Products That Perform: Pinnacle 40 1/2 Scrub PlaneComments (0)
This article is from Issue 56 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Pinnacle 401 ⁄ 2 Scrub Plane
A go-to tool when machines fall short
By Craig Bentzley
Flattening stock is an essential step in the milling process. These days, most of us use electric-powered jointers, but for centuries, cabinetmakers and carpenters relied on roughing, or scrub, planes. The most popular model was first introduced in the late 1800s. This plane, the venerable Stanley #401⁄2, was mass produced for nearly 50 years.
With a heavily cambered blade, no chip-breaker, and an extra-large mouth opening, this tool defies conventional hand-plane design. But unlike other planes made to produce whisper thin shavings, a scrub plane’s sole purpose is to hog off large amounts of wood. When properly sharpened and set, a scrub plane can remove material almost as fast as a handheld power planer.
If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you might snag one at an antique auction or flea market, but you don’t have to. Woodcraft now offers the Pinnacle 401⁄2–a brand new made in the USA scrub plane that takes all the right cues from its predecessor while offering noteworthy improvements.
The Pinnacle 401⁄2
In a side-by-side comparison with a vintage Stanley, I discovered that the Pinnacle sports some new details that improve longevity, performance, and feel. For starters, the body is made from ductile iron instead of cast-iron. This means that it won’t break should it topple from your bench. To better withstand the demands of roughing stock, the blade is made from tough A2 steel with a Rockwell hardness rating of 60-62. The blade is also 50% thicker (3⁄16"-thick) than the original Stanley blades, for more aggressive, chatter-free stock removal. Last but not least, the knob and tote have been upsized for maximum comfort.
So you’re asking yourself: Do I need one? If you use rough stock, the answer is yes; if you don’t, the answer is maybe. Once you learn how this tool works and what it can do for you, you’ll be better able to make a decision.
As a modern-day woodworker, I use electric-powered machinery whenever possible, but when working with boards wider than my jointer, I reach for my scrub plane. Used across the grain–usually taking diagonal passes as shown at left–this plane quickly levels twists, bows, and cups. (After this step, I can continue flattening the stock using my #5 and #7, or else enlist my thickness planer.) For this chore alone, my scrub plane earns its keep.
A scrub plane also offers a handy way to quickly remove material on the edge of a board. As with flattening, use the scrub to get the board to rough width and then use a jointer plane to finish the edge.
When used with the grain, a scrub plane’s heavily cambered blade creates a hand-hewn texture. This scalloped surface can add a nice tactile element to country-style furniture or timber-frame structures. Note: In this instance, the blade needs to be very sharp and the depth of cut reduced, or else the plane can cause severe tear-out, particularly in areas where the grain reverses direction.
Sharpening The Blade
The A2 steel blade will hold an edge for a long time, but at some point, you’ll need to resharpen the blade. This cambered blade defies common sharpening jigs, but fear not; freehand honing and grinding is not as hard as you might think.
Honing the micro bevel on a 3⁄16"-thick blade is easy. Rest a small sharpening stone (I prefer a super-fine diamond honing paddle) on the high points of the hollow-ground edge, and take six or so side-to-side passes until a burr forms on the back of the blade. Next, repeat the process using a ceramic or hard Arkansas stone. The honing process will establish a micro bevel on the leading edge as shown above right. (The back of the blade doesn’t need to have a mirror finish, but you should rub the polishing stone across the back of the blade to knock off the burr.)
After you use the plane for awhile, or if you want to customize the camber (I find the 3"-radius camber a bit too aggressive), you’ll need to regrind the edge. To do this, darken the back edge of the blade with a marker, and then use a square to scribe a line across the edge slightly back from the existing edge. Make a template for the desired radius, line it up so the radius touches the outer points of your scribed line, and then scribe the radius. Next, set your grinder’s tool rest to 30°, and grind the edge.
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