Fair Woodworking

September 7, 2013

Making your smoother a muti purpose tool

I don’t feel like what I’m about to share is overly profound, but I do think it is a concept in our little world that is often missed.

I see a lot of discussion that dances around the issue, but I can’t remember it ever being addressed.

Topic 1

Do I need to replace the blade on my old planes with new thicker blades if I want them to work correctly.

Answer (in the form of a question)

Did your Great, Great Grandfather need to replace the blade on his new plane a hundred years ago for it to work correctly? Seriously, if the blade was not ruined by its previous ham-fisted dumb, dumb of an owner, you may be fine.

Topic 2

I bought an old Stanley #4, and someone told me to replace the old blade with a new thicker one. Now the new blade won’t fit no matter how far I move the frog back.


Move the frog back so that the mouth is fully open. File the front of the mouth just a little bit, and test it for fit. Don’t file any more than you need to. Boom. You now have a smoother with a nice tight mouth.

Topic 3

Scrub planes are hard to find. Could I convert a smoother into a scrub? How do I do it without ruining it.


Move the frog back so that the mouth is fully open. Camber the blade. DON’T buy a thick blade that barely fits in the mouth in the first place. This is also the correct way to set up a jack plane…

Topic 4

Bedrock and Bevel up Planes are better than Bailey planes because you have to remove the blade to adjust the frog on a Bailey plane.

My Answer

While it may be true that you need to remove the blade, who says you need to adjust the frog to adjust the mouth opening.

Just change the blade…

I know I’ve just blown a few minds with this heresy.

I’ve mentioned before that there are a few internet faux woodworkers out there claiming that bevel up planes are superior to bevel down planes because the blades are interchangeable.

Yes, they are correct that bevel up plane blades are interchangeable, but almost any common bench plane shares a blade size with 1 or 2 other plane models. The #3 and #5-1/4 share a blade. The #4, and #5 are interchangeable. You hit the mother lode if you have a #4-1/2, #5-1/2, #6 or #7.

Only a #1, #2 or #8 are odd balls.


So here we have my trusty #4. The mouth is awfully tight with an aftermarket blade in it. I have to admit, this combination does smooth well.


Here’s my Jack Plane with its historically correct thin blade. The camber, I find is quick to remove material, without requiring excessive force.

The frog in both of these planes are set as far back as functionally possible.

So if I take this thin blade, and put it in my Smoother…

The only adjustment I need to make is to tighten the lever cap screw.


My smoother is now a scrub plane.

If you’re into that kind of thing.



  1. Your giving everybody a whole load of theory to think about for the weekend. And I find you spot on in your thinking. While I have succumbed to the “thicker” blade theory, and purchased thicker after market blades for most of my old Stanley’s, they did an awful lot of fine work set up just the way Stanley sent them out.

    Are you trying to take Chris Schwarz on in the education of woodworker’s? Keep up posts like this and I bet your readership goes up!!!!!

    Hope your doing well,


    Comment by pete van der Lugt — September 7, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    • Hey Pete!
      Glad to hear my posts make you think. I see too much of new(and old) woodworkers taking everything they read as gospel. All I’m doing is taking what I read, testing it in the shop, and drawing my own conclusions. I’m not against thicker blades… I love them! But I’m a big believer now of taking a new/old plane and fixing only what needs to be fixed. If I can make the original blade work, great! If it works how I want it too without flattening the sole, why flatten it?

      I’m a woodworker not a metal worker.

      By the way, thanks for your kind words,

      Comment by fairwoodworking — September 7, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

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