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 90Ã?Â° 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.