A hand plane’s effectiveness depends on the sharpness of it’s blade. Also called a plane iron, when dull it can skip over the surface, making gouges and splits in your wood. When sharpened properly, a hand plane can make paper-thin cuts precisely and quickly.
If a plane’s cutting blade is nicked or it’s bevel is rounded instead of angled, it can produce an uneven surface. Grinding should be performed on the blade in this case, followed by whetting on an oilstone or waterstone. Follow the steps below to keep your plane’s blade sharp.
- Remove the plane iron from the plane by lifting the cam on the lever cap.
- The grinding wheel’s rest should be adjusted so that it will match the angle required on your blade’s cutting edge.
- Power on the grinding wheel and move the blade from side to side, holding it with both hands against the rest.
- Dip the blade in water periodically to keep it cool.
Check the blade between passes on the grinder; when all nicks are removed or the bevel is at the right angle, the blade is ready for whetting.
Whetting removes any fine burrs or imperfections created during sharpening on the grinding wheel. It is done by moving the tool back and forth over a whetting stone. The stone can be of several different types. There are diamond stones, oilstones and waterstones.
Diamond stones have a metal plate that contains diamond particles. They are lubricated with water during use and are very durable. Waterstones are flat rectangular slabs made from natural stones and also use water for lubricant; although they are less long lasting than diamond stones they work well for whetting. Oilstones are made from natural or manufactured stone and are lubricated during use with light oil.
To whett your blade, start by adding lubricant to the stone and clamping it to your workbench.
- Lay the bevel of the blade on the stone’s surface so that it is in full contact with the stone.
- While maintaining full contact between the blade’s bevel and the stone, move the blade back and forth evenly, without using rocking motions, as tends to round off the bevel. Accessory tool holders are available which hold the blade at a constant angle to the stone, consisting of a shaft with a tool holding clamp at one end and a roller at the other.
- Now flip the blade over and place it, flat face down, on the surface of the stone. Keeping the blade perfectly flat, move it back and forth over the stone.
- Test the blade for sharpness, making trial cuts on a piece of scrap wood clamped in a vise. Never use one hand to hold the tool and the other to hold the trial scrap wood.
Your blade should then be ready to be reassembled in the plane and used.