Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fingers In the Till - European Scrub Plane

One of my favorite tools ever, this flea market find has turned into a workhorse in my shop.
Here it is, I used it to bevel the underside of this chair.
This is one ugly tool, but it works like crazy.  There is a lot of instructions on the internet for turning a jack plane or a smoothing plane into a roughing plane for thicknessing, but I find that this dedicated plane has earned the real estate it occupies in my tool chest.

What makes this particular one special, is that it is old, well used, and well modified by some thrifty German carpenter in it's previous life.  There is a couple of big cracks in the stock of this plane held together with various bolts and screws.  It feels awesome in my hands.

It's a fairly narrow plane, I suspect the blade is between 1 1/2" and 1 3/4" in width.  If you build one, go with a narrow blade. 
When I got it, I ground it at a pretty dramatic radius.
Most roughing plane instructions on the internet recommend something like an 8" radius for rounding a plane like this.  I decided to go bold and ground it at 3" instead.  Since it is so narrow, I can get away with this.  If you grind a 2" blade at three inches, you won't be able to set it so deep as to get a shaving wide enough to justify such a wide blade.

This plane has a crazy open mouth.  I could probably put my thumb in there.  This keeps it from jamming with the rough chips you'll be getting. 

Of course there will be tear out, but this is for course work.
As you can see, the blade in this plane isn't something precision made from Starrett.  My guess is it is from a leaf spring, spray painted red for good luck.
Before grinding, you can see how un-flat the steel is.
I sharpened this up to 8000 grit on my waterstones when I got it more than two years ago, and the blade hasn't been out of the plane since.
The crazy tight radius on the blade allows this plane to thickness wood faster than any other hand tool method I have.
Here's how I've found that this tool works best when thicknessing:  I put the board on my bench with the grain oriented right to left.  I traverse which means going across the the grain, like the above photo.  I then plane diagonally, with the grain.  I go from the near right hand side to the far left hand side.  After this, I go diagonally, 90 degrees from the first diagonal.  However, I am careful not to go from the near left to the far right, I must go from the far right to the near left.  To do this I turn the board 180 degrees in the vice and take the plane left-handed.  This allows me to continue going diagonally with the grain, instead of against it.  If I do the diagonal the wrong way, the tear out goes DEEP. 

If that explanation doesn't make sense, you'll find out what I mean when you try it.

For some reason Stanley scrub planes (like the #40) are getting expensive in the US.  There doesn't really seem to be a cheap alternative.  Lucky for me, I live in Europe, and these things are everywhere.  I wonder why?


  1. A scrub plane is an incredible efficient tool.
    I have never measured my curve for the blade. I just eyeballed it, but it works really well.
    Cheers Jonas

    1. There really is no need to get too fussy with a scrub plane.

  2. I need a good scrub.

    I could also use a cheap plane for hogging off a lot of material at once. Thanks for the idea. I'll keep an eye out.

  3. They also excel at adjusting stock width... if I need to rip a centimeter, it's faster to just grab that narrow German scrub instead of the rip saw.

    1. Good point! I do that sometimes. Quick and easy.