Many aspiring young woodworkers often get enamored with electric power tools because they seem more straightforward to use than their manual counterparts. Most newbies, for example, prefer the electric plane over the hand plane because the electric version reduces muscle work and makes planing easier. This penchant for anything electric more often leaves many manual tools on the back burner, accumulating dust.
However, if you want to be a well-rounded woodworker, it will be best first to master a hand plane before you transition to an electric plane. The reason is that there will be instances when using an electric hand plane will never be possible. Besides, you will appreciate the electric plane more if you start with the manual hand plane.
18 Types of Woodworking Hand Planes
Hand planes are designed to shave off excess wood, and if you’re a newbie, you might misconstrue that all hand planes are the same. Nevertheless, as you shop around for hand planes, you will soon discover many types of hand planes. Besides, some types of hand planes get designed for specific tasks. So, if you want to fiddle with hand planes, it will be best first to familiarize yourself with the following different types of hand planes you can find in the market today:
1) Block Plane
One of the handiest hand planes out there is the block plane. It is easy to use, and it feels almost natural on your hand. You can hold it with one hand as you push it forward. You can use this plane to erase mill marks, bevel an edge, square up small stocks, plane a line, or even sharpen your pencil.
The block plane differs from the bench plane because it sports a 20° angle instead of 45°, and its bevel points upward instead of downward. Because of its shallow angle between the sole and iron, it sports a handy size.
2) Bench Plane
The bench plane has three tasks in most workshops. First, it straightens the wood; second, it smooths wood; thirdly, it removes materials off the wood. Bench planes come in various sizes, from the minuscule 5-1/2″ smooth plane to the huge 24″ No. 8 jointer plane.
A bench plane is a two-handed plane with a knob on its front. It also has a handle on its rear, allowing for control with your two hands. Besides, it has a shaving blade that sits at a 45° angle, and its bevel points downward. You can adjust the depth of its blade, and most bench planes carry a chip deflector above their blades.
3) Joinery Plane
One specialty hand plane is the joinery hand plane. It gets used for finishing or creating joints. Examples of joinery planes are rabbet planes, shoulder planes, plow planes, tongue and groove planes, and many more. Joinery planes are necessary to make the joints fit in most fine woodworking.
At the onset, it will be good to note that joinery planes differ from jointer planes, which gets designed to create flat edges. You will find different blade sizes for these hand planes as well as different guides referred to as shoulders. These guides enable woodworkers to make uniform notches and cut along the ends or sides of a board.
4) Molding Plane
The molding plane gets designed to create contours and shapes for wood molding and trim. Using this hand plane, you can create ornate moldings. In the past, these planes were used to make the ornate moldings of many outstanding cathedrals. They got also used to create decorative interiors.
To develop elaborate and overwrought moldings, you need to use several molding planes, like a sizeable curved plane for creating a wide contour and other hand planes for cutting rounded beads or grooves.
5) Smoothing Plane
You can use this plane to smooth out the wood surface. The smoothing plane smooths the surface of the wood before you treat the wood. It smooths out any small rough spot to achieve a superior finish.
The smoothing plane is smaller in size and is around seven to ten inches in length. Thus, you can only use it on small sections of wood. The smoothing plane is the last plane you will use on the wood surface, removing fine shavings and leaving the wood with a smooth finish. If you use it effectively, you can produce a finish surpassing the finish made by sandpaper.
The smoothing plane is the shortest of all the bench planes. Its blades have slightly rounded corners to lessen the possibility of gouging out marks or tracks in your workpiece. Besides, its mouth or throat is set tight for reduced tear-out.
6) Jack Planes
If you want a general-purpose hand plane, go for a jack plane. You can use it to dress down timber to size to prepare it for edge jointing or truing. So, it is basically the first plane you would use on your rough stock. Yet, if you deal with rougher timber, I guess you should precede the use of the jack plane with a scrub plane.
