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If it Works…the Bevel Up Plane Debate

In last week’s Wood Talk Online Radio, Marc, Matt, and I fielded an email about differences between bevel up and bevel down planes.  This led to a forum post which led to the Sauer & Steiner blog where some plane illuminati were chiming in.  This is one of those pins or tails first debates that can get people very much up in arms about what is right and what is wrong.  My thoughts are: does it work for you?  Good, go with it!

Lee Valley Bevel Up Smoother

This is my Veritas bevel up smoothing plane.  I love it.  It came with a blade ground at 25 degrees that works really well.  The mass of the plane and the adjustible mouth allows me to do really fine work on most woods.  A little more than a year ago I bought another blade for it, this one ground at 50 degrees.  Combined with the 12 degree bed I have a 62 degree cutting angle now.  There is nothing that this plane cannot handle now and often times I will forget to check grain direction and end up planing against the grain only to get smooth and tear out free results.  It is a little harder to push through the work with that steep blade angle so I make a point to remove the high angle blade when working with easier, straight grained woods.

The thing is, I seem to have been taken in by my the wood lately in my lumber mill trips and I end up with beautiful swirly grained Walnut or eye popping Birds Eye Maple.  Lately I incorporated some Cherry that I milled myself from my in law’s yard.  I was using a crotch piece in particular and easy planing went out the window.  So my 50 degree blade has been in the plane a lot.

Here is the crux of this post.  My bevel up plane is just so easy to Smoothing Plane Shavingschange blades that I do it more often and end up fighting the wood a lot less.  It takes no time and with set screws in the body, no adjustment and I’m back to getting thin wispy shavings and a great finish on my boards.  What shocked me is on a whim I dialed the blade back about a half turn and started planing again after I switched blades.  I was getting really thins shavings before and didn’t think I could really go any thinner.  I was wrong.  Hopefully this picture will give you the idea.  I didn’t get out a dial indicator to check but the top shaving is definitely thicker as you can see by the darker color.  The bottom shaving has to be less than 1 thousandth thick as it is basically transparent.  The finish on the Walnut I was working went from smooth to mirror polished!  So I don’t really care if my bevel up blade will wear prematurely and be harder to sharpen.  This plane just works!

‘Nuff said.

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