Turn Your Shoulder Plane into a Star Performer
A bit of work on the blade makes a big difference
Synopsis: Despite its name, Phil Lowe generally doesn’t use his shoulder plane to trim tenon shoulders (they are too short and narrow), but it is his go-to tool for trimming tenon cheeks. The low-angle, bevel-up blade works great against the grain. And because the blade is as wide as the plane’s body, it can cut all the way into the corner. There are a few things you need to do to ensure your shoulder plane becomes a shop star: Make sure it has a flat sole and square sides, and make sure the blade is as wide as the body. A few tweaks here and there, and you will be in business.
From Fine Woodworking #226
In my shop, the shoulder plane is the go-to tool for trimming tenon cheeks. The low-angle, bevel-up blade works great across the grain. And because the blade is as wide as the plane body, it can cut all the way into the corner where the cheek meets the shoulder. This ability is also essential when I use my plane on rabbets.
However, despite its name, I typically don’t use a shoulder plane on tenon shoulders. That’s because most tenon shoulders are shorter than the plane is long—not to mention narrow. It’s hard to balance the plane on the shoulder and get a good cut. Instead, I use a chisel. To see how I do it, take a look at “4 Chisel Tricks”.
For best results on tenon cheeks, a shoulder plane needs a flat sole and sides that are square to it. Also, the width of the blade should match the width of the body. You might think they come that way from the manufacturer, but it’s actually common for the blade to be a bit wider. So, I’ll show…