Hand planes have been around for centuries. In the early days of woodworkingplanes were made of wood. They were fitted with rectangular slots that cut across the center of the body. The cutting blade was fitted into a mortise and adjusted using a scrap piece of wood, the woodworker’s hand, or a hammer.

A lot of preparatory woodwork was done by hand before the machine era. The introduction of power tools and machinery reduced the time required to complete a given task. It also helped companies and individuals cut down on labor requirements.

The Best Hand Plane on the Market

WEN 6530 6-Amp Electric Hand Planer, 3-1/4-Inch
  • 6 Amp motor provides up to 34,000 cuts per minute
  • 16 positive stops adjust the cutting depth anywhere from 0 to 1/8 inches

Despite all this, a hand plane still works better than some machines. Machines with rotating blades, for instance, cannot match the polish and cut of a sharp hand plane. Some thickness machines create surface ripples that you can rectify with a bench plane.

A shoulder plane is the most useful tool when it comes to fitting mortise and tenon joints. Sometimes, the difference between a loosely fitted drawer and a well-fitted one is nothing more than a thin plane shaving. You can make one shaving at a time using a plane to achieve a desirable finish.

They have proven to work better than tools on many other occasions. Learning how to use a good plane can help you improve your craftsmanship. Unlike riding a bike or swimming, you’ll have an easy time learning how to utilize this tool for woodwork.

What is a Hand Plane?

Right Hand Planes with Shavings from Paragon

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Aerolin55, via Wikipedia Commons

Hand planes are hand-powered woodworking tools with wooden or metal bodies fitted with blades. These tools can be used on all kinds of wood.To use a hand plane, you push it across a piece of wood to cut off shavings.

Top 4 Hand Planes

What Are Hand Planes Used For?

Hand Planes for Woodworking on slab of wood

Image: CC by A-SA 4.0, Santeri Viinamäki, via Wikipedia Commons

Woodworkers use these tools to trim and level wood. They also use them to put a silky smooth finish on wood. No amount of sandpapering can achieve the same results as hand planing.

There are special planes used for cutting and shaping wood jointsOther hand-held planes are used to carve decorative shapes on wooden surfaces of items like kitchen cabinets, beds, tables, chair frames, and wardrobes.

The majority of planes made in the Western world cut on the forward/push stroke. When working using a hand plane, you lift it from the piece of wood and place it back for the next forward stroke. You may blunt the plane’s blade if you slide it in a backward direction without lifting it from the workpiece.

Japanese hand planes are used in reverse. They’re slightly lifted and returned to the starting point, which is the end of the workpiece. You’ll need to use pull strokes when working with a Japanese plane.

Below are some tips to help you use your hand plane more efficiently.

Skewing the Plane

Holding a plane at an angle when stroking wood is called skewing. It feels more natural and provides several benefits. It lowers the cutting angles, making it easier for the woodworker to push the plane with less effort. In addition, skewing a hand plane provides more slicing action.

Bench Height

Bench height is an important element to consider when working with wood. You have to apply the right amount of downward pressure as you push the hand plane forward. Using a plane on a high bench can restrict you to using the weaker sections of your arms. Consequently, you‘ll tire quickly and your plane strokes will be somewhat shaky.

A lower bench will let you use your leg and torso muscles, allowing you to work much longer and more comfortably. Experiment with heights to find a bench that works best for you.

Sharpening Wood using Hand Planes with wood shavings

Image: CC by 2.0, Phil Gradwell, via Flickr


Sharp blades make work easier for woodworkers. Sharpening your hand plane will help you achieve better cuts through the plane’s blade. Using a blunt blade ruins wood and exposes you to multiple risks. Many projects have gone wrong due to unwanted tear outs in the finishing stages. Make sure you have the right sharpening tools in your workshop to touch up your blades from time to time.

Waxing the Sole

Unlike wood planes, steel planes don’t slide smoothly over wood. To reduce friction while using a hand plane, it’s recommended that you rub candle wax on the sole of the steel plane.

Alternatively, you can use the ‘oil wick’ method if you intend to use your plane for long periods. An oil wick consists of a piece of felt inserted in a block of wood or placed on the edge of a jar. Linseed oil is applied to the wick, and all you need to do is to drag your plane over the wick intermittently.

How to Choose the Right-Hand Plane

Labeled Parts of a Right-Hand Plane

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, etune, via Wikipedia Commons

When picking a plane, you should consider the task you want to fulfill with the hand plane. Also, you should choose the right length to get the best results as well as enjoy comfort while working.

These tools come in a variety of sizes. The four main groups of hand planes are jack planes, smoothing planes, leveling planes, and block planes. These planes fulfill different tasks. Additionally, they produce different benefits for woodworkers.

Below is a look at some options available when shopping for a hand-held plane.

