Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Planing - General

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Put blocks under your planing form to elevate it off the work surface so you can reach under it.  It really helps in holding strips in place, in general cleanup, and in comfort.  (Ralph MacKenzie)

    How many blocks do you use?  Do you find that your form has a tendency to deflect in the center as you plane?  If it does deflect does that cause problems?   My guess is that you would have to support it more than just at the ends.  Maybe every 12 to 15 inches.  (Tim Wilhelm)

      I use one block under each end of the form.  I have not noticed significant deflection, but I haven't put a dial indicator on the middle looking for it, either.  Steel is pretty strong stuff!  Even if it did deflect a thou or two (and that's about all it would be doing, if anything), the groove would seem to me to still be "on dimension".  It really does make handling the strips a whole lot easier for me, and I can keep stuff handy right under the form.  My "bench" is a 2x6 with a 1x2 on each edge creating a small lip, so I don't have a lot of extra space for stuff.  Gotta have STUFF!  (Ralph MacKenzie)

    My forms have a block near each end, one in the approximate center, and one in between those on the ends. I machined them out of aluminum so that they have an L-shape.  This way every other one is turned the opposite direction so that the forms are held in place by the leg on the block. They raise the forms 1" above the work bench. Makes it much easier to hold the strips in place using that wonderful gift  of  the  opposable  thumb. (Martin-Darrell)


A great tip is to make a Medved beveler and make your untapered 60 degree strip.

To help maintain a level plane, start it off level. The way I do this is to place the rear of the plane on top of the form and the toe on the end of the cane. I know my plane is flat and my form is flat. When the blade contacts the cane it is exactly parallel to the form. Lift the rear of the plane from the form and keep it level and move forward. Plane away!

I am currently working on being able to mount a small bubble level to the plane. This will insure a level plane is kept level on those late nights.  (Adam Vigil)


Jack Howell in “The Lovely Reed” points out that standing a mirror at the end of your form will accomplish the leveling of the plane ( and in a continuing way, not just at start-off I might add, as "leaning into" the planing action often changes the plane's attitude with respect to the form) and says that that bit of insight is worth the price of his book. I had had some problems with the plane drifting off-level and it certainly helped me! Do it for a very short while and your wrist "learns" the correct feel holding the plane.  (Art Port)


I have tried all the various gloves for holding the bamboo in the form while planing, only pigskin holds up to the sharp edges of the bamboo.  It's very durable and protects my hands very well.  (Bob McElvain)


Do any of you wear gloves to protect your hand when planing?  I used to get sliced up quite a bit and I use some leather work gloves now, but I remember reading in a post not long ago about some rubber gloves from an OSH store.  I don't know what an OSH store is so I'm just wondering what you use for gloves.  (Hal Manas)

    I think OSH stands for Occupational Safety and Health.  And as for wearing leather gloves when I'm planing; too bloody right I do!  Like a lot of the other guys, I learned to do that the hard way : )  (Mike Roberts)

      The OSH I mentioned stands for Orchard Supply & Hardware, a chain store we have here in the states.  The gloves are called "Cut" gloves and sold under the Stanley brand name but I seen them sold  under a few other names as well. They're probably made in China or India. They're simple white canvas mule gloves that have been dipped in a course rubber coating. Not to be confused with the chemical resistant gloves that also rubber. They are also great for gripping things like a stuck pair of ferrules and such.  (Chris Wohlford the Ultimate Bamboo Fly Rod Library)

    I never wear gloves while planing.  Just lucky, I guess.  (Harry Boyd)

      No gloves!!  I protect my hands, when I can, by being careful.  When I am not careful, I often pay the price.  But, I never needed to make the same mistake more than two or three hundred times before I learned.  Nevertheless, no gloves!!  (Bill Harms)

        I probably should explain my earlier post.  Even the thinnest latex gloves like the proctologist wears prevent a great deal of tactile sensation. I don't know how to say this without sounding like I'm bragging, so I'll just plunge forward.  I can really feel what's going on as I'm planing.  If the strips are a thousandth above the form, I can feel that.  If the strip slips as I'm planing, I feel it, and know that it's either time to sharpen or to back the plane blade up a little.  If there is a bump at a node, I can feel it better than I can see it.  If the grain is tearing at the node, I feel it, not just see it.  To enhance that sense of feel, I wear no glove or any kind of protection on either hand.

        My hands aren't as tough as Channer's, no question.  In fact, they are soft as ladies hands. I don't even wear gloves when splitting.   Yes, I get some cuts and splinters, but no one ever said making rods was pain free.  Again, I like being able to feel what's going on.  I did have a problem about two culms ago when I sliced my thumb pretty good and got blood all over the bamboo.  But blood doesn't soak into the enamel very well, so nothing was lost.  :-)

        I just got a beveler a few weeks ago, and I did wear finger cots while operating it.  And I wear heavy gloves while flaming because the cane gets too hot to handle.  But those are about the only times I concede the need for gloves.

        Even though I constantly warn beginners in my articles that bamboo will cut you in a hundred different ways, I'd suggest that you wear gloves only as little as you feel is necessary for safety.  Not from a macho standpoint - "Be Tough!", but from a touchy, feely perspective.  (Harry Boyd)

          You can also "hear" the sound your plane makes when every thing is right . . . or wrong!   I empty the mouth of my plane after every pass.  The shape of the chips tell you what's going on at the cutting edge.  (Ted Knott)

    If the strip is putting up a struggle it's time to sharpen the iron.  (Tony Young)

    Way back in '09 when I used to plane on the forms, I never did use gloves. The finger cots were good for holding the strip in position in the forms with less finger pressure.  I rarely cut myself, and only occasionally got splinters. The only time I use gloves now is when I'm roughing with the power beveler. I've completely shredded gloves in this manner, despite trying my best to keep a good grip.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I used to wear gloves but put that practice aside as I found it awkward for final planing, although once in a great while I wear them for splitting.  I have hardly ever cut myself, now splinters, that is another matter.  (Bret Reiter)

    One big advantage of clamping the strip is that you can usually dispense with the gloves without getting cut. If you are down nearly to the forms, the strip may in fact just slip forward, but you aren't holding it with your fingers.

    At that stage, I just put a little piece of that sort of non skid plastic stuff about 1" X 1/2" between the strip  and the clamp. I have no idea what it's called, but it's absolutely everywhere, and it's as cheap as chips.  This stuff has a million uses on the workbench.  (Peter McKean)

    Kevlar gloves here. Only on the left hand while planing and both hands while running the beveler. No cuts but splinters can get through the mesh. They breath and do not restrict the hands at all.  (Adam Vigil)

    I wear one glove on the left hand while holding the plane in my dominant, right. It handles all the bamboo holding and touching. It is calf skin not too unnatural. I can pick up things.  It protects me from all cuts and 99% splinters.  I never slide my finger up the form with a bamboo split in it. They are usually sharp enough to cut. I did this once and it was like running my finger on a blade, I drip stained my bench but no stitches.  (Rex Tutor)

    I have said it before here, but once again-----

    I do not like to wear gloves at all.  Yes I have cut myself numerous times, and had more than my share of splinters, but with experience, one learns not to do those things that contribute to injuries.  The only time I use gloves at all is when I am working with a tough piece of cane, or a dull blade (never), and I need to hold the strip precisely. Then I use a latex surgeon's glove on my left hand.  Works for me, but if you have tender hands, then maybe welders gloves are best.   (Ralph Moon)

    I use rubber finger tips that you can get at office max.  They allow me to grip the cane better than gloves when I'm planing.  (Tim Stoltz)

    I like the Atlas "Fit" gloves from Home Depot. Cloth on the back - blue rubber on the fingers & palms. Not as good as leather in terms of protection, but you can pick stuff up with them & get a better grip than with bare fingers.

    When planing, I wear a glove on my left hand. Helps hold the strip in place & you don't get splinters. No glove on the right hand that holds the plane. I wear gloves on both hands when splitting. (Tom Bowden)


It has just been brought home to me this afternoon that just because a lesson happens to be one that you have learned many times  before doesn't mean  that it's not still worth learning.

Here is my best piece of advice, my very best....

When you are having trouble  with a strip,  any kind of trouble at all, and it's not doing what you want it to do nor going the way that you want it to go, STOP.

Take the blade out of your block plane, and no matter whether you have just sharpened the bloody thing six passes ago, SHARPEN IT . Take your time. Do it properly. I am talking mirror surfaces here!

Then go back to your problem strip, and if you are like me, you will find that about nine times out of ten  the problem has gone away.

Cane gremlins are frightened of sharp edges; either that or they have some doubts about the stability and safety of the kind of people who sharpen them that obsessively.

And maybe, just maybe, the time it takes to resharpen might give you a little breather in which to think about why the glitch happened in the first place,  to have a cup of tea, let the dog out for a pee, say hello to your wife, and generally defragment the old disc (the gray, floppy one beneath your hat, that is).

I don't have any idea what you do if you are not a hand planer. I guess that you never have problem strips in the first place, maybe.  (Peter McKean)


I have finally gotten to the point which I felt was the hardest thing for me as a new rodmaker. That is allowing the plane and its own weight do the work. The wrist and hand are not as sore lately. :-)  (Jim Tefft)

    Big step.  Of course it's possible that you've also developed some additional muscular strength in your planing arm!   (Harry Boyd)

    Try a bench plane and holddown clamps, like Tom Smithwick's pictures a couple weeks ago. Definitely the way to go. You will be able to plane as long as you want with no pain at all.  (Darryl Hayashida)


For those that are using bench planes, do you get a lot of chatter? I'm presently using a LN # 3 and enjoy it. I take the cane within about 0.020" of the forms and switch over to a Record 9 1/2 for the final cuts. Seems like it takes about 2 passes/side so that the 9 1/2 will take a full curl. The first 2 passes after the LN the cane comes off in short segments. It happens on both side and for the last 2 rods.

Any ideas?  (Don Anderson)

    It sounds to me like your forms are not level. The shorter plane is following the irregularities, and the long one is straddling the dips. Chatter is a very unlikely problem with a Lie-Nielsen, but if you had it you would see the marks on the cane surface. If you have a smooth surface, you don't have chatter.  (Tom Smithwick)

      The LN #3 does take a full curl cut of 0.004". The 9 1/2 takes a 0.002" cut. Not sure about the forms not being level. A straight edge says they are. Will check them again.  (Don Anderson)

    Does anyone use the little LN #1 Bench plane ? It's mighty cute!  (Marty DeSapio)

      I have one, and like it. It's good for finishing up, but too hard to hold for all the time use. If you are only going to get one plane, get a #2 or a #3.  They are much more substantial tools, and make the work easier.  (Tom Smithwick)

    If you are having trouble with keeping the apex on top, I fought this for a long time, about gave up hand planing. Then I discovered that the blade on the Stanley 9 1/2 was sticking down further on one side than the other, regardless of how you adjusted it right or left. I took the plane apart, and filed on the throat, until the blade sticking out the bottom was a nice level edge all the way across. ( You need to assemble the plane and check the blade that way each time you file on the throat). I have zero problems keeping the strips at 60 degrees now, and my rods have never had tighter joints. It made all the difference. Hope this will help someone somehow.

