Woodworking planes explained

Hand Planes for woodworking [Explained]

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Hand Planes for woodworking [Explained]

Woodworking hand planes have been used for centuries by artisans but today it is not just time served craftsmen. Woodworking in 2020 is rapidly becoming one of the No1 hobbies. The search for traditional woodworking tools by newbies is surpassing that of skilled woodworkers.

It is understandable that the humble hand plane is probably the most desired tool. I have been collecting my tools for decades and I have what I need but I still feel the temptation. There are so many tools on offer: some are purely functional but others are just beautiful.

In this blog we talk about:

  1. What woodworking planes for what job?
  2. What each plane is used for?
  3. The finer details of these essential woodworkers tools
  4. Will good hand planes improve your woodworking.
planing with a No7 handplane

Even seasoned woodworkers make mistakes!

As a woodworker, I have learnt many skills and these skills include the use of old tools. I have been using woodworking tools since 1989 and I have made my fair share of mistakes. Here I will try to guide you, so you don’t make the same mistakes.

woodriver handplanes

How many Planes do I need?

Here you will see a good selection od hand planes that are on offer. This does not mean that you must have them all but just the ones that you are likely to use during your woodworking.

Still, you do not need to buy all of these tools at once. I have acquired my collection of hand planes over several years.

Working with hand planes is timeless

Luckily hand tool based woodworking is a traditional past time and because of that if you invest in good planes then they will still be good planes for decades.

What is a Hand Plane?

A woodworker’s tool the ‘Hand Plane’ is a must-have tool for the bench or tool kit.

The Handplane cannot be explained in one simple sentence! Because of the variety of models available. A hand plane is a tool used to level a piece of wood by accurately peeling off a very thin shaving or thick shaving.

History of the Hand Plane

For thousands of years, the humble hand plane has been used by craftsmen working with wood.

The casting of Iron was not within everyone’s reach or even possible in years past. So most hand planes were constructed from beech or other hard timbers. These old wooden planes have the plane iron or (blade if you like) is held firm with a wooden wedge.

Woodworking hand tools have not changed much

The Modern-day plane has evolved from years of evolution. But the version we all have grown accustomed was born in the 1860s.

The creator of the common model is Leonard Bailey. He designed a range of milled cast iron woodworking hand planes. The Stanley Works formerly Stanley Rule & Level decided to purchase the patents for Lenards Designs. My Favorite the Bailey but also Bedrock have left a lasting impression on woodworkers worldwide.

These popular designs are still used today

Have a look online and you will see many hand planes that look very similar. This is true as they are probably patterned on the highly successful Stanley Bailey for good reason.

What Hand Planes Should I Buy First?

In my honest opinion, There are three planes that should be in everyone’s toolbox. These are popular planes and can be found easily secondhand.

Check out the above three planes in our hand planes for beginners

stanley sweetheart no4

My Reason for the Above Selection?

Smoothing Plane

The Smoothing plane is a general-purpose plane ideal for levelling joined boards or truing small projects. You can use the smoothing plane to put a leading edge on a door but some skill is needed to do a good job. For many people the number for Stanley smoothing plane is the first plane most Carpenters begin with.

The first plane I ever had if you can call it a plane is a Stanley surform which was a gift from my sister. The Stanley surform is a bit like a cheese grater and behaves like a rasp. So you’ll never do a good job with one of these. Luckily the following birthday I received a Stanley handyman No4 smoothing plane. It was very similar to a standard Stanley Bailey number 4 but it had a plastic knob and handle (tote) everything else was very similar to the bailey.

Stanley bailey no 7 with victor plane irons-600-338

Stanley Bailey No 7

For putting on a leading-edge onto a door I personally would pick up my Bailey No7 for that task. The Stanley Bailey No 7 has a nice long sole plate which helps to straighten whatever it is used on. So this plane really lends itself to trueing long planks for edge joining, for instance, a tabletop. my Stanley Bailey number 7 is my most used plane. even for small work I quite often take my Bailey number 7 off the shelf because it is so nice to use although large. when I first acquired the Stanley Bailey number 7 it was in a poor state.

If you can’t find a renovation project these Groz planes are OK if on a budget. 

My car boot find the number 6 Foreplane. These two planes had to be cleaned up and refinished, machined and new handles made. With the addition of Victor, hand-forged plane irons created a perfect marriage.

