How to Adjust a Hand Plane

How to adjust a hand plane

A hand plane is a very useful tool in the field of carpentry. It is also a well-loved tool for woodworking hobbyists. It plays an important role in ensuring that woods are well-flattened and -shaped, and have a smooth surface. Most importantly, it is best to ensure that the hand plane is well set-up for it to serve its purpose.

This article will give you some tips on how to adjust a manual hand plane to ensure that it will perform optimally and deliver quality results.

A hand plane comes in different sizes, and each serves a different purpose. The four types of hand planes are

1) Leveling planes; used for jointing and truing,

2) Block planes; used for planing end grain or for fitting doors and drawers.

3) Jack planes; used for smoothing or leveling.

4) Smoothing planes; used for finishing.

The different hand planes can perform different uses and will preform extremely well if all parts are in their respective places and perfectly aligned. It is therefore important that users of hand planes are aware of the know-hows on adjusting hand planes.

Check for misalignment

Before making any adjustment, it is important to ensure that there really is a need for an adjustment. Otherwise, adjusting can do more harm than good. The first thing to do is to hold the plane upside down and sight down the whole length of the sole. You should see the whole breadth of the sole broken only by the slight protrusion of the plane iron.

If the slight protrusion of the plane iron is not seen, it must be retracted into the body of the plane and will not be able to cut any wood then. If too much of the plane iron is seen, the plane will jam quickly and will be very hard to push. If the iron blade is not even across the sides, the blade must be crooked and will scratch the woodworks.

Adjusting the iron blades

If the plane is not cutting deeply enough, the iron blade must be retracted into the body of the plane and needs to be pushed out a little. To adjust the iron blade, put the plane sole flat on top of a scrap stock. Use a mallet and gently strike the end of the iron blade.

Make sure that the tap done is very light. Test to see if the iron blade is cutting well. If not, continue to give slight taps on its end. Try again until you are satisfied with the cut.

If the iron blade is cutting too deep, it needs to be loosened from the wedge. For smaller planes, simply holding the plane and striking the heel of the plane using a mallet while holding the iron blades and wedge will do the job. On the other hand, for larger planes, the plane needs to be positioned vertically, and the heel is thumped on a solid wooden surface like that of a benchtop. The thumps should be very gentle yet firm.

Flattening the sole

The sole of the hand plane should be well-flattened to produce an even finish. Otherwise, the wood you will be working on will just remain rough, and your hand plane might suffer more damage.

Flattening the sole is very simple. Apply even pressure on the hand plane as you would be doing an actual planing. Move the sole over the coarse abrasive on a level surface. With continuous planing, the first indications should slowly fade, and you will be able to judge whether the pressure is evenly applied.

Mark lines across the sole. Continue with the abrasion until no line is visible and all has fade evenly. This is now an indication that the sole is flat yet rough.

After the sole is flattened, is it important to check the squareness of the sides and sole. A straight edge can be used to check the flatness of the sole, while an engineer’s try-square can be used to check the squareness of the sides to the sole.


A hand plane that stutters or skips through a cut is a chattered hand plane. This problem results in rippled wood surface. Some roughness can be felt as you plane. To get rid of chatter, try making lighter cuts and apply pressure on the knob as it moves. It would also help if you increase the angle of the skew or have the iron blade re-sharpened.

Plane not cutting

After some time of successful use of the hand plane, cutting might just suddenly stop. In such instances, the mouth should be checked for clogs. You can also try to adjust the iron blade forward to make heavier cuts. It is also important that you inspect the chipbreaker if there is poor contact with the bleed. Another possible thing that needs to be done is to resharpen the blade.


A well-fit and well-adjusted hand plane will give you a smooth and flat finish. A plane that is not set up right will give you tracks or ridges on the surface of your woodwork. This calls for an adjustment in the iron blade, which should be done laterally. To check if adjustment is good, make lighter cuts. It is also important that when the iron blade is being resharpened, the corners are pushed down to create a cambered edge by relieving the corners slightly.

A hand plane is a very simple machine that is made of only a few parts. Despite the simplicity in its structure, there is complexity in ensuring that it performs at its optimal function. This means that the hand plane gives a smooth finish to your woodwork. Otherwise, an adjustment needs to be done, maybe on the iron blade, the flatness of the sole, or the squareness of the sides to the soles.

Light and easy fixes can be done to address any problem. This article has laid down several quick and easy tips on how to adjust a hand plane. Try these, and you are on your way to seeing that smooth finish on all your woodworking projects again.

You may also be interested in upgrading to an electric hand planer and you can check out our guide on how to use a hand planer if your unsure how they work.

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