The best angle for sharpening a bench plane is a 45 degree Frog angle, with a 25 degree angle to sharpen, then a 45 degree angle of cut, and this works best with either a Bevel-Down plane while a 17 degree angle to sharpen for a Bevel-Up Plane.
What you should realize is that every Bench Plane needs initial sharpening and honing, regardless of age.
New plane irons should have their unbeveled (flat) side ground to at least 4000 grit and polished to 8000 grit at the very least. All you need to worry about is that first 1/8″ to 1/4″ of the cutting edge. Additionally, you must also polish the beveled edge itself. At first glance, it may seem sharp, but to sharpen it correctly you must hone it to 8000 grit. Getting your cutting edge as close to a 0-degree radius as feasible is the objective.
Including the need to sharpen hand tools makes it difficult for people to see the benefits of using hand tools. This is sad, since it takes little investment to begin, is not complicated to learn, and has positive outcomes.
Bench Plane Sharpening Basics
You first need to know the angle of the plane iron while it is in the plane in order to calculate the optimum angle at which to sharpen it.
Plane irons are kept in place by a clamping mechanism called the lever cap, which may be seen as a U shape on the plane iron’s tip. In addition to being firmly secured to the base, the frog’s position is necessary for the plane’s iron to remain fixed.
The frog face’s angle is fixed, thus it is a constant. Most bench planes have a 45-degree angle whereas the low-angle planes have a 12-degree angle. The plane’s pitch, often known as the “pitch”, is described this way.
Pitch / Angle of Attack
A detailed explanation of pitch: It is the angle at which the blade’s cutting edge meets the wood.
Although 45-degree bed angles are regarded the optimum pitch for bench planes, the most frequent pitch is referred to as ‘common pitch’ and has historically been considered the best.
A slightly higher 50° angle is termed ‘York Pitch.’
In molding planes for soft and hardwood, ‘Middle Pitch’ of 55º and ‘Half Pitch’ of 60º are also often encountered.
In planes used for softwood, end grain cutting, and left-handed set-ups, angles under 45 degrees are referred to as ‘Low Angle’ or ‘Extra Pitch,’ and are called for.
Bench Plane Pitches
|Pitch (Angle of Attack)||Name||Use|
|60º||Half Pitch / Cabinet Pitch||Molding planes for hardwood|
|55º||Middle Pitch||Molding planes for softwood|
|50º||York Pitch||Harder woods with difficult grain|
|45º||Common Pitch||Optimal Pitch for most planes|
|<45º||Low Angle||Softwood and End Grain|
Even whether the plane is beveled upward or downward, the position of the frog’s face (on which the iron rests) plays an essential role in establishing the bevel angle.
Approximately 98% of bench planes feature 45-degree frogs, so the cutting iron rests at a 45-degree angle from the work surface.
Changing the bevel angle on a bench plane changes the pitch, but because the bevel is bevel down, this pitch will always be 45 degrees. However, if you alter the bevel angle, you change the relief angle as well, or the clearance between the iron and the piece of wood.
Sharpening for Bevel-Down Planes:
Since the majority of bench planes have their iron beveled downward, the most often seen setup for sharpening is with the iron beveled down.
Even if the bevel is sharpened at a different angle, the angle of attack is the same. The angle of the bevel isn’t entirely irrelevant, as we see with things like long-term durability.
While bevel angle is less essential on bevel up planes, the bevel angle is still important on bevel down planes. This stated, it is still possible to fine-tune your cut, but that will be discussed later. For bevel down bench planes, the industry standard main bevel angle is 25 degrees. It gives an excellent mix of shearing power and durability while also providing a proper angle of relief (behind the cut).
Sharpening for Bevel-Up Planes:
One kind of plane, called a “block plane,” has the iron positioned bevel up, but it’s not the only plane of this type.
Many of the low angle bench planes from the Stanley line, notably the no. 62 and no. 514, are beveled up, as are many of the current Veritas versions. Beveling the iron up results in a different angle of cut.
Downward bevel planes lack the degree of flexibility provided by this mechanism.
It’s fair to say that there are factors that should be taken into consideration other than the angle of cut when deciding on how to sharpen the bevel on a low angle block plane iron.
In order to make the same cut angle as on a normal angle plane, you would end up with an angle of cut of 45 degrees (12º+33º=45º).
To sharpen the bevel to a 17-degree angle (20º+17º=37º) is required when using a conventional angle plane. It would be difficult to maintain such a fine cutting edge in most woods.
Common Bench Plane Sharpening Angles
|Common Plane Types||Frog Angle||Angle to Sharpen||Angle of Cut|
|Bench Plane – Standard Angle||45º||25º to 30º||45º|
|Block Plane – Standard Angle||20º||25º||45º|
|Block Plane – Low Angle||12º||25º||37º|
This ends our Bench Plane Sharpening Angle Discussion.
With that, please always remember that you need a good set. And by ‘good’, a properly organized set of hand tools, including hand planes, will see you through the best projects. Nothing is impossible with dedication, practice, and patience, and better yet – choosing the right hand plane.
We want you to be sure of what you plan to get, please don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
Love our Bench Plane Sharpening Angle guide?
You may be interested in our other related articles:
- Bench Plane vs Block Plane
- Bench Planes vs Jack Planes
- Bevel-Up vs Bevel-Down Planes
- Bench Plane Numbers Guide
- What is a Bench Plane
- How to Sharpen a Bench Plane
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