Another Myth Buster

I was at a show 20 years ago, sitting with the audience, when an English guru of woodworking told his watchers that they must always set the so-called chip-breaker (he really meant the cap iron but didn’t know it) as close as it was possible to the cutting edge and so close you could scarcely see the flat side of the cutting iron when locked together. Fifty people walked away with erroneous information and there was nothing I could do to counter it. Mostly, instruction states about 1/32″ (1mm) from the cutting edge – who said that? Oh, it’s the same man that said lay your plane on its side, I suppose! But generally, I tend to agree with the 1/32″ rule even if I never stick to it myself at all. So, generally, it is just a rough guide. And that is simply because you need something you know to work and something you can shoot for each time you sharpen and set your planes. But here I want to encourage you to think differently and not always shoot for it as you progress in your knowledge, experience and skill. Experiential knowledge beats brains alone every time. There – it’s said!

I have written on the set distance for your plane in a recent post because my experience is vastly different than many of the gurus who sell planes, devise plane parts and of course, they want to present themselves as experts when that’s what they do at weekend shows. Are you buying diamond stone honing fluid? Just use an auto-glass cleaner. It costs a dollar for five years supply and it does exactly the same thing as the £10 version of snake oil. I was attacked verbally at a woodworking show and in a letter when the seller of this snake oil found out I was using auto-glass cleaner and telling people that’s all that was needed. In another situation, I was harassed by another seller of snake oil for telling my audience not to buy into his very expensive kit using abrasive papers and film for sharpening. They should just buy a couple of diamond plates, bite the bullet and never replace abrasive paper or film again. These things happen. Okay, back on piste.

Agreeing that a mil or two is good for plane setting distances between cap iron and cutting edge, I want to tell you some experiences I have found through the decades. In my apprentice time Bill, the ancient cabinet maker (means furniture maker here in the UK) I worked with, set his cap iron on his wooden planes at around 3/16″. They worked immaculately. Sometimes I would see a tighter setting but never 1/32″. Over the years I have bought planes directly from end-of-work-life users. The distances varied up to around 1/8″. How can this be? What was the industry standard? Well, what was written in all the books I ever saw looked mostly like non-digitized copy and paste from the tool suppliers the authors of which were responsible for selling, writing and not using.

Here at the bench, here after 55 years of freedom to experiment, I might suggest loosening up a little. As many woodworkers do not plane up rough wood anymore, we may have lost the salient information of our now lost masters. Roughing down wood with a converted Stanely #78 shows that wood will plane without a cap iron. Most European woodworkers do just fine (generally) without them too. There can be no doubt that the unique relationship between a sprung cap iron and the blade has its own dynamic in joint symbiosis to counter grain and the efforts opposing planing.

Okay, on rough wood, I will set my cutting iron up to about 1/8″ and especially so if I encounter a really crowned board or section. This does not mean I am taking off more wood at all but that the plane (and me) will feel much less resistance. I set the protruding iron to my usual setting. What happens is that the shavings do not hit the hump-like a brick wall but more a gentle diverting tactic a little further from the cutting edge. Setting the cap iron further back saves my effort and energy by, I am guessing, around 25%. Of course, I can’t measure this. I just feel I am much more comfortable with everything.

Where I set my cap iron on my wooden plane today. Does that mean I never set it closer? Not at all. I flex according to what I feel when I am planing. So important!

I want to suggest that these experiences give you more of a relational knowledge of your work and your working. Take this one instance for instance. Why not find a rough-sawn board and set the cap iron at two or three distance settings, plane the same section of wood and don’t forget to reset the depth of cut each time. It might just surprise you. If you have two planes then sharpen up both and then set the two at the two setting of 1/32″ and say 3/32″ or 1/8″. Remember that the depth of cut should be the same as near as you can get it. Whatever you decide, at least it will be your own opinion and not what you read in a pamphlet given out by a tool seller!

62 thoughts on “Another Myth Buster”

  1. Bob Leistner

    The big difference in setting the cap iron further away is you get pretty shavings that shoot straight up out of the plane! If you set it real close, they come out tightly curled.
    I never noticed much difference on the board, either.That is what matters.

