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Wood Plane - a tool consisting of at least a blade and a body, used to shape wood in a controlled way.

You might like to think of the blade as a chisel whose 'interference' with a piece of wood is restricted, by the body,  in such a way as to allow consistent shavings to be removed, without fear of 'diving' into the surface.

The body of the plane rises from the 'sole', whose shape can determine the shape imparted on a piece of wood as it is planed.

The profile of the sole is almost always replicated in the 'presented profile' of the blade. Where the profile is other than a straight line, the plane is usually classed as a moulding plane.

Let's look at some of the main groups of planes.

Bench Planes
Wooden 'Coffin' Smoother
Notice adjustable metal 'toe'

Stanley No.4 Smoother
The bench planes are a group of flat soled planes, designed to be used at a bench for the accurate preparation of components from rough sawn lumber, and the finish planing to a smooth surface, ready for polish.
Although the bodies were once wholely or mainly made from wood, the only mass production these days is in metal. These metal bodied planes follow a number system from No.1 through to No.8, as the planes increase in size. No.1 through No.4-1/2 are known as smoothers, used to produce a fine flat finish. No.5 through 6 are the Foreplanes, usually used first on rough timber to rough flatten and dimension. The No.7 and No.8 are the Jointer planes, whose long lengths help to refine straight and flat surfaces.

The Parts of a Bench Plane
( Stanley No.5 with Hock Blade and Chip Breaker )
The Plane Body
( Stanley No.5 )
By far the most common bench planes are based on the original design by Leonard Bailey, and are known as Bailey Pattern bench planes.
More on the Bailey Pattern Bench Planes

Wooden Jack Plane
( Equivalent to a No.5 )

Wooden bench planes, like the Coffin Smoother and the Jack shown here, although performing the same function as their modern metal equivalents, have an all together different feel in use. Their dense wooden soles (often of Lignum Vitae) whoosh over the work as though frictionless.
Holding the planes is different since there is rarely a front handle, and often no rear handle - the body being held directly. Where there is a rear handle, this is positioned much higher, putting more pressure on the toe of the plane.
The iron may or may not have a cap iron (chip breaker), and in either case is usually thicker than modern plane irons. Instead of a frog, the iron rests on a ramp formed within the wooden body, called the bed. It is held in position by a wedge, which engages slots in the abutments.

Wooden Plane Parts
( Jack with Double Iron )

Block Planes
Very Basic Block Plane
( Stanley No.102 )

Block planes are small planes which excel at many tasks, but are perhaps best known for planing end grain, and applying small bevels. If properly tuned, they can make great little smoothers.

Although small, and easily held in one hand, best results are achieved by using both, even if only a thumb or finger of the second hand controls the toe of the plane.

Premium Quality Low Angle Block Plane
( Lie-Nielsen No.60 1/2 )
Block planes have no removable frog, unlike most metal bench planes, with the blade resting 'bevel up' on an inclined plane or post, cast as part of the body and machined to the 'bed' angle. Because the blade is bevel up, the effective pitch of the block plane is the sum of the bed angle and the bevel angle.

There are both 'standard' and 'low angle' block planes, whose bed angles are approximately twenty degrees and twelve degrees respectively.
Low Angle Jack
( Quangsheng No.62 )

Assuming a bevel angle of twenty five degrees, the effective pitches are forty five degrees and thirty seven degrees respectively.

For more information on block planes, take a look at my Anatomy of a Block Plane.

Often referred to as a block plane, the No.62 Low Angle Jack combines the size of a No.5 bench plane with the bed and mechanism of a low angle block plane.

Shoulder Planes
Shoulder plane with adjustable/removable toe
( Stanley 'Sweetheart' No.93 )

Shoulder planes are used to tweak joint surfaces, such as tenon shoulders and cheeks. With a blade that extends the full width of the plane (usually a little more) they can plane right up against a ninety degree 'wall'. They can also be used to cut and fit rebates (rabbets).

You can find more on shoulder planes in my Anatomy of Shoulder Planes.

Speciality Planes
Wooden Rebate Plane

There are a huge number of planes made for a specific purpose, such as the Rebate plane for cutting rebates, the grooving planes made to cut specific width grooves, and molding planes that cut specific mouldings. Authors have written long tomes on them, and I shall leave you to explore at your leisure.

Combination Planes

Combination Plane
( Stanley No.45 )
In an attempt to reduce the shere volume of speciality planes a woodworker might need, manufacturers brought out adjustable planes with sets of cutters, which were capable of replacing a whole stack of 'one trick pony' planes. The term 'a Jack of all trades, Master of none' could have been invented for combination planes, as their performance was always compromised by the adjustability needed in the plane body.

My YouTube Playlists and Videos on Planes and Planing Techniques


Anatomy of Planes
  • Six videos covering the anatomy of different types of planes

Bench Plane Quick Tips 
  •  Six quick videos giving tips on better plane use

Wooden Component Preparation  
  • Eight videos on how to use planes to accurately prepare components
Plane Tuning
  • Eight videos on how to get the most from a bench plane
Repair and Tune a Stanley No.93
Three videos in which I repair and tune a Stanley 'Sweetheart' No.93 Shoulder Plane

Japanese Planing Board +
  • Eight videos showing the build, use, and add-ons, to my interpretation of the Japanese planing board
Coffin Smoother Restoration
  • Five videos featuring the restoration of my coffin smoother (pictured above)
Living with a Stanley No.45 Combination Plane
  • Eleven videos on the set up and use of this versatile plane
Repairing a Wooden Rebate Plane
  • Four videos showing me repair my Grandpa's old wooden rebate plane
One Off Videos:

Honing a Plane Iron
How to sharpen a bench plane iron

Polishing a Plane Iron
Improve the sharpness of a plane iron by polishing towards a mirror finish

Creating that 'Mirror Finish'
Go the final step to achieve the sharpest plane iron

Flatten and Smooth a Glued-Up Panel
Short demonstration of how to flatten and smooth a small, solid, glued-up panel

Sandwich Shooting Boards
A jig to help jointing boards and vener. How to easily prepare a face edge

Introduction to the Mitre Shooting Board
What it is, and how to use it

Building a Mitre Shooting Board
Watch me build this jig, that helps you plane accurate mitre joints

Planing to a Knife Line
How to accurately plane to a knife line

Restoration & Tuning of a Stanley No.4 Smoothing Plane
Movie length video showing how I restore, and tune up, a No.4 bench plane

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