Iif you are still wondering why you should consider buying a No7 plane check out my video on ‘Why you need a Jointer’

Low angle block plane

Sometimes small touch-ups with a plane are needed so I would go to my tool chest for my low angle plane. This palm-sized plane is really handy for removing an aris or planing end grain. Obviously, it is handy for much more but that’s a taster and you will need to get your own to experience by buying your own.

You could purchase a simple block plane but for a small increase in investment, you will find that the adjustable low angle block plane such as a record or Stanley or even the Lie Nielsen. The adjustable front sole of a low-angle block plane allows you to remove tiny amounts of material from the end grain with the limited splitting of the fibres. I own both the Stanley version and the Record version of these low-angle block planes and both have their own Characteristics.

This is my old Stanley which I have owned new on my 12 birthday. 

I love my low-angle planes but I do not use them for planing end-grain but I do like to have one ready to hand as they are so easy and quick to complete small planing tasks like trimming the aris on a length of timber or tweaking a drawer. The smoother is just as good at planing end grain which I explain in this video.

Old Hand Planes have Value

If you are gifted some old hand planes don’t chuck them. These old tools are fetching good prices with some fetch crazy amounts. I have managed to find some real gems of hand planes at car boots brocantes and on for sale groups and Online sites. sometimes they are in very good condition often very little use even though they’re old but sometimes they are a bit of a dog. But in all cases, they are easily restorable. When you think they may of originated from the original Stanley Works. 

Stanley works

What should I look for when buying a used hand plane?

Obviously, you do not want the sole or any other part of the handmade to be badly pitted with rust. when the main casting of the body has serious corrosion it will be very difficult to make the plane true. If the main body of the plane has excessive corrosion you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that all the other components will be in a very poor condition as well. A restored old hand plane has to perform as well as a new one.

When checking that the main body and sole of the hand plane are true I would use an engineering square and a steel rule. What you looking for is that the soleplate runs true and there’s no twist or alternating angle in the machining. Small deviations in the soleplate of the plane can be easily machined out. Small corrections in the plane body casting can be corrected on a linisher which has a machined table a large belt sander. This is a skilled job and if in doubt inlist the skill of a machinist to mill the sole.

dismantled hand plane

Is Restoring Hand Planes a Good Idea?

While we may like the idea of owning a Lie Nielson plane they can be a bit cost-prohibitive for many of us. This is where restoring an old tool could the answer to owning a good tool. Some of my favourite tools have been restored from a rusty lump of metal.

Finding Good Used Tools

Good tools don’t just fall on your lap unless you are blessed. You have to do a bit of searching without tunnel vision. You leave for your hunt for tools with an idea of what you’re after. But on that journey, you could find something else that is interesting. Be careful not to be influenced by tools that seem cool but are not on your list of necessities especially if on a budget.

Don’t forget to comment below and share with your friends, thank you.

victor plane irons

Victor Plane Irons a Worthy Mod?

My record Bailey number 7 and my number 6 both have victor plane irons installed. I consider these excellent hand-forged blades to be a very worthy modification. The Victor plane irons are made from hand-forged steel the grade of this Steel is of such that allows for an amazing edge to be achieved.

Victor plane irons are very substantial and much better than the Stanley?

These Victor Plane Irons are thicker than the standard plane iron and the chip breaker is more substantial.

The problem with the standard Stanley chip breakers is that they are a little bit flexible and it is common for shavings to get stuck between the plane iron and the chip breaker. When this happens it is inevitable that you have to take apart the chip breaker and plane iron to clear the debris so you can continue planing your wood. I am pleased that my modification has reduced this problem.

Victor hand-forged plane irons are incredibly Sharp and durable

If anything will improve a Stanley Bailey hand plane is the installation of a Victor plane iron. The tool steel of these Victor plane irons very hard so it takes more effort to sharpen but the edge will stay sharp for longer. it is a good idea to use a jig while sharpening as you will need to maintain a primary angle of 30 degrees and a secondary of 28°. These Victor Plane irons are made with 01 tool steel and if you want you can push the secondary bevel to 25°. If you do not use a jig on your sharpening stone such as a Norton India stone it is easy to damage your sharpening angle. I use a homemade sharpening jig which travels over my Norton oil stones.