  2. Kevin Drevik

    You talked to him about sharpening? Nothing is going to cause more arguments than that!

    Seriously, I remember seeing you at a show once and wish I’d spent more time talking with you. I really enjoy your videos and your books. Stay healthy and looking for more of your wisdom in the years ahead!

    Kevin

  3. Roberto Fischer

    Paul, would you say you don’t care about the cap iron functionality of preventing tear out and instead you find it more effective to simply rely on the card scraper? What are your thoughts on having a separate plane set up for that, with the cap iron extremely close to the edge for the last few tear free smoothing passes?

    From reading you and a few other woodworkers (like Richard Maguire), it sounds like everyone is right. The cap iron diverts shavings and adds rigidity to the double iron assembly, but it also prevents tear out when set much closer to the edge with the cost of much more effort.

    1. Isn’t it having a really sharp blade and taking fine cuts that reduces tearout. Equally where possible going with the grain.

    2. I was mostly saying that we should be playing the cap iron according to task and that we should be experimenting for our own knowledge rather than following like sheep and that we should be questioning the authority from which people now speak. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I am a great believer in questioning authority!

      1. Ron Bogansky

        Hi Paul,

        You have used one of my favorite quotes; “…one-eyed man…” and I agree we should not accept anything on face value or worse because a certain person said so. Many times positions are put forth because of someone’s agenda which leads to another quote, “Follow the money.” But a lot of times it is just information that at one point may have been valid but has morphed into something untrue but still passed on. There was a dish my grandmother made in the winter. It was was served cold and she would keep it in the unheated porch that was around 45 degrees. When my mother made it she put it in the fridge. Yet everyone in the family was convinced you could only make this dish in the winter. So misinformation is so easily passed on.

        Yesterday turned my 65th year. In that time I have learned to follow the lead of those with experience who are successful in their endeavors. My father was one of those, but there are more including you. I very much appreciate what you do for this craft.

        And when you mentioned cap iron I paused for a moment. Although I am aware of the term I have heard it described as chip breaker more often, but that is here in the US.

    3. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

      I believe Richard says the same thing as Paul does. Put the cap iron really close (a gnats nadger I believe is the official term) to the cutting edge when planing difficult sections of wood or wood that tears easily, back it off to hog off material.
      Experiment. I’ve found what works for me, my planes and my sharpening (skill, method, repeatability) by trying. I’m eyeballing it for the most part.

      And having a second plane set up for that last smoothing is a luxury worth having! 🙂 I have a Record 4 with a cambered iron that hogs off material in a hurry, and a Stanley 04 set up for those “whisper shavings”. The shavings isn’t important, it is just the result of a very fine setting that leaves a glass-like surface, even on soft pine! Love it.

      1. Mic van Reijen

        I don’t have an opinion to share about plane settings, it usually ends up in some flame war. Like sharing thoughts on sharpening. On both I have found a rhythm that works for me but don’t feel the need to gospel about.

        I’m sure however that everyone agrees that Vidar Fagerjord Harboe is an awesome name. Beats Mic van Reijen any day!

  4. You’ll have to cut the English Guru some slack for calling it a chip breaker.

    If you look for ads that Stanley now produced for its new “sweetheart “ series of planes that’s what the part is labeled by the folks who make the plane.
    It’s also what Rockler calls it in their bulldog brand planes, which look like they are made in the same factory.

    1. Larry, that just shows you how far Stanley has fallen off the wagon. Their own patents list it as a “Cap Iron”. Given the lack of quality in their tools for the last 50 years, they probably think it is just for breaking chips.

      1. Tad Eglund-
        Well if Stanley fell off the wagon they did it even before the sweetheart era. Bailey and Stanley played a little fast and loose with plane part names over the years., so it’s no mystery others have.

