Woodsmith last issue Woodsmith current issue

Keep up to date with


Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter

Give a Gift FREE Issue
URL:
https://www.woodsmith.com/article/tips-techniques-for-using-a-smoothing-plane/
Share Page:

Tips & Techniques For Using A Smoothing Plane

By: Ted Raife
For the ultimate in smooth, flat surfaces, this versatile hand plane can't be beat. Here's how to make this tool a shop workhorse.

Many woodworkers will tell you that a standard block plane is the most versatile hand plane in the shop. But I would offer another candidate for the title of all-around, go-to hand plane — the slightly larger smoothing plane. Although not quite as easy to handle as a small block plane, a smoothing plane can do everything a block plane can do and more — from removing machine marks and trimming parts to size, to edge jointing and final surfacing.

5350017 snip 1548395128116 new

WHAT’S A SMOOTHER? Smoothing planes (or smoothers) vary widely in design, but they are easily categorized by their size and main task. A smoother is in the range of 8" to 10" long with an iron about 2" wide. Its main purpose is to put a perfectly smooth surface on the wood. And nothing does the job better. To call the surface produced by a well-tuned smoothing plane “glass smooth” is no exaggeration. In order to get this kind of result from a smoothing plane, you just need a little know-how. SMOOTHER SETUP. Tuning up a hand plane for optimum use is a lesson in itself. I won’t go into all the details here, but there are a few things you can do regarding the setup of a smoothing plane that will help ensure better results.

For me, the focus is on the way the iron is sharpened. The cutting angle of a standard metal smoother is fixed at 45° by the plane’s frog, as shown at left. This cutting angle, along with a bevel angle of between 25° and 30°, will produce good results in most woods. But I add one more feature to the configuration of the iron — a barely perceptible crown across the edge. A crowned iron prevents the corners from digging into the wood and also gives you fine control of the cut. A narrow shaving using only the center portion of the iron greatly reduces the cutting effort in hard or difficult woods. And you’ll find that the slight undulations left by a crowned iron can’t be seen and can barely be felt. Once the iron is honed, replace the chipbreaker, carefully positioning it about 1 ⁄ 32 " behind the cutting edge. This helps stiffen the iron, keeping it from deflecting and chattering during the cut.

Finally, make sure the frog is adjusted to leave only a very narrow throat opening in the sole. A narrow throat opening supports the wood fibers ahead of the cut, preventing them from lifting and tearing before they’re sliced cleanly. THE TECHNIQUES. Using a smoother is all about control. And the first step is to secure the workpiece to a solid surface. There are various ways to accomplish this. A [bench vise](https://www.woodsmith.com/review/best-woodworking-bench-vise/) can hold a board on edge. Bench dogs, a bench stop, or clamps can be used to hold boards or panels laid flat on the bench.

GRAIN DIRECTION. When securing the workpiece for planing, you always want to read the grain. Then position it so you’ll be pushing the plane “uphill,” as in the upper left drawing below. In this orientation, the wood fibers will be pressed flat and cleanly severed rather than being lifted and torn.

FIRM STANCE. Using a smoother effectively is almost like playing a sport — body position can be very important. Pushing the plane along a board to take a shaving requires a fair amount of force, so solid, well-balanced footing is essential. The drawing above illustrates a good planing stance. FIRM & STEADY. A metal smoothing plane is generally fairly heavy — anywhere from 3 to 5 lbs. And for good reason. This mass helps keep the plane in contact with the wood and moving steadily without chattering. But the plane can’t do the job alone. Your contribution is to provide steady forward motion along with firm downward pressure. The Shop Tip below offers help in this regard.

The speed of the stroke can also affect the cut. If tearout is a problem, try slowing down. A slower stroke allows the iron to shear the wood fibers before they can tear.

EDGE PLANING. When using a smoother to clean up an edge, I wrap the fingers of my forward hand under the sole to brush along the workpiece and steady the plane, as shown in the photo above. This makes it much easier to control the plane and keep it square on the narrow edge.

SKEWING THE PLANE. It’s hard to hold a plane perfectly straight when planing. It feels more natural to skew the plane very slightly. However, one effect of skewing the plane is a lower cutting angle, as shown in the lower right drawing.

In some instances a lower cutting angle can be can helpful, reducing the effort needed to make the cut. But at other times a very low cutting angle may produce a “riving” action and lead to tearout. The only answer here is trial and error.

