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  1. #1
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    Mar 2018
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    Default Shoulder plane vs rabbeting block plane...etc

    Hi all,

    Im looking for a plane whose purpose is to true up tenons, rabbets plus also the mitres on full blind dovetails. This is for hand tool only work.

    The internet seems to be full of suggestions, many of which contradict each other.

    Planes people mention are:
    - Skew rabbet block plane
    - Shoulder plane
    - Rabbeting block plane
    Or even
    - Bullnose block plane (never heard of that one before!)

    Ideally I'd like to control my tool acquisition disorder by limiting this to just one.

    Mark spagnolo seems to prefer the rabbeting block (though he's not hand tool focused) Shannon Rogers seems to despise the shoulder (but his chiselling skills far exceed mine).

    What suggestion do you guys have for this?

    Regards.

    Adam

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Victoria
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    607

    Default

    Don’t forget a router plane, they’re great for tenons ! Hahaha it never ends.
    Think i’ve seen people use a chisel and paring block for mitred dovetails.

    Have you seen Paul Sellers videos on YT ? He recently looked at a few of those type planes.
    You boys like Mexico ?

  3. #3
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    Mar 2018
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    Default

    Thanks Sam.

    For tenon work i mean squaring off the tenon, not the cheek.

    I did see the recent PS videos but I'm hoping to get opinions here i can discuss.

    Regards,

    Adam

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Brisbane
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    Default

    I find it a lot easier to square off tenon shoulders with a chisel. Put the stock in the vice or on your bench and use the chisel vertically. If the chisel work feels clumsy or not accurate enough, it probably means the chisel isn't sharp. You can also clamp a guide block to register your chisel against to get the chisel square to the tenon cheek if needed.

    I've got a shoulder plane and the most use it's received is cleaning up rabbets inside frames where the rabbets are relatively small, like 5mm. I have tried it on tenons but I didn't really like it. Others may have different experience, but on our hardwoods (Blackbutt stands out here) the endgrain can be tremendously difficult to plane. It feels like the plane is hitting a rock even with very little depth of cut.

    The nice thing about hand tools is that there is usually a fair number of ways to do any one thing and which method is the 'best' is the one you're most accustomed to.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
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    Perth
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    8,958

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by taz01 View Post
    Hi all,

    Im looking for a plane whose purpose is to true up tenons, rabbets plus also the mitres on full blind dovetails. This is for hand tool only work.

    The internet seems to be full of suggestions, many of which contradict each other.

    Planes people mention are:
    - Skew rabbet block plane
    - Shoulder plane
    - Rabbeting block plane
    Or even
    - Bullnose block plane (never heard of that one before!)

    Ideally I'd like to control my tool acquisition disorder by limiting this to just one.

    Mark spagnolo seems to prefer the rabbeting block (though he's not hand tool focused) Shannon Rogers seems to despise the shoulder (but his chiselling skills far exceed mine).

    What suggestion do you guys have for this?

    Regards.

    Adam

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk
    Adam, for squaring the shoulders, I use a chisel. If the cheeks are square/parallel, and you need to remove a smidgeon, then a shoulder plane is good. Best general sized one is the 3/4" Veritas. It is also great for squaring rebates (where I use it mostly).

    The rabbet block plane is not recommended for shoulders, and not even for cheeks (use a router plane or a wide chisel for cheeks), but great for squaring inside drawer cases.

    Bullnose planes make better anchors.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

  6. #6
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    Mar 2004
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    Horses for courses, Adam. Every workshop needs a block plane, imo, but not so sure about a shoulder plane.

    Because I've made my own, I have several shoulder planes of various sizes, but like others have already said, I usually square short tenon shoulders with a wide (very sharp!) chisel. I was taught this method in our school woodworking class back in the 50s, so I was doing it that way long before a shoulder plane came along.

    It seems every self-respecting cabinetmaker of the late 19th century had to have a shoulder plane - the number of surviving infill SPs is amazing. But sometime in the early 20th century, they just plain went out of fashion - no idea why, but either work methods or type of work changed, & they were no longer deemed necessary - the later more 'industrial' type pioneered by Preston (& now copied to a greater or lesser degree by several modern makers) didn't sem to sell in the same numbers.

    Shoulder planes really come into their own on long tenon shoulders like these: 23 Base assembled.jpg

    These are about 400mm long, so not only are they harder to saw true, it would be a big chore to chisel them square, but my large SP was up to the task. I suppose you could do the job with a rebate block plane, but I can't imagine how I'd hold the darn thing against a 75mm high tenon cheek. The other advantage of a 'real' SP is they have a long toe in proportion to their sole length, which makes it easier to index them on the work before you commence the cut.

    But having said all that, my SPs can sit quietly for long periods in my tool cupboard, they are definitely not 'everyday' tools! They are extremely handy to have on occasions, but they really are a bit limited in the tasks they do & rather hard to justify if your tool budget is a bit restricted. You can certainly live without one if you have to.