    I also use a portable planer to reduce my strips to workable dimensions, and no longer have a need for rough planing. It's really helped out quite a bit.  (Jerry Andrews)


Since I haven't gotten around to making a really nice set of planing form risers, thought you might want to know a cheap, cheesy looking, but great working setup.  I cut three 2 x 4's to about 6" long, picked up a roll of that non-slip shelf liner from Wally World, and a can of 3M 77 spray, also from said Wally World.  I outlined the 2 x 4's on the non-slip, two pieces for each 2 x 4, for the top and bottom.  Then sprayed the 3M 77 in a nice dust coat on the 2 x 4's, and pressed the non-slip on both sides.  Works like a champ.  The blocks won't slide on the bench top, and the planing form won't slide on the blocks.  The 2 x 4's are high enough to fit spring clamps onto the planing forms, and it lifts the planing forms high enough so that planing is quite comfortable.  Someday, I'll probably get around to building a high tech planing form riser setup, but hey, these guys work just fine for now.  (Mark Wendt)


This is something that most of the guys that have been making rods are aware of, but could be really frustrating to some new guys/gals.

If you are getting areas that look like chips at the nodes, it might be. But again, it could be something other. If, you straighten your strips, and do NOT get the node area flat, both top & bottom and on the sides, the area NOT flat on the sides, can create a void, that will run from the plane. Even in the form, it will run from the plane, and ALWAYS be a void. Then upon glue up, it appears as a chip, or an area that appears to have been ground away by the rod binder. ( I thought initially it was my binder supports smacking them, which they can, but I'd bet it's the node preparation). So before planing, sight down the strips, and if the node has a " toss" in it, side to side, get it out of there before that strip goes into the form. It can haunt you!  Mechanically, the plane blade CAN'T reach the area with the dip. It will glide over it, and when the cane sinks lower and lower into the final dimension, the " dip " will now be below the surface of the other cane that has been planed. Think about it. It's on the enamel side as well, and THAT'S where it's gonna show!  (Jerry Andrews)


Hey, warning to the newbies! They never tell you about the cramps in the hands. I was planing some scarfs for a nodeless I’m building and my thumb cramped. The sucker bent over in a right angle and caused me to &*^%%$#@ a blue streak. It has been 2 days now and the muscles to the thumb are still sore.  (Jim Tefft)

    One of the reasons I use a clamp to hold the strip and a two handed bench plane. A bench plane is also easier on the arms and shoulders.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      There is a condition known as 'joiners thumb' or 'carpenters thumb' which is akin to a form of repetitive strain injury. I know of one old rod builder now in his late eighties who has had to stop building rods because hand planing is just too painful - true! (Paul Blakley)

    Foul, foul, foul!  Jim didn't you take the newbies oath and sign the rod builders nondisclosure statement prior to building your first rod, we can't be telling new builders that building cane rods can be hazardous to your health, now you'll be branded a rebel just like Bob Nunley, who has elected to freely share his mishaps with the rest of us.  (Bob Williams)

      Bob doesn't just hurt himself, he's elevated self-injury to an art form.  I've witnessed his skill in this area with my own eyes and quickly realized I was in the presence of a master.  He didn't actually hurt himself on this occasion but his talent in this area was clearly demonstrated.

      It was early this year in the days leading up to the "Real SRG" in NZ, and Ian Kearney had taken Bob and I out for a spot of late afternoon fishing.  It was a bit of a drive to our destination, so a couple of the local ales were sampled along the way, with the usual results:  Bob felt Nature's call and wandered off to "see a man about a horse".

      Now, unlike the land of Oz, New Zealand isn't crawling with all sorts of nasties which bite you, sting you, eat you, kill you and otherwise make a stroll in the bush quite hazardous for the uninitiated.  Of course, New Zealand promotes this pleasant aspect of itself and Bob nearly fell for it. As he sauntered off towards a likely looking spot, removing his "equipment" from his shorts along the way, Ian and I carried on chatting and it was only by sheer luck that one of us decided to point something out to Bob.  Upon turning we both stared in horror, then started yelling just in time to save Bob from a pretty horrible experience.

      The nice little patch of creeper that Bob intended to irrigate was actually a rather fearsome example of Rubis fruticosus : otherwise known as the dreaded blackberry.  You could nail a house together with the thorns on these things!  Not only that, from the angle Ian and I were at, we could see that this creeper covered the top of a small but very steep cliff  and almost  seemed to grow out into thin air.  One or two more steps would have seen Bob plummeting down the cliff, through the blackberry thicket, and into the river clutching his dangerously exposed wedding tackle on the way.  I shudder to think of the injuries he might have suffered and have no idea how Ian and I would have rescued him.  I still have the nightmares but I'm getting better.

      Please note: Some details in this story may have been slightly exaggerated for the sake of a good yarn.  (Mike Roberts)

    For the first rod I had to scrape using a razor blade because I didn't have all the tools just yet.  The pressure from scraping wore down the ligaments in my thumb joint and caused it to dislocate.  Took two months for it to heal and would pop out of the joint every time I moved it the wrong way, and needed to be reset by pulling it out and setting it back in.  Ouch, still hurts just thinking about it.  (Kyle Druey)

    Try this. Use a weight lifters glove with padding in the palm and if you are cramping it is a sign you may be low in Potassium and Magnesium and Calcium.  Get a good supplement or eat a bunch of bananas. This goes for the rest of you also.  (Adam Vigil)


Wax the outside "shoulders" of the sole of your grooved plane, using a high quality hard Carnuba wax. You will experience a dramatic reduction of planing effort, which then can be translated into greater control of the plane once you get used to it. Anticipating the usual question - No I don't get any transfer of wax to the strip, at least any that I can see or affects the glue adherence.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I've always waxed my plane sole for general wood work and also for bamboo. I use whatever car wax is in the garage, or Boeshield spray. (I use Boeshield on all my saw tables, and exposed, unpainted metal.  Great stuff.)  (Brian Creek)


I started planing on my 5th rod this morning, but I still consider myself a newbie.  I tried something that I haven't seen on the list so far, so I thought that I would share.  Last year I always used a leather glove on my left hand to hold the spline in the form while I planed.  After the finger tips were splashed with bamboo cuts, I switched to a combination of those rubber finger tips in the glove.  It worked but it was a little clumsy.  This morning I used a glove made knitted out of Kevlar thread (I bought it for big game hunting).   What a difference!  After rough planing 2 sections today, I had no cuts and there are no cuts to the glove.  I don't know how long it will last, but I plan to keep on using it.  (Mark Lenarz)

    I find just using the finger cots without gloves works the easiest for me.  (Tim Stoltz)

      Right on Tim, the finger cots are the answer and have been using them for years. Never cut fingers.  (Jack Follweiler)


I'm totally frustrated.  Until my last two rods I never cared about .002 but I feel good enough now to hit the numbers dead on or as close as I'd like. The last 4 strips in a row I hit the numbers right on for the enamel and  one other side.  The third side was exactly .002 too large.  I've used different planes, sanded my forms dead level (or at least I think so) passed a file down the middle to correct any problems and the next four came out exactly with the same problem.  Any suggestions would be terribly appreciated.  (Dennis Aebersold)

    I'll make a couple of suggestions.  First, check the forms to see if the process of setting each station torques them out of alignment just a little.  I've had that happen.  It's easy to over tighten forms.  Two fingers is all it takes on the allen wrench.  Second, it's not only possible but common to get triangular files which aren't true 60's.  Take your screw gauge to the hardware store and check through a batch of files.  You'll find about one in four is correct on all three sides.  Not sure why, but that's my findings.  Guys at the two local hardware stores are accustomed to seeing me with dial calipers and 60 degree screw gauges in hand.  They just grin and shake their heads.

    If either of these is the problem you should be able to find it with a screw gauge and a flashlight.    Lay the light on your forms.  Hold the screw gauge in the groove, square and straight up and down.  View from the side opposite the light.  If you see any light seeping through, your forms need work.

    Been there, done that.  Lost a few more hairs.  (Harry Boyd)

      You have offered some good advise here.  (Joe Byrd)

        You know Dennis, you might also try Jim Bureau's trick.  Tape the spines together with masking tape every inch and measure the blank between the tape. why? Because it is the dimensions of the blank that you are most interested and when you put the measuring device on the peak you can depress it a bit and you can be getting an erroneous reading. This process might also give you a view to a problem you might not discover otherwise. This isn't in contrast to what harry said just another thing. Also when you measure the blank and before you tape it together plane or sand the inner peaks a bit. they will fit better for measuring. Measure twice and cut once or as my cousin Rodney says, "I cut it off twice and it's still too short!".   (Timothy Troester)

      Just a guess, couldn't it be your dial caliper has a dull point so that when zero it in it shows 0 where it should be 0 plus .002?? Just a thought..  (Geert Poorteman)

        Seems to me in order to get the condition you are experiencing I would check the following:

        Something may not be right with the groove in your forms. Either the groove is not 60° or the groove is not perpendicular to the top surface. Using a screw gage and a square block will tell you which or if either is off.

        If your forms are OK, the only other possibility I can think of is the way you are scraping the strips for final dimensions. If the forms are OK and you are not scraping down to the forms, I'd check the scraper to see if the blade is parallel with the top surface of the forms.  (Don Schneider)


Here's one for the newbies out there. 

I had paid little attention to the throat opening on my plane.  My first two blanks came out fine (in my eyes), then the nightmare began.  I began lifting out huge (they all look big when taking the last few passes on a strip) slivers of cane.  I began screwing around with the angle on the plane iron.  Problem solved.  Oh, hold on now, it is taking forever to plane a strip now. 

OK plane iron is back to 30 degrees.  #!%&*%)#!&%!_#&%!_##!!!! I lifted another chunk!!!

Light bulb comes on.  If I close the throat like I supposed to it won't be possible to fit a #$%! chunk through the plane!  Hot damn I'm cranking now!  Plane is gliding along with no pressure, cane is peeling off, and my hand doesn't fell like I crushed it in a vise.

So the lesson is 1) follow instructions 2) even amongst the BS there is valuable information.  (Lee Orr)


Has anyone ever tested any of these:  QUALITY RALI® SWISS HAND PLANES  (Which  Supposedly), NEVER NEED SHARPENING Does anyone know anything about if they would be suitable for bamboo work?  I see these ads every so often and wonder if they really are the wonder they claim to be.  (Dick Steinbach)

    Tom Smithwick speaks very highly of them.  (Darrol Groth)

    The Rali plane will plane bamboo nicely. The blades will last a long time in most woodworking applications, but I would expect to go through two blades per rod. Cane and steel are a tough combination. On the plus side, the plane needs no tuning, and the blade is set at a good angle and of high quality. If you build a holding jig, you can resharpen the blades instead of tossing them. The downside is that fine adjustment of the blade for finish planing is tricky.

    I don't use mine much anymore, having gone over to the two handed camp.  (Tom Smithwick)


A few weeks ago I posted about picking up some block planes in antique stores.  I’ve been reading the archives (and rod makers tips) for tuning planes.  There is some really great information in the rod makers tips pages.

