In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes

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The stuff I write about Stanley’s metallic scrub planes always gets me in trouble with the people who use the tool to dress the faces of rough lumber. You can find my stories here and here. You can find the floggings on any of the forum sites (just search under “Schwarz”+”pin-headed mouth-breather”).

In any case, I think it’s lovely if you use one of these planes to dress the faces of your lumber. But I really like using it for edges, a use that seems to be supported by some documents and chats I’ve had with an older union carpenter. The tool is a tracheid-chomping monster on edges, a fact that I was reminded of yesterday.

I was faced with making a panel out of some Eastern white pine for an upcoming story in Popular Woodworking on gluing up panels. The long edges of the boards were really waney. I was going to have to remove 1″ of width on each edge to get to the good material. So I marked out my scribe lines with a panel gauge, grabbed my scrub plane (instead of a hatchet or drawknife , other good options) and went to work.

Using short, choppy strokes, I could hog off more than 1/16″ in a pass. Each edge took less time than Lucinda Williams took to sing me one of her new songs off of “Little Honey.” Within about 12 minutes, all four edges were done and ready for the jointer plane.

Sure, I could have used the Powermatic 66, but I don’t like missing a minute of Lucinda.

– Christopher “numb as a flounder” Schwarz

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Showing 19 comments
  • SchreiberBike

    Bringing back an old post here, but I just had to knock 3/4" off the edge of a 5′ length of SYP. I was going to use my scrub, but I quickly changed over to a hand axe. I got within 1/8" of the line and moved forward from there. An axe will remove material much more quickly than a scrub.

  • Neil Lamens

    Looks above like everyone has a different radius on their scrub iron, each digging differently much like Lucinda Williams.

    I’m on the scrub plane, but it’s Donnie and Marie who sing a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Lucinda Williams sings with a small radius ground into her voice and digs deeper when she sings with a scrub. Much like your plane select, Lucinda is an acquired taste.

    Lucinda and a scrub plane. Interesting analogy.

  • J.C.

    I guess I just didn’t know any better as I’ve been using my #40 for face work in lieu of not having a jointer. Besides, I like to work on wider stuff than a 6 or 8 inch jointer would allow. The first time I used it I was absolutely amazed at how quickly I could move on to a "heavy set" jack or fore plane. And after I’m done with the leveling and flattening of one side of a board, I just flip it over newly flattened side down and run it through my 15" planer on a carriage/sled and VIOLA!

    But, I never thought about using it for slimming purposes. I’ll be sure to give that a shot next time.

    Good bloggage, Chris.


  • tom fidgen

    Great article Chris…and what’s that about a scrub plane.? ‘Car wheels, on a gravel road!’

  • David

    excellent post!


  • Samson

    Raney, I was just joshing you back. I’m not offended at all.

    Stock selection is a nuanced and learned skill. My expereince is that I’m lucky to have one board in 5 that is flat from the mill. Most require truing or some sort. In short, I’d have little wood to use if i demanded that all be flat to start.

    Often the cup or whatever is a one time phenomenon that resulted from drying or even the flex of a blade at a bandsaw mill. As such, after truing it will not move as much again.

    And many times other factors like the need to have all parts from the same flitch or a particular grain pattern, etc. mean we are forced to make use of boards we’d rather not.

    Anyway, as you say, whatever works for each in their shops …



  • Raney

    That’s not really my point – and my apologies if you were offended, which was not my intention. My point was an attempt at humorously pointing out that Mr. Schwarz identified the reasons he prefers a fore rather than a scrub (which I happen to share) and the subsequent disagreements seemed to be suggesting modifications he could make to his scrub to make it more palatable to him. Modifications which were basically aimed at making the scrub more like a fore plane. I found that amusing.

    The longer I do woodworking, the less inclined I am to try to make use of boards with significant warp, or (worst of all IMO) wind. I have found that although they can be flattened pretty efficiently by a scrub plane, for instance, the asymmetrical stresses in the board that caused such a problem are very likely to continue to cause additional problems down the road. For that reason, I am strongly disinclined to use such boards full-size. I am not averse, though, to breaking them down for use as smaller pieces in non-critical applications. But where I need flat and true for some structural reason, I have been bitten by such wood more than I’m happy to admit.

    As a result of this, I have really never seen a need to return to using a scrub plane, preferring the less radical camber and longer sole of a jack/fore plane for face work. I have never found it to be too slow or ‘fine’ a tool for such applications in my way of working. YMMV, which is quite as it should be.