Woodriver Hand Planes

The WoodRiver® V3 range of Stanley Bedrock patterned hand planes have gained high acclaim for good reason. Well known woodworking Youtube influencer ‘Rob Cosman’ has not just been influencing budding woodworkers he has had an important role in the Woodriver development. 

You won’t ‘Cry a WoodRiver!’

Why do I single out Woodriver as a brand that is worthy of recognition? Well Frankly when finding a well-used tool for refurbishment is out of the question or the likes of Lie Nielsen is just too expensive then Woodriver should be a consideration. I don’t own a Woodriver but I have had the privilege of using the No4 and a No7 and I must admit they have very good balance. When I first heard of Woodriver I thought the name was stereotypically Chinese but It definitely was not. The castings were very heavy and all the components of good quality along with the larger blade adjustment wheel. If you must buy new Buy a Woodriver you won’t be disappointed with this understated range of handtools

Stay Clear of Rubbish Tools

Unfortunately, there are so many tools that profess to be as good but frankly are bad in comparison. Avoid any hand planes made from sheet steel especially if the sole is painted. The Sole should be machined and this is really only possible with a cast Iron plane.

Cheap tools aren’t necessarily bad tools!

Just because they are cheap doesn’t mean to say they aren’t useful. If you decide to purchase a cheap hand plane then expect that you will need to do a little work to make it into a very useful tool. For instance, the UK company Axminster which many British woodworkers are familiar with distributes a brand of planes called Rider. Rider planes may not have much finesse but they can be turned into a very good tool.

Faithfull Handplanes – Are they any good?

Faithfull is one of those brands of hand planes that don’t actually do anything innovative but they copy tried and tested designs. If you look at the Faithfull pattern of planes you will see a distinct resemblance to the Stanley Bailey. This form of plagiarism is not always a bad thing when the Bailey has been around for so long and is loved by so many. It makes perfect sense to copy something that works!

I have had some experience with Faithfull tools and on the whole, I have found them to be good once you tune them a little. You might be satisfied with them straight out the box but I prefer to flatten the sole and hone the blade. My Favourite Faithfull plane is the No7 jointer as it has proven itself to me as a crazy cheap alternative to Stanley Bailey. This has to be the best Faithfull plane out of the range and can compete with tools far more expensive.

I have put together a list of low-cost Faithfull hand planes here

Tuning your hand plane

A relatively small amount of work to the sole and mouth of this plane transforms its ability. Personally, I would still install a premium plane iron such as my favourite Victor cast iron blade or even Clifton plane irons. This will enable the plane to perform more like a Stanley Bailey or even a Clifton. The Tote (handle) is a little poor so it is worthwhile to make new wooden knobs and Tote to fit your own hands.

Is it ok to lend my tools to friends and family?

As a woodworker who has over the years invested in his tools and knowledge to care for them. I have found that others do not respect a tradesman’s tools. I have on numerous occasions in the past made the mistake by allowing others to borrow items from my tool chest only to have them Returned damaged or having to collect them myself.

My father always said, “never lend the tools of your trade boy”

Which I have to agree. As a skilled artisan l mold my tools to fit my hands so they are unique to me. There’s no reason to lend your tools and I have found it best, to be honest with those who ask. Thus respectfully refuse clearly stating that it is your policy not to lend your tools as you have had bad experiences.

Are Wooden Planes any Good?

Yes, they are but wooden hand planes require additional work to remain useful. These old wooden planes are more fickle than cast iron tools. For instance, the planer iron is held into the frog with a wooden wedge which takes some skill to adjust. Don’t forget the fantastic furniture makers of bygone years or the famous Shakers use wooden tools.

Wooden hand planes come in a variety of quality of build and design. Some wooden hand planes have a metal sole insert some do not. Some are made by the carpenter himself or purchased from a tool store.

norton india stone sharpening oil

Norton India stone sharpening oilstone

How to Sharpen Your Hand Plane?

Are you serious about learning woodworking? Then sharpening should be on the top of your list. The sharpening of tools and especially your new hand planes will need the edge of the iron to be sharpened on a regular basis.

It is true that practice makes perfect

If you put the time in and practice the art of sharpening you will soon get the knack. Sharpening by hand is a mechanical repetitive skill that will stay with you. A handy skill which can be used to sharpen other tools such as a chisel or a pocket knife.

Sharpening is a transferable skill

Learn to sharpen a plane Iron so then you will be able to Sharpen other tools. This skill will enable you to progress in woodworking utilising other pieces of equipment. Many tools use similar sharpening techniques even chefs knives!

