Setting The Cap Iron / Chip Breaker – VIDEO

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This is the last (for now) of three videos about cap irons / chip breakers. If you haven’t seen the others then you can find them here:
Cap Irons & Tear Out
Preparing The Cap Iron / Chip Breaker

I find a well set up cap iron to be vital for preventing tear out. It allows me to take good thick shavings and still leave a beautifully smoothed surface, even on difficult grain. Of course this isn’t possible without a good sharp iron, so when it comes to setting the cap iron I want a method that’s straight forward and quick, I can’t be doing with anything that puts me off sharpening up when necessary.

When preparing my cap irons, as in the last video, I don’t mind spending a fair bit of time as it’s a job I’ll only have to do once. Since I have to set it on to the iron over and over, many times a day my method for this is much swifter. Give it a go, experiment to get a feel and let me know what you think.

I focus mainly on the smoothing plane but also discuss setting up on more heavy cambers.

35 Responses

  1. Nimrod Kapon (Bas)

    Thank you Richard!

    I learn so much from your videos; especially the last three videos really opened my understanding about tear out and how to set up the cup iron. I have been learning carpentry for 7 years but only couple of months ago that I’ve opened my own workshop and started to play with things without the supervising eye of the master. It is now that I’m starting to figure out things by myself, I guess it is always easier when you have your teacher solving any problem you can’t deal with at your first try.

    One of my biggest frustrations was how to set the planes; when I learnt we didnt actually deal with it, just how to work with the already set planes. And your experience, wisdom, and great way of teaching, helps me so much.

    So thank you again and keep on the good work!

    Bas

    Reply
    • Richard

      Hi Bas, you will never stop learning but the fun begins now that you’re on your own. It is very lovely to hear that the videos have been of some help.

      Reply
  2. Chris Buckingham

    This has been an excellent and informative series, it is very nice to see there are others that think the same as I do, so many people “experts” all, tell me my iron should be nothing but straight and square, as I plane timber much wider (generally) wider than my plane, I much prefer to have a camber which just disappears up at the edge of the mouth, that way I do not get a series of visable trenches across my job. Many thanks for posting this.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Cheers Chris, I completely agree, straight irons just don’t seem to cut the same anyway.

      Reply
  3. Stephen Melhuish

    Great stuff Richard….the no nonsense meat and two veg approach to setting up a cap iron to get a decent shaving……more power to your elbow.
    Cheers
    Steve

    Reply
    • Richard

      Thank Steve, ‘The Meat and Two Veg Approach’ sounds like a good book title!

      Reply
  4. Michael O'Brien

    Really useful especially set of videos on the cap irons. You have made simple what others have tried to complicate with too much fussing up. I had already started doing the tapping to advance the blade only because, like a blind hog discovering an acorn, I stumbled upon it. Did I hit a wrong button on my iPhone or are your video blogs now with closed captioning for the blokes who can’t understand your cheery accent? Great job.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Thanks Michael, the captions have been added to translate me, although I didn’t think they came up automatically, I’ll have to check that out.

      Reply
  5. davidos

    most comprehensive explanation i have ever heard about setting an iron and exactly why it is done like that .brilliant

    Reply
  6. David Charlesworth

    Richard,

    Your cap iron screwdriver looks suspiciously like a chisel ?

    Can this be true?

    David

    Reply
    • Richard

      Hi David,
      ha ,ha, whatever would make you think such a thing? ‘cough, cough’.

      Reply
  7. Sean

    Thanks Richard. Wondering why I took the camber out of the iron on my eBay number 5 now. Always thought / my logic told me it should be straight. Hoping there’s a video on the way to tell me how to put it back!

    Reply
    • Richard

      Yep, no biggy putting the camber back. Hopefully we will do a video on this and we’ll be able to go in to why it’s so important.

      Reply
  8. DenverGeorge

    I work in a woodworking supply store (Rockler). I run into people who are just turning to hand tools. I am certainly going to recommend to these folks that they watch all your “rants”. They are some of the best, yet simplest, basic information I have ever come across. I know that my work is certainly improving as a result of your information. Keep it up.