    You could, of course, make your own......

    Cheers,
    IW

  7. #7
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    Jun 2014
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    Seattle, Washington, USA
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    1,854

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    Adam,

    I'm probably an outlier, but I am a huge fan of "edge to edge" planes, meaning planes like a shoulder or rebate plane where the cutter goes right to the edge of the plane. It's safe to say I kind of collect them. I probably have over a dozen of them, including a skew rebate plane with a wood body, a moving fillester, a fenced rebate plane, three different rebate planes with no fence but with depth stops, a skew block plane, at least five low angle shoulder planes (including one made by IanW), two bullnose shoulder planes (also including one of Ian's!), and some others... It's weird, I know.

    But the one I seem to reach for the most is my HNT gordon shoulder plane. This plane is unique among all the rest because it has a 60 degree bedded iron.

    On paper, it sounds like it would be a bass-ackward way to configure a shoulder plane, which is primarily used on end grain, but this is a "set and forget" tool, and the "set" you're going for is an ultra fine shaving. So I find that when tuned for end grain, it also works extremely well for smoothing wood. An edge to edge smoother is kind of an oddball for many people, but I do a lot of traditional work which involves lipped drawer fronts, hand planed mouldings, and other oddball-y stuff, so for me this shoulder-smoother is indispensable.

    Having said that, I do agree with others that this is only relevant on wide shoulders. For something like a 75mm x 30mm tenon, it's more efficient and controllable to use a chisel. If I was cutting a very wide tenon, like for the foot of a bedframe joined into the legs, a frame-and-panel cabinet side, or a rebate/dado shelf joint inside a case, the shoulder plane is the go. On a joint that long, I would grab a low angle shoulder plane.

    The edge to edge block plane is a weird animal that seems to be getting a lot of stage time on the internet these days. I have one (A Stanley 140), but I only use this for one thing: cleaning up dovetails on lipped drawer fronts. Basically, the skewed iron is good for making a circular stroke right behind the lip and planing down the end grain of the dovetails while also smoothing out the long grain of the drawer sides. It allows you to make a "hybrid" cut which works well enough for both operations in tandem. You can't really do this very effectively with any other plane (that I'm aware of). If I never cut a dovetail joint behind a drawer lip again, then I'd likely not spend much time using this plane again. Maybe if you were making some kind of timber frame structure where you had a lot of really large tenons which only required a moderate level of accuracy then it would be nice, but otherwise it's a "once a year" tool for me.

    Hope that helps,
    Luke

  8. #8
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    One thing you can usually count on when you ask a question here is a variety of opinions!

    I was pondering my own reply after I posted it. I think I made it sound like shoulder planes are not very useful - they are, or I would have got rid of mine years ago, given the competition for space in my tool cupboard! The problem is they are a specialty tool, and only used for certain applications. If you do a lot of the type of job at which a dedicated tool excels, it earns its keep very quickly, otherwise it is more practical to employ one of the many workarounds that are usually possible, and spend your hard-earned on "generalist" tools that do a wider range of things.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you stick with this woodworking caper, you'll go through a few cycles of tool acquisition - you'll inevitably get some that you come to love & cherish & others you'll wonder why you wasted your money on them! Trouble is, because we are self-taught & approach things in our own ways, you won't discover which applies to your own siutation without giving them a good try-out. If I were to start over knowing what I know now, I would have a very different set of priorities for acquiring tools. However, I wouldn't know what I now know if I hadn't been down that road - catch 22!

    If you think a tool will be very useful to you & you've got the readies for it, I reckon you should get it and find out if it really is. Don't be surprised if it doesn't work perfectly for you first off - it takes a while to get the best from any tool, & I think shoulder planes definitely fall into that category.....

    Luke - interesting to hear your take on the HNT SP. I bought one of his 1/2" "shoulder" planes a while back and didn't like it at al for cross-grain trimming - it's fine with long grain, but just lacks the feel & the heft of a metal-bodied, low angle job when cutting across grain. Yet another example of how we all develop our own preferences!

    Cheers,
    IW

  9. #9
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    Mar 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you stick with this woodworking caper, you'll go through a few cycles of tool acquisition - you'll inevitably get some that you come to love & cherish & others you'll wonder why you wasted your money on them! Trouble is, because we are self-taught & approach things in our own ways, you won't discover which applies to your own siutation without giving them a good try-out. If I were to start over knowing what I know now, I would have a very different set of priorities for acquiring tools. However, I wouldn't know what I now know if I hadn't been down that road - catch 22!
    This has certainly been my experience as my competencies grow. The one benefit we do have these days is the abundance of old second hand hand tools which have already fully depreciated, so we can buy to try, and if it doesn't suit or needs, move it along for little to no out-of-pocket. One consideration with this approach is that I have found that at times my spare time gets taken up with tool restoration or maintenance instead of woodwork, but them again, some of us see that as one of the benefits of a broad hobby.

