A Hacker's Guide to Hand Planes

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A snap-in blade mechanism transforms a basic block into a super smoother. 

Many woodworkers love using wedged-blade, wooden-bodied hand planes. But for me, the aggravation of tapping a blade into adjustment outweighs any romance. The Veritas plane hardware kit rekindled my interest by introducing a modern twist. The Norris-style mechanism makes adjusting the blade of a wooden plane as easy as any metal-bodied plane.

Mid-way through building my first Krenov-style body (top), I stumbled on this kit’s real (and surprisingly, yet unsung) benefit: the potential for major modifications. The adjustment mechanism, with its rare-earth magnet core, offers an easy means to play around with different sizes, shapes, and even plane bed angles. In theory, you can try out multiple designs for the cost of few steel cups and a metal rod (to make additional cross pins).

“Hacking” a plane isn’t as hard as it sounds. Using Veritas’ directions as a starting point, I did a short production run and came up with a few jigs and tricks to save time and ensure precision. 

Departing from the manufacturer’s basic body design, I added a tote and scalloped the rear end in the style of razee planes. Many old tool users think that razees feel and perform better than their square-bodied counterparts. They claim that lowering the tote aligns the force that’s being applied so that it’s right behind the blade.

Note: The manner in which the blade attaches to the kit’s mechanism allows it to be used bevel down or bevel up. “Flipping” the blade so that the bevel faces up transforms a standard bench plane into a high-angle (70°) smoother. At this angle, the plane requires more effort to push, but it’s better able to smooth figured woods without tearout.

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