What Size Hand Planer Do I Need?

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Hand planes are essential tools in woodworking. Whether you are a seasoned woodworker or a beginner, you will find that no tool can replace a hand planer. The introduction of power planes made planing tasks a lot easier for large woodworking jobs, but it was still unsuitable for tasks that needed fine scaling.

Hand planes remain the go-to tools for trimming wood and making smooth finishes and carving decorative shapes. Also, there are special planes for shaping and cutting wood joints. Hand planes are categorized into four groups depending on the function:

Block Planes

They are the most common among carpenters, as they are affordable and versatile. Block planes are used for cutting the end grain like the stile of a door frame. Planning the end grain needs a lot more pressure than planning face grain hence exerts more pressure on the blade.

Also, block plane blades chatter less as the bevel faces upwards and not downwards. They have a compact size, which makes it easy to fit in a DIY toolbox. Most block planes measure 6-7 inches with blades bedded 20 degrees and the bevel facing up. Low-angle block planes, however, are set at 12 degrees as it appropriate for cutting end grains and adjusting miters.

Smoothing Planes

This kind is ideal for cutting thin shavings to achieve smooth finishes on board surfaces. The quality of the grain obtained using a smoothing plane is difficult to achieve through sanding. Most smoothing planes are available in size No.4 and are commonly used with the larger size No. 4.5.

The latter is heavier and has a blade measuring 2-3/8 inches, making it easier to maintain momentum when planing hardwoods. Smoothing planes are also available in No. 3, which is narrower and lighter than No. 4 hence suitable for woodworkers with less muscle power. It uses a blade that measures 1-3/4 inches.

Jack Planes

This plane is longer compared to the smoothing plane, thus less efficient for smoothing. It is used for cutting down low spot wood pieces and leveling surfaces. When sharpened with a more pronounced curve, the jack plane is perfect for planning off lots of wood fast. Jack planes are also used for making evening joints like those made on rails and table legs. Jack planes come in different sizes (up to 14 inches long), but the most common is the No. 5.

It is often referred to as the junior jack because it is designed for beginners. Additionally, it has a blade that resembles that of the No. 4, but it is longer and wider to allow specialized smoothing and leveling. Jack planes are also available in No. 5.25, which is narrower, shorter, and lighter than the No. 5.

Leveling Planes

These kinds are long, wide, and heavy and are mainly used to straighten edges and flatten large surfaces. Also called jointer planes, they are suitable for woodworking tasks that need a high level of accuracy. No. 7 is the most common and is used for jointing and truing.

Leveling planes are also available in No.6, which has the same width as No.6. It is ideal for leveling larger surfaces and is also referred to as a fore plane. There’s also the No-8 plane called a behemoth, which is wider, longer, and heavier than the No.7.

It’s best to use both No. 6 and No.7 planes on any woodworking project that needs truing and jointing. This because jointing needs blades that have been sharpened straight while truing is done more effectively using a blade that has been sharpened with a slight curve. Leveling planes are also available in No.8 suitable for working on big jobs like fitting entryway doors.

Polishing Plane

This Japanese-based plane is ideal for making smaller shavings compared to the Western smoothing plane, making extremely smooth surfaces. Polishing planes have the same length as modern smoothing planes but use a different approach. Instead of pushing it across the board, it is pulled along the surface using both hands towards the user.

Two-Plane Set

It is available in two sizes: the No.5 jack plane and the standard-angle block plane. The jack plane performs a range of tasks, including smoothing surfaces, evening up joints, and straightening edges, but it may take longer to achieve the desired finish.

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