Small, compact and versatile, the block plane is a tool that can do a variety of tasks such as cleaning up the end grain of a board, fitting joints or rounding off corners. It is one of the handiest tool available and a must-have for any woodworking shop. You can purchase it cheaply at a flea market or on eBay to add it to your arsenal.
If you already have bought one and now wondering on ways to set up or how to adjust a block plane, follow the listed steps below and start maximizing its functionalities.
Step 1: Inspect and flatten the sole
One of the first things that you need to do is to ensure that the sole is flat. This action needs to be done to enable the plane to perform its function accurately. You can do this by laying sandpaper on a flat surface. If needed, you may use some adhesive to prevent the sandpaper from moving. Then, keep the plane together with its blade fully retracted. You can start rubbing the plane on the sandpaper. A dark powder will appear, this the metal being scraped off from the sole.
Step 2: Check the iron or remove if necessary
The next thing that needs to be inspected is the shape and sharpness of the iron’s cutting edge and also, its overall flatness. Its natural shape is straight since it commonly used on edges that are needed to be precisely square or perpendicular. Then, see to it that your iron is razor sharp and completely flat.
While you can check the given qualities while the iron is still attached in the plane, you may need to remove it to examine it thoroughly or when it already needs flattening or sharpening. You can remove the iron by releasing the lever cap and twisting the cam lever or the thumbwheel release, or by hauling up the lever’s cap should have a knuckle-joint one.
If there is need to remove any camber off the cutting edge, you can accomplish it by re-bevelling it using a grinder, an abrasive paper or a sharpening stone. Though, the last two options may take a longer time.
Step 3: Check the iron’s bed
Once the iron has been removed, you can now check the iron bed for debris. It is the part where the iron rests. Particles such as metal fillings can get stuck on the bed and will stop the iron from completely lying flat, which affects the plane’s performance. Clean any debris found using a brush or a rag.
Step 4: Put back and adjust the iron
When placing back the iron, be sure to check if your plane has lateral and depth adjustment. Make sure to place the lateral adjustment plate in its respective large slot. Then, see to it that the tooth or lug of the block’s plane depth adjustment system fits perfectly in its appropriate slot.
Once the iron has been properly rested, you may now put back the lever cap on the top, located behind the crossbar or the lever cap screw. Depending on your block plane, fasten it with the knuckle-joint, thumbwheel or cam tightener.
Step 5: Make lateral adjustments
Through the tiny projection of the cutting edge beyond the plane’s mouth, sight through the plane’s sole and check if the iron is in its right lateral position. If it is not aligned with the sole past its width, you need to adjust the iron using whichever type of lever your block plane possess. If the one you’re using has no adjustment system, you need to move the iron manually for you to reach its correct position.
When making the adjustments, you may need to loosen the lever cap to reduce the pressure received by the iron. Don’t forget to tighten it once done with the procedure.
Step 6: Do depth adjustments
Sighting again through the sole, adjust the depth of the block plane’s depth using the adjustment wheel if it has one or manually if it doesn’t have any. Same when making lateral adjustments, you may need to let the lever cap loose and tighten it again afterward once done making the necessary adjustments.
Remember, you typically need little iron depth for a block plane, especially if you are using it for end grain work. However, the first few times the block plane is used for chamfering may require a larger depth. This size will be needed until the chamfer stretches out to its appropriate size or when you can finally draw back the blade quite a little for the last strokes.
Step 7: Make mouth adjustments
Should your block plane feature any mouth adjustment mechanism, make sure to align it with the iron depth. Thinner shaving requires a relatively smaller mouth, and thicker shavings need a larger one.
You can adjust by turning the knob in an anti-clockwise motion. If it’s fitted, twist the lever under the know right or left to reduce or increase the size of the block plane’s mouth. If the one you are using has no lever, you can move the plate by pulling or pushing the loosened knob. Once done with the adjustments, make sure to twist the knot clockwise to lock the plane’s mouth it at your preferred opening.
While the mouth can be adjusted whenever wanted, other woodworkers prefer to have to two separate block planes; one set for thinner and the other for thicker shavings. Doing this saves a good amount of effort and time.
Step 8: Test the block plane
Put all the pieces together and begin planing. Check if your shaving is uniform throughout its width. Make certain that the plane’s iron cuts evenly and no tear on the wood is produced. Make further adjustments if needed until you get your preferred results.
If you’ve followed the given instructions on how to adjust a block plane, you now have a great tool which can be utilized for almost all of your woodworking project. See to it to make necessary sharpening or adjustments from time to time to maximize the performance of your block plane.