Sharpening is a priority

Sharpening should be on the top of your list. The sharpening of tools and especially your new hand plane will need the edge of the iron to be sharpened on a regular basis.

If you put the time in and practice the art of sharpening you will soon get the knack. Sharpening by hand is a mechanical repetitive skill that will stay with you. A handy skill which can be used to sharpen other tools such as a chisel or a pocket knife.

Learn to sharpen a plane Iron so then you will be able to Sharpen other tools. This skill will enable you to progress in woodworking utilising other pieces of equipment. Many tools use similar sharpening techniques.

What do I need to Sharpen my Plane?

If you want to sharpen your own plane on you will need some basic equipment. you can get away with a simple oil stone which has to abrasive surfaces. I recommend a Norton India stone because they are of high quality and will last a lifetime. the Norton India stone is an oilstone the oil provides a lubricant. you can use a diamond sharpener and for that, you require some water as a lubricant.

I personally prefer to use an oil stone because it is what I am used to. I feel that adding water to the steel will only help the corrosion process especially if you sharpen your tool and then put it in your tool bag and don’t use it for weeks period you might as well leave it in the river. damp tools Rust and pit.

How do I use an Oil Stone?

The concept of sharpening using an oil stone is simple. oilstone is merely an abrasive block that allows you to take off some material and sharpen the tool. before you start using your oil stone you will need a few other items one is rag the Old stone and some oil. Any machine Oil will do but many carpenters would use 3 in 1 oil but I do sometimes just use engine oil and white spirit mixed together it does work.

Before you start make sure your oil stone is held securely.

Many joiners would make their oilstone a box usually from the beach. this will make it easier to clamp the oil stone to the bench. I like to have my oil stone quite low I find my elbows do not bend when I have more linear motion.

Norton India Oil Stone is Available here

  1. Secure Oilstone
  2. Put some oil on the stone
  3. take your plane iron
  4. place the plane iron on the oil stone grind side down.
  5. start with the coarse side of the stone
  6. gently move the plane iron to and forth
  7. no turn the stone over to the fine side
  8. repeat the linear motion
  9. check the edge of the plane iron regularly
  10. . when you are confident that you have done enough
  11. put the back of the plane iron on the stone and gently past the plane iron over it
  12. this will remove any Bur made from sharpening
  13. Carefully check if the edge is sharp, I do this with my finger

Quality steel holds its edge

The quality of the steel with the effect the edge that can be achieved. Although you can get a sharp edge with low quality steel it tends to be a little bit soft. So you may be able to sharpen your plane iron very sharp. But the edge will not last very long. If for instance, you are using your plane too true Oak you may find the steel too soft. This is where good quality steel comes into its own such as the Victor cast iron hand forged plane irons. These plane irons do take longer to sharpen because they are harder and the quality of the metal is superior.

A metallurgist will confirm this when they look through a microscope or even an electron microscope they can see the structure is very different. Between good tool steel and low-quality tool steel. I sharpen all my tools myself and have become accustomed to the behaviour of each tool. Every tool has its own characteristics and this is evident when sharpening as some are easy to sharpen and don’t keep their heads long and some are hard to sharpen but keep their edge longer.

I digress it is important that you learn to sharpen your own tools period why this is important is that you are able to maintain the edge on your tools so you’re not struggling to do a good job. It is just so much easier to have an oil stone close by or a diamond sharpener so you can touch up the edge periodically.

I have recorded some videos on sharpening tools check out my YouTube channel Wallybois.

Handplane do’s and don’ts

like anything in life there is always a good way to do something and a bad way. Thehand plane is no exception and should be respected if we are to complete a project without issues.

What way should I put my plane down?

There’s a lot of controversy regarding this in that I was always told that hand plane should be placed on its side. So the player 9 is not damaged buy items on the bench or any other surface. health and safety tell us these days that that is no longer correct. we are told now that we should retract the play 9 and place it upright on the bench. Frankl,y I do both depending on how I feel at the time. Your goal has to be to protect you’re not nice sharp edge and your fingers.

Do not overtighten the cap iron

Over tightening the cap on can cause damage. My very first Stanley handyman smoothing plane the one with the plastic handles. Suffered damage because of this. The lever on the cap on broke because I overtightened the screw. Expecting the cap iron to be really tight is unnecessary.