In addition to the three Stanley 9 ½ planes, I picked up one Stanley #18 plane that is in really good condition.  The #18 has an adjustable throat and a nice fine blade adjustment. 

Can any of you tell me the primary difference between the Stanley 9 ½ and the Stanley #18 block plane?  The angles appear to be the same at a glance.  Both have adjustable throats and allow fine movement of the blade up and down as well as a right/left lever for ensuring a square blade. 

I’m at the point that I’m going to start the rough planing of rod #2 (a 6 wt. PHY Martha Marie).  Rod #1 was made using a Morgan Hand Mill, so this is a totally new learning curve. 

My attempts at creating the initial 60 degree angle using scrap strips were only so-so.  The rough form I’m using is cut at 30 degree and 55 degree.  I’ve read in the tips and archive sections that some makers swear by only using a 30 degree/30 degree form for roughing the strips. 

I suppose that I will simply run a few more scrap strips in both roughing forms and see which produce best results for me. 

By the way, Rod #1 (4 wt. PHY Driggs River) fished like a champ on Memorial Day.  I fished a Cascade lake (Timothy Lake) in Oregon and ran into a four hour long mayfly hatch.  It was a pleasure to hook Rainbows and Kokanee for four hours on dry flies.  Sunday I also fished this lake and hooked a few Brook trout and a couple of Cutthroats.  Four species in two days on the same lake all on dry flies (no question that Rainbows fight the best inch for inch).  Pretty fair fishing weekend.  Oh, I managed my first double hookup.  (Scott Turner)

    The essential Stanley reference.

    If your 18 looks like a 9-1/2, there is something wrong. The 18 has a knuckle joint lever cap, and the same adjustment nut as a 9-1/2. Aside from the lever cap, they are essentially the same plane. Be certain to read the text, there is a first and second design lever cap. The first design was prone to breakage, and will need to be handled with this knowledge in mind if you are going to put it in use.  (Larry Blan)

    Various books say different angles for the rough form, from 52.5° to 57°, so the 55° OUGHT to work.  be sure to keep the enamel on the 55° side.  (Neil Savage)


I have tried various types of gloves and my favorite Is the the orange finger cot.  There are many types, but the only ones I was ever happy with are a made of a heavy duty rubber.  I also tried this tape that Lee Valley had that was a green fabric and I wrapped it around my finger tips.  I could then remove them and reuse them as finger tip protectors.  In the end I don't use any gloves, but have made a few trips to the ER room for stitches.  I have found that I want the dexterity and  I lost that with gloves or cots.  I also found that I cut myself I probably tried to take off too much, take too deep a cut or was just rushing  too much.    (Mark Babiy)

    I don't use gloves for dexterity reasons. I hold down the strip with an eraser while I plane.  (Hank Woolman)


I tried all kinds of gloves, leather, mechanics, and those freezer gloves with the little knobbies all over them and, after spending that period of time slashing my fingers up to the point that I look like I was attacked by a miniature axe murderer, I found a Kevlar glove at Woodcraft. The thing is great, although a little pricey at about $20. Slash proof and the open weave of the material keeps my sweaty mitts cooler. I just hold down the strip with a piece of that rubber weave pattern cabinet drawer liner and have at it...

What secret tricks are you guys using for holding strips and "personal protection" (for cuts, not bamboo warts, although we should all avoid having "unsafe sets" with our strips!)?  (Mike Givney)

    I have my forms on 1" blocks to hold them above the work bench. Using a finger protector on one jaw of a spring clamp for a hold down. Easy to move around.

    The Kevlar Gloves sound interesting, think I'll give them a try. Thanks for the tip. I've been using Pigskin Gloves when not making crimson rods :>)  (Don Schneider)

      I use gloves that that can be found in lots of places, most commonly called gardening gloves: they have a sticky rubber on the palms and fingers which makes it easy to keep strips from slipping in the form. Lee Valley tools has them in both light and thermal weight versions. These are stretchy enough so that you can get a snug fit and so not too clumsy when using them.  (Henry Mitchell)

      I picked up some fabric gloves at  Home Depot for something else - these have the palms and fingers coated with vinyl and give a great grip.  They are about $7 and 2 pair have lasted all summer.  I am not planing anything at this time - the new shop is about 2 months away (finally), nearly ready to pour retaining walls and slab, then a several weeks for walls and ceiling.

      BTW, I mentioned way back that anyone in the N GA, SE TN area could pick up sheets of laminate flooring that have not been cut into boards for less that $5 per 4 1/2' X 8 1/2' sheets.   This stuff is great for bench tops, etc.  I am going to use it for the walls as it is about the same price as drywall, nearly bulletproof, waterproof so there is no issue of mold in the basement and no moisture transmission.  Will paint as that would be too much wood grain to look at.  If anyone has any interest, contact me off-line for a couple of sources.   (Carey Mitchell)


Who on the list planes uphill?  (Chris Raine)

    I just started to plane uphill in September after going to the Catskill gathering and seeing a nice set of uphill planes with vacuum attachments that kept the strips tight to the form. It makes it nicer to plane the longer two piece strips, not having to take that half step to reach the end of the strip. Mine are a simple affair. I built a base that supports the form and raises the left end 10 inches.  (Mike Givney)

    I know my shop floor isn't exactly level, so I may be planing uphill.  Or I may be planing downhill.  I'll have to get the level out...  I think Tim Abbot was the fella that had the very nicely done fixture that holds your planing forms on a slope.  He showed it at the CRG a couple of years ago.  (Mark Wendt)

    Russ Gooding at Golden Witch swears by planing uphill.  He says once you've tried it you'll never go back to level.  (Ron Larsen)

    I plane up hill and have found it quite comfortable.  Russ Gooding says in his video that a 8 degree slope is ergonomically more comfortable.  I built a ramp at 8 degrees.  Based upon the video, I am planing considerably more up hill than his ramp appears to, but they both appear to work.  Mine is not nearly so fancy as the ones he sells, but it works fine.  All it has to do is hold the planing form.  The idea of a vacuum holding the strip sounds interesting.  I do not have sliding clamps on mine, suction sounds like a better option.  My bench is a little low anyway, so the ramp allows a more comfortable height, and it discourages my pressing into the form with too much weight.  I must agree that it is more comfortable, particularly when planing crossed arms.  All in all, I doubt I'll go back to level planing.  (Russell Dabney)


I just wanted to report some preliminary results from an experiment.  As a number of you know, my legs have gone over the hill and I can stand for only a few minutes.  It makes planing very difficult.  The other day I grabbed a belt sander and loaded it up with a fifty grit belt and laid it in my metal rough plane in about 30 minutes I had all the strips rough planed .  I was feeling complacent about this, thinking I had saved a lot of time and could finish the strips with the old 9 1/2 Stanley.  Then a wild Idea kicked in.  Why not use a less aggressive grit and see how much more you can shave off.  Well I have not finished any strips with the 150 grit, but I just did half of a strip with it and got about 24" of finished cane beginning about .100 and dropping to about .75.  The strip is very clean and no boo boos Finally all of this I have done sitting down.  Maybe I am not done as a rod builder yet.  I am shooting to have this glued up by the first of April, but I have some surgery to get over in the next week or so.  Nothing major, but I need a new cardiac defibrillator, and I must go to Salt Lake City to have it done, then I am on the bench for three or four weeks.  (Ralph Moon)

    Way to go!  I've done some preliminary work with a sander too.  It does make nice strips, but throws a heckuva mess all over the shop.

    Be careful with that belt sander and the defibrillator though.... seems a few years back those with pacemakers and defibrillator were advised not to use power tools which might have strong magnetic fields.  At least ask the Doc if'n it's okay.  (Harry Boyd)

    I have often considered using my little Black and Decker power plane for roughing in, then the small hand plane for finishing. However, I have yet to build a rod, still have to get finish forms and some cane to play with.  (Jimi Genzling)

      Had a friend who used a power plane with some unhappy results. Seems he got a little close then the shrapnel flew!!! Luckily no one was hurt.  (Dale Bostic)

        Lon Blauvelt uses a power planer and steel forms as part of his rough tapering. He applies an adhesive-backed Teflon film to the sole of the planer, behind the blade only. I forget how many mil thick it is, but it allows him to get the blade close to the form without hitting it. I tried it myself but the power planer and my tennis elbow didn't agree with each other and I hated the way the planer blades kept spinning after you released the trigger.  (Henry Mitchell)

          For what it's worth. I have a Black & Decker power plane. I consider it to be the most dangerous tool in my arsenal. I would highly suggest only using it for what it was intended- planning the bottom of doors.  (Don Schneider)

    First of all here's wishing you the best with your physical problems. As for sanding I've been sanding for a long time now for the final passes with 120 grit. One thing for sure is that the glue joints come out perfect.  (Ray Gould)

      I remember your using a power sander but I thought that it was only for roughing out.  I didn't know you used it for final.  (Ralph Moon)

    More on my work with a belt sander.  Yesterday I really did it.  I had the tip section all ready for a few passes of the plane and to get them out of my way I stuck  them upright in my waste basket.  In the meantime I was doing the final two strips of the butt and since some little gremlin did something bad to my heat gun, I had an alcohol lamp burning.  I didn't notice, but the ends of the tip were all about 12"  above the flame on the alcohol lamp.  Much to my consternation all of a sudden flaming pieces of bamboo come raining down on my work bench.  I think that there might be one or maybe two strips that do not show scorching.  A couple were in actual flames.  Secondly as effective as the belt sander is, I do not think that I can continue to use it without a mask.  When I cannot see through the dust haze, my fingers are at risk. Anyway, it’s still a good way to remove a lot of wood fast.  I have to go down and split some more strips.  (Ralph Moon)


I'm finishing up rod number 6 and I've still not figured out how to consistently correct my angles. When the pieces are oversized, I don't have much of a problem simply tilting my plane one way or another but when I get down to say .010 oversized I run into problems.

Let's say I'm trying to hit .095. A typical problem is that one angle is too acute and before I know it I'm at something like .097 - .115 with the enamel flat being something in between.

The Maurer book says plane the short side, which I do but then I end up with something like .094 - .110 and while this is better, it doesn't really help. Tilting the plane helps but not nearly enough to correct the error.

I seem to have more of a problem with the larger pieces than the smaller. Any suggestions would be appreciated.  (Jim Lowe)

    One thing I've found is you MUST have at least a narrow flat on the enamel side or the strip rolls in the form and I NEVER can get the angles right.  I would also appreciate any other suggestions from more experienced makers.  (Neil Savage)

      Agree 110%.  The rounded enamel face will let the strip twist under planing pressure pretty easily.  Bigger strips tend to take more "force" to plane, and/or more pressure to get the sweeps to sit down in the form, and this compounds the twisting problem (not to mention more of a crown on the enamel face of a large strip).

      One thing that works for me is to check my angles as soon as I get the strip 100% on the final form, and 2-3 stations before it reaches the final position, and every station thereafter.  I take enamel off and flatten at that 2-3 stations  before the finish line point, and do my best to get the angles right before proceeding.  If you're within 0.005" of equilateral, you can probably proceed, and have everything come out.  Measure all the station locations along the length of the strip, as those twists have a nasty habit of popping up over the course of a station or two, and not along the rest of the strip, or vice versa.

