is a much greater history of manufacture.  Yes, I’m aware there were very early metal body planes from Rome and whatnot.  I’m thinking more in terms of volume here.

    On the whole, I think that the successful bevel up designs are metal body planes and arrived on the scene in the late 19th century.   Painting that timeline in very broad strokes.

    If you can afford a bevel up jack plane (the new Stanley SW62 is inexpensive as these things go, and quality block planes can be had new for less than $100 from Stanley, LN and I think LV) they are worth your time to experiment with.  Worst case is you keep it in good condition while experimenting and sell it after a year at maybe 80% of your purchase price.  Think of that as a rental fee.

    Full disclosure, I have a LN62 and a few extra blades for it so that I can quickly switch between a jack/fore plane to a large body smoothing plane with high effective cutting angles.  I enjoy working (when I can) with figured hardwoods.  For me, the mass difference isn’t important.  YMMV

    #9416
    Gary Hodgin
    Participant

    Most of my bench planes are bevel down except for my LN 62. One advantage of the bevel up is setup. No frog adjusting or chipbreaker issues. The adjustable mouth on the 62 makes it more versatile. It may just be the species of wood I use but I can’t tell much difference in the performance of my 62 and my Stanley #5.

    #9784
    Rob Young
    Participant

    As a followup to my statement above about wooden body planes with low bed angles and wedges, there is a discussion here : http://www.ukworkshop.co.uk/forums/original-wooden-low-angle-plane-described-t36198.html that meanders a bit but starts out talking about a coffin body plane with a 36.5 degree bedding angle.  It seems that in this case it was a specialty plane intended for the box making trade.  That would, I assume, entail the use of soft woods (deal) and much exposed endgrain.

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