Winterize your hand plane!

Just like a boa,t you will need to make preparation for the damp atmosphere of the winter season. The best way to do this is 2 protect you’re hand plane whenever you know that you’re not going to use it for a while. I do this by oiling my tools with an oily rag all over the exposed surfaces. This will protect the iron from corrosion and pitting. You can use specialist tool wax but fresh engine oil will work just fine. You’ll be glad that you have done it otherwise and next time you use your hand plane it could be covered in rust period so you’ll be spending most your time cleaning up before you can use it. Every time you have to clean off the rest you’ll be removing a small amount of metal. overtime this could cause some inaccuracy to the soleplate.

Protect your hand plane

This may be an obvious one but protecting your hand playing against other tools is very important. If you are like me and use a hand plane in your workshop well then it’s easy to protect your hand plane. By just by putting on the shelf on its own place. If you use your hand plane on-site and you are placing it in a tool bag or toolbox you will need to provide it with some form of protection. You can use a tool bag dedicated for your plane or make it a box or simply just protect the soleplate with a piece of wood and a couple of rubber bands. A hand plane running around in a tool bag unprotected will certainly be blunt or have a chip in the edge of the plane iron.

I have wobbly handles!

Hand plane handles or as they are correctly named ‘Tote’ obviously need to be maintained. If you notice that the hand plane has a wobbly tote deal with it straight away. Any movement in the handle over a period of the time will wear the mounting making it impossible to tighten properly. It is easy to tighten the tote screw with a flat screwdriver and you’ll see on the top of the handle or tote a slotted screw. Tighten this until this handle is firm and does not twist. Do this for the knob as well just checking that it’s not loose.

A quick tighten

If you find the handle and knob works its way loose on a regular basis there is a trick you can do. I completely remove the handles and placed a small amount of polyurethane mastic on the bottom of the handle where it meets the soleplate. I then replace the handles and tighten the screws. Leave to one side until set. The simple technique will prevent the handles from working their way loose yet you’re still able to remove them if you have to.

The chip breaker needs a little maintenance

The chip breaker is the part that attaches to the back of the plane iron. It’s important that the edge which makes contact with the plane iron is perfectly straight. Whenever I sharpen my plane iron I make a few passes of the chip breaker against the oil stone. This way it is perfectly flat and prevents shaving from getting between the chip breaker and the plane iron.

My shoulder plane has clogged shoulders

Quite often you will find when using a shoulder plane the exposed edges of the plane iron and chip breaker can get clogged with shavings and dust. The shavings get between the edge of the plane iron and the chip breaker. You can prevent this by rubbing a candle filling the gap between the chip breaker and the plane iron.

My plane doesn’t glide over the wood

Some timbers are not as slippery as others for instance if you are trying to plane a timber that is resinous. It will provide resistance against your soleplate. You can treat the soleplate of your plane with a little candle wax or specialist lubricant. This will make the plane glide much easier over the wood reducing the friction.

Be careful not to wax the edge

lubricating your plane is great for making your job much easier but there is a but. If using a wax on the soleplate you don’t want to transfer that to the edge of your wood if you’re doing a glue up such as a tabletop. the wax will obviously cause the glue to resist adhesion and then the joint could fail. If it is a real problem for you to use your plane without any wax on your sole plate,  do a final pass with a plane without wax and then you’ll be ok. You could clean the joint before glue- up with Acetone.

What are Components of the Hand Plane?

Components of the hand plane. A traditional hand plane is constructed from various components. These components comprise of parts made from cast iron and would sometimes brass components as well.

A traditional hand plane will have the main body casting comprising of the sole which is machined. The cast iron body of the plane incorporates various key components, the elements of which are: the heel which is the back of the plane, the toe which is the front of the plane, the sole which is the base or the bottom of the plane (this should be machined) and the mouth which is where the plane iron protrudes.

Hand plane components which attach to the cast iron body are as follows: Knob or front handle as some people call it, the handle or tote to the rear, lateral adjustment lever which is attached to the Frog (the Frog is the component which the plane iron or blade attaches to) the iron or blade has a chip breaker attached and securing that to the Frog is the lever tap or the cap iron.

Whenever you dismantle a hand plane it is always a good idea to lubricate all the surfaces. There is a number of screws that should be removed and cleaned. the reason for this is that any lubricated surfaces will collect dust and create a hard paste.

