A hand plane
is a woodworking
tool used to flatten or shape wood
In its basic form, it consists of a long, flat wood or steel
base (called the sole), which has a slot across its width (mouth).
Through this slot, a blade
extends about a sixteenth of an inch from the sole. When the plane is pushed across the wood, it shaves off thin, paper-like shaving
s and smooths the wood.
Types of handplanes
Planes can be classified by their design
and use :
- Basic, flat soled planes
- Jointer - Long and heavy plane ( 16 - 28 inch ) used for truing ( flattening ) edges or surfaces of long boards.
- Jack - Medium sized plane ( 10 - 16 inch ) for beveling and lighter work.
- Smoothing - Small plane ( 6 - 10 inch ) for smoothing and finishing work.
- Block - Tiny plane ( 2 - 6 inch ) which is held in one hand and used to smooth edge or cross-grain.
- Specialty, flat soled planes
- Rabbet plane - for shaping wood into an L-shaped cross-section.
- Grooving plane - for cutting lengthwise grooves.
- Bullnose plane - the blade is at the very front of the plane , so it can reach the inside corners of window frames etc.
- Spokeshave - for shaping gentle concave or convex surfaces.
- Scraper - hardly a 'plane' but nonetheless it is used for final surfacing before applying a finish.
- Molding planes having soles with various cross sections.
- Rounding planes and
- Hollowing planes named for the shape of their sole rather than the shapes that they cut.
- Skew soled planes with a trapezoid blade angled in both planes, used for smoothing dovetail grooves.
- Molding planes used to make fancy shapes ( with names like ogee, roman ogee, cove, beading etc ).
- Hand routers used for cutting inlays in boards.
Design of handplanes
Hand plane design is quite complex and there are many choices to make:
- Metal or wood?
Wood planes are lighter and easier to use but unless carefully made can warp due to humidity. Metal is more stable and resistant to abuse, but more tiring to use because of its weight. Wooden soles get slick and glaze over with use, reducing friction, while green woods and weather can ruin smooth iron soles. Wooden plane builders solve the warpage problem by using lighter and more stable hardwoods for the body with a thin sole made of extremely hard woods like lignum vitae or purpleheart joined to the body with a castellated joint.
- Blade mounting angle
The angle that affects the behavior of the plane is that between the wood and the upper surface of the sharp edge. Plane blades are flat on one side and beveled on the other. Most are mounted with the flat side up. Lower mounting angles cause digging in and tear out chunks in hardwoods, while high angles cause the blade to chatter and blunt faster. The best angle for hardwoods is about 50 degrees, and 35 - 40 degrees for softwoods. Most general purpose planes compromise on 45 degrees which works quite well on most woods. Block planes would be unwieldy if the blade is mounted flat side up, so it is mounted at about 10 degrees with the bevel up. This, added to the 30 degree angle of the blade gives a cutting angle of about 40 degrees which is right for softwood. There are low angled block planes with an angle of about 15 degrees used exclusively for edge-grain.
- Blade sharpening angle
Smaller angles give better finish but blunt faster, so for planing hardwoods, the blade is sharpened to between 30 and 35 degrees and for softwoods, 25 to 30 degrees.
- Blade dimensions
Wider blades give flatter edges, but require more force to be applied. Thickness, again is a choice between ease in sharpening for thin blades and edge retention for thicker blades.
- Sole length
Longer soles, produce straight even cuts, while short soles allow planes to remove wood more rapidly.
- Blade adjustment
The simplest design is the one in which a wooden wedge holds the blade, but it requires more skill to adjust accurately. Modern planes have screw mechanisms to adjust cutting depth and some have mechanisms to adjust the width of the mouth.
The early planes didn't have handles ( the plane itself was the handle ). Gradually the D shaped handle evolved. The steel Bailey plane has a knob, while the Primus has a rear grip with a horn shaped front handle ( In the past they were made of horn ).
History of handplanes
Hand planes were first used in Egypt
. With crude copper
blades lashed onto bent pieces of wood, they looked like this:
/ / _/
_____/ / /
\______\/______/ -- Bent piece of wood
|------ Crude copper blade
I don't see how this would work but you can't argue with archaeology
progressed , planes began to look like this:
Traditional wood jointer plane
_ / \ --- Blade /\ _______\
Wedge ---/\ \ / / / __ /
__________________/ \_\/___________/ / / | |_
|\ ---/ / / / / / | | \
| \ \ / / \/ / | \ \
| \____________------- ___________________________\
\ | _________________________________________ |
\ | (_________________________________________) |
During the industrial revolution
, Heavy metal
was cool, so the Bailey plane came into being and nearly wiped out the wooden planemakers:
Bailey jack plane
Lateral blade adjuster -- //
___// ------ Blade depth adjuster knob
/ _ | | ______
Blade -- / // / | (______)
___ /_() / | \ /
/ \ ___// |/ | | |
__| ) ___// /()//\__||--____| |
// \ / ___// --|| ___/ | \
\ ___________// \___\ (________\ \
\ // \===================\ ---- Cast Iron base
However, real craftsmen
would still keep the market
for wooden plane alive and one day, Primus planes, the very Rolls-Royce
of planes were invented, combining traditional
design with modern technology
Primus smoothing plane
___ ... --- Blade depth adjustment screw
| | --- Horn (shaped) __//
\ \ handle / |
\ \ / / ____
_-\ \________________/ / (____) --- Short comfortable rear grip
\ \ \ -----/ / / /
|\ _==_ \ /()/ / _|
\ \_- -_________------__________\|| --- Blade holder knob
\\ | |||
\\|__/\__/\__/\__/\__/\__/\__/\__/\_| --- Castellated Joint
\|________________________________/ --- Hardwood sole
Tips for using planes
- It's never too soon to resharpen the blade!
- Avoid planing green wood.
- Keep the bite less.(Use minimal cutting depth)
- Use the longest plane that's practical.
- Use long even strokes, it's a great arm and upperbody workout. Try to beat a two foot long shaving.
- Wax the soles generously.
- Make sure your workbench is the exact height for you. Too high = back / shoulder ache, Too low = murder on the wrists.
- If woodworking is a chore for you, use an electric power planer.
- Heavy jobs can be done by two people : one pulling, the other pushing. You don't see much of this in the west but in India it's all the rage!
Now go plane some wood!!