The jack plane is quite versatile, which makes it the most commonly used bench plane. Jack planes have lengths ranging from 12″ to 18″ and 2-1/2″ to 3.” The jack plane is versatile. It is perfect for downsizing wood to the desired shape.
The jack plane features rounded corners with a grooved structure to let you make flawless cuts. You can likewise utilize it to add the necessary details to your works. A jack plane, of course, is a type of bench plane lighter with a lower-angled blade.
7) Bevel-up Planes
Bevel-up planes might not be a distinct type of hand plane. Instead, it is a hand plane with a blade that sits on its top side instead of on the bottom, serving as a (built-in) chip breaker.
Bevel-up planes also feature a somewhat different design. For example, it has a grip best for a four-finger hold. Besides, the points of adjustments get set differently on the hand plane and with a smaller knob for blade adjustment that necessitates stopping your work before you can adjust it.
However, bevel-up planes allow quicker adjustments of their throat than bevel-down planes. Besides, they might be more expensive than other hand planes.
8) Router Planes
To make refined cuts, you should use the router plane. The router plane lets you create accurate cuts and plane grooves. It also allows you to level the joint’s bottoms like mortises or dados.
This plane works well in smoothing out any depression or sunken panels below the surface pattern. It enables you to smoothen and provide the bottoms of any recesses with a uniform depth. It also lets you work into corners instead of using chisels.
Although popular among woodworkers of the past, the router plane has been quickly replaced by the electrical shaper and router, although some woodworkers still use it for limited applications.
9) Plow Planes
Another grooving plane is the plow plane. You can use this plane to create grooves and small rabbets (metal versions). Traditionally, woodworkers used this plane to make grooves for rear walls or drawer bottoms.
The plow plane has a blade that sticks out of its body, making it somewhat similar to the rabbet plane. Nevertheless, this plane makes grooves, not rabbets.
10) Rabbet Planes
The rabbet plane is for making rabbet grooves along the board’s edges. This plane generally has a ten-inch length. Its blade is a bit wider than its body width to let you make a square cut. You will also find rabbet planes with a second frog to allow bullnose work at the plane’s toe.
Such a design is perfect for stopped rabbets. Stopped rabbets are grooves that terminate abruptly before the workpiece’s end. So, they require planing near the endpoint.
You will also find rabbet planes with a spur that lowers when you cut a rabbet across the grain. This design does away with tear-out because the spur cuts the wood fibers before they get hit by the plane iron. Additionally, it is imperative to keep the spur sharp to ensure no tear-out.
11) Japanese Plane
The Japanese plane also gets referred to as Kanna. You usually pull this plane towards you rather than push it away from you. This plane is of hardwood, traditionally made of red or white oak. Its laminated iron or steed blade is usually stouter than those of the western planes.
Looking at this plane, you will notice the different approaches used by the Japanese when utilizing raw power. Kanna’s design seems to aim for higher precision when using raw strength.
Other Japanese manual tools also follow the same principle of using pulling force instead of pushing power to accomplish their woodworking tasks.
12) Bull Nose or Shoulder Planes
You will notice that the bull nose plane has a blade that is flush with the plane’s edges. This design lets you trim right up the workpiece’s edge. Thus, you can cut according to the tool’s full width. You can use the bull nose plane to trim the faces and shoulders of tenons.
It will be best to use the bullnose plane when you need to trim onto the concave corner along the intersection wherein surfaces of the same wood piece perpendicularly meet. You can also utilize it to smoothen tenons and dadoes.
The shoulder plane is for cutting end grain. So, it differs from the rebate plane regarding how the blade’s angles get set.
Bullnose planes are generally small. They range in length from three inches to four-and-a-half inches. Shoulder planes also have thin bodies, and their blades are slightly wider. These planes are helpful when doing detailed work and finishing rabbets.
13) Chisel Plane
The chisel plane doesn’t have a front guard. Thus, it can reach areas that other hand planes can’t access. It is easy to use and features a simple design. Moreover, it can complete tasks that other hand planes can’t do.
