Newbie Plane Problems

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  • #27171

    I received my No 4 Stanley just over a week ago and have it fettled and sharpened and I am now using it to plane 2x4s for the laminated top of a Paul Sellers style bench. I am making progress, but I am also having a few issues that I was hoping someone might have some advice on how to correct:

    1) Fairly often, wood will become lodged between the iron and the chip breaker. The symptom is that the plane will go from taking OK shavings to suddenly not taking any at all. This seems to happen most often when planing around knots (very common in the wood I’m working with) or when planing into the end-grain at the very end of the board. I can tell that some previous owner took a file or a grinder to the chip breaker around the edge, but it seems to mate tightly to the iron (no light shines through). I tried tightening the cap screw, but it didn’t seem to help much.

    2) Fairly often I find that the shavings come out as “accordion” shaped instead of curled. When this happens I find the planing to go less “smoothly”.

    3) There is some “play” in the handle of the plane (it twists back and forth in my hand) no matter how much I tighten the bolt that holds it in. Is there some way of holding it steady? I thought about finding a piece of rubber to put between the bottom of the handle and the top of the plane bed, but it seems like there should be a better solution.

    4) I think I might have over-heated the bottom of the plane. I might have been planing a little aggressively and I felt the iron of the plane bottom warming up. When I looked at the bottom, there was sort of a shimmery area just behind the mouth of the plane. I’ve read about the over-heating that can happen during sharpening that de-tempers the steel requiring the bevel to be reground in order to remove the “burned” spot. Is it possible for this to happen on a plane bed that’s only rubbing against wood? Could this cause any problems?

    Greg Merritt

    1. The cap iron (chip breaker) needs to make contact with the blade stock at the very front of the cap iron. I bet the cap iron edge is rounded in the front. This allows shavings to wedge under it.
    2. See #1. Instead of wedging under, the shavings are bunching up.
    3. The rear tote being loose is common. You can try adding a washer under the long screw or add a shim under the handle. Check to make sure that the handle is mating up to the casting. If it doesn’t mate well, it will rock or twist.
    4. The plane body is cast iron, no temper here. Also there is no way you can generate enough heat during use to damage either the casting or the blade. The shiny area probably indicates a high spot on the plane bottom. Bulldogging, forcing the plane into the cut could also cause the plane body to flex in use. This could mimic a high spot on the plane bottom.

    Post a photo of the blade with the cap iron installed showing the front edge of the cap iron. Also post a photo of the bottom of the plane that shows the area of concern.


    Thanks @gman3555 for your response. Sorry that it took me a couple of days to come back with these, I had some technical difficulties transferring the files around. I think you may be right about there being a slight rounding to the tip of the chip breaker. Does it need to come to a sharp edge like a blade?

    Also, I noticed that the spot on the bottom of the plane still looks different, but no longer has any of the blue/orange coloration that I saw when I first noticed it.

    Greg Merritt

    Dan…the area on the plane bottom is probably just a slight hollow area. Have a look at this video..

    The cap iron (chip breaker) doesn’t need to be sharp but the very front of it is what needs to be in direct contact with the back of the plane blade. You can dress it with a file and the smooth it up on sharpening stones.


    I also have a #4 that had a loose tote like yours.
    I did two things:
    1. Added a piece of the shelf liner that Paul uses, under the bottom of the tote and trimmed the excess after tightening.
    2. The plane has a small “nipple” that sticks into a hole in the tote bottom to keep it from moving back and forth. This hole is typically too large. I filled the hole in with Elmer’s water based wood putty and installed the tote and let it dry overnight. You’ll get some squeeze out, so wipe that up. It dries hard but won’t glue everything together.
    Hope this helps.
    On the other stuff—What Greg said.

    SW Pennsylvania


    A rubber washer under the brass cap on the tote can work wonders too. Some people use metal washers for this, but the small rubber ones really help lock it down IMO.

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