A smoother doesn’t have to replace the power sanders in your shop to earn its keep. It’s simply a handy alternative that can often do the job quicker and better.

Shop Tip: Wax-On

Beeswax applied lightly to the sole of the plane can greatly reduce the friction resistance that leads to fatigue.
Published: June, 13 2019
Topics: None
Share Page:

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

WSM eTips Landing Page Ad_Sub Promo

WSM_zone58_PopWoodSubPromo_300x250

Related Articles

Reviews

Best Socket Sets For Day-To-Day Needs

Create Strong And Robust Interlocking Dovetail Joints With The Best Dovetail Jigs

Best Carpenters Tool Belts For Easy Storage Of Essential Equipment

The Best Dewalt Wrenches To Topple Every Project

Add the Best Vise Jaws to Your Workshop for Added Workpiece Stability

The Best Sawzalls; Cut Through Anything. Anywhere

Best Dewalt Tool Kits For DIY Home Project

Make Stapling A Breeze With The Best Pneumatic Staple Gun

Add The Best Dewalt Impact Drivers To Your Tool Kit

Effortlessly Thread Neat Screws With The Best Die Sets

Measure with Accuracy: Best Angle Finder

No More Cracks: Best Wood Filler

Enhance Your Woodworking Projects With The Best Plate Joiners Of 2021

Make Your Sanding Jobs Easier With The Best Spindle Sanders Of 2021

Best Scroll Saw For The Finest Cutting Results

See Through Walls With The Best Stud Finders

The Best DeWalt Drills and More For Your DIY Needs

The Best Drill Press Of 2021

The Best Wood Planer To Complete Your Woodshop

Make Every Cut Ideal: Best Router Table Fence

The Best Router Base For Furniture Manufacturing

The Best Allen Wrench to Get the Job Done!

Make Your Projects Effortless With The Best Ball Peen Hammers

Brushless Drills: An Incredible Addition to your Toolbox

Keep Your Cuts Clean With The Best Radial Arm Saw

Best Tap Sets For Your Workshop

The Smoothest Experience With The Best Random Orbital Sander

Carve and Create With The Best CNC Routers

Upgrade Your Workshop With The Best Benchtop Jointer

Deal with Logs with the Best Wood Chipper

Blast the Tunes with the Best Woodshop Radio

Best Compact Bandsaws For Easy Cutting

Best Finishing Nailers For Durability

Best Mini Air Compressors To Buy

Our Team’s Review of the Best Propane Torches

Best Wood Carving Sets For Hobbyists

Best Wood Lathe For Beginner

Use The Best Edge Sanders To Smoothen Any Wooden Surface

Seamlessly Cut And Chop Wood With The Best Hatchets

Woodturning Essentials: The Best Roughing Gouges

Best Shop Fans: Top 7 High-Velocity Heavy-Duty Fans for Garages, Worksites and Workshops

Preserve Your Valuables With The Best Linseed Oil

Best Rubber Mallets For Woodworking

Best Wrench Sets That Makes Work Easy

The Best Wrench Racks To Organize Your Tools

The 7 Best Calipers For Accurate Measurements

Best Marking Gauges For Professional And DIY Woodworkers

Best Folding Stools To Fit into Compact Spaces

Get The Perfect Flush Cuts Every time With The Best Edge Banding Trimmers

Best Deck Screws For Pressure Treated Woods To Make A Perfect Deck

Best Miter Saw Stands To Mount Your Cutting Tools On The Go

Increase Your Sanding Efficiency With Zero Effort Using The Best File Belt Sanders

