Quick Tip #8: Adjusting a Wooden Plane

I have recently received several questions about adjusting wooden planes and requests to do a video on the process. As you’ll see, it’s really not brain surgery. I think it’s actually easier than using those adjuster things on metal planes. In fact, when I used to use metal planes, I did the fine tuning of the lateral position of the iron using a mallet rather than the lateral adjustment lever. I think it’s easier and more precise.

The most important thing you need to remember about adjusting wooden bodied planes is to PUT THE STEEL HAMMER DOWN. No other implement of destruction has done more damage to these beautiful old planes than the steel hammer. All those dents you find in the heel and toe, the broken wedges, and the mushrooming on the top of the iron, are all the result of abuse by a steel hammer. Steel is harder than wood and harder than the soft iron base of the blade. Basically, steel hammers damage planes.

So put down the steel hammer and step away slowly. Now pick up a wooden carving mallet, a small wood and brass plane adjusting hammer, or a simple block of scrap wood. Take a deep breath, feel the force flowing through you, and tap gently. We’re not trying to attack the plane. Lighter is better. Love and respect your planes and they will return the favor.

OK, enough of the Zen talk. Let’s get some work done :).



10 thoughts on “Quick Tip #8: Adjusting a Wooden Plane

  1. Man, I love your vids. You’re articulate and methodical and give a great lecture on how you make this stuff work for you.

    Thanks for this entry! I’ve had a ‘fineole’ style plane that i got from LV a while ago that has been a real challenge to get working. I’m sure it must be pilot error so i cant wait to try your techniques. I would love to have a brass/wood hammer but my go-to chisel and plane striking hammer is a plastic tipped Vaughn from the hardware store. It works but i think i could be happier 🙂

    Here is the LV plane I am talking about:


    Anyway, again, thank you for your ongoing posts, i love watching them!!

  2. Hi Bob,
    Thanks for the fine tips. I am lucky to have a collection of wooden planes from old family members (no longer with us) and have been slowly getting them back into use. I always wondered what that button was recessed in the top :). Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  3. Really nice hammer you have there. I’ve made the same kind of hammer with an entire wooden head, but I find it to light. Or am I driving the wedge to far in?

    How did you make yours?

    • Jeroen,
      I used a piece of 1/2″ round brass stock I had on hand from making my own split nuts for saws. I would have preferred 5/8″ I think, but I just used what I had on hand. I drilled a hole in the center of the end of the brass and tapped it for a #10-32 machine screw. Then I turned a piece of walnut over sized, drilled and tapped it, and used a #10-32 x 1″ long threaded stud to screw the two pieces together. File and sand them flush, drill a 5/16″ hole through the brass for a handle, make a handle to fit and attach to the head with a wedge. A little sanding and some oil finished it off. FWIW, I got inspiration from an all brass model described in David Finck’s book on making Krenov style planes, and from Dave Anderson’s (Chester Toolworks) wood and brass plane adjusting hammer. Mine ain’t pretty, but it works well.

      • Thanks Bob, I have David Finck’s book and love it. That’s why I made one similar only entirely of wood. But the screw method I like. I’m gonna give that a try.

  4. Bob another great video, this information is very helpful to me and good to know about the hammer. Great job and keep up the good work.

  5. Great videos. I really appreciate what your doing. I have two large try planes that I bought from antique store and the irons are stuck tight into the mouths. I guess the wood swelled around the. I have tried and tried to remove them with no luck. Any suggestions? I even tried grasping the iron with vice grips and hammering it out. Thanks.

    • This is a very common problem with these old planes. The wooden body shrinks over time but the steel blade does not so it gets stuck. Try putting the planes in the freezer for a day or two. This may shrink the irons just enough to allow them to be removed from the body. Once you get them out, you will need to grind the sides of the irons down a bit to make them narrow enough to fit back into the planes.

      • Before storage should the wedge be loosened to prevent this from happening or is this problem only due to the body shrinking against the irons width

        • I don’t loosen the wedges when using the planes regularly. For long term storage I would. Having an iron jam is really due to the body shrinking on the iron though, not usually because of the wedge.

Comments are closed.