Hand Planes

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Hand planes are an essential woodworking and carpentry hand tool that can flatten, smoothen, and shape wood. Basically, a plane consists of a flat body with an angled iron blade protruding from the bottom. This sharp blade, along with muscle power, is used to cut a wood’s surface.

The Hand Plane: A Brief History

The hand plane has been around for thousands of years. Evidence of the woodworking tool’s usage have been found in the ancient city of Pompeii. Additionally, more Roman examples were also excavated in Britain and Germany.

Different Types of Hand Planes

Hand planes come in various types, each designed for specific woodworking tasks:

  • Smoothing Plane: Used for creating a fine finish on wood surfaces. 
  • Jack Plane: A versatile plane used for preliminary smoothing and dimensioning tasks
  • Jointer Plane: Also known as a “try plane,” a jointer plane is for flattening and straightening edges of boards to create a smooth joint. 
  • Block Plane: Handy for trimming end grain, chamfering edges, and other small-scale tasks.
  • Router Plane: A router plane can clean up areas that regular hand planes can’t reach, such as dadoes, grooves, and recesses.
  • Shoulder Plane: Shoulder planes can clean up and smoothen the shoulders and cheeks of tendons, creating a clean and precise joint.
  • Rabbet Plane: This plane is used for cutting rabbets (rebates), which are recessed rectangular cuts along the edge of a piece of wood, often used for creating joints or fitting panels.
  • Plough Plane: Woodworkers can use plough planes for creating grooves or dadoes in wood, typically for joinery or panel construction.
  • Compass Plane: Compass planes have a flexible sole, allowing them to shape convex or concave surfaces, such as curved table legs or rounded moldings.
  • Scraper Plane: Scraper planes use a scraper iron – as opposed to a blade – to create a smooth surface. This allows the tool to shave off thin layers of wood, which is excellent for difficult grain or highly figured woods. 

Hand Plane Handling Safety

Just like all woodworking tools, hand planes also require correct handling to ensure safety. Here are some reminders that craftsmen should keep in mind before working with a plane:

  • Seek guidance from more experienced woodworkers and practice first before handling the tool.
  • Wear safety gear such as gloves, and safety glasses or goggles.
  • Keep the blades sharp. A dull blade can lead to slipping and may cause accidents.
  • Regularly check the hand plane for loose or damaged parts.
  • Always keep hand planes clean from chips or debris.
  • Learn how to properly set down a hand plane on a workbench.
  • Remember to always follow the direction of the wood grain to avoid tear-outs.
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John Friedenbach

My initial goal, to provide a selection of tools, education and plans to the Beginning to Advance Woodworker has not changed. I continue to search the web to find new products and services. To bring those products and services to your attention.

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