    One other way to help identifying the suite of tools to start with is to pick an accomplished craftsman (local, this forum, books, YT) and learn everything you can from them, using the techniques and tools they use, though beware the YouTube echo chamber of "professional figure-it-out-as-I-goers".

    The problem I ran into with trying to learn one technique from Billy, and another from Susan, was that they would use different systems or approaches to accomplish their tasks, which necessitates different tools and workflow (jigs). By learning from one person who has a well defined system I find the learning process far simpler and less confusing, and a limited set of common tools were used for most tasks. You're not being locked into anything though, as like most things, once you understand a system, you can modify it to suit your particular needs if and as required. It just gets you through the early stages when you don't know what you don't know.

    Kind regards,
    Lance

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    It seems every self-respecting cabinetmaker of the late 19th century had to have a shoulder plane - the number of surviving infill SPs is amazing. But sometime in the early 20th century, they just plain went out of fashion - no idea why, but either work methods or type of work changed, & they were no longer deemed necessary - the later more 'industrial' type pioneered by Preston (& now copied to a greater or lesser degree by several modern makers) didn't sem to sell in the same numbers.
    Pretty much lines up with when Dowel constuction took off Ian . Victorian furniture was good quality stuff in 1850 , got cheaper and nasty by 1880 and not long after that they started Doweling everything . Even large extension tables with big thick legs were doweled on . All chair construction went to dowel . Doors on cabinets . What ever could be was doweled. From that point on when the glue failed the rate that furniture was thrown out must have sky rocketed .

    Rob

  11. #11
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    I have a number of Shoulder planes . I like the old infill types . Some have a fine mouth some are open . Both types are good and have their own uses . If I was having only one plane Id be making sure it was with an adjustable mouth and was a big bodied plane . A bit of weight behind them helps .

    Rob

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by auscab View Post
    .....Pretty much lines up with when Dowel constuction took off....
    Y'know, I think that's a very plausible explanation, Rob. A change to quick & dirty construction might also explain why the old iron mitre went out of vogue - no need to plane accurate mitres when you're just butting everything, eh?

    I hate dowels with a passion, & especially on chairs! I hope the bloke what invented them is sitting in hades having to repair an endless succession of broken chairs!

    Quote Originally Posted by auscab View Post
    .... If I was having only one [shoulder] plane Id be making sure it was with an adjustable mouth and was a big bodied plane . A bit of weight behind them helps.....
    I absolutely agree - I find the little 1/2" I made (which was inspired by a rebate you own )very handy on occasion, but my big 1 1/4" gets a run way more often...

    Cheers,
    IW

  13. #13
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    Thanks everyone,

    The discussion so far is exactly what i was hoping for.

    So far it sounds like out of the original planes i listed must have been ruled out, especially the bullnose!

    The shoulder plane seems to be getting lots of positive points, but with some preferring the larger while others suggest medium.


    In case it helps with advice, my set of planes so far are:
    No 7 jointer
    No 5 1/2 LA Jack
    No 4 1/2 smoother
    LA Block
    Router plane
    No 13-050 combination plane

    What would you suggest should be added next?

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

  14. #14
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    Um, what do you want to make?
    A thief stole my anti-depressants. I hope hes happy now.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    Luke - interesting to hear your take on the HNT SP. I bought one of his 1/2" "shoulder" planes a while back and didn't like it at al for cross-grain trimming - it's fine with long grain, but just lacks the feel & the heft of a metal-bodied, low angle job when cutting across grain. Yet another example of how we all develop our own preferences!

    Cheers,
    It's really a matter of the work I find myself doing. With the exception of a pair of tables and a shop cabinet, everything I've made over the 2-3 years has had at least one, and usually two, hand planed mouldings. These inevitably involve a fillet or some other flat or near-flat surface which needs to be smoothed, and neither a skew rebate plane nor a low angle shoulder plane are ideal for the task. I'm sure they'd work more often than not, but it's not going to be with the same level of certainty as the 60deg, bevel down plane. Plus, in order to smooth with the rebate plane I'd have to treat it more like a moulding plane and pop the blade in and out as necessary, which is fine, but not quite as efficient.

    Another thing I find myself spending a lot of time on is trimming the rebates behind lipped drawer fronts which are cut out of the solid. On the sides, any SP or edge to edge plane will work, but for the long rebates on the upper and lower edges of the drawer front, it's gotta be a smoothing cut.

    So, yes, these are pretty specialized tasks, but I seem to find myself doing them more often than trimming 150mm+ long sections of end grain. If that's all I used the SP for, then I would have the bigger one you made and that'd be it!

    As far as the heft issue goes, the HNTG SP that I have is a 1", which I think is both wider and longer than the one you have/had, from memory. I could totally see that one being weird to use. I had a 1/2" wide skew rebate plane and it felt wobbly too. I actually recently traded it toward a Stanley mitre plane.

    Cheers,
    Luke

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