    Reply
    • Ray

      Hi,

      I have found that my local Rockler store and catalog are virtually devoid of quality hand tools. I hope this changes due to employees like you that are interested in hand tools.

      Reply
    • Richard

      Hi Denver, many thanks that made my day! It’s really kind of you and I’m very pleased that they’re helping.

      Reply
  9. Glen C

    Great 3-part series. After the first one I opened the mouths of my smoothers and closed up the cap iron gap. You know what happened. Generally good things.

    Anticipating the camber video.

    Reply
  10. Ray

    Thank you for a great series of videos regarding chip breakers.
    A question- With a chip breaker set very close on a cambered blade, can the outside edges of the chip breaker hang beyond the edge of the blade? It appears that this is happening in one of your close up images.

    Thanks again for an excellent series. I look forward to more.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Hi Ray, generally you should aim for it not to overhang, if it is then you’ll not be able to take a full width shaving. I think in the photo the iron was nicked at the corner, but I’ll take that out over a duration of sharpening.

      Reply
    • David Weaver

      Hi Ray – the overlap is not much of a problem, because you’ll not work with the cap iron protruding through the mouth of the plane. One, it would clog if it did, and two, it would be extremely difficult to push such a thing because part of the cut would be at 90 degrees or more to the edge.

      Anyway, those parts where the cap may overlap a very cambered iron are no problem, because that part of the iron won’t be in the cut. You will still appreciate the stability of the iron with a close set (as close as you be without a whole lot of extra resistance) in the case that you are not working perfect wood where you can plane with the grain everywhere.

      Reply
  11. Warren Mickley

    I still get the impression you don’t have a lot of experience with the double iron. It is unnecessary and unreasonable to have the cap iron distance the same as the depth of cut. Otherwise keep up the good work, Richard. Good hands and good instincts. It is refreshing to see a blogger that is not clumsy as all get out.

    Reply
    • Richard

      Hi Warren,
      I appreciate the support. One thing, perhaps the only thing I can guarantee for you is that I’ll write only from my own experience – good or bad.
      I’ve been fortunate to have experienced growing up and working professionally as a hand tool woodworker so I believe in the efficiency of the past but find it’s probably more important for this blog to try and make things relevant for a broad range of woodworkers. Sometimes this means simplifying explanations or creating formulas etc.
      Cheers.

      Reply
  12. Daniel

    Hi Richard,
    I’m getting started with hand tool woodworking – really grateful for these videos. I tried to set the cap iron closer on an old Stanley No 4 but it would not go closer than 12 gnats (= 600 gnats nadgers, or about 3mm in the old scale). It seems the cap iron screw would not sit any lower in the frog?! I must have got something wrong somewhere. Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Daniel

    Reply
    • Richard

      Hi Daniel, if you would like to send me a photo of this then I might be able to offer you some thoughts.

      Reply
  13. John Land

    Hi Richard,
    Have you seen / tryed a Clifton 2 part cap iron, perfect for your problem of having to resharpen 4 times a day, quickly. Looking forward to the wooden planes videos. John. (Outwood)

    Reply
  14. Bas

    Hello Richard,

    Great video series, I now have a much better understanding on how my plane iron and the cap iron work together. I found it improved my planing a lot! Thanks for that.

    When I saw the last video I wondered if it would be a good idea to also make a camber on the cap iron. It then would follow the camber on the plane iron. Do you have any experience with that?

    Reply
  15. Michael Bacon

    Just set up my cap Irons as you showed, and for the first time ever felt my planing might actually look like I know what I am doing.

    Love the site, thanks.

    Reply
  16. Andrew

    Thanks Richard.

    At the moment, I don’t even use a plane but I love watching these videos!

    Reply
  17. Stephen

    Your videos on setting up and tuning the chip breaker have made an immense difference in my smoothing plane. I’ve always struggled to get it to make a fine cut, believing I just wasn’t getting the iron sharp enough. I never thought the chip breaker played such an important role in getting super fine cuts.
    I’ve learned…or re-learned much from your other videos and blog posts also.
    I’d be remiss not to mention Helen’s posts, her skill level differs from yours but she does an excellent job sharing what she has learned with us.

    Reply

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