You should not only just lubricate any moving components but if your tools are to be left in a damp environment it is a good idea to wipe over with an oily rag. This will prevent the surfaces including the machine surfaces from rusting.

parts of woodworkers plane frog iron cap

Some people confuse the electric plane and a hand plane. Why I say this is that they are two very different pieces of equipment the hand plane like a Stanley number 4 or the number 7 is ideal for a fine finish. Electric hand planes as far as I am concerned are best used for rapid material removal for instance: reducing the width of a door. The electric hand plane can save a lot of time when you have a lot of material to remove. A reasonable quality electric plane can remove as much as 4 mm of wood on every pass but expect  2mm.

Although I am a lover of my manual hand tools and especially my collection hand planes. I can still see the merits of owning an electric plane. And understand that not all electric planes are equal. For instance, you cannot make a comparison between a Festool electric plane and the cheaper Bosch or black and decker DIY equivalent.

Don’t expect miracles from DIY electric planes

There are some fundamental differences between these tools. The more expensive high-quality machines tend to have more cutting knives on the block. These can be tungsten carbide or sharpenable tool steel. Most electric planes have only two cutting surfaces on the block compared with three on the better machines.

Helical vers Standard knives?

TCT Helical cutter blocks are a revelation and are surprising in action.

This gives you one extra cut per Revolution. Festool, for instance, has a very well designed speed of cutter Revolution ratio. This machine does give a very good finish for an electric plane. Festool machines are exceptional I cannot deny but they are also out of the reach of most people’s measly pockets. If I could afford to I would fill my workshop with nothing but Festool. I am not keen on their jigsaw but most of the other Festool machines are fantastic.

Should I use an electric plane to put on a Leading Edge on a door?

Personally, I would say no. The reason for this is that the electric hand plane does not have the ability to alter the angle of cut. You will have to manually angle the plane to put on a Leading Edge. The manual hand plane such as a Stanley Bailey number 4 and number 6 or number 7 you have the ability to change the angle of cut using the lever. When I put a leading edge on a door I use this lever for the first few cuts to make the leading edge angle on the door. I then centralised the lever so that the plane iron is parallel with the sole of the plane and finish the leading edge.

The Stanley Bailey is getting hard to find

Stanley has now gone retro with their Stanley Sweetheart range of tools.

Hand Plane For Joining Wood Boards

When joining boards together for a worktop or tabletop it is important the two mating surfaces are smooth and true. To achieve this you need a tool that is capable of trim the edge. You can use a jointer such as a machine jointer, which is like a surface planer but has long cast iron tables. You can also use a long hand plane such as the Stanley Bailey number 7 which would be my choice. My reason for this is that the plane iron creates a very smooth finish.

Does the electric plane smooth?

The problem when using a machine which has a rotating iron in a block is that the cut is rotary. The rotary cut creates radial cuts and depending on the quality of your machine will dictate the finish on the Edge. Ideally, you want the mating edges to be perfectly flat and smooth. If there are radio cuts on the finish like you will get with an electric planer these will be voids when you clamp up.

Hand Plane Incarnations

Each model has a different purpose so it is likely you will need several but for most people, 3 hand planes will suffice.

As an established woodworker, I have over the years collected many hand planes. 

Stanley Bailey no4 smoothing plane
Stanley Bailey no4 smoothing plane

The Stanley Bailey smoothing plane

The smoothing plane such as Stanley number 4 is a small woodworking plane. The No4 plane is often the first plane most woodworkers own. I use my Stanley Bailey number 4 for planing newly glued boards in a worktop. A scrub plane works better for flattening a fresh glue up.

stanley jack plane no5
Stanley jack plane no5

The Jack Plane

The jack plane or Stanley number 5. Is slightly longer than the Stanley number 4 but the same width. Considered the general purpose hand plane. The Jack plane is sometimes prefered over the No4 smoother because it is short enough to be a smoother and long enough to true or dress an edge prior to jointing. The Jack Plane is also good for putting a lead on a door prior to fitting.

stanley bailey no 7 with victor plane irons-600-338
Stanley bailey no 7 with victor plane irons-600-338

The jointer plane

The joiner plane such as the Stanley number six or seven is a very long plane. The 22 in the soleplate of this plane helps to true a piece of timber. My Stanley Bailey No 7 is a great tool.

