Block Plane

End grain is challenging to cut with an iron bedded at 45 degrees. On end grain, there's no chance of grain splitting out ahead of the edge. But even when the edge is sharp and finely set, a common plane can still dig in, pull out fibers, and chatter across the wood. You need an iron with a lower attack angle, more perpendicular to the end grain surface. You need a block plane.

Perhaps block planes got their name from working the end grain of butcher blocks, or perhaps from "blocking in" the ends of boards, cutting them to fit in a given space. In any case, the old wooden strike block planes lowered the pitch of the iron but consequently had to use a longer, thinner, and more fragile bevel to maintain clearance. When iron-bodied planes came along, however, someone realized they could make a plane with an iron bedded all the way down to 15 degrees or less by turning the iron bevel up.

It's odd, though, with a 30-degree upward-facing bevel and 15-degree bed, you're back up at the 45-degree angle of the common plane. Yet even a common block plane works better on end grain. Of course, it's the support of the edge and not the angle that makes a block plane different. Still, it always appears to be one of those phenomena jokingly despised by the French — it works brilliantly in practice, but fails miserably in theory.

Iron block planes are about the cheapest and most abundant planes out there. Many have a sliding front sole that allows you to close the mouth almost entirely. With a sharp iron, the block plane can shear off end grain in a fine, unbroken shaving, leaving a polished surface—until it reaches the end of the cut. Those last fibers on the far edge of the board have no support to keep them from splitting away, and they often do.

Putting end grain planing into the middle of the dimensioning sequence is one tactic to deal with this—you let the end splinter away, but only in wood that you're going to remove later. Beveling off the far end will prevent splintering, as will planing from both ends toward the middle. A sacrificial support at the far end will do the job as well. Just position a separate piece of wood

Gauge from the face side to define the parallel back side.
The low angle of the block plane keeps it from chattering across end grain.
A flex-bottom compass plane can smooth both convex and concave surfaces.
Adze floorboards to their lowest common thickness only where they cross a joist.

behind the work piece to support its end grain. You can clamp this backing piece in place, or hold it by hand, both pieces pressed against the back stop of the bench hook.

The bench hook is more associated with sawing on the bench top, but if squarely made, it works as a shooting board for end grain as well. The bench hook is simply a board with battens fastened across opposite sides of opposite ends. One batten hooks over the edge of the bench, and you push the work against the other batten. One hand holds the work and the other holds the saw or the plane.

The top batten of the bench hook usually stops short of the edge so your saw can continue through the work and cut into the bench hook to leave the bench top undamaged. For end grain planing, you can make a bench hook with the batten on the flip side that continues to the end, or use a separate backing piece held between the work and the back of the hook.

In either case, hold the work piece in the hook with the end barely hanging over the edge. Set the block plane on its side, directly on the bench top. This holds the plane square to the wood as you slide it back and forth, the far end supported by the back batten of the bench hook or by the sacrificial piece.

In all of this planing with wood or metal tools, don't deprive yourself of the benefit of tallow, beeswax, or a rub of the candle to grease the skids of commerce. You don't want to leave any grease or wax on the wood that might interfere with subsequent finishing, but without something to cut the friction, the wood may be too sweat stained to take a finish anyway.

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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