Thursday, June 2, 2016

Grain Direction for Wooden Planes

I am about to (re)start making a no 10 round molding plane and thought I'd take this opportunity to post how you should align the grain on the wood for these types of planes.

I learned how to lay out wooden plane grain direction from the excellent book "Wooden Planes And How To Make Them by David G Perch and Robert S. Lee", one of the first chapters is making a wood smoother and the first page of that is grain alignment. If you are even the slightest bit interested in making wood planes I highly recommend obtaining this book. And if you like the content I produce on this blog, by all means purchase it using the link above as it passes me the referral credit with Amazon. Gotta pay for lumber and tools somehow right?

If you're not familiar with the parts of a wood plane I'll be using terminology you might not understand, here's a reference image with the various pieces. While this isn't a molding plane, nearly all of the parts are named the same as a smoother/jack/try plane.

Parts of a wooden plane

Anyways, here's a shot of that page of the book showing the proper orientation of grain in a wood plane (reproduced with the author's permission).

Grain direction in a wooden plane.

You want the growth rings that are furthest from the heartwood to be the sole of the plane and the closest to the heartwood, typically the larger growth rings, to be the top of the plane. The shortcut to remembering this is "bark side down" so write that on a Post-It note and stick it somewhere you'll see it while making planes. If you're unfamiliar with heartwood, sapwood, quarter sawn and plain sawn, here's a quick review

Parts of timber and cut types

There's a distinct look to this on the front and back of the plane, if the material was perfectly quarter sawn you it won't be as noticeable but if there's a slight curvature to the grain the concave side of the curve will be facing the top of the plane.

Toe view of grain direction

The other critical aspect is the direction of the grain, you want that to run toe to heel, top to bottom. This allows the short grains to work in your favor when opening the mouth of the plane.

Grain direction
As you can see in the image, the direction in which the grain runs is quite discernible, to the left is the toe and to the right is the heel.

That's about it for this post, hope it helps when you start making your own planes and as always, if you have any questions feel free to comment here or find us on Facebook.

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