        The original 1858 Bailey patent calls the piece that screws onto the iron a cap-iron, that’s true. But they also call the piece that fits over it the cap ( not the lever cap) whether it had a lever or just a tightening screw, or a wedge, whether it was wood or what we recognize as a screw cap, which might have caused confusion. In the 1867 patent bailey calls the cap iron both the cap iron and the cap, leaving the lever cap ( formerly just the cap) unnamed and referring to the contact between the cap and the plane iron and putting a bend in the cap. This is in a patent that introduces us in the drawings to the lever cap, which isn’t named. They eventually do call it a both a cap and lever cap in literature, until in the 1910 Bodmer patent for Stanley 289’s and 78’s it again becomes the cap, except in the instruction sheet where it becomes a deflector on the 289 plane.

        In other patents Bailey calls the plane-iron a cutter or a blade. In one patent the only thing named is what they call the double iron, as a single unit. And this was all half a century or more before the post WWII decline in quality.

        I submit Stanley now calls it a chip breaker because this what I has come to be known as, ( however incorrectly) partially from confusion Stanley itself created over exactly which part the cap was. That left people to add their own adjectives. At least they didn’t call it a curling iron, which I have seen in diagrams from ‘experts’. That term both makes me smile and convinces me it’s a better description of the iron’s function, especially on spill planes.

        In like fashion a chute board has come to be known almost universally ( and incorrectly) as a shooting board. The board was originally called a chute, and the plane is a chute plane in the Stanley literature.
        Yet nobody seems to call out Lie Nielsen (shoot plane) or Veritas (shooting plane) for using the shoot terminology even though LN makes an almost exact copy of Stanley’s offering.

        Just as no chips are broken, nobody gets shot using the planes. It’s just how the language evolved.

    2. And did you know that the “chip-breaker” is actually a relatively new term adopted in the USA and exported without thought around the world where the rest of the world simply took it without thought or question knowing that it has nothing to do with breaking chips? Chip breaker is a spring-loaded pressure bar that comes from a planing machine where without it the machine would get bogged down in a split second because it would not be able to spew out its waste fast enough.

      1. The Swedish Word for the cap iron is spaanbrytare witch translated means “spooke breaker”.
        It might have been Tage Frid who is Danisch, that introduced the Word chip breaker. In His Book from 1979.
        I am guessing herr. I fint know the Danisch Word.

  5. Julian Smith

    I am a working joined of around forty years of experience. During this time I have done much experimenting, especially in my earlier apprentice days. I could never get any of my planes to work with the cap iron set as close as that guru said, despite many books advising the same. I have found they work better set further back, as Paul rightly says it depends on what you are planing. I still do a lot of hand planing despite the power tool revolution nothing works as well as a hand plane.

  6. In the metalworking industry where I sold carbide inserts to cut metal for turning applications at the company I worked for added what they called a chip breaker in the 1970s. It was noticed that when a flat piece of carbide wore, a groove was worn in where the metal was “cut” by the carbide . Then the metal chips would start to curl and break apart, a very desirable outcome to avoid sharp strings of metal cutting off fingers or tangling with machinery.
    Anyway chip breaker designs became a science with slightly different topographies designed for different materials. These designs were studied in labs where millions of dollars were invested in “chip-breaker technology” which varied by depth of cut, speed and feed rates.
    Then of course came the metallurgy where materials were developed for certain properties, cryogenics, aligning metallic structures all very scientific. I think some marketing people saw a new way to sell “new and improved” tools applying metalworking requirements and precision to the woodworking industry. Marketing people called this “upselling” where you got a customer to spend more than they intended to which was wildly successful! People have invested their lifetime becoming “experts” at selling their technology and have convinced people this is what’s needed. After all who doesn’t want the best and latest gadget for the job.
    I fell for this concept myself after immersing myself in the business for many years. Then one day at a woodworking show where my only intention was to buy an expensive dovetail jig for my router I saw this guy cut dovetails in minutes with only a few tools that I had already at home. I ended up not buying the jig and went home to learn some new skills.

  7. Dennis Droege

    Mr. Sellers, I’ve sharpened steel all my life. As a younger man, I started a small business which involved going to kitchenware stores on select Saturdays with my stones in a bag to sharpen knives people would bring in. At the time, I worked with oil stones–from carborundum up through India to Washita stones. I tell you this as a preface to expressing my gratitude for introducing me to diamond plates. My oil stones have been in the cabinet for several years, and I’ve never looked back. Thank you for that and for all you have done for so many of us.

