Viewer Question on Squaring an Edge with a Plane
This is a great question from Dirk in Oklahoma…
First, thanks for all the information you so freely pass along to your readers. I have read/ watched your use of jointer planes. I have a Stanely #7 and when I use it to joint an edge the edge rarely comes out square to the board face, it usually cut at a tilt even if I focus on keeping the plane level and square to the board face. Do I need to grind a curve on my iron? Thanks for you time and advice.
Here is what I had to say on the topic. A bit verbose but I think I covered it.
This is a good question and an issue that I deal with a lot too. I think a lot of people will benefit from this so I am going to put up a blog on it and probably do a quick audioboo on the topic too.
No matter how hard we try inevitably the board will tilt because we tend to favor a hand unless you are truly ambidextrous. The easy answer is you need to check your board often with a square and assess from there to determine where you need to be putting pressure on the board. Putting a camber in your blade is a great way to level an edge quickly because you don’t worry about where you are putting your weight or tilting the plane. The curve will naturally take a heavier shaving from the middle of the blade so align the middle of the blade where you need to take the most wood off. I do recommend this on your jointer plane but don’t get carried away with the camber. It only needs to be slight. If you have a plane with a heavier camber like a scrub or fore plane you can quickly level the edge and then hit it with your jointer too.
I am a firm believer in learning to do things multiple ways so you have another trick up your sleeve. What if you are squaring an edge on a shorter board and it doesn’t make sense to use a long jointer? You may not want a camber on all your blades or may not want to deal with the extra sharpening effort involved so you should know how to square an edge without the camber technique. Do not tilt the plane ever, you will never get it right on and the chance of changing the angle mid way through the stroke is very high. Place the plane flat on the edge and lean your weight towards the high side. You will actually see that the plane is taking a heavier shaving on that side. This is what I learned at Chuck Bender’s shop and it works great and there is no need to camber your blade. It is very subtle and I’ll give you an example. I am left handed so I push with my left hand on the tote. I will set my plane on the board with right hand on the knob and ready to plane. If the high side of my board is to the left I will take my left hand and slightly twist it to the left throughout the stroke. This is all that is needed to take that heavier shaving and level the board.
I would advise practicing this and you will be amazed at how quickly and accurately you can bring an edge square and there is no balancing act or need to move the plane side to side. This has become my technique of choice now and I actually sharpen by jointer straight across now. The only planes I have with camber are my scrub and fore planes for rough work and a smoother. Although the smoother is so slight that you could just say that I broke the corners to prevent plane tracks.
What are your thoughts? Any other techniques that work out there?