Block Plane Vs. Bench Plane: What Does Each Hand Plane Do?

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For years carpentershave been creatingfurniture masterpieces, impressive structures, and everyday wooden items for our homes. But we are living in a modern age, where anyone can buy tools,check free DIY tutorials by specialists on YouTube, and make structures or repairs athome.

Not only is it a fun exercise, but it also helps to reduce costs and develop your DIY skills. Having the right-hand tools helps your work to be more comfortable as well as enables you to produce exquisite works. One such essential tool is the hand plane. Which should you use? Read on to find more details about each type of hand plane,

​What Is A Hand Plane?

It is a tool with a fitted cutting blade used by carpenters, joiners,and DIYersto shape wood using their hand’s muscle power by forcing it over a woodsurface. It’s like a chisel with a frame, which gives you more control and power handling it. Woodworking hand planes can get used for various operations on wood such as:

  • Flattening
  • Reducing and trimming
  • Chamfering
  • Smoothening
  • Leveling

What Are The Components Of A Hand Plane?

Most hand plane components are made from cast iron, wood as well as brass.

The main body – it’s the iron casting that has the sole, which is machined. Its inside has various other vital components.

  • Heel – it is the back of the hand plane
  • Toe – this is the front of the hand plane
  • Sole – it is the bottom or base of the plane
  • Mouth – it’s the part where the plane iron protrudes.
  • Tote– it’s the handle of the plane that is held with the stronger arm
  • Knob (front handle) – it’s the protruding structure resembling a doorknob located at the front of the plane.
  • Frog – the component which the plane blade attaches to
  • Lateral adjustment lever – it’s the component that’s attached to the Frog
  • The lever tap (cap iron) – the part that connects the chipbreaker to the lever.
  • Chip breaker – the part that helps in removing wood shavings.

Bench Planes

Bench planes are wooden on metal carpentry tools that draw their names from the surface they get used on – the woodworking bench. A bench plane is angled at a 45°, and its slope facesdown. Both of these properties make it excellentat cutting face grain.

Read Also: Hand Plane Recommendations for Your Woodshop

To direct wood shavings upwards and from the cutting surface, a bench plane has a chip breaker that lies on top of its blade. Without the chip breaker, wood shavings would create an effect called chatter. It is where you experience stuttering or skipping movement when using a bench plane. 

Bench planes come in different types, such as smoothening planes, jack planes, and joiner planers. They are distinguished using a numberingsystem that was introduced in the 19th century.

The No. 1 Bench plane 

​It is a small (Sole length of 5-1/2″) but a rather expensive bench place that can be used instead of a block plane. It works well for woodworkers with arthritis as it’s much easier for them to cradle in their hands than a block plane.

Smoothening bench planes 

They are used on wood to create a glassy, finish-ready surface on small areas. They work better than using sandpaper. Manufacturers label them as no. 4 and no. 4-1/2

Jack bench planes are more massive than smoothening planes and are used in the initial milling stages to remove hills and valleys on a board surface. They are labeled between no.5 and 5-1/4 by manufacturers’. A no.5 is preferred by most because its 14 inches long making it portable in a toolbox

Jointer bench planes – they have a long flat sole making them ideal for straightening wood over an extended surface quickly. They are more significant than both jack planes.You can use them on large cabinets or for trimming an entry door.Manufacturers label these planes as no.7 and no.8 (24 inches long). They are the most expensive bench planes.

How to Use a Bench Plane

Using hand planesis not easy and straightforward as the specialists make it look; it requires skill and experience, which you can practice and gain with time.Also, you have to tune up the plane for it to meets your needs. Here’s how to use a bench plane.

