If you’re just starting out in woodworking, you might be wondering what hand planes you need. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll explore the essential hand planes every woodworker should have in their toolbox. So if you’re ready to dive into the world of hand planes, let’s get started!

Hand planes are versatile tools that help shape, smooth, and straighten wood surfaces. They can be used for everything from removing rough saw marks to fine-tuning joints. Whether you’re working on a small project or a large piece of furniture, having the right hand planes can make a world of difference in your woodworking journey.

Now, you might be thinking, “But how do I know which hand planes I actually need?” Well, that’s what we’re here to answer! In this guide, we’ll break down the different types of hand planes and their specific uses. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of which hand planes you need to tackle any woodworking project that comes your way. So let’s jump right in and explore the wonderful world of hand planes!

Note: Remember that hand planes require proper sharpening and tuning to perform their best. Don’t worry, we’ll cover those topics too, so you’ll be well-equipped to unleash the full potential of your hand planes. So let’s waste no time and dive into this exciting woodworking adventure together!

what hand planes do I need?

What Hand Planes Do I Need? A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right Hand Planes

Are you a woodworking enthusiast looking to expand your tool collection? Hand planes are essential tools for creating smooth surfaces, shaping wood, and removing material. With so many different types of hand planes available, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones you actually need. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various hand planes available and help you make informed decisions based on your woodworking projects and goals.

The Bench Plane: Your Go-To Hand Plane for Versatility and Precision

The bench plane is a versatile tool that every woodworker should have in their collection. It is used for general-purpose tasks and can be adjusted to achieve different levels of precision. The bench plane typically has a flat sole and a wide blade, allowing for quick removal of material and accurate flattening of surfaces. Whether you’re smoothing rough boards, jointing edges, or leveling surfaces, the bench plane is your go-to tool.

When selecting a bench plane, consider the length of the plane’s sole. Longer soles provide better reference surfaces for flattening larger areas, while shorter soles are more maneuverable for working on smaller pieces. Additionally, look for a plane with an adjustable frog, which allows you to change the angle at which the blade meets the wood, giving you more control over the cutting action.

Benefits of the Bench Plane:

  • Versatility for a wide range of woodworking tasks
  • Precision control for achieving desired results
  • Ability to quickly remove material and flatten surfaces
  • Adjustable features for customization

The Block Plane: Perfect for Smoothing End Grain and Chamfering

The block plane is a compact and handy tool that excels at smoothing end grain, chamfering edges, and shaping small pieces of wood. Its compact size and low-angle blade make it ideal for fine work where precision is required. The block plane is often used for trimming door edges, fitting joinery, and creating bevels.

When choosing a block plane, consider the angle of the blade. Low-angle block planes have a blade angle of around 12 degrees, which allows for easy cutting on end grain and prevents tear-out. Higher-angle block planes, typically around 20 degrees, are better suited for working on harder woods and creating more aggressive cuts.

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Benefits of the Block Plane:

  • Perfect for smoothing end grain and chamfering
  • Compact size for easy maneuverability
  • Precise control for fine work
  • Different blade angle options for versatility

The Smoothing Plane: Achieving Glass-Like Surfaces

If you’re looking to achieve glass-like surfaces on your woodworking projects, the smoothing plane is the tool for you. This hand plane is specifically designed for finishing work, removing fine shavings, and leaving a polished surface behind. The smoothing plane typically has a shorter sole and a tighter throat opening, allowing for finer cuts and less tear-out.

When selecting a smoothing plane, consider the type of blade it uses. A high-quality, sharp blade is crucial for achieving the desired results. Look for planes with blades made of high-carbon steel or A2 tool steel, as they retain their sharpness for longer periods. Additionally, ensure that the plane has comfortable handles and a well-balanced design to reduce fatigue during extended use.

Benefits of the Smoothing Plane:

  • Creates glass-like surfaces on woodworking projects
  • Removes fine shavings for a polished finish
  • Shorter sole and tighter throat opening for finer cuts
  • High-quality blades for long-lasting sharpness

The Jack Plane: Versatile for Rough Work and Smoothing

The jack plane is a versatile hand plane that can handle both rough work and smoothing tasks. It is larger than the smoothing plane and is well-suited for dimensioning rough lumber, removing uneven surfaces, and initial flattening of boards. The jack plane’s long sole provides stability and coverage for efficiently removing material.

