Chris Schwarz's Blog

Coming Around to Square Edges

Thanks to my job and the freelance work I do for The Fine Tool Journal, I get to see a lot of specialty handplanes that most people see only in the catalogs or in one of the lusty tomes by The Sandor.

But despite getting to actually use a corebox plane and dozens of other unusual and cool forms, I tend to stick with the basics when I build. I use the jointer plane more than any other bench plane, followed by the smoothing plane and block plane. A few other specialty tools , router planes, a moving fillister and a plow plane , round out my personal set.

One plane I’ve never quite made nice with is the Stanley No. 95, the edge-trimming block plane. This tool is now made by both Veritas and Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in iron or bronze. And though the two brands have some significant differences, the basic form is the same.

The No. 95 is a block plane with a skewed blade and an integral and fixed 90�° fence. The idea is that you press the fence against the face of your work and the tool planes the adjacent edge perfectly square to the face.

I’ve never been fond of the tool , I tend to use my jointer plane to dress edges square to the faces. But during the last few projects I’ve built I’ve found the tool in my hand a surprising number of times. I’ve been using it to plane solid-wood edging square and flush to plywood. I’ve been trimming face frames flush to carcases. And I’ve been dressing rails and stiles of doors and face frames before assembly.

That last task finally convinced me that the tool is a gem for a shop that blends power and hand tools. Here’s why: When I dress stock by hand, all the edges of my rails and stiles end up planed square from the jointer plane. So the No. 95 sits idle.

But when I dress my rails and stiles with a powered jointer (as I’m doing this week), the edge-trimming plane shines. The goal there is to remove the toolmarks, to keep the edges perfectly square and to not remove a lot of material. The No. 95 accomplishes all three goals with aplomb. Typically one or two light passes is all it takes to get crisp inside and outside edges on the parts for a frame-and-panel construction.

Here are a few tips for use: First, the set-up is key. The iron has to project evenly from the mouth or your edge won’t be square. Take some test passes and examine the shavings. Their thickness should be the same on both long edges. Shift the iron around until the tool makes a consistent shaving and a square edge.

Second, press down on the toe of the tool with more force than you would use with a block plane. The plane tends to want to rise out of the cut in softer woods. Also, use one hand to press the tool’s fence against the work and use the other hand to press the work against the fence on the opposite side. All this pressure ensures your cut won’t go astray, which can be trouble.

Now, despite my crush on this tool, I haven’t been able to justify getting both a left- and right-hand version, however. Because my stock is dressed with a planer, it’s true on both faces, so I can work with the No. 95’s fence on either face of the stock without worrying about grain direction. The tool can be pushed or pulled with ease.

Now if I could just find the same love for my chisel plane/paperweight I wouldn’t feel so guilty every time I open a certain drawer in my toolbox.

– Christopher Schwarz

10 thoughts on “Coming Around to Square Edges

  1. andrew rutz

    I noticed that I would press down harder w/ this plane on both the start and end of a workpiece… which got me to thinking if that’s what i do when I *used* to use my power-jointer. I made the naive assumption that (simply) since I had this cool, hand-held squaring-plane… that I could stop Thinking 🙂 ..but I was nicely surprised… and gave me another insight.. or reaffirmation of what good woodworking skill is: keep thinking! …and rest in-between the thinking to make sure your macro-plans for the project/workpiece are all in-order.

    I like my squaring-plane… and was debating whether to but its peer (because MY power-jointer is NOT reliable. I have the 3-blade system on my JET jointer.. and i’m either expecting too much from it… or it’s not up to spec. Do you go straight from using your power-jointer to doing an edge-glue-up? ..i always seem to get boards that are wider in middle and narrower on ends; eg, the "opposite" of a sprung-joint. i’ve tweaked the jointer "every way from Sunday" (whatever that means 🙂 …and i’m almost thinking that one of those cylindrical cutting heads would save me… but they cost more than the whole jointer!

    thanks for the great magazine!

  2. Geoff Irvine

    With respect to the small chisel plane – it can, with a 90 degree bevel on the blade, be a very useful scraper plane e.g. for getting into corners to clear up glue.

  3. Christopher Schwarz

    William,

    The thing the No. 95 does well is it never misses 90° because of its fence. Sometimes I miss 90° with the jointer plane. And the fence to my jointer plane is too big for door stock.

    You don’t have to have a No. 95, but it is a nice luxury. At least, that’s the story I’m using now to justify the credit card bill….

    Chris

  4. andrew rutz

    I use my chisel plane to remove glue-squeeze-out in places where a card-scraper cannot be used. if that’s not a reason to spend $200… i don’t know what is!!!! 🙂

  5. John Viola

    Chris,

    I wish I could tell you that I loved my small chisel plane but I would be lying. It was the first LN plan I purhcased, about 13 years ago (because it was the cheapest they offered back then, I think). Like you , I never really found a use for it, so a couple of years ago I sold it.

    I do not miss it.

  6. William Wresh

    Chris;
    You mention the No. 95 does a good job of removing toolmarks, keeping edges perfectly square and not removing a lot of material from the edges of power jointed stock. Which of these tasks does a properly tuned jointer plane not perform as well as the No. 95? Do you normally run a jointer plane along the edge of power jointed stock?
    Best Regards, William

  7. Christopher Schwarz

    Marc,

    Thanks, I knew someone would chime in. Love those sawtooth supports.

    Chris

  8. Marc Waldbillig

    Hi Chris,

    I had my chisel plane two years before I found a task for it. It works great on paring sawtooth supports with a guide block. This is nothing a good chisel in’t capable of, however the plane has a tad more heft and in some spots is easier to handle, because it is that shorter than a chisel of the same width.

    http://sites.internet.lu/folders/marcilly/sawtoothsupport8.jpg

    #95 is strikingly fine at the miter parts of mitered rabbets. The plane has to have an additional wooden 45° fence which you screw on the cast fence. It works fine as long as you take entire shavings all the way long. I joined 6 m of boards this way.
    http://sites.internet.lu/folders/marcilly/edgeplane_1.jpg

  9. Christopher Schwarz

    Several people I respect use chisel planes for trimming plugs flush, or for cleaning up stopped rabbets.

    I use a block plane with a curved iron to trim plugs. And I use a chisel to clean stopped rabbets. I’ve never thought, if only I had a chisel plane…..

    However, in the interests of science and good journalism, I bought one. I’ve tried using it for plug trimming, but it’s no better than a block plane. And I’ve tried using it for stopped rabbets, and it’s no better than regular chisel.

    I’m hoping other people will chime in with how much they love their chisel planes…..

    Chris

  10. The Village Carpenter

    I’d like to hear about why you don’t like your chisel plane (new post, maybe?). I have been thinking about making one, just for fun, but no sense making something that’s just going to sit on the shelf. Thanks for the write-up on the spiffy #95! I have never used one and was a wee bit skeptical.

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