The use of this plane is commonly the planing the age of boards prior to a glue-up. The Stanley Bailey number 7 is my favourite plane in my arsenal. I use it as my go-to plane which sometimes I could use a smaller plane instead.

These planes can be found used in good condition and alright for restoration. A new joiner plane can be very expensive especially if you want to buy a Lee Neilson.

The block plane

The block plane comes in many incarnations and sizes. The small plane is very useful for cleaning up edges and planning areas which have limited access. These small planes are available in various sizes and widths. The plane iron is at a lower angle than the smoothing plane.

record low angle plane
Record low angle plane

The low angle block plane

The low angle block plane is another variation of the standard block plane pattern. The two key differences are at the front of the sole is adjustable. By adjusting the front song you can alter the size of the mouth.

By reducing the size of the mouth you will make the plane perform better on end grain. The other difference is that the plane iron is set at a very low angle hence it is called a low angle block plane.

stanley badger shoulder plane
Stanley badger shoulder plane

The badger plane

A badger plane is a form of shoulder plane. These planes are very useful for cleaning a rebate. for instance, if you have cut a rebate for a door frame and your saw blade has burnt the wood.

The dark marking from the burn can be removed using a shoulder plane such as the badger. What makes the badger plane different from say a jack plane is that the plane iron reaches the edge. So when you push the plane against a rebate the plane iron will cut right into the corner.

If you manage to acquire a badger plane which can be quite difficult these days as not many manufacturers are making it. Treasure your badger plane and look after it very carefully period the badger plane is prone to breakage.

The reason for this is that the badger plane has material removed from its sides so there is less rigidity and the casting can crack. Don’t get me wrong it is very strong but if you drop the badger plane say on concrete it can break.

record combination rebate plane
record combination rebate plane

The rebate plane

Not many people use a rebate plane these days but it is still a very useful addition to any workshop. I don’t use mine often these days other than to clean an existing rebate. Times past people would use the rebate plane to create the rebate on Windows or doors. the process of using a rebate plane can be quite slow compared with cutting the rebate on the table saw.

Most workshops these days are kitted with a spindle moulder which will produce a perfect rebate so that would be my go-to. Saying that it is nice to use the hand tool on occasions.

The Scrub Plane

This plane is a tool is used to remove large amounts of material quickly. This plane can be a lifesaver when having to reduce the thickness of a board quickly. The plane iron is curved which helps to cut more material on every path of the tool. A good brand of scrub Lane is the Veritas it may be pricey but the quality is exceptional. The scrub plane can also be used to add texture.

Why this is good is because the edge is curved so it produces a concave cut this concave cut can be considered decorative. The plane iron in the sky plane does not have a chip breaker but the iron is fairly thick.

If you don’t want to buy a specialised scrub plane you have options. My scrub plane is a modified Stanley Bailey No4. You too could modify a smoothing plane by grinding a plane iron into a smooth curve. Sharpen and hone that plane iron to a standard 30°

The Fore plane

the 4 plane is in between the jack plane and the Jointer plane but comes under the family of the Broad types of a bench plane.

These smoother wide-bodied Jointer planes are 14 to 18 inches in length. before a plane can be made from wood or metal but today metal is far more common because it performs better. I use a record number 6 with Victor forged plane irons installed this is a good tool and can be purchased for small money. but if you are buying new you may want to consider a Lee Neilson 4 plane number 6 but generally, these do cost between €300 and €400. These Lee Nelson 4 planes come in 3 different degree angles A 45-degree standard angle a 50-degree angle and a 55-degree angle.

bullnose shoulder chisel plane by axminster rider
bullnose shoulder chisel plane by Axminster rider

Chisel Plane

The chisel plane also known as a finishing plane is a small tool. The plane iron is exposed at the front and sides. it is ideal for planing in the corners of a rebate especially stopped corners such as at the head of a door frame.

The position of its cutting edge is ideal for this and it can reach for instance into the internal corners of a box or any wooden structure you can use it to trim the glue that is used out of a joint. The chisel plane can reach areas a standard block plane cannot Reach.

The low angle blade on the chisel plane can handle course timber without tearing with fibres.

