Planing Beech

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  • #770864
    Joost Borst
    Participant

    Good evening,

    I have just started on the “how to make a table project”. For this project I bought some beech wood.
    So far I have only used European spruce and Douglas fir. This evening I tried to plane the beech to dimension it.
    I sharpen my plane blade just before starting so it only had around 10 passes to level out the blade in the plane on a scrap piece of Douglas.
    When I used it on the Beech it just wouldn’t cut until I moved the blade so far forward it tried to make a to deep of a cut and immediately caused tear out.

    Thinking I had just miss read the grain I turned the wood around and try again. The result was an instant stop within 2cm of starting cause it hit rising grain combined with the expected tear out.

    At the moment I’m at a loss on what I’m doing wrong that this wood just isn’t working for me. The only two tings I can think of are my workbench being a black and decker workmate weighted down with 15kg of sand not being stable enough and my sharpening skills just not being good enough, then again I can get shavings you can look through on the spruce and fir.

    Does anybody have any tips on planing/dimensioning this type of wood?

    P.S. I do have to say I have more trouble reading the grain of beach compared to the other woods I have used and seen so far.

    #770925
    Stijn Bossuyt
    Participant

    Hi Joost,
    in my experience, beech is a wonderful wood to plane. I do find it very helpful to regularly oil the sole of the plane, more so than with softwoods. From what you’re describing, I can think of 2 possible causes:

    • The cutting angle of your plane blade is too steep (nearing 45°). When this is the case, the blade rides on the bevel instead of cutting. An overly rounded bevel (especially towards the edge) can cause the same thing.
    • The board of beech is nowhere near level enough for a smoothing plane. The blade simply doesn’t cut because it doesn’t touch the wood. Check the board with a long ruler, and try planing the high spots. Or better yet, come in with a scrub plane first.

    It does help tremendously to have a good workbench to plane on! Since you can plane spruce and Douglas without problems, you have no excuse to start building one 😉 You will need to build one anyway if you want to progress in handtool woodworking. I speak from experience, I too postponed that build way too long. I worked on a makeshift workbench made from trestles and pallets for about half a year.
    Hope this helps!
    Cheers, Stijn

    #770978
    Joost Borst
    Participant

    Hi Stijn,

    Thanks for the tips.
    I checked the angle of my iron when I came home today, it is around 23° maybe I should actually increase the angle a bit on the next sharpening. Maybe it gets dull to quickly cause of the shallow angle.

    The oil on the sole is a good one I keep forgetting to use the rag in a can, i’ll give that a try next time.

    The beech beam does have a slight bend in it that I’m trying to get out.

    Unfortunately I do have a good excuse to not start on a workbench, I live in a apartment with not enough room to build a proper bench in the storage room. We plan on moving to a proper house with a garage next year. That is where I’ll build my proper workbench.

    Kind regards,

    Joost

    P.S. the plow plane you sold me works tremendously, someday I will remember to post some pictures of all the projects it helped me make so far.

    #771460
    Joost Borst
    Participant

    Here’s a little update.
    Gave it another go today, turns out my troubles were two fold.
    The first piece of beech I used was full of raising and sinking grain.
    My workmate workbench just isnt sturdy enough, I used the tresles against a wall with some screws as a planestop. Suddenly the non functioning plane started working.

    Thanks for the tips.

    #771534
    Stijn Bossuyt
    Participant

    Hi Joost,
    I’m glad you solved your problem! Looks like it was both stubborn grain and a wobbly workbench. I do think the angle of the bevel could be slightly increased to at least 25° for hardwoords. With a shallow angle, the edge is fragile and damages more easily.
    PS: totally forgot I sold you a plough plane ☺ Glad to hear you already made several projects with it!
    Cheers, Stijn

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