      Helpful hint:  When you find yourself off-angle, and don't have a lot of cane to play with, it's often useful to take a single-edge razor blade, and scrape against the pith side apex to lean it back over to center.  Not the entire face, just the apex, at a quite shallow angle to the face.  This gets you back toward equilateral with the minimum removal of material.  Also tends to leave a bit of a crown on that face, so it's a good idea to resume your planing with that face up in the form, to re-level the face, or you can scrape it level to the top of the form before resuming planing.  (Todd Enders)

        Certainly makes sense.  Also, the flatter the nodes and the straighter the strips BEFORE planing, the better.  (Neil Savage)

          I agree with all of the points already made, but I think we are missing one more that is equally important.  You can't make an elephant slip through a teething ring, and you cannot hold a large triangle , .100" on a side, steady in a planing form groove of .045.  You must reduce the tip measurements to the approximate size of the groove, before you can keep the angle.  So start the strip with the small end up at the fat end of the planing form.  Another thing keep looking at the angle as you plane.  The eye can be trained to discern the angle quite well, and any deviation from equilateral must be repeat must corrected at ONCE not after a few more passes of the plane.  I find a flaw uncorrected will continue to grow always.  (Ralph Moon)

            Ralph brings up an important point, in order for the strip to be stable in the form, no tendency to twist, the sides must be supported by more than half the depth. Went nuts trying to maintain angles until the light turned on in my dim brain on this one.  (Don Schneider)

            This is certainly true and I've got it covered. I remove most of the cane from the spline before moving it up the form into the final position.  (Jim Lowe)

              In Todd's web site, under contraptions is Mr. Bokstrom’s dial indicator for measuring strips and if the two side measurements are equal the angle is correct it not it tells you what side is off. It has an anvil in the base for measuring the strip and is the best one I have ever used.  (Patrick Coffey)

        That last suggestion is worth a try. I had been scraping to try and correct things but instead of scraping the apex, I was scraping the far corner.

        The curved enamel may be part of the problem. The last 3 rods I've experimented with removing the enamel after planing.  (Jim Lowe)

    Some other thoughts on this:  As a general rule, the wider/thicker the finished strip is, the straighter it needs to be going in to the form.  Tip strips are often narrow enough that the "wows" can confirm to the sides of the V-groove  under normal planing pressure.  Thicker strips are less conformant, and would require more down force to hug the sides of the groove.  Too much down force, especially with a hand plane and a curved enamel face is pretty much asking for trouble. Dips, coming into or leaving a nodal area are the worst offenders.

    Also agree that once the angles are off, more planing w/o correction often makes things worse, especially early on in final planing.  One side will be unsupported to a greater or lesser degree, and some degree of twisting is pretty much a certainty.  (Todd Enders)

    You have received some great advice, most of which I would be willing to second.  Perhaps a little too much emphasis has been placed on the necessity of creating a flat spot on the enamel side to rest against the forms, but only a little too much.  You can get good angles with rounded enamel edges, but it takes more caution.  The reason rounded strips rock in the forms is that most of us use dull blades and are forced to mash the strip down to get the plane to cut.  With a truly sharp plane you can handle the curvature of the enamel side.

    Let me reinforce a couple of things that have been said, and advance a few ideas of my own.  As has been said it IS  important to get your angles correct as soon as possible.  But that isn't always easy.  I have probably sent more strips to the bone pile for bad angles than any other reason.  I'm working on rod #'s 96, 97, and 98 and still find myself chasing good angles.

    I rough the strips out on a beveler.  My beveler is capable of taking strips down to final taper, but isn't nearly accurate enough for my tastes.  I usually put a taper in butt strips which is about 50 - 80 thousandths oversized.  I then move to the final planing form.  I always set the taper in the shallowest  part of the forms which will accommodate the desired final dimensions; and extend the dimensions out larger and larger all the way to the deepest end of the form.  I initially set the taper .003" oversized at every station.

    When I begin planing, I have only the tip-most 15" or so of the strip in the forms.  I make three passes on one side, then three passes on the second side.  Those six passes take out any roughness from the beveler.  Then I grab the calipers and start measuring.  I hold the tip end of the strip up.  I measure side A (one pith side), then side B (the other pith side), then side C (the enamel side to the pith apex).  I always measure in the same order.  Every single time.  And I remember the three measurements.    I correct the measurements --- one station at a time.

    When measured the way I do it, if side A is the largest number, I know I need to lean the plane away from me.  If side B is the largest, I need to lean the plane towards me.  If side C is the largest, the apex needs to be reduced by leaning the plane that way one pass per side.  (I could show you this in a few minutes, but describing it in writing takes a lot longer)

    Let's say my three measurements are .145, .140, .140.  I'll lean the plane away from me and place the strip in the form in such a way that as I'm cutting I reduce the width of the enamel side.  With my plane set to make shavings of .005", I'll usually make two passes.  Then measure again.  Chances are I'll be close to equilateral.  If not within .001" on all three sides, I cut again, repositioning the strip, the plane, or both as needed to bring the triangles back to equilateral.

    When the tip-most station is correct, I move to the next station and repeat the process.  Often each station in each internodal area is off in the same direction.  Stations at nodes can get really screwy.

    When all the stations I have planed (remember I have only planed the tip-most 3-4 stations at all) are correct, I move the strip forward 5".  Then I make three passes on each side and repeat the process.  Usually those stations corrected the first time are still correct.   If not,  I work  them over again.   The butt-most stations I just planed usually require some correction.  Repeat the process above.

    Move the strip forward another five inches and repeat.  And repeat, and repeat.

    Once the entire strip is equilateral (THIS IS IMPORTANT) I pull the strip back towards the large end of the form till the tip-most 15" or so is all that protrudes above the form.  Now I'll change planes.  I go to a plane that cuts only .004" shavings.  I plane with the strip in that position till I 'm taking metal.   Then I move the strip forward, closer towards its final destination by 5 inches

    As soon as the entire strip is in the form, I change to a plane that cuts only .003" per pass.  And I recheck everything.  If any stations are out of whack, I correct them again.  I plane down to metal, turning after each pass.  When I can take no more bamboo off, I move the strips up another 5 inches.  Switch to a plane taking .002" shavings.  Plane to metal again.  By this point the strip is usually about 3-4 inches downstream (towards its final place) of the forms.  I measure again, and make any minor corrections necessary.  Then I switch to a plane which makes the tiniest shavings imaginable and move the strip forward about 1" per pass.  Once the strip is in its final position I shave down to the metal again.

    Now measure each station, and write the measurements on the form with a Sharpie.  It should be EXACTLY .003" oversized.  Remember that I set the forms .003" large?  Chances are very good that some stations need to be closed by .003", but others may need .002" or .004".  Reset the forms as necessary.  Then while taking whisper-thin shavings, plane again to metal.  Remeasure.  If any stations need a little more off, you can readjust the forms.  Obviously, this process of resetting the forms is only done on the first strip.

    WOW, I've written an article and didn't even mean to!

    A couple more things worth mentioning if you've stuck with me this far.

    A.   Straight strips are much, much more fun to plane.  Spend whatever time is needed to get them straight before planing and the time saved will be worthwhile in the long run.

    A+   Get the angles correct early, then keep them correct.  The method I've described will help with that.  So will training wheels on your plane as described first by John Bokstrom.

    B.  Almost ZERO downward pressure should be placed on the plane.  I hold the plane with my fingers on each side.  No index finger on the brass nut which hold the mouth in place.  Putting the index finger there tempts one to push down on the plane.  As close to 100% of your energies as possible should be moving the plane forward.  Let the weight of the plane work for you.

    C.   Dare I say it????  Sharpen your blades.  If your blade isn't sharp, you simply must press  downward to get any shaving at all.  If you're having to press down, your blades need sharpening.

    D.   One last thing.... are your blades sharp?

    E.   One more last thing for real, are your blades sharp?  If not, you'll get bad angles every single time.

    Hope these ideas prove helpful.  I'm sure there are other ways of doing this just as effective.  But this is what works for me.  (Harry Boyd)

      Great description of good technique, Harry.  BUT did you remember to tell him to keep his blades sharp?  (Ralph Moon)

    Check that your blade is absolutely square to the bottom of the plane, if it is skewed even a little bit it will cut more on one side than the other. I use a grooved plane and when I put the blade in after sharpening, I run it out just enough to take a small shaving of metal. If it doesn't produce a metal shaving all the way across the blade, then I adjust the blade until it does. I find that my wooden bench brush works very well to tap the side of the blade to move it (Lie-Nielsen plane with no adjuster) If you use a Stanley, it has a lever to adjust the skew on the blade with.  (John Channer)

      This may or may not be germane here, but when you GET your angles correct, remember Jack Howell's advice on using a mirror at the far end of your forms to keep your plane on the level. Just watch the plane's progress as you push it down the form. You'll notice immediately if you're canting it one way or the other.  (Art Port)

        I start the strips further back on the forms and work my way up to the position for final dimension. The less cane I have above the forms help eliminate problems. I can rock the plane back and forth till it touches the forms. This helps me to find center (plane parallel to the forms). I made a set of adjustable start forms. This helps to have an accurate strip before it goes into the final form. If my strips aren't close before final planing, it's a fight all the way.  (David Dziadosz)

      Worth mentioning that a few light scrapes of the hardened plane irons against the softer steel of the forms should do little if anything to the keenness of the edge.

      Wouldn't it be just as effective to keep a little piece of hardwood, or even pine, nearby and check the skew of the blade there?  Of course you know the forms are flat, so that probably makes them the most accurate gauge.   (Harry Boyd)

        A piece of wood would probably work just as well, but the forms are there. That and I also set the blade just a tiny bit above the form at the same time, another tap from the back of the counter brush does the trick.

        A mirror works, but get a stainless steel camping mirror instead of a glass one, unless you like sweeping up broken glass.  (John Channer)

      Thanks, I'll make sure to double check this in the future. Last night I finished planing the final 3 strips and all the angle were dead on. I don't think I did anything different but perhaps all the advice has sunk in on some unconscious level.

      The final pieces are glued up and it's all down hill from here.  (Jim Lowe)

    Thanks for asking that question. I've just had that problem with rod # 5, which started with the straightest strips I've gotten. Measuring with a 60 degree-block in the calipers my strips were closer  than  any  previous  yet  when   I   measured   from corner-to-corner rather than from flat-to-apex there were big differences. This happened to me with the tips rather than the butt strips. Things will look great and then as I'm getting down to the final few thousandths a gap starts appearing between one edge of the strip and the form. Makes me think of sacrificing a few power fibers and running the plane down the enamel side. Any other thoughts as to where I'm messing up?  (Henry Mitchell)

      Sounds to me like some sort of debris getting down in the form, either bamboo dust from scraping, or a wire edge that got rolled under the face. I brush my form down every time I take the  strip from the form, before returning it.  A rolled wire edge is a bit trickier, but if you gently feel along both sides of the strip (careful!  those edges are sharp!  :-) , you can often feel it, or see it hanging down from the edge of the enamel side.