When choosing a jack plane, consider its weight and balance. A well-balanced plane will reduce fatigue during extended use. Look for planes with adjustable mouth openings and depth-of-cut controls, as they allow for customization based on the task at hand. Additionally, consider the material of the plane’s body. Cast iron bodies provide durability and stability, while wooden bodies can offer a traditional feel and aesthetic.

Benefits of the Jack Plane:

  • Versatile for rough work and smoothing
  • Efficiently removes material and levels surfaces
  • Adjustable features for customization
  • Different body material options for individual preferences

The Shoulder Plane: Ideal for Creating Precise Shoulder and Rabbet Joints

Shoulder planes are specialty hand planes that excel at trimming and fitting joints, such as shoulder joints and rabbets. Their unique design allows the blade to extend to the edge of the plane, making it easy to square up shoulders and create accurate and clean joints. The shoulder plane typically has a narrow sole and a blade that extends the full width of the sole, allowing for precise cutting along edges.

When selecting a shoulder plane, consider the size and weight of the tool. Smaller shoulder planes are more maneuverable for fine work, while larger ones provide more stability for wider cuts. Look for planes with adjustable mouth openings and blade depth controls, as they allow for fine-tuning the plane’s performance. Additionally, check for a comfortable handle and a smooth adjustment mechanism for a pleasant user experience.

Benefits of the Shoulder Plane:

  • Ideal for creating precise shoulder and rabbet joints
  • Excellent for trimming and fitting joints
  • Narrow sole and full-width blade for accurate cutting along edges
  • Adjustable features for fine-tuning performance

The Router Plane: Perfect for Fine Inlay Work and Grooving

The router plane is a specialized hand plane designed for precise inlay work and grooving. It is used to achieve consistent depth and clean edges when creating recesses or grooves in wood. The router plane typically has a flat sole with a cutting blade that protrudes, allowing for controlled cutting at a specific depth.

When choosing a router plane, consider the range of blade options available. Different blade shapes and sizes allow for versatility in creating various groove sizes and inlay shapes. Look for planes with comfortable handles and a smooth adjustment mechanism for ease of use. Additionally, consider the weight and balance of the tool, as it can affect precision and control.

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Benefits of the Router Plane:

  • Perfect for fine inlay work and grooving
  • Allows for consistent depth and clean edges
  • Range of blade options for versatility
  • Comfortable handles and smooth adjustment mechanism for ease of use

The Scrub Plane: Efficiently Removes Large Amounts of Material

If you frequently work with rough, uneven, or heavily warped wood, the scrub plane is a valuable tool to have. It is specifically designed to remove substantial amounts of material quickly. The scrub plane has a heavily cambered blade, allowing it to take deep cuts and quickly level uneven surfaces.

When selecting a scrub plane, consider the curvature of the blade and the sole. A more pronounced camber will remove material faster, but it may require additional sanding or planing to achieve a smooth surface. Look for planes with a comfortable grip and a sturdy build, as they will make the task of removing material more effortless. Additionally, ensure that the plane’s blade can be easily sharpened and adjusted.

Benefits of the Scrub Plane:

  • Efficiently removes large amounts of material
  • Specifically designed for rough and uneven wood
  • Heavily cambered blade for deep cuts
  • Comfortable grip and sturdy build for ease of use

Choosing the Right Hand Planes: Expert Tips and Advice

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of hand planes available, here are some expert tips and advice to help you choose the right ones for your woodworking needs:

1. Consider Your Projects and Goals

Before making any purchases, think about the specific woodworking projects you undertake or plan to work on in the future. Different hand planes excel at different tasks, so consider the types of cuts, surfaces, and joints you typically work with. This will help you prioritize which planes you need the most.

2. Start with the Essentials

If you’re just starting out and building your collection of hand planes, it’s best to begin with a few essential planes that cover a broad range of tasks. The bench plane, block plane, and smoothing plane are excellent options for versatile and precise work. As you gain experience and tackle more specialized projects, you can expand your collection with additional hand planes.

3. Invest in Quality

Hand planes are long-term investments, so it’s crucial to choose high-quality tools that will withstand the test of time. Look for planes made from durable materials, such as cast iron, and with well-made blades that can be easily sharpened and replaced. Quality planes not only provide better performance but also offer better ergonomics for prolonged use.

