How to Use a Hand Plane

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A hand plane is an essential tool which you need to have in your tool chest if you are a woodworker. It is usually inexpensive, versatile and easy to handle; hence, why this tool has become synonymous with carpentry. Moreover, it is nowadays finding increasing use as most individuals across the globe engage in more DIY home improvement projects. You can find hand planes in a wide variety of designs, styles and sizes with this dependent on its intended woodworking purpose.

Most hand planes are purely made of wood with metal parts and blades or entirely out of metal. This hand-held tool has a length of approximately six inches long plus is around two inches wide. However, you should resist the temptation of buying a pocket or small trimming planes which span between 3-1/2 inches to 6 inches long as they typically are hard to control. Also, these short planes follow the dips and waves in the wood, consequently transferring this dips and waves onto the wood surface.

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Hand planes feature a flat bottom, a handle at the top and a razor-sharp blade positioned at a specific angle underneath it. When you push the plane forward, its blade cuts off an extremely thin work material shaving. Despite hand planes having different styles, the four basic planes are jack plane, block plane, smoothing plane and fore plane. Lastly, whereas planes have a variety of uses, they primarily are used for smoothing or surfacing wood surfaces.

How to effectively use a hand plane

The effective use of hand planes depends on several factors, including the sharpness of the plane blade, planning in the right direction, firmly securing work material as well as decisive, firm movements. You also need always to push hand planes away from you as they occasionally tend to slip away and never to put your fingers ahead of it.

Here are the steps to follow when using a hand plane.

1. Master the hand plane parts

Before you even start planning a wood surface, you need first to acquaint yourself with the hand plane parts. These parts include the chip breaker, front toe, rear toe, lateral adjustment lever, body, mouth, frog, depth adjustment wheel cam level and blade or iron. The rear toe is where you place your driving hand, the front toe the position you hold to guide the plane, and the frog where the assembly of the plane sits. Additionally, the blade or iron is what cuts into the wood surface through the mouth of the hand plane and the depth adjustment wheel plus the lateral adjustment lever what you make use of to modify the cutting depth and how the cuts are cut evenly on both sides.

2. Sharpen your hand blade

It is always advisable to sharpen your blade unless it is still new by removing the blade from its plane by loosening it. After that, spray the whetstone with a tiny amount of sharpening oil and then bolster the blade while pointed downwards on the whetstone. Consequently, start sliding the hand blade gradually in circles before turning the blade over and then pushing it on the whetstone gently with the flat side facing downwards. Doing this removes burrs from your blade and once you are done, wipe all the oil from the hand blade.

3. Make appropriate adjustments

Before you start using your hand plane, first ensure that its lateral and depth alignment are well-adjusted. To test for the depth alignment, run your thumb through the plane’s body, once on its center, on its left side and the blade’s right side. If you notice any of the lateral adjustments is out of place, that is, one side of the hand blade shaves more compared to another, you should push the lateral adjuster towards the direction which shaves more than expected until it is appropriately aligned. Subsequently, make changes to the depth adjustment when depending on how finely or deeply you intend to cut the wood.

4. Correctly position your blade

To secure the hand blade into position by making sure the hand screw is screwed down. After doing this, the blade’s sharp end needs to extend from below the plane between 1/64-inch and 1/32-inch.

5. Secure your work materials

Ensure the work materials are firmly fastened on the robust working table to guarantee that it does not move when under high pressure. When planing a door’s side, first position it on its side and then firmly fasten it to the secure surface like a wall or a table leg. Additionally, to avoid causing any damage to the door, you need to put towels or blankets below the door.

Read More: Smooth Out Rough Doors with these 5 Great Hand Planers

6. Start planing

Start pushing the hand plane forward after positioning it correctly on the work material and apply enough pressure so that wood shavings start to emerge from the hand plane’s back. Moreover, make sure you are pushing the plane in decisive and firm movements for it to successfully cut through wood. If you ignore this, the hand plane’s blade might be caught in the wood, thereby preventing your plane from moving.

Always follow the direction of the grain when planing with this vital because going against the grain might damage the wood surface. Likewise, always use the hand plane along the wood’s entire length. Start gradually from one side and moving towards the other side in a pattern similar that followed when mowing the lawn. After you get to the other side, work your way back to your starting position.

When planing, you need to master a few basic moves, and these are…

Taking a stand – Have your feet shoulder-width apart and then place your weight on the plane’s rear foot. Position the front of the hand plane on the workpiece with the blade positioned at the end. Consequently, place enough pressure on the plane’s knob to ensure it makes contact from the moment you start planing.

Balancing it out – Once you have the plane on the workpiece, apply equal pressure on both the knob and tote while making use of your body to push the hand plane. Angling or skewing the hand plane usually makes pushing to be a lot easier.

Maintaining contact – When approaching the pass end, ease up pressure on the knob and then put additional pressure on the tote to ensure the hand plane lies flat on the workpiece. Subsequently, clean up the shavings and then carry on working on the workpiece consistently using overlapping passes.

Tips on how to correctly use a hand plane

If you are looking to produce excellent results, these are useful tips which are easy to follow and very simple that you need to implement. Here are valuable tips for implementing when using a hand plane.

  • Avoid finishing up with surfaces that are tapered
  • You need always to apply a decent amount of pressure when using the hand plane whenever you are smoothing out the wood surface. Likewise, transfer the weight towards the body of the hand plane when the blade is exiting the wood and maintain this until the plane is entirely out of the wood. If you do this, the edges of the wood surface will not taper.
  • Keep the hand plane in an upright position
  • You must never lay the hand plane on its side since this might cause it to get damaged in two ways. Damage to the plane happens by the blade getting exposed as well as probably throwing away its lateral position. Therefore, always look for a clean, nice place where the hand plane can be stored in a vertical position. Doing this ensures the lateral alignment is intact, the blade is secured, and it is easier for you to reach it when you want to use it.
  • You should not be too enthusiastic about cutting
  • Your hand plane will not cut if you straightaway push the blade too deep. Instead, you should kick off by cutting finely. If you do this, using your hand saw will require much less effort, and it will cut the wood surfaces more effectively.
  • Put proper markings before cutting any timber

Hand planes are usually numbered according to their size with the 4-1/2s being the most popular ones. The most versatile plane is the number 5 hence why it often is referred to as the “Jack of all planes” since it can be used for joints, smoothing and others whereas bigger planes such as the 7’s and 8’s are entirely meant for joints. Typically, hand planes with a larger body are more proficient at flattening the wood surface as their ends allow you to flatten high spots on the wood and ride over low spots.

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 Having gone through the article, you now have an excellent idea on how to properly make use of a hand plane. Likewise, you also understand the tips you need to follow when using a plane to ensure your work is easier, and the quality of work done is remarkable. Therefore, you will never struggle when carrying out your woodworking projects thanks to this comprehensively detailed guide. This will save you a lot of time you would have otherwise taken to learn by yourself on how to use a hand plane as well as save you money on paying an expert to do projects you can do on your own.

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