      Also, do you leave your enamel on until the end of planing, or do you take it off before you finish.  Flattening the enamel face before you get to the last station cures a lot of otherwise unexplainable planing errors.

      You can run the plane down the enamel face to take it off and level the face.  I've done this.  You will get a powdery/granular "shaving" while you're in the actual enamel .  As soon as it starts making a regular shaving again, time to stop (of course, the ideal time to stop is one stroke before that...  :-) , and scrape/sand any remaining enamel off, bringing the face flat to the top of the form.  Yeah, getting the surface dead flat will remove a  few power fibers in the center of the face, but not enough that it'll hurt anything (IMHO), and the dead flat face pays more benefits in getting an accurate strip than what the strip loses in power fibers.

      Now, I don't claim to be an "authority", other than what my experience has taught me to date, and there are always several ways to skin a given cat, so don't take this as gospel.  All I can say is "works for me".  (Todd Enders)

        I just glued up the tip of a rod with the worst glue lines I've ever made, but with fishing season upon me I didn't want to split another culm....

        That being said and confessed to, it's the straightest yet, so I'm not totally discouraged. I actually have been sharpening my blades at 45 degrees and being pretty compulsive about brushing out the form. I think the big problem started with having too much cane above the form. I try to take .003" shavings. I get the plane pretty sharp but may need to increase the frequency of sharpening. I set the form .005 over to start, using a L-N plane with a .005 groove. Then go to an ungrooved plane and razor blades for the last .005.  (Henry Mitchell)

      Why not Henry?  You are removing power fibers from the other two sides why not the top.  At the tip you are almost all power fibers.  (Ralph Moon)

    As everyone knows, there's more then one way to skin a culm.

    I started out traditional with a roughing form and the weird angles, get a 30 degrees on one side and go from there...

    Every time I tried to compensate the angles by tilting the plan, I was chasing angles that I never could catch...

    Then I seen Al's Router Base Roughing Mill and a light came on and I applied the same principle to hand roughing and never chased an angle again...

    Start with as straight as possible cane and squaring up the sides on a flat bench...

    The cane should be about .100" over finished butt size and .080" over finished tip size when you start roughing...

    To much cane and it takes all day, not enough cane and you will not be able to correct the imperfections in the strip...

    No sure anyone mentioned it but sharp irons are also a must.

    Prep work is 90% of the job,  junk in, junk out...

    I used the 60 degree groove on my finish form butt side, opening it up enough to give the cane a good secure footing...

    Flip the cane every third pass taking care not to hog out to much cane at once...

    Keep the plan level to the form at all times, the mirror idea works for some others do not need it...

    Eventually the cane will fall into the 60 degree groove and become much easier to plan and have correct angles...

    Do not check your angles every pass or it will drive you up the wall, if you must check do not do it till you’re close to finished rough size...

    Apply the same principles to finish planing taking even less cane with each pass, it's just an extension of the rough planing...

    Any way this worked for me and might work for you so I thought I would pass it along...(Dave Collyer)


Like many of you my work space is quite limited.  My shop is a 6' x 20' room off the carport.  Obviously one has to be creative to get anything done.   One 48" workbench holds a belt sander, drill press, bandsaw, and a coupla vices.  Though that really doesn't have anything to do with my question I thought it might give you a glimpse into the cramped-ness of my confines.

Over the last week or two I've planed out 3 rods.  My planing bench is 50" x 16".  Tools are neatly stacked on one side against the wall, planing forms on the other side.  I use 4" riser blocks covered with anti-slip drawer lining to get the forms to a comfortable height and keep things from sliding around.  After planing out 54 strips of bamboo the area around the planing bench could easily be ankle deep in shavings.

I keep a cardboard box at the end of the bench.  Ever pass or two I dump the curls of bamboo into the box.  Unfortunately not all the shaving stay in the plane.  I find myself constantly wading through shavings as I work.  That doesn't worry me too badly, but it does stir up quite a bit of dust.  And when I track the shavings into the house and get 'em in the carpet, SWMBO isn't happy.

Guess I'm here to draw on the vast wisdom and experience of the list to see if you have suggestions for better ways to handle the shavings which seem to grow and multiply and find their way into every possible corner.  No, getting rid of SWMBO is NOT an option. <g>  (Harry Boyd)

    I put them in a trash can and use them as mulch. I also have cats who sometimes like to carry them off.  (Dale Bostic)

    I guess I'm a lucky man.  Have moved, by attrition, one of my shops into the 'reading room" in the house.  My darling bride doesn't fuss as long as I'm constructive and don't resume my old vices.   One thought is to attach a plastic bag on the end of your bench with a wire frame, much like a clippings bag on a fly tying bench closer to the action to contain the shaving better.  (Darrol Groth)

      I like the wire frame and plastic bag idea.  I may explore that.  Also makes me think about the planing bench.  It's a cheap wooden workbench from Lowe's or Home Depot.  It has a 5-6 inch "tray" which is about 2" deep all along one edge for catching tools.  I might consider turning the "tray" to the outside.  (Harry Boyd)

      I like the plastic bag idea.   There are some pretty hefty black bags (large size) 20 gallon at least - box of 30???  or more 10-15 bucks?  (John Silveira)

    My bench, if you can call it that is a board spanned between the washer and dryer, I put the waste barrel under it, with a little conscious effort most of the shaving fall in.   (Pete Van Schaack)

    What I do is put newspaper under the form, covering the bench past the form ends.  Real handy -- you can just rotate your wrist at the end of the stroke and dump most of what's left in the plane,  and whatever doesn't stay in the plane also hits the paper.  You can collect up the excess by hand while you're planing, and drop it in the trash.  When you're done, brush the form off, take it off the bench, fold the paper into a U, and take the leftovers to the trash.  No muss, no fuss.  I've even done this with the paper/form on the floor, with a shag rug, finish planed/scraped a whole section, and had no shavings in the rug.  :-)   I will admit, a bit of luck was involved there, but this technique seems to control the spread of shavings pretty well for me.  (Todd Enders)

    Just let the shavings fall where they may!  Yes, the woman will scream at you for tracking up the house. Mine did once as well until I got a rough beveler and put it where most would consider the living room to be. It was right behind the couch. After beveling a few rods, she never bothered complaining about shavings on the carpet again.

    I hope this helps, but I doubt it.  (Mike Shay)

    When I built my bench I resolved the shavings problem by accident.  My bench top was bought at an office furniture manufactures outlet store.  Besides the fact that its 6’X 36”, cost only $10. , it had a precut hole in the middle (a few inches from the edge).  I keep a trash can on the lower shelf and all my shavings, etc. get disposed of with ease.  (John Freedy)

    I have a bench 16" deep x 12' long on one wall of my garage shop. On the left end I have a wire hoop that holds a trash bag. With the forms on blocks on the outside edge of the bench, leaves about a foot between the forms and the wall. At the end of a pass I simply rotate the plane to deposit the curl between the form and wall.  After several passes I simply push the curls into the trash bag. I don't let the pile of curls get to big before pushing them into the bag  which helps keeping them off the floor. On the other end of this bench I have a grinder/buffer, disk & belt sander. When in use, my binder screws to the front of this bench.

    With two other benches, one 24 x 60 on wheels, 24 x72 fixed, both with storage underneath. I still have room for a contractor air compressor under the 24 x 60 with my lathe on top and can also be used as a router table. Also have two drill presses, band saw on wheels, table saw on wheels, dip tube setup, dust collector, bamboo storage above and can still park two cars. Needless to say, there is no  wasted space. When building nodeless I move one of the cars out, mine not SWMBO's, and put a sheet of plywood on horses to hold the splice clamped strips till they set.  Everything has it's place - can't find anything if I don't put it back where it belongs after use. :>)  (Don Schneider)

      Good ideas, one and all.  Much appreciated.  Here's a little different slant on things though.  I don't have any trouble hitting the box which lies at the skinny end of the forms when I'm making a full length pass.  And I assume others plane their rods like I do... and that's dangerous.

      As I start a strip, I place it in the form where only a few thousandths of the bamboo is above the form.  With only a few thousandths protruding above the forms I find it much simpler to keep my angles correct.  Once I begin to hit metal, I slide the strip forward a few inches.  Only for the last 3-4 thousandths is the strip in its final place.  Most of the shavings are already made and scattered before I am anywhere near the small end of the forms.  I can take a step or two over to the trash box, but that's not efficient use of time or energy.  I've tried placing the receptacle nearer the butt end. When I do, I find myself stumbling over it and usually wind up kicking it outta my way.

      Maybe I was really asking whaddya do with the shavings you make on the big end of the forms?  Dump them on the bench, then sweep them away?  Have a trash can on each end?  (Harry Boyd)

        I kinda do the same thing when planning strips. Set the forms up and depending on the length of the strips at hand set up at least two stations above the butt end for increments of +.005"/ station. This gives me .010" to play with on the strip. Couple of full length passes and flip and then another couple of passes till I get down to metal. Move the strip down the form one station and repeat. Checking the angles before each move down the form. Now, I should be within .005" of final and go on from there. Since I'm already at the tip end of the form because of making full length passes, I simply reach back and push the few curls in the trash bag. Kinda of clean up as I go, so to speak. Yes, some curls go on the floor but not many. The hoop I use to hold the bag is like a big D shape with the flat side against the end of the bench. Only have one bag on the tip end of the bench since I only plane in one direction.  (Don Schneider)

          What I have done to keep peace in the household is to have a shag throw rug on the edge of my work area.  When I am done planing I walk over to the rug and brush my feet off to clear off any shavings.  This has kept me from ever having the wife complaining about shavings upstairs in the rest of the house.  (Tom Peters)

    After tracking in shavings, sawdust, dirt and smelling up the house using the oven to bake bamboo, when I discussed the possibility of building a separate workshop out in the back, SWMBO thought it was a great idea. Having the extra room to be able to spread out is so nice and I have since built another addition to the workshop for an office, wrapping bench and fly tying desk. Now she says that since I spend so much time out here, that I might as well add a bedroom and shower so I could stay here all them time. HMMMMM!

    I picked up one of the 16 gal. Shop Vac's with the 2" hose and after the shavings get a little deep a quick swipe does the job, plus you can hook it up to your other tools that create dust. But that two story 16' x 20' barn style shed that they have at the local lumber store would make a really nice workshop for your back yard.  (Gary Jones)


I have a strip of split bamboo that isn't cooperating.  It has some grain that is all caddywhompas and starts splitting away or peeling from the strip right at the top flats edge and won’t stop.  I have razor sharp blade and these little strips break and flake at the tippy top of them making my working dimensions smaller and smaller.  Has anyone tried super gluing this cross grain nuisance(irregularity) to stop them from peeling away? Maybe the super runny stuff. I'm wondering if this would show up in finish later or leave noticeable mark.  I'm going to try it but seeing if anyone has done this before.  Usually i just throw the strip into garbage stack and get a new one that works well. Just wondering if I can save it, probably going to run into some more from this batch of bamboo.  (Geremy Hebert)

    I find it easier in the long run to just toss anything that won't cooperate. Bamboo costs less than (I hope) my time is worth and a bad strip in a rod doesn't make any sense, why risk 40+ hours of work over a strip or two of bamboo?  (John Channer)

    If the strip of split bamboo that isn't cooperating, chuck it. It's not worth your time to fight it all through the process of making a rod. You will fight it from start to finish.  (Don Schneider)


I am getting private emails asking basic plane questions, I guess some guys don't want to ask  seemingly stupid questions on the list. I don't profess to be an expert on planes so I thought I might bring these questions out to be discussed.