  8. Good morning Paul,

    I feel rather dull this morning reading the various comments on setting the cap iron. Without much thought I have always aimed at approximately 1/8 inch and got on with the task at hand. After this article, I will take more interest, the next time, in what I am doing. As always, best wishes to you and thank you.

  9. In my very limited experience, the only real advantage to getting the cap iron so close to that, yes on harder denser wood you get a better shaving; you also have more room to pull the iron back and take lighter bites. If the cap iron is set to far back you can’t turn the adjustment job far enough retract the cutting edge. Having said that, 2 or 3/32″ is generally were my planes are set. Thank you Paul again for your information. And I agree that there is no contest between the book and the experience. Experience wins every time.

    1. “If the cap iron is set too far back you can’t turn the adjustment knob far enough to retract the cutting edge.”
      That is a problem I had with my cheapo Silv%$*µ&# plane.
      I had to grind about 1 mm off the edge of the cap-iron.
      I would say the slot for the yoke in the cap-iron was too far away from its edge. By the way one can run into this problem if swaping cap-irons from one plane maker to another.

      1. Sylvain,
        I had a similar problem with a second hand Stanley #5 1/2. I was puzzled about why it would not retract and Paul offered me the same solution. It worked, but I still have to set the cap iron close to the edge if I want it to retract into the body.
        Perhaps its time to remove a little more metal. I was scared to remove too much at the first pass.

        1. Finally, yesterday, I put the cap-iron in a vise and with some hammer whack, I made the curve more pronounced, which reduced the distance from yoke-slot to edge.
          Now I can place the cap iron at 4 mm and retract the iron completely.
          Note that I had to hone the edge again to ensure good contact (no light visible) between the cap-iron and the cutting-iron.

  10. Andrew Churchley

    Sharpening benefits from lubrication, cooling and the suspension of fine metal particles. Any fluid does it, some better than others. Seldom mentioned is wiping the abrasive surface afterwards with paper or cloth. This will remove surface fluid and particles, so reducing clogging and presenting a clean, sharp abrasive surface. It can look good too; almost like a new surface.

    Re the term chip breaker, I also know it from metal cutting tools. A small metal cutting tool can have an integral chip-breaking profile ground onto it. Without this, there are metals whose cuttings come off in a continuous spiral. Often hot, possibly blued with the heat and even dull-red hot from some processes. You would not want that to get wrapped around your neck!

    1. I have disputed using the term lubrication in sharpening on abrasive stones and papers simply because it doesn’t fit. Funny how we accept so many different terms, often without thinking. The term lubrication has this definition in many different dictionaries:
      Lubrication is the process or technique of using a lubricant to reduce friction and wear and tear in contact between two surfaces.
      The last thing we want in our abrading of surfaces is lubrication as this reduces the very dynamic we want which is abrading.

      1. Andrew Churchley

        Thank you for your response. I think you may find the term “cutting fluid” more acceptable, in preference to “lubricant”. I believe you will agree that the sharp cutting points of abrasive grains readily penetrate the liquid film to do their work.

        On the other hand, not all grains will lie in the optimum orientation for cutting. Some may present flat surfaces or slope adversely, and rub without cutting. Even the cutting points will have flanks of various orientations; these will rub. Anything that rubs forms a “bearing” surface and causes friction. In that case any liquid present will act as a lubricant, reducing effort, reducing heat and allowing a greater proportion of the applied force to result in cutting. So I believe that lubrication is an important part of the story and eases the work.

  11. Matt Vredenburg

    Good points, Paul. I don’t think I have ever used a measuring device to set my blade and chip breaker. Never needed to do it. I was taught the right way to set it as you’ve described, and it’s not something I worry about too much if it works correctly.

    I agree with the myths out there – I am a “plane sits iron down” kind of craftsman. It dives me crazy when someone comes into my shop and flips them over on their side.

