Watch This: How to Stop Tearout
Gary Rogowski helps you understand every woodworker's enemy, tearout.
It feels like the universe is punishing me when a board tears out while I’m hand planing, like something I did as a kid is coming back to haunt me. After all, I choose my boards in part for their looks and grain, so when they work against me, it seems like a form of penance to have to fix tearout. Sometimes the fix is easy: choose well-behaved boards.
Planing with rising grain leaves a smooth surface
But I don’t want to build everything out of mild, well-behaved wood. Sometimes I want the drama of figure. This can lead to problems.
Changes in the grain can lead to tearout
Trouble spot. This tight area of dipping grain in a figured cherry board is hard to work around, and may be too much for a standard bench plane to handle cleanly.
Luckily, I’ve come up with some answers. Some years ago I learned of two wood technologists, Yasunori Kawai and Chutaro Kato, who studied plane irons and how they cut wood. The two looked into three variables: grain direction, depth of cut, and how far back to set a chipbreaker. Their experiments kept the blade’s bevel angle and cutting angle the same. Inspired by their efforts and results, I decided I had to run my own experiments. What I learned transformed my No. 4. Watch the video, run your own experiments, and see for yourself.