On a block plane like the Stanley 9 1/2 - a block plane - the bevel goes up. The slots have to engage the depth adjustment mechanism, so slots are down. Since the bevel is up, the angle the blade is sharpened at does affect the cutting action. A shallow angle (20 degrees is shallow, 40 degrees is steep) will produce more lift and chips. A steeper angle produces a stronger edge - more metal at the edge. I sharpen my plane blades at 40 degrees.

Bench planes aren't generally used by rod makers, but I have started using a small bench plane to rough out my strips - less wear on my Morgan handmill. A bench plane will take a lot of bamboo off in one pass and is perfect for roughing. I also use a quick clamp to hold down the end of the strip so that I can use two hands on the plane and go down the entire length in one pass. A bench plane has something a block plane does not have, a chip breaker. It is held tight against the blade with a large head screw. On a bench plane the bevel goes down, chip breaker on top. The angle of the bevel does not affect the cutting action, but the distance the chip breaker is from the edge does. Get as close to the edge as you can and still have the blade cut efficiently. The Stanley No. 3 or No. 4 sizes are good for roughing. The No. 3 is smaller. I do groove my bench planes also. You can use a properly set up bench plane until you are fairly close to final dimensions, needing your block plane! for only a few passes.

The absolute best way to sharpen a plane blade is to sharpen as best you can with whatever method you are used to, and then polish the back and bevel with diamond compound on a leather or hard felt wheel. I thought I had a sharp blade using a waterstone but the diamond compound sharpened the blades an order of magnitude sharper. I use 14,000 mesh diamond compound.

I'll stick my neck out and say an absolutely dead flat plane sole isn't necessary for rodmaking, but some people will swear it is. It doesn't hurt anything.  (Darryl Hayashida)


What is the difference between a Block Plane, Bench Plane and a Smoothing Plane?  (Don Schneider)

    Planes were used before power tools were invented and people made or had planes designed to do pretty much every job that needed doing and these were often as not made by the person himself from wood.

    A block plane was specifically designed to plane to end grain of a butcher's block. Due to the shallow angle of attack the block plane is about the only really hard plane to make your self and the early versions of both Stanley and Record 60-1/2 and 9-1/2 are very nice tools indeed.

    A bench plane was used at the bench in most operations. It's not too long, nor short for comfortable use. Unless you needed a specific plane this would be the one you'd use in most jobs.

    A smoothing plane is a tricky one because some people use the term to imply it's somewhat like a bench plane but a bit longer while others say it's a fore plane which are the largest of all.  I tend to think it's the first one because a fore plane is the foremost plane you use when truing the rough cut wood you want to work on though of course you can use a fore plane #6 - #8 for general work too but it's hard work.  (Tony Young)

      Can I add to that? The blade in the block plane whether "low angle" or "high angle" is mounted and used with  the bevel up, while the others are used with the bevel down. This is not rocket science, but it does have some practical differences in the way you place the emphasis in sharpening your blades.

      And while it's not a definitional thing, it is only in block planes that we see throat adjustments (as opposed to frog adjustments) commonly used.  Look at the pictures on the Lie-Nielsen web site - if you have a miraculous level of self control.  (Peter McKean)

        The bevel up is used in conjunction with the adjustable mouth of the block plane which is why the relationship between the opening and depth of cut is so significant.

        With a bench plane where you can cut across the grain but it's more likely you'll be cutting along it the iron is mounted much steeper, it has a chip breaker and the distance from the front of the mouth opening all work to prevent tearing along the grain.  It's a much better set up but a bit harder to do on a single handed plane.  (Tony Young)

          What is the ideal relationship between the opening and depth of cut? I'm not sure I really understand that, though I was able to get the job done with planes before I got a Hand Mill.  (Barry Kling)

            Always try for the most narrow mouth opening you can for the depth the iron is extended for. It's trial and error that only takes a pass or two but if the opening is too narrow you'll clog it, too wide and you'll tear the bamboo. There is a direct relationship between the two.  (Tony Young)

    Most of the "experts" in the woodworking magazines advise leaving the blade in place, but retracted just enough to clear the sole. This is supposed to let you flatten the sole with the same stresses applied to the casting that will be present in actual use.  (Larry Blan)

    It doesn't matter if your plane is absolutely flat or not. Unlike cabinet sides or fronts, or table tops, where  flatness matters, we are removing shavings until we are stopped by a steel form. We can't dish or dome our strips.  Most good quality planes are fine right out of the box.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Gotta question you here.  If the sole of the plane is concave, will it not tend to lift the bamboo out of the forms, causing undersized strips?  If the plane's sole is convex, will it not be difficult to consistently keep the blade on the forms?  Seems to me that it would be easy to let the plane rest on either the leading or trailing end rather than at the precise point of the blade...  Also, would it not constantly change the angle of attack from blade to bamboo as the convex soled plane rocked and rolled back and forth?   (Harry Boyd)

        What you say is true, but I personally haven't seen any good planes (not the cheap made in India or China, etc) that were that far off to make any difference.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        Open you dial caliper to 1/1000 of an inch and look at it under the light. Plane a strip measure it  and then measure it again the next day.  As a matter of fact remeasure the strip again right away. We are planing vegetables are we not? What we say we can do would be hard to do with metal.  (Dave Norling)

      I disagree with Darryl.  I did have a Stanley plane that I tried to use right out of the box and couldn't figure out why that plane was tearing and didn't perform or "feel" as well as my other one did.  This was early in my rod making career and when I learned about tuning a plane, I checked the poor performer with a straightedge and found the sole was dished in the area of the throat.  After flattening and tuning, the plane was just fine.  The difference was amazing.  When you buy a Stanley or Record block plane, the cast iron is only coarsely belt sanded.   (John Long)


This is an old tip probably, and I'm sure most of you hand planers already know this, but for some of the newer guys, if you knock the corners of your blades, just a very small amount, just round them off, you won’t bite into your form quite so much. Hope someone can get some good from this. (Jerry Andrews)


A few days ago, I took a Stanley plane out to begin final planing my next rod's butt section. I noticed some discoloration and what appear to be the beginnings of pitting on its bottom surface. I have stored the plane wrapped in a soft cotton/polyester cloth lightly sprinkled with machine oil and placed in a drawer. In that same drawer, I have another plane, a honing guide, a depth gauge, and assorted other tools, similarly wrapped. None evidence any signs of decay. What have I done wrong?  (Jonathan Engle)

    The spot on the plane is much more likely to be Stanley's fault than yours, I wouldn't be surprised if it acquires many more. You should see the ones that travel around to jobs in my truck. It won't hurt anything, just use it.  (John Channer)


I intend to purchase a Hock plane blade. I've noticed that the company makes two varieties: Mr. Hock's standard high-carbon steel blade and a newer metal combination called "A2", which is supposedly more receptive to cryogenic treatments (really cold temps, as far as I understand) that produce more durable edges. Actually, I don't even know if Hock makes an A2 blade that will fit my Stanley 9 1/2. But does anyone out there have any knowledge or experience with A2 blades  that would help me with this decision?  (Jonathan Engle)

    Can't help with the A2 blades, but Hock does make a blade for the 9 1/2's that is much better than the Stanley blade.  (John Channer)

    I have been using the A2 blades and I love them. Call Russ @ Golden Witch and he can fix you right up.   The  phone no. is (717)738-7330.  The item no. is #H-A2C and they are $38.25 each.   (Billy Carter)


There was a suggestion on tools to purchase for rodmaking. The only thing I disagreed with was the suggestion to buy a new block plane.  IMHO, the new ones are pretty much junk.  If you can find an old Stanley #9 1/2, or an old Craftsman one, they are a lot better made, so require less tuning.  The Craftsman I have is painted a kind of gray-green.   Any way, you are looking for one with an adjustable throat.  (Neil Savage)

    My old Gray greenish Craftsman is what I use. I like it better than the 9 1/2  (Tony Spezio)

    I agree with Neil. I would add that you don't have to pay over $10 for a plane either. I see used and sometimes new 9 1/2s, 18s, Records, Sears, and even a Wards at flea markets. When in Ohio over the summer, I broke my rule. I got an 18 and 9 1/2 that had all the components except the body and blade made out of brass. Can't find it listed anywhere. For those 2 I paid $25.  (Rich Jezioro)

      There are always a bunch of 9 1/2 Stanley on eBay.  (Dave Norling)

        I'm using an old Record 9 1/2 that Gary Lacey let me borrow's a hell of a plane. I have looked around and can't find one cheap. If you are going to go for something along those lines, go ahead and get the Lie-Nielsen. With the older planes, and surely with the new ones, you'll need to tune it, and buy a HOCK blade. Let's see, $60+ for the Record, (seeing that they are not going to be made again, everyone is going crazy for them), $30 for the blade, almost the cost for the Lie-Nielsen, and no tuning needed with the LN. I used a modern Stanley on my first rod then got the HOCK blade to go along with it. I now only use the Stanley for roughing and the Stanley blade for scraping. Nothing like a finely tuned tool.  (Robert Hicks)

          On a similar note:  Does anyone use, or has anyone tried the Veritas Standard Block Plane from Lee Valley?  (Chris Carlin)

            Robert Kope wrote an article about the Veritas Low Angle Plane for Power Fibers.  It was in Volume 14.  It sounded like he was pretty happy with the plane.  (Todd Talsma)

            I use the standard and the low-angle Veritas planes. I also now have an older Stanley 9 1/2 to compare.  The Veritas planes are superior in my opinion. They are heavier and machined mirror flat and square out of the box. The blades are equal to or better than the $30 something Hock replacement blades needed by many to update an older Stanley with a blade that holds an edge. So the $99 cost of a Veritas plane is within reason when a replacement blade is not needed.

            By the way, the $16 Kunz squirrel or palm plane, which is the same as the Stanley 101, is the most cost-effective tool that I have purchased for rodmaking. Garrison used the Stanley 101 to rough plane the strips.  When I tried it, I was amazed at how quickly the little 101 could hawg off the material to create the first angle.  I'm still amazed enough to slow me down on tool lust for a beveler.  (Paul Franklyn)


I've been reading Wayne C.'s book, as well as lots of info on the rod makers and bamboo rod making tips site.  Right now I'm just trying to get the necessary materials assembled.  I've been a hobby woodworker for many years so I have a dedicated shop and quite a few of the necessary tools already.  I've got a got a friend who owns a machine shop making some final planing forms for  me based  on  Thomas  Penrose's  instructions,  and  my father-in-law making an oven.  Sorry I'm rambling, I'll get to the point.