  12. Well that’s interesting. It bears out what I’ve been doing without any knowledge of the subject. I’ve been setting my cap irons around 1/8″ -ish most of the time but moving them a tiddle closer on the rare occasions I work things like oak or mahogany. (The rare occasions I can afford it, haha).
    But one of my planes is a Stanley SB3, which says Made in England on it though I know for a fact it was made in India. It doesn’t even have a cap iron! It does have a pretty thick cutting iron though, and it works just great. At least it does since Paul showed me how to sharpen it!
    BTW I’m still a plane-down-on-its-side man. Been doing it too long to change I’m afraid.

    1. I bought an SB3 for 50p yesterday. Partly because of the price, but also to see how well i can get what is said to be a lousy plane cutting. Also i haven’t a No 3 and thought this was a cheap way of getting one. Not had chance to do any fettling on it yet.

  13. Working as a scientist, I was delighted to know that somebody had gone systematically over the issue to write a paper and even made a video. https://vimeo.com/158558759
    It seems a distance of 0.1mm made a difference to 0.3mm. Well, I know my eye cannot make a difference between 0.3 and 0.1, nor can I adjust the blade in such increments, so I stick to the advice: sharpen, check the grain and mind what you are doing so you can adjust depth and orientation as necessary.

    1. It’s interesting and entertaining and of course far from conclusive. The video gives a good picture of what tear-out looks like as it happens which we at the bench can only see after that fact. This science doesn’t really tell us much of real value ore than what we know at the bench in working our wood though. In this case, it does what science does best in that it supports what already exists and hundreds of thousands of skilled woodworkers over centuries capably knew by their experiential knowledge. They shaved their wood with no hint of science supporting what they did. The systematic presentation of their work really offered insight at the cutting edge but not too much of real value to the world of real woodworking. I would hate to think that this work would add support to a theory that people might take what they say as a now well-proven fact rather than what they learn at their workbenches where we see that all woods work differently and even within the species there are major discrepancies. It’s this that we at the workbench must work with in our minute by minute encounters. 1mil, 3mil, in the reality of benchwork, makes no discernible difference to our felt effort. Planing against the grain is evident in a split second and we respond by turning the wood end for end or the plane goes from push to pull or we work from the opposite end to work ‘with the grain’. When the scientist presents the blade to the wood there is no mention of blade edge deterioration as soon as the blade passes into the wood and by the end of the cut, no matter the length of stroke, the blade has indeed degraded. That’s one factor. Then of course there is the wood itself which is full of inconsistencies. Passing the blade uniformly as in the video does not present a replication of what we do at the bench either. We turn the plane slightly according to what we feel in resistance, vibration, etc. As I said, it is entertaining and interesting by beyond that I find it might stop people from experimenting and changing their mind minute by minute to truly engage with the wood as they work it.

      1. “Science” is simply tested and verified knowledge. The experience of wood workers over centuries sounds like a very well tested “science” to me. One fact about the Vimeo presentation is that a shaving a tenth of a millimeter thick is a pretty thick shaving. I’ve thought that having the cap-iron/chip breaker close to the edge seems reduce the need to close the mouth on woods with reversing grain like mahogany.

      2. I love this kind of close-up video. I have a jeweler’s loupe and look at all kind of things. It just adds another dimention

  14. I’m an ex precision engineer (4 year apprenticeship) but also been a carpenter/builder for 41 years, now a High School technician (30 years) and I also run a part time carpentry business. Tom and Andrew are quite right when they say that the term “chip breaker” probably comes from the engineering trade. In 1969 when I started my apprenticeship, I used to grind a groove on HSS (High Speed Steel) lathe tool bits to stop long spirals of swarf coming off the mild steel rod that I was turning. There was also a triangular disposable toolbit made from a material called ceramic, that had grooves on all 3 edges. These were also called “chipbreaker” tool bits. As the edge of one triangle wore out, you unscrewed the triangle and rescrewd it presenting a fresh edge to the work. I set my cap irons 2-3mm back from the cutting edge: 2mm for wild grain and hardwood, and 3mm for softwood.

