Hand planes are not very popular nowadays. Modern woodworking tools have rendered this antique useless because they are capable of reducing or smoothing a stock’s surface with ease.
However, even though it’s not a power tool, a hand plane is still relevant to carpenters who appreciate its high level of craftsmanship, which it portrays by delivering a very fine finish. But what exactly is a hand plane? Let’s find out.
What are Hand Planes?
A hand plane is a manual woodworking tool that shapes, smoothens, and reduces wood by shaving the surface. Muscle power is required to push the tool back and forth, in which it slices the surface on the forward stroke using a cutting blade.
The tool is either composed of a wood or metal frame and has a mouth at the underside where the blade slides through. This blade is adjustable depth-wise and combined with the size of the mouth’s opening, this determines the thickness of the shavings that will be sliced off.
That said, there are different types of hand planes and these include:
Types of Hand Planes
1. Scrub Planes
Scrub planes are specifically designed for quick reducing. This is made possible by having a thick blade that makes the thick, aggressive cuts with minimal vibrations and without bending. It also has a wide mouth, which allows thicker shavings to pass through.
The plane has a similar shape and design to a bench plane but is shorter, narrower, and lighter. It also has a bigger handle that fits the four fingers (except thumb) comfortably so that you can push it firmer on every stroke.
2. Bench Planes
As compared to scrub planes, bench planes cut thinner shavings and this makes them ideal for thin reduction, straightening and smoothing. They get their name from where they are used, which is usually on a workbench.
The tool is available in different sizes, with the long and wide planes being suitable for straightening while the short and narrow ones are best for smoothing.
That said, bench planes are available in a few types, such as jack, smoothing, fore, and jointer planes.
Jack planes are designed for reduction while smoothing planes are built for creating a finesse fishing on the surface.
As for fore and jointer planes, these are designed for straightening purposes because of their long size.
3. Block Planes
Block planes are very small size and are designed to be held using one hand. This design makes them ideal for shaving workpieces that cannot be held by a vise or cannot be placed on a workbench.
A good example of this is when chamfering the edge of a board to create a bevel for decorative finishing. Though it may not be as accurate as a miter saw, the plane can still be used to make the cut or smoothen it after being cut by a miter saw.
This way, you can hold the board using one hand then shave it using your dominant hand. While in use, it creates a smooth shave and is ideal for trimming end grain.
Other Popular Types
1. Traditional Japanese Planer
Japanese hand planes get their names from the material used to make them. They are fully wooden and are built using white or red Japanese oak.
The tool is very different from other hand planes because it shaves the wood while being pulled towards you as opposed to cutting during the push stroke. As a result, it causes less fatigue and is more precise.
Other than that, the plane’s wooden frame is also very light and does not scratch or leave marks on the workpiece. Its blade is tilted closer to the ground to give a flatter profile and can be adjusted by slight tapping at the top.
2. Shoulder Planes
Shoulder planes are characterized by a narrow body with a full-width blade that cuts across the entire width of the plane. This design is ideal for making rebate cuts, which are used to create half lap and rabbet joints, or tenon shoulders for mortise and tenon joints.
The tool is fitted with a hollow lever cap that doubles up as the handle, and this allows you to easily squeeze the lever cap for blade adjustment.
3. Rebate Planer
Also called a rabbet plane, this tool is specifically designed to create corner cuts such as rabbet, dado, and tenon cuts. It is similar to the shoulder plane is some ways, such as having a full-width blade. This makes it possible to make precise square corner cuts.
However, this is more specialized for the job because it has a fence on the base that helps you to keep the cut precisely parallel. It also has a depth stop that helps you to maintain accuracy by not exceeding the required depth.
These two are adjustable and give you some flexibility in terms of the size of the cut that you can make.
4. Transitional Hand Planes
Transitional hand planes are characterized by a wooden body and a metal casting set. They lie somewhere between the old wooden designs and advanced metal planes. Essentially, this is a transition phase between the old and new and hence its name.
This plane was built to give the smooth wood-on-wood sliding movement while still maintaining the firmness and strong functionality of metal parts, which are mounted above the wooden body.
Aside from that, there is no other significant difference between this plane and bench planes. Both have similar parts such as the frogs, iron blades, lever caps, etc., and all have a layout. Therefore, the uses of transitional hand planes are just like the uses of bench planes.
In conclusion, hand planes have come a long way from their inception as one of the first woodworking tools.
As you can see, they are available in multiple types, which are differentiated by their usage and construction material. Therefore, you need to select based on the project at hand and the material you prefer most.