One skate good, two skates better

Right, single skate-plane owners can get off the 'bus here – you're done. Go and have fun.
The rest of you, one successful groove and you think you've got it licked, eh? Nope, we're going to play beading now. Get out that sliding section and those beading cutters and check them over as you did for the body and straight cutters. No hyper-ventilating, please; it's going to be fine.

Sharpening Curved Cutters
This is where folks get their undergarments in a twist; as soon as there's a shape involved, usually beading cutters. But it's not hard, really it's not.

1. Some people say just rub the backs of the cutters on the stone/sharpening medium of choice. I say "how does that work then?", but if it works for you then good on ya', as they say in the Antipodes.

2. Others have taken to using MDF/felt honing wheels like waterfowl to H2O. I worry that quick to hone is also quick to make a total dog's of it too, so I hesitate to recommend. Try it on slightly less demanding edges first and get the knack perhaps. If you get it right the edge is wickedly sharp though.

3. Good old fashioned slip stones like Noah used to use will work, but a) not everyone has them or wants to pay for them, and b) there's quite a learning, ah, “curve”.
4. Abrasives wrapped round a dowel are very popular. Good reasons for this; quick, controlled, cheap and a nice long length of dowel gives you a good visual indicator of whether you're at the right angle.
To facilitate keeping that angle while sharpening the shaped cutters I made a simple jig to hold them at the correct angle in the vice and took advantage of human beings' naturally better ability at judging horizontal over 35°.
In the same vein personally I found it easier to hold the dowel as if I was carrying a teatray, but (as ever) whatever works for you.
In the same way that French Polishing instruction urges the novice to concentrate on the edges and the centre will take care of itself, devote your efforts to honing the sides of the profile or you could end up with a deeper bead profile but still blunt at the sides. For the hair-popping edge a little honing compound on the dowel to finish off works well.
Beading Set Up
Guess what? It's just like we did using just the body, but the sliding section is like a mirror image lined up, or just within, the edge of the fence side of the cutter.
In the same way it's important the fence is parallel with the body, the second skate has to be too. So again use your spacer blocks, rule or calipers to set it just right. Again set the fence parallel to the required distance and the depth stop to the necessary depth. That requires a modicum of judgment to get the completed bead to finish just below the surface of the board – that allows leeway for clean-up without flattening off the top of your bead profile.


You're in a large cave. There are exits to the East and South. There is a Wizard. Do you:

1. Talk to the Wizard
2. Kill the Wizard
3. Go to and let the video download which'll clearly demonstrate just how similar planing a bead is to planing a groove. Plus bonus Ovolo! I'm too good to you...

Answer 1, 2 or 3

Yes, folks, it's really not any different at all. Isn't that good? You might need a trifle lighter a cut than you think when you start though. At the beginning of forming a bead all you're planing is a couple of narrow grooves or quirks and the temptation may be to deepen the cut.
But as more of the profile is formed you'll start taking quite a lot of material away with each shaving and will likely welcome a slightly easier cut if you're not to lose control.
I think the shavings from a complete bead profile are rather beautiful, arriving as they do with an elegant curve across the width. But I digress... All being well you've followed the same technique, kept the plane upright and you've got a beautiful bead as a result.

On the other hand, this is when you'll find out if any wiggle in the skate is going to be a problem. If you find the plane unexpectedly hard to push despite taking a light cut and the set up being correct, or it won't plane at all beyond a point, then check the skate is level with, or within the outside of the cutter and nowhere lower than the level of the bead cutter.

Sometimes, if it's just level, it can be that much more work and you might want to adjust the skate within the outside edge. If the plane design doesn't allow that consider grinding some off the edge of the cutter where it engages in the sliding section so it will. If that's not the issue check back on your notes about that skate straightness. If it's off, take remedial action with file or abrasives.

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