  15. When I set the cap-iron less than about 2 mm from the cutting edge, I just get crumble which clogs the mouth and the resulting surface is not at all smooth. (planing pine)

    1. I was kind of expressing some of this in my reply to the sciences. Different woods plane very differently and the amount of surface resistance between different woods and even wood surfaces within species is rarely considered yet experientially very different with a hand plane, wood in a vise and a human shoving. Depending on the softwood, the surfaces in orientation to the growth rings, etc, the woods respond very differently. Try to imagine pushing a plane across the surface of a soft fabric and seeing it ruckle up as the blade gathers the fibres of the rug and then do the same to a starched fabric. Best analogy I can offer. Pushing a plane into some woods compresses these surface fibres until they are so consolidated they start to resist and spring back into the blade that then cuts and the wood is kinda reluctantly allowing the cutting edge to and it cuts. Especially is this so with supersoft softwoods as the humps hits the wood surface.

      1. Thanks very much Paul for all the advice and for engaging with our questions/feedback. If I have gone from frustration to satisfaction with metal planes, wooden planes, with or without cap iron, bevel up or down and more is because of all this treasured info you just give away. It is hugely appreciated!.

  16. Paul,
    Another great blog started an interesting yet civil discussion. My morning coffee got cold. Thanks Paul.

    1. I tried it on my scrub plane and on my smoother, both at some 3 mm, on spruce and walnut. The scrub plane worked even better than before. The smoother worked ok, I couldn’t tell any difference.

      I am very happy to have learned that the distance I put the cap iron is a parameter I can change according to my work! Thank you, Paul!

  17. Now about spokeshaves where the position of the cap iron is fixed relative to the sole and the gap between the cutting edge and the cap iron increases with the depth of cut. Seems to work well as long as the grain is co-operative.

    If you are working end grain such as putting chamfers on the end of a piece of wood or a piece of plywood changing the angle you approach the work at to 20 – 40 degrees lowers the cutting angle and uses more of a slicing motion which improves the cut.

  18. Robert Lipman

    Paul, thank you for this post in which you say: ” Are you buying diamond stone honing fluid? Just use an auto-glass cleaner.”

    I would like to follow your advice, but am concerned I’ll buy the wrong glass cleaner — and so was wondering what are the name(s)/manufacturer(s) of the “auto-glass cleaner” that would work and not cause the diamond stone to rust.

    Keep up the good work, Paul!

    All the best, Bobby L.

      1. I didn’t know it had to be auto glass cleaner. I have used household window cleaner (Ajax) for two years now. I must say I am pretty satisfied, but I’ll try the auto glass cleaner next time and see if I can tell the difference.

      2. Paul Westlake

        Oops, mt wife says I never listen, I’ve been using household window cleaner too. I’ll pop down to Halfords and get a couple of bottles. Sickly looking smiley.

  19. Richard Siberry

    The cap iron on my old (1940/50s at a guess), English made Stanley 5 1/2 has lost its spring and is virtually flat. The result is that there is very little pressure where the cap iron and iron interface, and chips find their way between the two, clogging the plane. The mating edge of the cap iron is ground perfectly flat on a diamond stone. Is it acceptable to simply put the cap iron in a vise and try and bend it back to its original shape, or is there a technique or protocol for dealing with this issue?

  20. I use WD-40 as the lubricant / cutting fluid when sharpening things. If you buy the 5 liter can rather than the expensive aerosols it will last for a long time and is good for corrosion prevention and all sorts of other tasks.

    I have used water in the past but by the time you have dried the diamond plate or stone and then put something on the sharpened edge to stop it rusting WD40 is an easier alternative.

    The only downside is you need to be careful about what sort of plastic bottle you decant it into for use as it dissolves some plastics.

    1. Sorry, John, you use it if you feel you must but not recommended at all. I’m going to jump in here and say WD40 would be a step way down for many reasons I think important. One is simple enough, it is 50-60% Naptha (petroleum) and other petrol-based products including oils derived from petrol. The Autoglass cleaner is far less costly, a dollar a bottle, never rusts and can be wiped with a rag over and over. No WD40 smellies, no harmful and volatile petrol residues, etc, etc. I recommend no one uses this stuff for sharpening.

    2. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

      WD-40 and CRC works with the diamond stones, but it is a nasty business. I’ve stopped doing it and only use glass cleaner. The cheapest one I could find, in a spray bottle. A household type, no ammonia. Much more pleasant smell, and it works even better. The WD-40 often becomes a sticky mess in a hurry.
      Follow Paul’s advice. He is right on this one (too).