  • Samson

    Yes, Raney, I see your point, I’ll henceforth burn all boards that require more serious intial flattening than a fore can readily provide. Those scrubs are only for edges.

  • Raney

    I have to agree with the previous posters. Seems to me that if you just reduced the camber a little bit, and maybe had a stlightly longer sole the 40 would be a fantastic tool for flattening faces. If only here was a tools like that already available to woodworkers. Perhaps there will be on beFore too long…


    Who’s generally not inclined to use the sorts of boards that require such drastic face work… diff’rent strokes, I suppose.

  • Matt Davis

    If you don’t have another way, you can also use your scrub to rapidly taper legs. Wastes a lot of otherwise usable wood, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

  • Jeremy Kriewaldt


    I agree that the camber on the 40 or 40.5 as sold is often too much, but Smason is right, remove someof it and you get a killer tool for face squaring. I tried this recently with my 40 andit turned the tool into a winner. I now have about a 16mm flat area in the middle of the blade and gentle curves on the sides. Even on tought Aussie eucalypts this tool now removes stock quickly leaving less of a ditch to remove with a jointer.

    And reconfigured that way also makes it good for edge scrubbing. Give it a go – it might redeem the 40 for you.



  • samson

    I understand that you’re a tolerant sort, Chris, and appreciate that. 😉 The short sole is fine for removing high spots in just the same way that a short sole is fine for a smoother – the scrub is for gross removal – not truing – just as a smoother is a tool for fine removal – not truing.

    As for too cambered, I suppose you can change that with a new grind, or simply by retracting the blade slightly to take a shallower (and slightly narrower) shaving. But I’m not sure what the complaint is about the camber – if you are saying that it takes too aggressive a bite and you overshoot your lines (a complaint I’ve heard from others, like Larry Williams), then, I suppose that’s a matter of practice and preference.


  • Christopher Schwarz

    She’s a little bit country. A little bit rock ‘n’ roll.


  • Shannon Brown

    Well I can’t say much about scrub planes because I don’t own one. But what I do find interesting is the negative comments that get left when someone disagrees with someone elses’s opinon. Seriously? – "pin-headed mouth-breather". Thing is, this is unique to woodworking. Anything can that can be disagreed on will be, and usually violently. Makes you realize that religion and politics get a bad rap.I look at this way, I have my way of working, my favorite tools and approaches and happy with them, and that what it all comes down to.

    By the by, what genre of music is Lucinda Williams?

  • Christopher Schwarz


    Like I said, if you use it for faces of boards, great. I agree with you *totally*.

    The scrub doesn’t work for me on faces. The sole is too short. The iron is too cambered.

    That’s all I’m saying.


  • Samson

    Chris, why does it have to be one or the other? I can cut a rabbet with a 78, or a router plane, or a 10, or a 140, or a Sargent 507 or … ad infinitum. If you can successfully remove stock in a hurry from the long grain on an edge, you can likely do the same to the long grain on a face. You like the fore plane for faces. Why wasn’t the foreplane as good for the edge? Presumably because it could not remove as much wood as quickly, right? Some faces are not only rough, but cupped or twisted, such that you need to remove a lot quickly to even get near to flat – this is especially true with huge slabs in my experience. That’s where the scrub can shine on faces. Who cares what uses Stanley marketers thought to highlight in order to sell planes at one time. It doesn’t limit the actualy tool. Intent can have very little to do with efficacy. Ever heard the story of post-it notes?

    Happy New Year.

  • Patrick Lund

    No, David, Chris has it right. My old Stanley catalog even states that the scrub plane is used to cut down a wide door that would otherwise be too difficult to saw (by hand)… much the same way Chris used it. Hence, the "Scrub Saw", as it is used much like a saw to trim off a long, thin strip of an edge only easier and quicker.


  • Bob Rozaieski

    I agree with you 100% on the scrub plane Chris. I had one years ago and could never successfully use it to face a board. It just took too long to get the deep furrows out with the fore plane after scrubbing. After reading Moxon and Nicholson I sold the scrub for a proper fore plane and have never looked back. I’ll second your opinion that the scrub is not for preparing the faces of rough lumber. Your use of it on edges though makes perfect sense. I still like a drawknife or rip saw better for these situations though.

  • David Numan

    I saw a typo in your title. I think it should be "My Scrub Plane"


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