4. Sharpen and Maintain Your Blades

Sharp blades are essential for achieving clean and precise cuts with your hand planes. Regularly sharpen and maintain your blades to keep them in optimal condition. Invest in sharpening tools and learn proper sharpening techniques to ensure that your blades are always at their best. A well-maintained blade will make a significant difference in your woodworking results.

5. Seek Guidance from Experienced Woodworkers

If you’re still uncertain about which hand planes to choose, don’t hesitate to seek advice from experienced woodworkers or join online woodworking communities. These individuals can provide valuable insights based on their own experiences and help steer you in the right direction. Learning from others is an excellent way to refine your decision-making process.

Remember, the hand planes you need ultimately depend on your specific woodworking projects and goals. By considering the tasks you frequently encounter and investing in quality tools, you can build a well-rounded collection of hand planes that will serve you for years to come.

Key Takeaways: What Hand Planes Do I Need?

  • Start with a bench plane, like a No. 5 or No. 7.
  • Invest in a block plane for smaller, precision work.
  • A shoulder plane is useful for creating clean, precise joints.
  • Consider a low-angle jack plane for versatility.
  • Specialty planes like router planes or molding planes can be added as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our guide on selecting the right hand planes! Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned woodworker, finding the right hand planes can make a world of difference in the quality of your woodworking projects. We’ve compiled a list of common questions to help you understand which hand planes are essential for various woodworking tasks.

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1. What are the essential hand planes every woodworker needs?

As a woodworker, there are three essential hand planes you should have in your toolkit. Firstly, a block plane is versatile and portable, perfect for smoothing and chamfering edges. Secondly, a smoothing plane is necessary for preparing surfaces and removing small imperfections. Finally, a jack plane is a workhorse, ideal for dimensioning rough lumber and flattening large surfaces.

Having these three hand planes will cover the basics of most woodworking projects, allowing you to achieve smooth and precise results.

2. Are there any additional hand planes that can be useful?

Apart from the essential hand planes, additional ones can enhance your woodworking capabilities. If you frequently work with end grain, a low-angle block plane with a lapped blade will provide cleaner cuts. A shoulder plane is handy for cleaning up and fine-tuning joinery, while a router plane is indispensable for achieving precise depth and flatness in dadoes and grooves.

While additional hand planes are not necessary for beginners, they can be valuable investments as you gain experience and expand your woodworking projects.

3. Should I invest in vintage or brand new hand planes?

Both vintage and brand new hand planes have their pros and cons. Vintage hand planes can offer excellent value, with well-made tools available at more affordable prices. However, they may require more restoration and maintenance. On the other hand, brand new hand planes often come with modern features, such as adjustable mouths and improved blade materials, but at a higher price point.

Ultimately, it depends on your budget, woodworking goals, and your willingness to invest time in restoring vintage tools. Whichever path you choose, ensure the hand planes are made of quality materials and have comfortable handles for extended use.

4. How do I maintain and sharpen my hand planes?

Maintaining and sharpening your hand planes is crucial for optimal performance. Regular maintenance includes cleaning the tools after use, oiling the metal parts to prevent rust, and keeping the blades sharp. Sharpening can be done using sharpening stones or honing guides, with an angle specific to the type of hand plane. YouTube tutorials and woodworking forums can be excellent resources for learning these techniques.

Remember, a well-maintained and sharp hand plane will not only make your woodworking more enjoyable but will also result in cleaner and more precise cuts.

5. Can I use power tools instead of hand planes?

While power tools can make certain woodworking tasks more efficient, hand planes offer precision and control that power tools sometimes lack. Hand planes allow you to fine-tune surfaces, adjust thickness, and achieve custom fits that may be challenging with power tools. Additionally, using hand planes can also provide a more tactile and rewarding woodworking experience.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use power tools at all. In fact, many woodworkers use both hand planes and power tools in combination, depending on the specific task and desired outcome.

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What Hand Plane Should You Buy?


So, to sum it up, when it comes to choosing hand planes, there are a few key factors to consider. First, think about the type of work you’ll be doing. If you’re mainly working with rough wood, a scrub or jack plane is a good choice. For more precise smoothing, a smoothing plane is essential. Additionally, a block plane is handy for trimming and chamfering edges.

Next, consider the size of the plane. Larger planes are better suited for heavy-duty tasks, while smaller ones are easier to maneuver for detail work. Finally, remember to choose planes that feel comfortable in your hands, as this will make your woodworking experience more enjoyable. With these considerations in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to make the right choices when it comes to hand planes.

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