The combination plane

The combination plane was originally developed for the purpose to replace the need for having 100 or so of various different wooden moulding planes. This plane can accept a variety of differently shaped plane irons. These plane irons can replicate various cutter shapes such as a flute, bead or just a rebate. Either way, they are an adaptable tool.

record 042 shoulder plane
record 042 shoulder plane

The shoulder plane

This plane is like the badger plane but a little bit smaller. The plane iron on the shoulder plane is flush with the ages of a plane body. This allows the plane to be able to travel right to the edge of a piece of timber. The shoulder plane is great in a rebate or you could use it for cleaning your tenons. If you are used to cutting tenons by hand or even with a bandsaw. The shoulder plane is useful for smoothing the saw cuts and tuning the joint so it fits perfectly.

The moulding plane

The moulding plane is traditionally made from wood. A carpenter would have made these tools themselves and use them to make the small beads and trims you find some elegant pieces of furniture. Because traditional furniture of yesteryear was very decorative and personal to look after you would find that they would have made possible hundreds of different moulding planes different lengths different whips different heights but most importantly they have different shape cutters.

These fancy cutters could replicate all different shapes riding the trimming that decorative items of furniture may require.

Basic moulding planes are made from either beech or maple. Moulding planes often have a plane iron on which is being held in with a very simple wedge arrangement and the just not this could be made by this tapping with a mallet the back ends of the actual plane and that impact has the effect of making the blade move out or in?

luthier violin guitar finger plane
luthier violin guitar finger plane

The finger plane

These tiny little planes are traditionally used by luthiers. luthiers are people who make violins or guitars this is a highly skilled job and it is ideal that the person or luthier who is making that guitar or violin can also play that instrument.

Like that compass plane, these finger planes can also have a curved soleplate put the difference being that the soleplate is machined so fixed. It is not unlikely for a luthier to have several finger planes of different sizes and angles. These plans can be made from a variety of materials including the traditional iron beach or brass. 

Finger plane set in ebony is ideal for guitar and violin makers.

The scraper plane

It is a very a handy variation of the cabinet scraper. Holding and controlling a Stanley scraper plane or equivalent is far easier than trying to handle a thin piece of sprung Steel cabinet scraper for long periods of time. The scraper is very useful when finishing a table top. The scraper plane is ideal for final finishing all smoothing of a piece of timber. When using a smoothing plane you can quite easily get tear out but the scraping plane can remove planer marks. I personally like the Veritas scraping plane it is cheaper than a Lee Nelson yes it’s still very good quality. Stanley also makes a very good scraper plane but these are becomiong harder to find. A well-priced cabinet scraper is the Woodriver 80.

The compass planecompass plane sole , toe and heel

The first thing that comes to mind when you mention a compass is something that can age you to draw a circle. But the compass plane is designed to plane wood from a curved surface.

It does not matter if the surface is convex or concave because a traditional compass plane is fully adjustable. With the big knob on the top of the plane, you can make the soleplate which is made from Spring Steel flex in either direction. This adjustment allows the compass plane to travel over a curved surface but I use my compass plane for making handrails for staircases and arched door components. I have written an article on the Compass Plane here

My conclusion on hand planes

As a woody that enjoys the feel of wood and the learn’t skills I may be a little biased, I hope you can forgive me for that! But when I apply our hand tools to a beautiful piece of Walnut it leaves me with a warm fuzzy feeling.

This is why I am so convinced that for my personal enjoyment that I get from woodworking; handtools are the ‘cherry on the cake’!

The Hand plane gives you the time to breathe and enjoy the manual input to the craft. You too can be a part of this clan with a little perseverance and get fulfilment from collecting new/old tools for each woodworking task. Not just for the sake of owning but to have the tools necessary to create your own works of art.

Remember that hand tools have been around for many years and there are lots of used planes in second-hand stores or inheritance. They will need some work but if that is not your bag you can buy new hand planes for low or high prices.

Please Comment and Share

1 thought on “Hand Planes for woodworking [Explained]”

  1. Nice read man. Very cool. Might want to mention that if you enjoy collecting things, a little self control will go along way with fighting the bug. I personally don’t have that self control and was bit hard by the bug. Started out with a $30 set of chisels from home depot. A few undisclosed amount of dollars later, I have well over 250 chisels. Most are 100 years old or more. About 30 planes. Mostly old Stanleys but some newer expensive ones also. And countless other woodworking tools that even though I probably won’t ever use, I have a hard time letting them go. It can turn into a very wallet draining addiction very quick. Watch out for that bug!

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