An Introduction To Woodworking Planes

Planes To Cut And Shape Wood

In a previous article here, I spoke about some of the most useful electronic power tools and related aids that are a must for newcomers that are starting out with furniture creation. While I stand by that list as a great starting point with some accessible tools, I appreciate that the actual craftsmanship of a bespoke piece of hardwood furniture requires a different touch with manual tools.

In that article I highlighted some robust saws and belt sanders to cut and shape wood, today I want to look at some of the more old-fashioned woodworking tools – the planes. If you want an excellent surface and shape, and to add to that authentic feel, the following planes can be of great use.

Woodworking Bench Planes

Woodworking Bench Planes

Typically, you will want to use a long plane to work on the edge and to create a flat surface. The medium sized model for typical, everyday work and the smaller one for finishing work.

Be aware that the planes come in different numbers. It is advised to people that are lighter (or let’s be frank, women like me with small arm muscles) should go for a 5 to start with. More capable, stronger woodworking enthusiasts can go for a 7.

Low Angle Bench Planes and Block Planes

Low Angle Bench Planes and Block Planes

Once you get the hang of using the more basic woodworking tools you can then move onto the more challenging low angle models. As the name suggests, this is all at a low angle of the blade on the body and mouth.

These planes are ideal for bringing a clean edge and a quality finish, but they do require a little practice due to the shape. Bench planes differ from block planes in their shape, and direction of the bevel (face down on a bench and face up on a block) and block planes tend to be smaller.

Shoulder Planes

Shoulder Planes

While a low angle plane will have a precise low angle for a clean edge,a shoulder plane takes a slightly different approach by using a cutter flush to the edge of the plane.

for more precision and for trimming finer edges.It is the sort of tool is ideal for dadoes, but perhaps not as much of a necessity as some of the other options.

Scrapper Planes

An inexpensive option that is simple and manageable for a lot of hardwood furniture makers. There are small onesScrapper Planes and large ones, but they are all essential, versatile and functional – to the point where some keen woodworkers won’t use much else.


An interesting alternative type of plane that is worth a quick mention here is the spokeshave.  Although the method and shape are very different from that of the other planes, it works in a similar way to smooth and shape the wood. The difference is that this model is held horizontally and has a concave shape for creating curved pieces. Much like the shoulder plane, there is a definite appeal for certain design elements – like table and chair legs –but it is more specialist than some of the other models.

Use A Good Sharp Edge

 Tools For Hardwood Furniture

Another thing that I have learned – or at least had drilled into my head by much more informed people – is that a good plane is as much on the cutting edge of the shape of the plane or the cutting angle. Without a nice sharp, reliable cutting edge, you won’t get the best finish to the wood.

The best option is a forged high carbon steel. The best option is a forged high carbon steel. Apparently, modern tools use different techniques to get a tough, durable edge, but older tools were created to focus on a sharper edge. Keep an eye out for this difference and see if you see the difference in the way it cuts.

Start Small and Work Up

 Tools For Building Furniture

The diverse array of planes that are available and the different sizes and uses of materials means that it can be difficult to know what to get. As long as you start with a basic scraper plane and woodworking plane and get the hang of the actions of purposes for a while, you can slowly work up to the more niche woodwork tools.

 like the spokeshave and shoulder plane – and build your collection. Get a strong, reliable model with a good cutting edge and just practice.

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