Hand Plane Adjustment

Setting and Adjusting Infill Hand Planes

that do not have Adjuster Mechanisms.

This note is intended to accompany the above video on the subject of hammer-adjustment of infill hand planes. The video was made in response to a request from a forum member on Homemadetools.net. Specifically, the questioner wanted to know how the plane should be handled and where it should be tapped with the hammer in order to make depth of cut adjustments. Because the video was made to specifically answer that question and because of technical difficulties regarding the length of the video, much had to be left out. I wish to try and correct these omissions now.

In particular, when describing the method for retracting the blade, thus reducing the depth of cut, I wish to point out the following. Tapping the heel of the plane over time will damage the heel and is therefore, not the preferred method of retracting the blade. There are two other possibilities. One is to install a snecked blade in the plane so that all hammer tapping is restricted to the blade and not the plane body.

In my case, I did not wish to put a snecked blade on the plane shown in the video when I made it, for visual reasons; I felt it would upset the lines of the plane. Therefore, my preferred method for retracting the blade is a follows. I place the plane down on the bench and hold the blade between my first finger and thumb with my finger and thumb resting firmly on the top of the sidewalls of the plane. This gives me a controlled grip of the blade. Now, with my other hand, I loosen the lever cap screw and fiddle the blade backwards and upwards ever so slightly. Then I tighten the lever cap screw again.

Now I do a test cut. If the blade has retracted by an acceptable amount, there is no need to do any more. If the blade has retracted too far, this is not a problem, just give the top of the blade a gentle tap to increase depth of cut slightly. After a little practice, doing this becomes second nature and you get a feel for it.

Secondly, I wish to point out that during the making of the video, in my anxiety to produce a result, I tapped the plane blade and the plane’s heel a little too hard; this is obvious watching the video. Generally the deftest of taps is all that is required. So, gently does it!

A further point that I could not elaborate on in the short video was the reason why I do not put adjusters into my planes. Modern, craft hand plane makers seem to be divided into two schools in this regard. There those who always fit (usually Norris style) adjusters and those who rarely if ever, fit adjusters. I used to fit (Norris style) adjusters in my planes until I began to take stock of Ron Brese’s theories on them. He believes that using an adjuster can be self-defeating to some extent. When adjusting depth of cut, one has to loosen the lever cap screw to avoid stretching the delicate threads of the adjuster mechanism, then make the actual adjustment. Then the lever cap screw must be tightened again which creates torque at the point where the lever cap screw contacts the blade. That torque can put the blade out of lateral adjustment. To solve this we have to untighten the lever cap again. You can see where this is going!

I didn’t believe that could really happen, until afterwards when being more aware, I noticed that it was, in fact, happening. So I switched over to making planes without adjusters and learned about hammers etc. I much prefer the non-adjuster type plane now and I have heard that this frequently happens. Most who learn the skills of hammer adjusting, never revert back to adjuster type planes.

I hope the short video and these notes help to shed some light on this esoteric topic.


  1. Thanks for information great instructional video cheers nick

  2. Great !!!
    Thanks so much for the information Brendon, it’s really all what I needed.
    Your video is crystal clear, and you have an undeniable talent for teaching.
    Sooner or later, I will try to make a smoother like one of yours, I will come back to you for some advice about the plan.
    Thanks again , and by the way, Happy St Patrick with a little delay 😉
    (I celebrated St Patrick here nearby at a concert with Paddy Keenan)

    • Brendon

      March 22, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks Christophe,
      I have never counted teaching as one of my talents. You are too kind.
      I hope you will take up my suggestion of making a video of your scratch stock
      at work. I was really blown away by that little tool. I think it is beautiful.
      Glad you enjoyed St. Patrick’s day. And thanks again for your interest and feedback. Appreciation from one as talented as you is appreciation indeed.
      Best Wishes

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