As far as planes go I have a  9 1/2  and a  60 1/2.   I just  sold a Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane that was a Christmas present from my wife and kids - I just didn't get the use out of it that I wanted.  I'd like to replace it with a Lie-Nielsen 212 bronze scraper for finishing the rods to their final dimensions.  Finally - My question is should I get one with a grooved sole or flat?  Which will work better?  Or should I order a flat sole and groove it myself later if I want.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    I'm a 5 rod amateur at this point, but I'll give you my 2 cents worth.  I bought the grooved version of the LN 212 when I was tooling up.  I had seen it in so many rod making pictures that I thought it was a required item.  To make a long story short, it looks great in pictures, but serves no practical purpose for a novice like me.  Once I learned to keep the plane blade really sharp in my 9 1/2 (LN grooved sole), that's all I need to get good clean edges and decent final dimensions give or take a thousandth.

    I haven't tried it yet, but the folks at the Colorado gathering demonstrated removing glue from a blank with the 212.  It was quick and easy, but sandpaper is cheaper if you don't get carried away with it.

    I'd hold off on the 212 until you've made a few rods and attended a couple gatherings.  (David Bolin)

    I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I have made about 20 so far and have found what works for me - which is what I think you need find out.  I use a Stanley 9-1/2 with a Hock A2 Cryo blade and an old crappy Stanley for hogging.  I used waterstones to sharpen but have since switched to sandpaper and a marble tile.  I use a box cutter blade for a scraper.  I also drag my plane right down my forms.  Some of this would make people cringe but it works for me and I hit my  tapers and don't have visible glue lines. There isn't one right way to do any of this and what works for one person might not for the next - see splitting.  (Lee Orr)

    In my opinion, the L-N 212 bodied scraper is NOT the tool to use to finish strips.  I believe that the chatter inherent in this type of tool is a big drawback here, and I also believe that there is nothing in rodmaking that you cannot do with a SHARP plane

    I have a 212, and I use it a great deal in the process, but not as a finishing tool.

    Neither do I use a grooved sole on my planes, and do not find that is a difficulty, nor do I traumatize my forms much.

    I will say, though, while on the subject of Lie-Nielsen tools, that Tom's #1 bench plane and his high angle block plane are the best rod building tools I have ever used so long as you keep them sharp!  (Peter McKean)

    Unless you just have to have a Lie-Nielsen scraper leave that off until you have made a few rods. Use a window scraper with razor blades or an extra plane blade. I have a Lie-Nielsen and more often than not I just use the blade by hand.  (David Matthews)

    Books will help you but I find other ways to make rods a bit less complicated than I find in books. Most of this will come to you when you get your hands on working with the real stuff.

    This list is a godsend to new rod makers, Check Todd's site along with the other list members web sites.  Ask questions on the list like the ones you asked about the planes.

    I have a grooved 9 1/2 and a LN 212. Both are collecting dust on the shelf. They are not for me though they are the main tools for others. I scrape with razor blades. I cock my plane at an angle to the forms when planing is why a grooved plane will not work for me. I am a bit of a maverick in making rods. If you happen to be close to where I live in Arkansas, you would be welcome to visit my shop and get a nickel's worth of info and some hands on info.  (Tony Spezio)

    Look at the antique stores for more Stanley 9.5 planes.  You’ll want a couple of them so you can start planing strips and switch planes rather stopping to sharpen.  It's not necessary, but I find it helpful (plus, how cool is it to have a dozen planes in your workshop??).   (Scott Turner)


I just found out that I am going to get a bonus from work, and have decided to treat myself to a nice block plane.  For the past few years I have used a Buck (i.e. - junk) block plane without an adjustable mouth.  It has been fine for some of my rough woodworking projects (new to cane) but I just want something nicer.  I could go out and get a Stanley with a hock blade but then I am getting up there in cost.

After reading Robert Kope's article in Power Fibers #14 I had decided on the Veritas.  For the money it seemed was a better value.  His article must have driven up the demand, because the costs have went up.  So here's the skinny....


$109 + 12 Shipping = $121


$150 + 6 Shipping = $156

Not that much of a difference anymore.  I would like to hear opinions as to which you guys (or gals) like better.  I know a cheaper alternative would probably work just fine, but I feel like splurging a bit. 

I guess I am having a hard time deciding since I will be buying sight unseen.  I wish I could find someplace local that sold these things.  (Matt Fuller)

    I can't comment on the Veritas as I don't own one, but I do like the L/N for several reasons.  It is exceptionally well made, and it also fits my hand really well.  If you are lucky and can try both at a local woodworking shop, that would be a very good idea.  Incidentally I wrote a review of the L/N planes for an early issue of Power Fibers.   (Sorry I don't have a copy here, but you can look it up on the Power Fibers index, which I believe is online.).  (Bob Milardo)

    I have five Tools from Tom Lie-Nielsen, a 212, a standard angle block plane (throat adjustable), a #1  bench plane, a #2 bench plane and a Boggs spokeshave.

    I have a Veritas, two Records and a (modern) Stanley.  The Stanley, frankly,  is a poorly made tool, the Records are very good, but need some fine tuning out of the box to perform well.  But, having said that, they do perform well once tuned- and flattened and square - as Pierre Clostermann once said of Spitfire Mark VI fighters "clipped, clapped and cropped".

    The Veritas is excellent, but in a purely subjective sense does not suit my hand and style of working terribly well.

    But the L-N, well that is another thing altogether - good heft, enough weight to give stability, true out of the box, and blades ready to sharpen and get on with it.  The Records and the Stanley, by the way, need replacement blades, and I use Hocks.  The Veritas blade I don't know much about, but it seems OK.

    I recently had a problem with my L-N #2, which was a thing of my own making, but it was sort of beyond me, and I was starting to get frustrated with it, so sent it off to the US to Tom, who fixed it up, was polite enough not to call me a bloody idiot and sent it back.

    So, IMHO, both for the quality of the product and the excellence of the service, go with the Lie-Nielsen!  (Peter McKean)

    The Veritas plane is a he** of a good plane with all the heft and feel of an expensive plane. You might have to invest in some additional plane sharpening expertise or jigs however because the blade on my Veritas is tapered in the rear and not the traditional rectangular blade found on most block planes. This makes the blade more difficult to use in most sharpening guides which are designed for rectangular blades. Veritas also has a Precision Honing Guide for this blade, however, I find that getting the blade in square to the stone, and having it not move in the sharpening process, a difficulty. This is just a heads up so that you have a feel for the design of the Veritas.  (Jack Follweiler)


I have been reading an article on Rali block planes in The Best of the Planing Form.  Looking on web sites I see you can get tungsten blades for them. Any comments?  (Gary Nicholson)

    I have seen a couple of those Rali planes, and they look OK to me - I still like the ones I get from Tom Lie-Nielsen, though.

    What I wanted to say, though, was re the tungsten blades.  A couple of years ago, at the behest of one of our list members, a company in Sydney (Australia) sent me a selection of blades to try out and report on their suitability for our work.

    There were HSS blades, carbon steel blades, and a couple of Tungsten-tipped blades.  I thought that the HSS were OK, though I would rather use Hock's product, but the tungsten jobs were not a great success in my hands.

    In the first place, sharpening them was a problem, as my Japanese water stones would not make an imprint on them.  But I solved this by getting a machinist friend to sharpen them for me on his tool sharpener.  That was a bit inconvenient, but if the end result had been good enough, I would have put up with it.  But even sharpened professionally by my mate Dicko, they never ever approached the level of sharpness I deem necessary for accurate bamboo work, not by a long way.

    Admittedly, they held the edge that they did achieve for a long time;  it just wasn't up to the edge that i can get on my Hock or L-N  62 Rockwell irons.  I maintain that the craft of rodbuilding is about 90% adequate sharpening.  I find it hard to stuff up a strip with a sharp blade, almost impossible NOT to stuff one up with a blunt one.  (Peter McKean)

      Just so we're talking bout the same thing. My Rali plane uses small blades that look like thick razor blades (rather small) and look like they would be hard to sharpen. To tell the truth I only tried to use the Rali one time on bamboo and was dissatisfied and didn't use it again. Another tool in my archives.  (Jack Follweiler)

        I have the same Rali that uses the small blades.  I use it for planing the pith off when I do nodeless rods and when I need to square up the sides of a strip.  I do find it a bit aggressive for planing strips.  (Bob Williams)

          I messed about with the edges as well at prob the same time as you describe and found the same thing.

          I believe tg wont accept the same keen edge you can get from HSS or carbon steel because of how tg is applied.

          The way it was explained to me when I asked a metallurgist who explained it to me as he would a simple child was that steel is a very fine matrix made of more or less evenly sized particles or whatever sort of like flour for dough that sharpen then dull evenly while tg is basically a conglomerate like concrete with bits like peas and rock chips and the larger particles are prone to chip leaving a more ragged edge comparatively speaking.

          For metal working this is not a big problem because it takes a lot to chip the bits off and a machine can apply a lot of constant force but it does prevent a great edge from being achievable in the first place and this difference in the edge possible is noticeable in the case of cutting edges for hand tools.

          So get a Hock iron and Japanese waterstones and keep the edges sharp.   (Tony Young)


Anyone use a Veritas block plane? How do they compare to LN or Stanley? Also, recently heard about something called the "Herter's V" planing form...or something like that. Would like to know more about it. Can anyone direct me to some information on this?  (Jim Sabella)

    I know of two Herter's planing forms. One had  a bunch (5, maybe?) of different sized grooves, arranged parallel to each other, and you slid your strip up and down and back and forth to get the right depth for that section.

    The other had a flat plate with two bars attached to it every 5" (or so) using angle brackets and cap screws. The bars had 30 degrees bevels machined into their corners (all 4, I think) and you slid the cap screws around in slots to move the bars closer and farther apart.

    I have a set, but have never used them. They look like an abomination to set and hold correctly. Of course if Herter made them they were "The best damn planing form you could find anywhere in this world or the next", if you're familiar with George Herter's hyperbole!   (Art Port)

      I am a only a bit familiar with George Herter's "hyperbole." He apparently lead a very interesting life and could write quite a story and a sales catalog. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to see a photo. You can send it to me off list if you like.

      I have been interested in the various forms of planing forms and the tools used for making cane rods. I saw a photo somewhere of a long block of wood that was cut like a long upside down V  ^. The long apex of the ^ was tapered. A bamboo strip was glued to the top and then planed flat to the sides of the ^. Hard to explain but very interesting idea.  (Jim Sabella)

    I've only seen pictures of Herter's forms, but they look like a major PITA to use. The only clue that I can offer is that, if they were any good, someone would still be making them that way, any patents have long run out.  (John Channer)

      Plus the original forms weigh a ton, or it seems like it. They were made from Iron.  (Rich Jezioro)

        If you have not nailed down the Herter's form, let me know and I will send you a picture.  Also in Todd Talsma’s tips is a picture of a different kind of planing form.  Check it out under contraptions.  (Ralph Moon)


During my career as a woodworker, I learned that good tight miters with no glue lines were a result of back cutting your angles. In other words, for a 90 degree corner, we would roll our saw blade slightly past 45 degrees. This resulted in a tight joint at the face, with a slightly opened joint beyond that (Which is hidden). I am sure that someone has or is doing this with bamboo, and I am curious how you would go about doing that on a tapered strip? Maybe it has been tried and the results were not worth the effort?  (Paul McRoberts)

    The same technique is used by the Morgan Hand Mill. The mill produces an angle of 61.5 degree instead of 60 degree. The result is the same that you have described in your mail.  (Marco Giardina)


Question for the list: those of you that have your forms mounted on an angled base, what angle do you use?  Do you plane uphill or down?  (Ron Larsen)

    I have several pieces of 2x4 nailed together to place under the forms to get them up off the bench. I use hold down clamps to keep the strips from shifting while using a #4 bench plane. The added height is easier on the back. The back block is lower, drops off the Plexiglas surface, so that it acts as a stop preventing the forms from sliding forward when planing. Thus to answer your question, my planing is done uphill.  (Tim Pembroke)

    I go uphill, about 1" in 48" -- though the high end could stand to be higher.  (Harry Boyd)

      I have the top of my form at 42", that's comfortable for me. What advantage is gained by planing uphill? More comfort?, stop cane from sliding?, what?   (Don Green)

        I imagine that at some time there must have been a thread discussing the pro's and con's of angling the forms, but if so I seem to have missed it, and cannot identify it in the archive.