Best Table Saw Fence 2021 for Smooth Cuts and Shapes

Sharpen And Shape With The Best Bench Grinders

Best Metal Clamps for Your Craftsmen Needs

Best Cordless Impact Wrenches for All of Your Mechanical Needs

Best Biscuit Joiners to Help Easing Your Woodwork

Best Estwing Hammers For Your DIY Needs

Use The Best Wood Moisture Meters To Separate Healthy And Damaged Wood Pieces

The Best Rail And Stile Router Bits: The Staple Of Hassle-Free Woodworking

Best Adjustable Wrench For Hassle-Free Work

Best CNC Router Bits For A Hassle-Free Woodworking Project

Achieve Precision with the Best Glass Cutter

Keep Things Sharp With The Best Sharpening Stones

The Best Sandblaster To Get Your Job Started Strong

Best Forstner Bits To Add To Your Woodworking Tool Kit

The Best Jointer For Every Type Of Woodworking

The Best Track Saw of 2021

Our Team’s Review Of The Best Spring Clamps

Best Rasp Files – A Versatile Woodcarving Solution

The Best Veneer Edge Banding: A Perfect Finish To Your Furniture

Catch The Dust Before It Catches You With The Best Dust Hoods

Best Depth-Gauges: A Staple For Woodworking Enthusiasts

Construct Your Projects On The Best Workbenches Available

Smooth Out Your Work Using the Best Sanding Discs

Best Caster Wheels 2021

The Best Furniture Levelers: Bid Farewell to your Furniture Woes

7 Best Flush Cut Saw That Could Change the Wood Cutting Game

Level-Up Your Portals With the Best Door Hinges

Organize Your Lifestyle With the Best Pegboard Hooks

The Best Magnetic Toolbars For Easy Storage And Organization

The Best Vise: A Staple In Every Workshop

Our Team’s Review of the Best Rolling Tool Chest

Organize With Ease: Best Pegboards

Make Better Cuts With The Best Table Saw Push Block

Cut And Shape With Ease: Best Router Table

The Best Plywood Jigs For Every Need

Reviewing The Best Taper Jigs This Year

Hit The Nail On The Head With The Best Hammers

Make Every Cut: Best Angle Grinder

The Best Wood Stain For Every Project

The Best Overhead Storage Rack For Convenient, Safe Storage

The Best Double Sided Tapes That Won’t Damage Surfaces

The Best Saw Dust Catchers For Shop Safety

Toolbox Essentials: The Best Sandpaper

Start Your Next Carving Project With The Best Scorp

Seal, Coat, and Craft With the Best Epoxy

Finding the Best Circular Saw in 2021

Reviewing the Best Drill Bits of 2021

Best Ratchet Wrenches for Quick and Easy Repairs

The Best Table Saw For The Everyday Handyman

Reviewing the Best Router Leveling Jigs

Tackle Screws Effectively With The Best Screwdriver Sets

Best Shop Vac For Those Heavy-Duty Cleaning Tasks

Best Tape Measures For Professionals and DIYers

The Best Handscrew Clamp For Gluing, Painting, and Building

The Best Wood Mallet For Your Next Carpentry Project

Revamp Your Outdoor Space With The Best Deck Stain

Smooth Out Edges With The Best Spokeshaves

The Best Carpentry Square For Precise Measuring

Protect Your Outdoor Entertainment Space With The Best Firepit Cover

Get The Right Measurements With The Best Framing Square

Best Wood Chisels For Impactful Wood Crafting

The Best Bird House Kits For First-Time Builders

The Best Wood Glue To Complete Your DIY Projects

Our Top Picks Of The Best Wood Burning Kits This Year

Reviewing The Best Moving Dollies This Year

Best Wooden Box Puzzles For Challenging Fun

Get Organized With The Best Racks For Firewood

The Best Landscape Edgers To Beautify Your Space

Endless Fun With The Best Wooden Puzzles

Our Top Picks Of The Best Blueprints This Year

Reviewing The Best Benches This Year

Never Lose Out On Warmth: Best Water Heaters

Make Cutting Easier With The Best Band Saws

Easy to Use and Efficient: Best Sanding Blocks Reviewed

Reviewing The Best Axes Right Now

Cordless Precision Possible: Best Compact Routers

Work Smarter with the Best Canvas Aprons

Convenience And Reliability: Best Tankless Water Heater

Create Clean Slices using the Best Low Angle Block Planes

Craft Wood Effortlessly with the Best Carving Chisels

Make Storage Seamless With The Best Extension Cord Reel

Review: The Best Cordless Drills

Don’t Let Handtools Slow You Down: Best Drills

Get Your Home Looking Sharp With The Best Wall Paints

The Best Table Saw Stand For Easy And Clean Cuts

Keep Your Tools Running Smoothly With The Best Lubricant Oil

Review Of The Best Hacksaws Right Now

Strong and Soft: Best Shop Towels

Stay Sharp With The Best Electric Pole Saws

Get Up-Top With the Best Step Ladders

The Best Deep Toolbox For Maximizing Your Space And Time

The Best Porch Swing Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

Tackle Any Project with the Best Chop Saws

Review of the Best Portable Generators

Secure Woodworking with the Best Bench Vise

Precise and Durable: Best Measuring Tape

Enhance Your Cuts Using The Best Miter Saw

Keep Your Work Organized: Best Toolboxes

The Best Electric Log Splitter For Great Cuts