Comparison Tests of Plane Blades

updated 14 July 2012


This site presents results of tests that compare the properties of different types of steel used to make blades for woodworking planes.      

Iím attempting to answer these questions:

  • With equally fine honing, do some blades reach a higher level of sharpness than others?
  • Which honing abrasives work best on each type of steel?
  • How well do the blades hold an edge when used to plane different species of wood?
  • What bevel angles give the best performance?

Iíve tested a number of blades from commercial manufacturers and blades I made myself from a particle metallurgy alloy called CPM 3V.

I have a related site called Tuning & Testing Infill Planes that describes my efforts to learn how to bring an infill plane to a high level of performance.


Methods of Testing

To check the quality of a freshly honed edge and ensure that remnants of a wire edge have been removed Iím using a digital inspection microscope that gives images at 540 power. After the blade has planed a measured amount of the test species I examine it again to check for chipping, deformation, and wear. Here is an image of a freshly sharpened blade edge:


This is the same edge after making 400 lineal feet of shavings:


Each of these shows a small portion of a much larger image and represents less than 1/64Ē of the blade edge. They magnify the lower or clearance surface of the blade edge, which is a good indicator of blade wear.

The width of this wear surface on the clearance side of the blade is used by Leitz, a major manufacturer of sawblades and cutters for woodworking tools,as a measure of blade dullness and is the method used by a fellow blade tester named Brent Beach who has done extensive testing of plane blades and reported the results on his website.

In addition to making microscope images I sometimes test the sharpness of the blades by measuring the amount of force it takes for the blade to cut through a loop of thread. By performing repeated tests itís possible to get a numerical value for the sharpness of the blade. Further information about this test can be found here.

Since microscope images cannot measure the sharpness of a freshly honed edge I use the thread-cutting test to compare the degree of sharpness a blade has reached when honed using different sharpening methods.


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