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Q & A: Low-Angle Planes Provide Versatility


Q & A: Low-Angle Planes Provide Versatility


What advantage does a low-angle bench plane have over a standard bench plane?


Low-angle bench planes allow you to change the blade’s effective cutting angle to suit specific tasks. Because the bevel points up on a low-angle plane, the effective cutting angle can be varied based on the iron’s bevel angle. The bevel-up configuration also means the plane blade is fully supported right up to the cutting edge. With the bevel down, the cutting edge remains unsupported along the bevel, which can lead to blade chatter (Fig. A, below).

To get the most out of your low-angle bench plane, it’s best to have two or three blades on hand with various bevel angles already ground on them (Fig. A). A 25-degree bevel ground on the cutting iron will produce a low cutting angle of 37 degrees that’s ideal for shaving end grain (see photo, above). A 35-degree bevel approximates the 45-degree cutting angle on a standard bench plane, which is best-suited for general planing tasks. A 50-degree bevel creates a high cutting angle of 62 degrees for more of a scraping cut that reduces tearout on squirrelly grained wood, such as bird’s-eye maple.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Fig. A: Exploded View

The cutting angle is simply the sum of the bevel angle and the plane-bed angle or pitch. The pitch of a low-angle bench plane is 12 degrees, but its effective cutting angle can be varied based on the iron’s bevel angle. Standard bench planes usually have a pitch of 45 degrees, often referred to as common, or York, pitch. Since the plane is bevel down, the effective cutting angle remains at 45 degrees no matter what angle is ground on the bevel.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December/January 2007, issue #126.

December/January 2007, issue #126

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