I saw this picture on an Aussie forum I regularly visit, and this plane was up for sale. What struck me about it was the metal sole. I understand the reasoning behind it, but it’s a dumb move and a poor job of attaching the metal to wood.
The attraction of a wooden bodied plane is that it leaves the surface polished because of the wood on wood burnish effect. By adding a metal sole to it, the owner has essentially stripped the plane of this quality and made it unattractive, especially with those countless screws you see in the picture. The surface it will leave behind may still be smooth and somewhat polished, but it won’t be the same if it was entirely wooden.
There is a small learning curve in using a wooden plane in terms of adjustment. There is no depth adjusting knob, no lateral adjusting lever, and no lever cap to release the blade. These 3 elements people struggle with the most, yet they are very simple to learn.
Follow these basic steps on how to adjust a wooden bodied plane.
Upon inserting the iron place your forefinger and middle finger into the mouth from the sole of the plane to stop the iron from falling through out of the mouth. No, you won’t cut yourself unless you’re really unlucky. Tap the wedge lightly to lock the iron in.
Sight down the sole and tap the iron with a hammer until you see a black line. That’s the iron protruding. Now tap the iron in either direction until you make it parallel with the sole.
Tip: To see the iron clearly place a white piece of paper in the background. This is why I make my benches from light coloured woods.
NOTE: If you sharpened the iron out of square you will struggle to get the iron parallel to the sole because you don’t have the same amount of leverage in side-to-side movement as you do with a metal plane.
Because I camber all my blades, I use the Charlesworth trick of using a piece of thin wood to make passes on both sides of the blade. I hold the plane in my hand and with the other I stroke the thin piece of wood on the ends of the blade. This will quickly tell me what the eye cannot pick up if you want to take really fine shavings which side is protruding more.
After centering the iron, tap on the wedge with one firm tap. DO NOT tap the wedge hard, it will make it super hard to release. Just use enough force to wedge it in place somewhere between light and medium should be enough.
If you want to take a deeper cut, tap the nose of the plane or the top end. If you want to take a lighter shaving, then tap at the heel of the plane, which is the back. Always tap the wedge afterwards.
Using a Warrington hammer is heavier enough to have an effect. Anything lighter will leave unnecessary marring on the plane without having any effect.
To release the wedge to take out the iron, tap with a decisive blow, preferably with a mallet on the heel or flip the plane upside down and whack the top front of the plane on your bench. This method works for all moulding planes as well because they are wooden planes with a profile.
Wooden planes don’t rust, but they move as wood does and gets out of whack and therefore you need to regularly check your planes and flatten when necessary. This also includes moulding planes. People make the mistake when buying vintage moulding planes thinking that they’re ready to use out of the box. Yes, they would be if they were new but not when they’re 50+ years old. You need to check for flatness and flatten them. Don’t think if it’s flat next to the iron, she’ll be right. She needs to be flat from heel to toe, and then you need to reshape the profile if you took off too much. Remember, the sole shape of the plane must match the profile. Therefore it’s best to buy new moulding planes over the used ones on the antique marketplace if you can afford it or even better make them yourselves. I’ve written extensively long articles in the magazine about this. I made an entire set for myself.
Always check the sole with the iron inserted but not protruding. The same applies to metal planes, new or old.
When they make metal planes they never insert the iron and then flatten the sole. They just mill the sole on a milling machine, tell you it’s flat within so many thou. But when you insert the blade into the plane it’s not truly flat because the iron creates a small hump from the pressure. I learned this from David Charlesworth in an old LN video.
With Covid creating dilemma in the world with production ceased , it only makes sense to build your own planes if you don’t have any. Wooden planes are just as high quality premium planes as any metal bodied premium plane like LN or Veritas.