        What do the proponents of raising one end see as the advantage of so doing? Does it contribute to the accuracy of the sections, or to operator comfort ? I can see how it might well reduce the tendency to nick the forms toward the end of the planing stroke, when all the angles are getting awkward.   (Peter McKean)

          I have not tried it, but according to the Golden Witch catalog it's more ergonomic and more comfortable.  (See Tim Abbott's "Ergonomic Planing Form Jig".)  Seems a trifle expensive though....  (Neil Savage)

          It makes things a little easier on your back.  No need to bend over quite as far towards the end of the stroke.  Of course, if you are reaching way out there, as you imply, you are going to screw up your angles.

          One of the things I teach my students is actually how to plane a strip.  It's more complicated than just "push the plane down the strip."  But once you learn to do things correctly it becomes second nature.  (Harry Boyd)

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be just as easy to actually build your workbench at the correct height?  I have my workbench built so that when I'm planing, my elbow is pretty much at a 90 degree angle.  If you do this, you don't have to bend over at all!  (Todd Talsma)

              I built my work bench to my belly button height, as recommended to me by Tony Spezio. It has worked very well and I never feel any fatigue. I wouldn't be able to add much of an incline at all and so far have not felt the need to.  (Scott Bearden)

              As Todd says building the bench to the proper height does help, but when you are reaching that last little bit it does help if the form is raised 30 degrees (just kidding) 3-5 degrees or about  3 inches or so at the far end.  I didn't think it mattered until I tried it & found out my shoulders & back didn't suffer so much.  Try it & see what you think.   (Bret Reiter)

                I'd rather take a small step to get that last little bit if needed.  I find that I can keep my hand and wrist in better control if I do this. When I start to extend my hand out from my body, I start to lose control.   If I take a small step, my hand and wrist stay in the same position.  (Todd Talsma)

                  Ya Todd, but your reach is about twice that of your friend Bret.  (Doug Easton)

              Same here Todd.  I have lower back problems.  Setting the form just below elbow height seems to help, but I haven't tried an inclined form.  (David Bolin)

              I built my first workbench (about 40 years ago) to belly button height and have never seen a reason to change.  Most of my tool stands are of similar height too.  (Neil Savage)

              Back when all tools were hand tools benches were generally a lot higher than they tend to be now there are is a predominance of of power tools.

              The bench should be thought of as a tool not just a convenient surface so if you're going to specialize to the degree rod makers tend to the bench height should be carefully considered.  (Tony Spezio)

              Being closely related to an orangutan,  I don't have to move when planing a 4' strip.  But I've been working on a 6' one piece spinning rod & found if I elevated my 6' forms 2" at the end, the planing went easier.  I don't like having the middle of the form unsupported, so I'll make a cradle for it.

              I also had to come up with a planing clamp to hold the   strip,   never   used   one   before.   I  made  a u-shaped bracket that's held in by one of the pins in my form, but that's another story.  (Ron Larsen)

                I appreciate all these tips. Anything that can minimize the arthritis in my hands would be a blessing.  (Bill Fink)

              Good grief Todd, how tall is your bench?   (Hal Manas)

                Not sure off the top of my head, but I'll measure it tonight! ;^)  (Todd Talsma)

                  Well,  I thought I better get the numbers.   The top of my bench is at 45".   I put my form up on 2x2 blocks when I'm working with it and that puts the top of the form at 47 1/2".

                  How about everyone else???  (Todd Talsma)

                    I'm at 41 1/2". I'm 5'9" tall and almost that wide.  (Ren Monllor)

                      Yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that I'm 6'6"!  (Todd Talsma)

                        Mine is at 43" but then I'm only 6' 4".  (Tom Kurtis)

                        The handle of the plane on my Morgan Mill is at 45", just at the height of my bent elbow.  (Bill Lamberson)

                        Bench top is at 39".  I'm about 5'8" (since scoliosis set in.)  I used to be 6'.  (Neil Savage)

                        44.5 inches, 6'2" tall.  (David Bolin)

                        The top of my bench is 40".  If I put the forms in a cradle starting at 1" & sloping to 3", the top of the form in the middle will be  43".   (Ron Larsen)


All this talk about planes reminds me of something I wanted to bring up before but just forgot about. I watched a program on the Discovery channel last week called "How It's Made" (or something like that). They had a segment on the show about violin making. The master craftsman was planing a concave surface to the inside of the back of a violin. The plane he was using was so small it boggled my mind. It was about an inch long and couldn't have been any wider than 1/2". It just completely disappeared between the first joint of his thumb and index finger. As his hand went back and forth planing this concave area into the wood you couldn't see the plane, just long thin curls of wood shavings coming out between his fingers. Not taking anything away from what we do but making a bamboo rod kind of pales in comparison to making a violin.  (Will Price)

    I wonder, though, if a violin maker might not look at a segment of someone making a bamboo rod and think the same thing about us?  (Neil Savage)

      I was working on building a mandolin when I discovered the possibility of building my own bamboo fly rod.  It sounded intriguing so I haven’t looked back (that was less than a year ago).  While having not built a violin but attempting to make a mandolin, I have found both rod making and instrument making is as technical and tedious as you want to make it.  I have seen some instruments that looked like crap but sounded amazing and vice versa.  Some are all “hand made” and some on the CNC.  Some people make the components and some people order them.  Many steps are involved and everyone has their own little way of doing it.  Carving the back and the top of a violin and mandolin are just like planing the taper of a strip.  Depending of the thickness at different  spots on the top or back helps produce different stress points that enhance the vibration and sound producing qualities.  Just like old rods are mic’d and the tapers documented, so are the “plans” for specific instruments from specific builders.  I have yet to finish a mandolin only because I lack the necessary space for some power tools that I think would be crucial to the process but one day I will get back to it.  I know that the old timers didn’t have power tools while building so I could get by with what I have but . . .     I have actually used those little planes in building PMQ, 2-strip Quads, because the length of the sole is so short it helps get a better taper.  I find while using the bigger block plane, the sole some time rides over certain parts of the strip because of the taper if that makes any sense.   (Greg Reeves)

        I've made both bamboo rods and a mandolin... equally easy/difficult depending on your skill.  I'd trust a bamboo rod taper to behave properly moreso than just planing a mandolin top and back.   Tougher to get "the sound" out of a mandolin, IMHO.   You can make a rod faster but it takes longer to build the forms.  You can make a mandolin that plays and sounds great with mostly hand tools.  To make a great looking mandolin, you almost require good, precise power tools and finishing equipment.  (Rick Crenshaw)


There was an article in Popular Woodworking in the September issue. I recently sent a copy of the article to another list member who thought it might be of interest to others here. I particularly thought the section on skewing the plane and blade angle was interesting. I've been bad about skewing the plane since it just feels natural that way in the hand. It has now been posted on the internet so I attached a link. If the link doesn't post or work try searching the subject. "Taming Handplane Tear-out."  (Floyd Burkett)

    I would pick a vintage Norris or Spiers with a standard size mouth.  If you need to tighten the mouth, all you need do is place a piece of card behind the blade.  That way you have one plane which with work with all timbers soft or hard.  (Gary Nicholson)


With all the recent posts about planes, grooved or not, and irons, and final dimensions, etc.....L-N makes a very small plane that I think they call a Model Maker's plane.  I bought one, since I was so happy with the performance of their 9 1/2 and their 60 1/2 and their 212, and I needed one more toyl.   I believe Tom Smithwick was using one in Roscoe.  I have really come to appreciate this little thing, especially as tips approach final dimension.  Did not Mr. Garrison use a "violin makers plane", or palm plane also? 

Any comments as to how many guys have had experience, good or  bad, with this sort of delicate little plane? Most all of the conversation I have seen on the list in the couple of years I have been here has centered on primarily versions of the 9 1/2 and Scrapers.

Just wondering if I'm missing something here.....  (Jim Rowley)

    I have one of these.  It is a remake of what woodworkers used to call the squirrel tail plane.  The only problem with it is that you can't adjust the mouth.  Because of this I use it to hog off bamboo when I am rough  planing and establishing my 60º angles.  I love the little thing.  I also have one made by Kunz, a German company.  It is not nearly as nice, but I think it cost about $10.00 so I can't really complain.  I used to have the same type of plane also made by the Kunz company without the "tail," but I gave it to a luthier friend of mine because I like the ones with the "tail" better.  I'm sure that you will find it a very useful tool, but I don't think using it on tips approaching final dimensions is a very good idea since you can't adjust the mouth.  Just my opinion.  (Hal Manas)

    My experience is the same as Hal's. The plane is useful in the squirrel tail version, but mostly for roughing work, where it scrubs off a lot of material in a hurry.  I also bought the Kunz first. At the time, they offered an upgrade tool steel blade, which is worth doing. The Woodcraft bronze version is nicely made, and feels good in the hand, but the blade was very rough, and needed a lot of flattening. I hope they have improved that.  (Tom Smithwick)

      I bought this plane from woodcraft when I first started woodworking and was planning on building a mandolin.  About halfway through the process is when I discovered rod building.  The plane is great for hogging off material but will definitely lift the nodes and wouldn't suggest using it for a final planing task.  (Greg Reeves)


Been planing this AM - it's blowing @ 40 mph , snowing & 10F - what else is there to do.

At any rate, been playing with the mouth openings on my Record 9 1/2's. For a 0.002" shaving it seemed like a 0.010" gap worked OK and for a 0.004" shaving the gap was increased to 0.014" Never paid much attention before but I screwed up on the last sharpening and got the gaps to tight. Planing was a real trial. Increased gap to 0.010" and things improved immensely. Gaps were checked with a feeler gauge. Anybody else got any ideas of what the relationship might be between mouth gap and shaving thickness?

Certainly some folks think that the mouth gap on the new Stanley is too large - but what is too large? I have an idea now on what is too small.  (Don Anderson)

    I really don't know how wide is TOO wide but it's easy to tell when it's too narrow.  The gap clogs up with bamboo slivers and you can't cut anymore !  I suggest closing the gap until you reach that point then backing odd a bit.

    Remember that the effective opening changes a lot faster than the actual depth of cut due to the angle.  (Larry Swearingen)


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