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I want this post to be quick and to the point. Both types work well creating near flawless surfaces when set right and both types have advantages and disadvantages.

Bevel Down.

Bevel Down Planes

The archetypal plane we all recognise in it's Bailey and Wooden guise shown above. The grinding & sharpening bevel faces down and is mounted on a frog or bed holding the iron at a fixed angle. Surface finish of the wood is controlled primarily by the cap iron (looking forward to discussing this more). In addition secondary bevels can be applied to the back of the blade to raise the pitch beyond the standard(ish) 45deg and in some newer metal planes different frogs can fitted to change the pitch. And lastly a tight mouth. On wooden planes and infills the mouth would normally be a fixed size but on most modern style metal planes this can be adjusted. The bevel down planes are tried, tested and proved over hundreds of years and the work completed in their wake is breathtaking.

Stanley Bevel Up Planes

Bevel Up. A relative new kid on the block in the form we see above in terms of the ancient craft of woodworking but very good nevertheless. Yes, you guessed it the grinding and sharpening bevel faces up! Surface finish is controlled primarily by the application of honing bevels to the blade that raise or lower the pitch. Lower pitches work best for end grain and higher pitches work best when working fussy timbers with the grain. In addition the mouth can be easily changed and made ultra fine more easily than most bevel down planes, as the adjustment mechanism requires no tools. The bevel up planes have become popular in recent times and have been used by skilled woodworkers to great effect.

Most users who like to change the pitch with back bevelled irons in a bevel down or with various honing angles in a bevel up carry an extra one or two blades to save grinding or re-honing.

Stanley Sweetheart Planes

Both have a distinct “feel” in use and what someone prefers will be down to personal preference. I have enjoyed using the Stanley 62 bevel up (after curing it’s problem). It’s comfortable and simple enough to use. The thing I like least about it is adjusting as I go takes a little longer as I have to remove my hands from the tote.

I personally tend to move towards bevel down, as there is access to many examples in wood and metal available from days of yore that are smashing to own and use. From 20th century baileys or 19th century woodies. For me the trump card for the Bailey style is that you can adjust as you go very quickly indeed.

Wooden Smoothing Plane

The best advice if you’re wondering what’s best is to go and try some at a show, store or friends workshop. Failing that you can’t go far wrong using any version. Both versions are truly able to resist tear out, work end grain and create near flawless surfaces. Get one, try it, get the best from it and move on. Just don’t expect night and day surface finish difference between the two or faster project times, your skills at sharpening and using a plane effectively are I would think more important than you bevel orientation.


I don’t expect any of these photos I post when I have them will end up being earth shattering, after all, nothing new under the sun and all that. Nevertheless some of us might have a fixed idea of holdfasts are just for work holding. Here’s another use. The utility boxes I made used some really rough and ready oak. I was able to get rid of most of the knots as I only needed short lengths. However I don’t like to waste things unless I have to. This rough piece had a patch of grain lifting out around a knot. This side will not be seen as it is the underside of the base. I worked some glue into offending area and tapped the holdfast down. Done! Yes I could of used clamps and yes it’s not original but I often find simple pointers aimed at making the most of a tool or appliance very helpful.

Dovetail Boxes

I’m getting to grips with some paint making for my chest and making sure it's what I'm looking for. While I wait for my sample boards to dry I've been running out some simple dovetailed boxes for fun. They will get used for gifts most likely. I’m playing around with a very basic form for a future video but I still want them to look pretty smart. I added a contrasting plug where an escutcheon would be. I think that adds a nice touch. I also added one to the lid but that was a step to far I think. I might tweak the dovetails and the proportions a bit as well. It’s quite a trick to make these things look sweet but simple to build also.

Also as time has progressed I prefer to see less of the joinery on show. An 18th Century style tea caddy would be a nice one to try out. For a quick and dirty build though these utility boxes will do nicely.

The Record #4 has been out for a run again. Clever little planes these really. Such a simple and humble little number, a real shame the quality of the typical "Bailey" bombed in recent years. Could they ever make a return? Who knows but it would be nice to see some humble, proven tools being made to a good standard again to offer another option to woodworkers. Fortunately there are plenty on ebay to keep most folks happy.

Candle Wax plane Sole

One of the things I notice most moving between wooden and metal planes is the drag on metal planes. Chances are you will not even notice it if you are used to metal but things can be made to move more briskly and therefore less energy wasted. The solution, a candle! No mystery, rub it in and go! Why is a candle a good choice? Excellent value, easy to apply, no mess it is truly a win win! Use it everywhere, too much friction on saws, moulding planes or wooden planes. Save your energy for the task in hand rather than overcoming friction. How many do you need, buy in units of four!