      A good tip: the glass cleaner is GREAT in the shop – a spritz or two on the support table (a narrow unit against the wall behind my work bench, with drawers, a shelf and the lacquered table top) , a quick wipe with a rag and it is spotless in seconds.

      2-in-1 indeed!

  21. Question about auto glass cleaner: is it safe on skin eyes etc? I am afraid it will give me cancer or blind me! It is ammonia right? Have you ever used rubbing alcohol?

    Re the cap iron…I like my wooden planes without them. Paul taught us the wooden glide these planes give and it feels like freedom. I can’t build a bailey pattern plane from scrap but with wwmc I may be able to make a custom wooden plane someday.

    1. No ammonia in the ones I use and never had any. Perhaps you are thinking house glass cleaner and not autoglass? Remember this is used on the inside of cars as well as outside – a confined area. Household cleaners often have ammonia in them.

      1. And the ammonia ‘dissolves’ window tints in cars. Plus ammonia can cause rust in some metals (zinc, copper, brass).

  22. Woodwork classes were mandatory when I began Grammar Scool in 1960. Everything was very controlled, very proscribed, and the woodwork master ruled with a rod of iron.
    When I began attending an evening class in around 1970, the instructor had worked in industry – making wooden propellers (airscrews if you like) for aircraft. One of the most useful things he taught me, and many others, was ‘There’s more than one way to skin a cat’. If you find, or are told a way that works for you, that’s good enough. So often discussions on forums descend into semantics when what matters is what works for you.

  23. I have a Stanly 63 sweetheart plane, it is bevel up and has no cap iron. It is really nice to use and is comfortable in the hand. It cuts beautifully. I have a bevel up block plane(!) too, it is easier for my old hands than a No4 for bevels and chamfers.

  24. Thought-provoking article Paul, I can’t wait to get out into the shed and play around with my plane collection and experiment; I too had also followed the 1/32″ rule without thought or question. By the way I bought your book/DVD set a few years ago, it opened up a whole new world for me, previously I had been floundering around with an odd assortment of hand and power tools; now I am confident in using hand tools for pretty much any job at hand. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom and experience with us! Best regards from Australia.

  25. Michael W. O’Brien

    Hi Paul,
    I have been using one large spray bottle of auto glass cleaner, (Armor All specifically, not that it matters) ever since you told your YT followers and Master Class subscribers about using it years back. Auto glass cleaner works great, one bottle lasts for years, and I still have the tiny 2 ounce bottle that originally came with one of my diamond stones, and never use it. Wipe off the cleaner fluid with a dry towel when done, and I have never had any rust issues with my 3 steel-backed diamond stones of various grits . Household glass cleaner does not work quite the same for me, may be that the auto version has just a hint of silicone in it.
    Thanks Paul, one of your best tips ever.
    Cheers,
    Michael O’Brien
    Alabama, USA

  26. Kelly Adkinson

    The difference in household glass cleaner and automotive glass cleaner is the primary ingredients. Household cleaners are usually made with ammonia as their primary ingredient and diluted to a mild concentration with water (less than 10% ammonia). Automotive cleaners use some type of alcohol as their base ingredient. As mentioned in previous comments, this is so they do not degrade the tinting and/or UV protection not typically critical in household glass. These auto cleaner mixtures have water in them but at a much lower percentage (70-90% alcohols). The alcohols are soluble with water and evaporate quickly, therefore are better to use for preventing rust on the stones. And it’s cheap!

  27. Being a bit of a lazy bugger, I have never bothered with fiddling with the cap iron setting… It just kinda lands somewhere between 2- 4 MM away from the blade edge.
    After 30 plus years I find as long as the blade is properly fettled and sharp, I can adjust for all types of cranky grain by how much the blade protrudes.
    Have it hanging out to hog a lot of material off and wind it right in for those whispy shavings or against the grain moments.
    I love how we all find our own paths, well, those of us who don’t just do things a certain way without ever questioning why do.

  28. What’s wrong with just using water on the diamond stones? I had mine for over 10 years and they look absolutely fine.

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