When Your Plane Iron Won't Retract All the Way
Reason No. 50 that I dislike chipbreakers: They can prevent your iron from retracting all the way into the mouth of the tool.
I think chipbreakers are a cruel joke on the woodworking community.
Before chipbreakers (and the invention of pants) everyone was dandy.
Nobody had a problem with setting their breaker (or with pantslessness).
But then somebody had to go and invent the breaker/cap iron/second iron/ whatever it is you want to call it. And now we are stuck
with it in our Bailey-style bench planes.
It promotes clogging.
It adds complexity to the tool. It can interfere with the way the
plane’s adjuster works. And the problems it causes can be difficult for
beginners to diagnose.
Here’s one I ran into this weekend. I had
almost forgotten about this problem, but it happens a lot and flummoxes
even veteran woodworkers who haven’t encountered it.
you tighten up the mouth of your plane and then you can’t get the tool’s
cutter to retract all the way. The adjusting wheel just bottoms out
against the frog and won’t budge. It seems like you are stuck and that
it’s time to send the tool back to the maker.
Nope. The fix is easy.
problem is the chipbreaker is too long. You see, the chipbreaker
engages the plane’s iron assembly. If the breaker is too long it will
prevent the iron from retracting, especially when the mouth is set
tight. (There is some geometry involved here because the frog moves
forward on an inclined plane.)
So if you grind back the
chipbreaker’s leading edge, you will fix the problem instantly. Do this
on the grinder, just like you would grind the cutter. Most breakers will
intersect the iron at 25°, so that’s a good angle to begin with. With
new-, very old- and infill-style chipbreakers (a flat piece of iron),
this is just like grinding an iron. With the springy breakers on Stanley
planes, you might need to re-bend the sucker a bit before you screw it
to the cutter.
All this sounds difficult, but it’s easy work. The
steel in chipbreakers is soft, so it takes a minute at most. And you
usually have quite a bit of leeway – you can grind away about 1/8″ of
the breaker without changing the way it mates with the iron. Note that
some modern chipbreakers have a small land (flat area) on the underside. Don’t grind
all that away – that’s where it mates with the cutter.
I usually grind away about 1/16″ – that has fixed every problem so far.
this before you start messing with the dog that engages the chipbreaker
or (egads) bending the yoke of the tool (which is many times made using
cast metal and will many times break).
— Christopher Schwarz
If you like this geeky kind of technical data on planes, then you will probably like my book that came out last year called “Handplane Essentials.” It’s 312 pages of printed-in-the-United-States geekery on handplanes. It’s available in our store for $34.99 plus free domestic shipping, but not on Amazon. If you don’t like this kind of writing, might I suggest you try here.