Low Angle Smoothing Plane
Stanley produced three large-format low angle block planes. One of these, the Low Angle Smoothing Plane, was only made from 1926 to 1943*, which may account for the extraordinarily high prices that it commands on the antique market. Our Low Angle Smoother is based on the Stanley — it is essentially a shorter version of the Low Angle Jack. It has an adjustable mouth, and a unique overhead Bailey adjuster for depth of cut. The Smoothing Plane is useful in a wide variety of jobs from rough work to smoothing, and can be easily converted from one type of work to another. The best finishes will be obtained with a very sharp blade set to take a fine cut, and the mouth opening no larger than necessary to pass the chip. When you want to cut more aggressively, open the mouth more and advance the blade for a deeper cut. For best results on end grain, set the blade and mouth fine. Geometry: The blade sits in the body at 12°. It comes with a 25° flat ground bevel, making the included cutting angle 37°.
The blade comes ready to use. Slight additional honing will increase performance. A secondary bevel of up to 5º helps achieve a razor edge quickly. This also improves edge life in hardwoods. For more information on advanced sharpening we suggest David Charlesworth’s DVD Hand Tool Techniques Part 1: Plane Sharpening.
Hold the tool in one hand and loosen the front knob about 1/4 turn. Adjust with the brass lever. Tighten the knob again firmly, but do not over tighten.
The blade is easily adjusted with the adjuster nut over the cap iron. This unique arrangement provides silky smooth adjustment. Turn the screw clockwise to advance and counter clockwise to retract the blade. You do not need to loosen the cap screw to do this. Make sure the mouth is adequately open before advancing the blade to avoid damaging your edge. When adjusting the blade, it is a good idea always to finish on a forward adjustment. This takes up backlash in the adjuster mechanism and will help prevent the blade from slipping in use.
Like our Low Angle Jack, the Low Angle Smoother intentionally has very little lateral adjustment of the blade. This is an advantage. As you adjust the blade, it will track squarely with the sole. The disadvantage is that you must sharpen the blade square. Today there are many good jigs on the market that make this easy to do. If you find that you don’t like this feature, you can grind the blade narrower to give more lateral play.
Setting the Yoke Plate:
The overhead yoke engages the slotted plate screwed to the blade. The front of this plate needs to be about 2½" from the cutting edge, with the slot toward the front of the blade. You can make a small jig with scraps of wood to set this distance. Tighten the plate retaining screw very firmly to adjust the blade. To remove the cap: Loosen the 9/16" slotted cap screw several turns. Lift the cap by the adjusting nut and slip the cap over the cap screw through the large hole. Reverse the process to replace, making sure the gear tooth yoke end fits into the slot in the blade adjustment plate. The tapered shoulder of the cap screw fits into the countersink in the cap. You should tighten this screw firmly.
Handling the Tool:
You will probably find that, with a full grip around the handle, your little finger will not have much room. The No. 164 is very short for a handled tool (this is the reason for the overhead adjuster), and to get a maximum of usable blade, some finger room is sacrificed. This will improve as the blade shortens with sharpening. Meanwhile, grip high or with three fingers — the little finger pointing forward or the index finger curled around the adjuster screw.
*Alvin Sellins, The Stanley Plane, The Early American Industries Association, 1975.