Block Planes

Block planes are common among carpenters. Many people prefer this plane because it’s inexpensive. Moreover, it fits properly in tight spaces inside toolboxes. A good block plane may become one of your favorite tools as it can help you do amazing work.

A Sample of Stanley Block Plan above a smoothed wood

Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Jomegat, via Wikipedia Commons

Smoothing planes

A smoothing plane is set to cut thin shavings. It can help you achieve silky smooth board surfaces. The quality of grain you’ll get through a smoothing plane is impossible through sanding alone.

The most common smoothing plane is the No. 4 size. It’s lightweight, which makes it easy to maintain momentum when planing tough wood.

STANLEY Hand Planer, No.4, Smoothing (12-136)
  • Iron of the hand planer for woodworking is made from extra-thick 1/8-inch (3.18 mm) A2 steel for...
  • One-piece base and frog of the wood plane virtually eliminate chatter

Jack Planes

This hand plane is longer. Compared to a smoothing plane, it’s less efficient in smoothing. Nonetheless, it’s useful in cutting down low spots on workpieces. It can level or smooth reasonably well.

There are different types of jack planes, but the most common one is the No. 5. It’s often called a junior jack because it was designed for beginner woodworkers. Its blade is similar to the No.4, but its body is longer and wider to allow for more specialized leveling and smoothing.

STANLEY Hand Planer, No.62, Low Angle Jack (12-137)
  • Iron of the hand planer for woodworking is made from extra-thick 1/8-inch (3.18 mm) A2 steel for...
  • The wood plane has a cherry wood handle and knob for comfort

Leveling Planes

These are heavy, long, and wide. They’re mainly used to flatten large surfaces and straighten edges.

Also known as a jointer plane, the No. 7 is the most often used leveling plane. It can be used for truing and jointing. If you‘re going to use a leveling plane for joining, you’ll need one with a blade that’s easy to sharpen.

Bench Planes

Bench planes come in different lengths varying from 9 to 22 inches. A bench plane’s blade is positioned at 45 degrees, with the bevel side facing downwards. A cap iron is attached to the blade to direct wood shavings away from the mouth.

When choosing a bench plane, it’s best to go for the longer one. Longer planes tend to straighten edges better than short ones.

Bench Planes aligned together

Image: CC by 2.0, C Watts, via Flickr

Taytools 469591 Fore Bench Hand Plane #6, 18 Inch Sole, Ductile Cast Body,...
  • Body and frog made from nearly indestructible ductile cast iron
  • Tote and knob are made from premium grade oiled and hand-rubbed Sapele

Plane Alternatives

Using planes on any other material apart from wood dulls the blades. Choose one of the following alternatives when shaping plastic, wallboards, or wood products containing adhesive:

Surface-forming Plane

The blade of this hand plane resembles a cheese grater. Unlike other hand planes that produce long shavings, a surface-forming plane files away material from a given surface. It is commonly used to shape plastic laminates, drywall, and PVCs. It leaves a rough surface when used on wood.

Silverline 103696 Surface Forming Plane Metal Body 250 mm Blade, Grey
  • Die cast body with comfort grip polypropylene handle
  • For all types of wood, aluminium, copper, plastic and laminates

Replaceable-blade Plane

If you’re not a fan of regular sharpening, this is a good alternative for you. It comes with double-edged blades that are disposable. Therefore, you can use it on medium-density fiberboards, particleboards, plywoods, and other materials that damage the blades of regular hand planes.

 Smoothing plane tool placed on a wood

Image: CC by A-SA 2.0 Canada, Luigi Zanasi, via Wikipedia Commons

Katfort Mini Hand Planer for Woodworking, 3.2inch Wood Planer Hand Tool Flat...
  • High Quality: High-speed steel material planers woodworking blade, approx 0.5” cutting width....
  • High Efficiency: 0.9” bottom width, ideal for plane groove and other detail woodworking. wood...

Wrapping Up

In summary, the plane you use will depend on the work you’re doing. Hand planes, wood or metal, enable you to create grooves, even and smooth out surfaces, and shape corners in wood. It’s advisable to buy planes with metal soles because they’re durable.

Jointer planes, scrub planes, and traditional planes are good tools for wood leveling and shaving. Use a spokes shave or a two-handed knife to finish your wood. To cut grooves in wood, use a rabbet plane. You can use an electric plane together with a hand plane to plane wider surfaces. Other woodworking tools like routers and pumice will help you dig grooves and achieve great finish on a piece of wood.

When selecting hand planes, it is a good idea to checkout sharpening tools too. These tools include angle trainers, abrasives, stones, and machinery grinders. They’ll help keep your blade in perfect condition, improving the efficiency of your work.

Be sure to only shop for high-quality planes. There are good inexpensive tools out there, but be careful when purchasing such items. Select planes that can stand the test of time to ensure you get value for your money.

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Featured Image: CC by A-SA 4.0, Bikswiki123 via Wikipedia Commons

Last update on 2023-06-08 at 11:56 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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