  1. Mark the workpiece – carefully measure and make a straight pencil line to indicate the point you wish to plane down to.
  2. Fasten the workpiece to bench -use the workbench vice to hold the workpiece if you are planing its edge along the grain.
  3. Check the set-up of the plane – for smoothing check if it is set up with minimal iron depth and a small mouth.If you are reducing check if it has a greater iron depth and a bigger mouth
  4. Spread candle wax on the sole of the bench plane to minimize friction.
  5. Hold the hand plane properly – your weaker front hand on the nob, and your stronger backhand at the tote.
  6. Position the bench plane with the front of its flat sole on the edge of the workpiece and its blade behind the start of the edge.
  7. Adopt a comfortable stance and make your first stroke using your whole body power behind the bench plane.
  8. Lift the plane and return it to the starting position after a stroke to reduce the blunting of the iron.
  9. Keep repeating

Block Planes

These are much smaller and compact tools – they fit inside a tool pouch – which produces excellent results when used forslicing,chamfering, or trimming hard end grainfibers.They drew their names from being traditionallyused forleveling and smoothening end grain of butcher blocks originally; they got designed for planing across the grain. When it comes to size, theymeasure only 6 -7 inches long, making them ideal for single-hand use for more precision.Block planes are available both in standard and low-angle versions.

Standard block planes 

The blade is set at a 20°. They are much popular because they can get used for chamfering edges, back-beveling miters, and angling cedar shingles for woven corners.

Low= angle block planes 

The blade is set at a 12°, making it ideal for cutting end grain as well as adjusting miters. Unlike bench planes, block planes have less chatter because of the reduced angle. That’s why they don’t have a chip breaker. It’s a feature that leaves more space allowing for the slope to be faced up. This increases the blades angle; hence, it’s the blade that directswood shavings away. However, this also means that the risk of tear-out gets significantly increased.

Another type of block plane is the Shoulder plane. 

It has a blade that runs across its full width, making it very useful in fine-tuning joints as well as getting into the corners of joints such as rabbets and tenons.

When used on cabinets, their lower bed angle allows a myriad of uses include

  • Chamfering
  • Cleaning up saw cuts
  • Leveling corner joints
  • Cutting end grain,
  • Trimming miters,
  • Smoothing straight and curved edges

How to Use a Block Plane for Different Uses.

Here’s how to use block planes.

  1. Hold the plane using one hand, with your palm over the curved rear part you’re your forefinger on its front knob.
  2. Position the plane at a slight angle to the wood
  3. Begin cutting by placing more pressure on the front of the plane.
  4. To end the cut, shift the pressure toward the heel.
  5. Make sure you plane the grain as it ensures you don’t tear or splinter the wood.
  6. Retract the blade and keep your plane in a dry area after use.

How to Adjust a Block Plane:

  1. Back up the plane’s blade completely by screwing its depth adjustment screw in an anti-clockwise direction.
  2. Once it’s wholly retracted, move the block plane across a flat piece of a piece wood while also advancing the blade by turning the wheel adjuster in a clockwise direction
  3. Once the blade makes contact with the wood, stop and inspect where the blade is cutting.
  4. If it only cuts a single corner, you will have to adjust the blade’s lateral alignment. Depending on the type of block plane you have, you can do it by:
  • Hand
  • Lateral adjustment lever.
  • A Norris type adjuster or.

Now adjust the blade so that wood shavings come out evenly from its mouth.

Related: 5 Great Non-Electric Hand Planers for You

Carrying Out a Block Plane Maintenance.

Taking care of your block plane ensures its last long and maintains resell value. Here are the things you need to do.

  • Store your hand planes in a dry room that climate-controlled to prevent parts from rusting and getting corroded
  • Regularly disassemble and clean its parts
  • Lubricate all the surfaces
  • If the sole of your plane wears, lap and clean it to prevent your plane from marking the workpiece getting planed.
  • Avoid planing freshly glued parts; uncured glue will prevent proper operation of the plane as well as harm the plane.
  • Always retract the blade when it’s not getting used.
  • Keep your plane’s blade sharp every time
  • Remove screws and clean them periodically.


Having known gone through the information above, you now know which hand plane fits your woodworking needs. Below are reputable manufacturers you can buy both block and bench hand planes from.

Kunz – a German manufacturer historically known by their green colored planes with both cheap and premium plane version.

Stanley – a popular company that started making planes in the 19th century

Lie-Nielsen – a famous American hand plane manufacturerwith high-quality woodworking tools. Their planes are the benchmarkwhen comparing with other planes.

Veritas – a Canadian based tool manufacturer with high-quality modernized planes.

Clifton – a British toolmaker with premium quality bench planes

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