Since it lacks a front guard, it doesn’t work like other ordinary hand planes. You can compare it to a paring chisel with a more accurate depth control.
Thus, it is a perfect tool for cleaning up, and it excels in flush-trimming joints and plugs, removing glues that dried, reaching into tricky corners, and smoothing rabbets.
14) Compass Plane
The compass plane is also called the circular plane. You can use it for planing concave and convex curves in your wood piece. It features an adjustable curved sole that lets you move it along a curved surface. Thus, it can work where other hand planes would falter.
Nevertheless, its use entails a learning curve to use it well. Moreover, the compass plane’s sole is of a flexible steel sheet. You can adjust it continuously to form different and uniform convex and concave shapes.
15) Combination Plane
The combination plane allows for interchanging its blades, allowing you to expand its functionalities. You can make it work like the other hand planes by interchanging its blade. You can also make it work like a rabbet plane or a molding plane with some adjustments.
The combination plane looks pretty versatile, yet, many woodworkers find its use cumbersome and deem it a challenge to set up. Hence, you will seldom find this plane in use by woodworkers.
However, this plane can work as a rebate, molding, or grooving plane. With its multi-functionalities, you can use it for tasks like cutting dadoes, tongue, groove joints, and rebating.
16) Finger Plane
The finger plane is a minuscule device for detailed work on small projects. You can use it to remove dry and excess glue. You can’t adjust this plane, so you must buy more of these planes to cover your different works.
You can use these planes to work on narrow tasks. They got fixed mouths and clamped blades using a simple wedge or a clamp screw.
Since this plane is small and light, manufacturers usually cast it in dense bronze or brass alloy to add weight. Some manufacturers also manufacture these planes out of heavy tropical hardwoods.
17) Fore Planes
The fore plane sports a more extensive feature ranging from fourteen to twenty inches. You can use this plane for smoothing rough boards. It can easily remove wood, allowing you to prepare it for detailed works. You can also utilize it for slight smoothing of your board.
The fore plane’s primary function is to prepare the wood by flattening it. Then, you can transition to other hand planes like the smoothing or jointer plane once the wood got flattened.
You might get confused when you hear the word “fore” used on the jack plane. Yet, the fore plane is distinct from the jack plane because it is longer than the latter and offers a more effective leveling of more extensive materials.
18) Scrub Planes
You can use the scrub plane to remove material fast. It has been designed for this purpose, allowing its blade to make deep cuts on the material quickly. It comes with a sharp blade and a large handle, allowing you to prepare extensive boards for more detailed works using other hand planes.
Using the scrub plane, you can cut stocks to the desired width before using the smoothing or jack plane.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know the different woodworking planes, you can easily distinguish one from the other. Nevertheless, it will also help if you are familiar with the following FAQs about woodworking hand planes, for they might also be the questions playing on in your mind:
What is the best wood plane to buy first?
Our immediate needs will largely determine the type of wood plane you should primarily buy. If you often work on a woodworking craft involving small wood projects, invest in a smaller wood plane that allows you to work with greater precision. Using the hand plane on larger projects, you could use larger wood planes.
It will be best to go for the jack plane if you smooth out varying types of wood. Of course, the jack plane may need to work out more detailed projects, but it can complete most of your planing tasks. The jack plane is a bit large. But it is good enough to deal with medium-sized projects and workpieces.
Lastly, when choosing a plane for the first time, it will be best to spend a bit more on quality wood planers with a chip breaker to ensure longevity while you get the hang of the wood plane’s usage.
To help you determine the best woodworking plane for your projects, you must familiarize yourself with the different types of wood planes and their functionalities. Thus, reading through this post will prove handy when choosing wood planes because it lets you learn the variety of wood planes in the market today.
As a beginner, it will be best to get the hang of these manual wood planes because they will be handy when electric power planes fail you. Besides, you become a better and well-rounded woodworker if you start using manual planes before you transition to electric planes.