Understanding Handplane Blade Angles
To get a smooth surface using handplanes, you sometimes need to change the angle of attack to overcome tricky grain.
It is no surprise that most woodworkers have limited knowledge of handplane blade angles: For most of the 20th century, little attention was paid to the link between the angle that the blade entered the wood and the resulting surface. The rule of thumb was to select a low angle (37º), bevel-up plane for end grain, and a standard pitch (45º), bevel-down plane for everything else. Correct to a point, but you’re missing a lot of capability.
While many factors determine a plane’s performance, including how well it is tuned, the depth of cut, and the size of the mouth’s opening, altering the angle at which the blade enters the wood, or the effective cutting angle (hereafter known as the cutting angle), can vastly expand the types of wood that you can handplane successfully.
As well as covering low- and high-angle planes that are available off the shelf,…