Wood Plane

Image to the right shows nomenclature used in this outline. It shows a bevel up blade, but the ideas are the same for a bevel down blade (only the blade is flipped over before inserting into the plane).

Notes are also available on a different web page for Micro / Secondary Bevels.

Plane angle nomenclature

Values shown in the table below are for the Cutting Angle and the Relief Angle. As the Bed Angle is based on the plane body you are using, these are not shown. Additionally, the Front Bevel and Back Bevel can be easily determined from the Cutting Angle and the Relief Angle. To calculate these angles, use the following formulas:

Front Bevel = Cutting Angle - Bed Angle

Back Bevel = Bed Angle - Relief Angle

General Guidelines
Type Front Bevel Back Bevel Micro- Bevel Camber Notes
Bench Planes Bench planes are used to cut with the grain.
General Purpose 30° -- + 2° 1/32 When working wood wider than the blade, consider adding a very slight camber, or rounding the corners (or both).
Harder Woods 35° See notes + 2° 1/32 The higher bevel angle can be achieved by adding a back bevel.
Highly Figured Woods 40° + See notes + 2° 1/32 The higher bevel angle can be achieved by adding a back bevel. If this does not work, a scraper will have to be used.
Softer Woods 25° -- + 2° 1/32  
Smoothing Plane
    #1 - #4 ½
35° -- + 2° 1/32 Set for a very fine shaving, especially the mouth opening.
Jack Plane
    #5 - #6
30° -- + 2° 1/16 Jack planes generally have a higher camber, though it could be none if the plane is used for working edges (e.g., adding a cambered edge to a plank).
Jointer Plane
    #6 - #8
30° -- + 2° 1/16 Also known as trying planes. Jointer planes generally have a higher camber.
Scrub Plane 35° - 40° n/a + 2° 1x - 2x width Highly curve the cutting edge. Radius it no more than 2x the width, though it could go as small as 1x. Increase the bevel for harder woods.
Block Planes Block planes are used to cut across the grain.
General Purpose 30° -- + 2° --  
Bevel Down 35° 10° + 2° -- Ensure relief angle < bed angle
Low Angle 35° 10° + 2° -- Ensure relief angle < bed angle
Soft Woods 25° -- + 2° --  

Other Plane Types
Type Front Bevel Micro- Bevel Camber Notes
Blind Nailer n/a See Leonard Lee's The Complete Guide to Sharpening.
Bullnose Plane 25° + 2° None Sharpen square across the front.
Moulding Plane n/a Lap the face of the cutter. These are not typically re-profiled or otherwise re-sharpened.
Rabbet Plane 35° -- None  
Shoulder Plane 30° + 2° None Sharpen square across the front.
Spoke Shave 35° -- -- Be sure to hone the cutting edge well. See also, Leonard Lee's The Complete Guide to Sharpening, especially as it regards curved blades.

Notes & Comments

Information regarding Grindstones

The shape of the grind used is a call best made by the tool's use, based on their own experience. Additional notes are available on separate web pages for: Grind Profiles, and Micro / Secondary Bevels.

The cap iron must join with the blade and have no gaps.

When installed, the cap iron needs to be 1/8” to 1/4” back from the cutting edge. This provides adequate space for the shavings to curl appropriately.

Flattening the entire back is not critical for the overall sharpness.

A Relief Angle helps keep the force behind the cutting edge aligned with the movement of the plane (i.e., more in alignment with the surface of the wood than tangential to it). This is especially true for bevel down plane blades, and is also true for low angle planes.

Blade's Foot Below Cutting Edge

When using Bevel Down Blades or Back Bevels, ensure that:

Back Bevel + Relief Angle > Bed Angle

If not, the back of the blade's sharpened edge will encounter the wood before the cutting edge.

In the picture to the left, the blade is shown in orange, and the plane body in gray. The back of the sharpened edge is denoted with the red line, and is parallel to plane's base, denoted with a blue line. As shown, the back projects down below the cutting edge.

It is a good practice to note the blade's angle(s) in one of these ways:

  1. Record a reference number on the blade, and use an index card to keep the pertinent information for that blade.

    This is the preferred method as it also allows for noting other information about the blade such as metal type, where & when purchased (and cost), and any other sharpening notes.

  2. Record the angle on the blade itself.

Additional notes on Primary and Secondary Bevels are on the Chisel page.

More Information

Books & Papers

Videos & Presentations

Web Sites

Tormek is a copyrighted logo of Tormek AB. Its presentation on this site is used to help the user quickly understand when specific Tormek tools, jigs, or setting are being used. For specific information regarding Tormek AB, or its products, please refer to the www.Tormek.com.

About this site
Remember : The goal of sharpening is to produce sharp tools, and these tools can injure you if mishandled. Safety measures should be followed to protect yourself and those in your shop. Be sure to read and follow all instructions from the manufacturer, and and utilize proper safety equipment. Never consume alcohol or anything that could impair your judgement before sharpening tools, or using sharp tools. Comments can be sent via eMail to me at SharpeningHandbook@Gmail.com.