Friday, August 5, 2016

Skew vs. Square

One of the many questions that I get asked through emails or at tool shows is in regards to skewed irons vs. square. This is an important and relevant question because we have all seen both out in the wild and in use. There are advantages to skew; there are disadvantages. The same applies to square.

The main advantage to square irons is apparent when working with the grain using a plane that has no fence (read hollows, rounds, etc.). When there is no fence the planes will tend to pull in the direction of the skew. This tendency is far from ideal in a plane that can already be difficult to steer.

The main disadvantage to square irons is noticeable when working across the grain. The surface left by a square iron isn't as smooth when the iron is not 100% sharp.

The opposite of these attributes is true with skewed blades. Skewed irons are nice with a fenced plane because the skew is oriented in a manner to pull the plane into the fence, affording the end user one less thing he must pay heed to (at least reducing the amount of attention given).

The skew can be a nice feature when working with the grain, but is ideal when working across it. The skewed iron will leave a much nicer surface than a square iron with a plane that is similarly sharp.

Generally, I suggest skewing a plane only when the intended use involves a significant amount of cross grain work, i.e. table tops, drawer lips, etc. In these instances the plane will be traveling across the grain 50% of the time.

Drawer lips are also an ideal time to have, not only a skewed plane, but a dedicated one, too. A series of drawers will place multiples of the profile next to each other and true uniformity is ideal.

There are a few other instances where square or skew excel. Most of that is involved in the manufacture or cost of manufacture.

All of that being said, you will likely swear that the type of plane you start with is ideal because it is what you've learned with and have already overcome the deficiencies.

Finally, if you've noticed that there have been a lot fewer blogs posted by the woodworking community recently it may be because everybody has moved to Instagram. I've been using Instagram for a month or so now and there is a lot of activity over there.

P. S. I have a thumbnail plane like the one above for sale and ready to ship. The plane is $360 plus shipping. Please send an email to if you are interested. (Note: this is the first time I've used the blog to do this, sorry)