VERITAS Low Angle Smoothing Plane
A low-angle smooth plane has three key uses. It is used to smooth large surfaces, preferably taking a diagonal cut, partly across and partly along the grain. Similarly, with its generous side wings, it is ideal for shooting miters. Finally, it is excellent for end-grain work. The low cutting angle of 37° minimizes fiber tearing. With a bed angle of 12°, this is a "bevel-up" plane, like a low-angle block.
To initially set the blade, open the mouth fully and place the plane on a flat wood surface (e.g., a scrap of stock). Lightly clamp the blade with the lever cap knob and advance the blade until it just touches the wood.
Flip the plane to a sole-up position, then sight along the sole to ensure the blade edge is parallel to the sole and advance or retract it as required. Clamp fully (1/4 turn should be ample – do not overclamp) and take a test cut. If all is well, advance the set screws on either side until they just touch the blade, not to clamp it but to create a guide so that you do not have to be concerned about the blade shifting sideways at the front. All lateral adjustment will now be governed solely by movement of the adjustment mechanism.
The plane's adjustable mouth can be closed to a narrow slit for fine shavings with minimum tear-out or opened for heavier cuts, all done quickly and easily with the front locking knob.
The low 12° bed angle and the 25° bevel on the blade supplied with the plane result in an effective cutting angle of 37°, which is ideal for end-grain work. Cutting end grain is very different from planing with the grain; it calls for a lot of pressure and control.
In fact, cutting end grain requires nearly three times the force that it takes to cut parallel to the grain. You can do four things to make end-grain cutting easier.
First, keep the edge of the blade as keen as possible. Second, take lighter cuts. Third, keep the bevel angle of the blade as low as possible and consistent with edge retention; however, this is a matter of trial and error. You start with a low bevel angle and increase it only if you get edge failure. The failure is quickly evident by scratches showing up on the end grain. Fourth, skew the plane. Instead of cutting directly across the grain, hold the plane askew to the path of travel.
This has exactly the same effect as lowering the bevel angle, because it lowers the cutting angle. If you have a 37° cutting angle, by rotating the plane 45° and taking a skew cut, you will get the same cutting action that you would if you had lowered the bevel angle to 28°. If you skewed the plane even more, say to 60°, you would get a cutting angle of 21°. The edge does not fail because exactly the same amount of distortional force is being applied over greater blade width. This leads directly to one of the little-known facts about tool technique — a blade used at a skew can be sharpened at a lower angle than a blade used to cut squarely across the wood, and the skewed blade will still retain its edge.
Planing end grain involves a lot of force. It is therefore important to have the workpiece firmly clamped in position. If possible, clamp the workpiece upright in a vise, keeping it low so that it will be secure and comfortable to work. You can prevent the edge of the workpiece from splitting when planing end grain by clamping a small scrap block to the edge.
The Veritas low-angle smooth and jack planes are ideal for use with a shooting board. The specially shaped lever cap and thumb recesses on the body enable the plane to be comfortably and firmly gripped with one hand during shooting.
The shooting board takes the weight of the plane, guides it to cut a perfectly square edge (or a bevelled edge if you want), and holds the workpiece in such a way as to prevent splintering of the end-grain fibers. Shooting boards can be as simple as illustrated or arranged in such a way as to shoot miters or configured with a molded stop to fit a matching molded profile.