Full Chisel Blog

February 18, 2008


Filed under: Hand Planing,Hide Glue,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:23 am

Toothing, Truing, Keying, Gluing or Veneering Plane  

This unusual plane with its serrated blade set perpendicular to the grain of the wood.  The blade is set at 90º to the sole of the plane.  The blade called an iron was traditionally made of wrought iron, hence the name iron, with a thin steel of veneer forge welded to the face of the iron.  When sharpened only the thin cutting edge is of steel with the rest of the sharpening done on soft iron.  The steel back is then serrated with parallel grooves to produce a fine saw tooth pattern.  When the bevel is sharpened the tip is serrated and cuts tightly grained wood such as curly maple or burls and not chip it out.

 This type of plane blade has been used by musical instrument makers for centuries to plane the curly wood used in wooden instruments.  The serrated or toothing blade cuts, scrapes and shreds the wood without chipping out the irregular grain. 

Toothing planes are commonly used to prepare surfaces prior to gluing such as for veneering.  Keying is also used on pieces like ivory and brass to roughen the surface prior to gluing.  Intentional roughing of the surface prior to gluing increases the holding ability of the glue by up to 30%.  This increased the surface area, hence a better glue joint.

  I just picked up a couple of old toothing planes, I have owned several in the past and have made a number of them as well.  It is actually one of the easier hand planes to make using traditional techniques.  One of the old planes had its blade almost completely used up, only about an eighth of an inch left of the serrations and precious little steel.  I will get a new replacement blade for it.  The other did not have an iron so I put one in it and I use it on a regular basis.  (I also have a cabinet scraper with a serrated blade for similar purposes). 

What I am writing about now is using this fine plane for a purpose for which I am sure it was used in the past, although I have not run on any documentation.  This information was extrapolated from experimental archaeology.   I have seen some Russian planes that were finished on the outside with a toothing plane, the bodies were curly wood, the surfaces obviously planed with a toothing plane then scraped.  The lines ran parallel to the sole of the plane.  This got me thinking about other uses for the keying plane.

  Now these are sometimes called truing planes as they true up really difficult grain.  While planing the edge of some pine boards with nasty knots I was having trouble with other planes so I picked up the toothing plane and took care of those troublesome knots.  Wow what a sweet tool.  A little scraping and the toothing marks are gone. 

Making a mitered door for a clock and after cutting the miter in the miter board, I shot the ends with a jack plane on a miter shooting board, but it was still a bit off, I had a belly in one piece.  I laid the toothing plane on its side, worked over the miter and now it is keyed ready for gluing.  I worked over all of the miters after shooting them with the keying plane on the miter shooting board.  There must be other uses for this valuable hand tool.


Toothing Plane Iron made from a modern block plane replacement blade.

About 28 lines per inch serrations

Toothing BladeGnomon is 6″ long




  1. Hey Stephen,

    Never have tried to use a toothed iron to shoot with. Need to give that a try. But for squirrelly-grained woods? You bet. Probably use mine more for that purpose time-wise than preparing a surface for veneer.

    Take care, Mike

    Comment by Mike — February 20, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  2. Mike,

    The toothing plane for unruley woods can be truely amazing. Knots which I run into on a regular basis using mainly pine, the toothing plane is indispensable as it can deal with the rapid change in direction of the grain without a big chip or even a little chip.

    I have a friend that has a commercial cabinet shop and he was having problems with glue ups coming apart on some thick maple tops. I introduced him to the toothing plane and that problem went away. He then of course had the problem with creap, so I introduced him to hide glue, which he uses in about 80% of his work now. And he does over a million dollars a year in business.

    I examined some 18th and 19th century Russian planes in Ray Wilson’s Collection in Indiana and they were toothed on their sides. Whether this was for decoration or to improve the grip is anyone’s guess.

    Another advantage to a toothing plane is that you do not need to even pay attention to the direction of the grain because the angle of attack of the blade is always the same no matter the grain.


    Comment by admin — February 20, 2008 @ 8:45 pm

  3. I use toothing planes for bow making. Regular planes chitter on the grain, but a toothing plane works great.

    Comment by Jonathan — April 8, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  4. In you post you said you did not have any documentation that toothing planes were used to handle knots. Since this post is so old you likely have found some now. But if you have not, “The Workshop Companion” published in 1879 by the Industrial Publications Company of New York mentions it on page 152.

    Comment by Timothy — December 19, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

  5. Timothy,
    Thanks for the information.

    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — December 20, 2013 @ 7:26 am

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