Chris Schwarz's Blog

Tricks to Removing Plane Tracks

Question: Hi, quick question. I recently finished smoothing a table top with my #4 smoothing plane and if the light hits the top right, I can see lots of planing lines. I tried to camber the blade before smoothing the top, but I still have the plane marks. Any suggestions on getting the top mark free without affecting the nice appearance of the planed wood?

- Chris Sundstrom

Answer: This is very hard to teach remotely, I’m afraid. But it’s very easy to show in person. Here are the questions you have to ask yourself and the things you must check to get good results.

  • Is your blade indeed cambered? By how much? And is the camber in the dead center of the cutting edge?
  • Is the cambered section of the iron in the middle of the mouth of the plane?
  • How thick a shaving are you taking?
  • Are the mouth and sole of the tool free of metallic burrs that could be marring your wood?

When your tool is working right and producing a perfect surface, here are the setup characteristics.

  • The iron should have a camber that is about .002″ at each corner and in the dead center of the cutting edge.
  • You should have the iron adjusted laterally in the mouth of the tool so the camber is in the middle. Use a small scrap of wood to confirm where the iron is cutting. Run the scrap of wood over the mouth. It should not cut at the corners and cut only in the middle of the mouth , where the camber is.
  • You should be making a shaving that is .001″ to .0015″ thick at the center and tapering to nothing at the edges.
  • Your sole and the back of the mouth should be completely smooth and free of burrs.
  • When you use the plane, your strokes should be regular and overlap each other slightly.

Try these things – it takes practice. When you can set up your plane to those parameters, it will leave a nice clean surface. Until you get there, don’t be ashamed to scrape or hand sand out the plane tracks.

- Christopher Schwarz

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