Woodwork Tools Blog

May

20

The Block Plane


The smallest of the planes commonly found amongst woodworking tools, the block plane is normally only about 5-6 inches long, and is designed to fit comfortably in one hand. Originally designed for trimming end grain, the block plane is a versatile woodwork tool that you will find many uses for.
As I have mentioned in a previous entry, there is something very special about using a block plane that makes it feel like an extension of your body rather than a separate entity.

The block plane is different from other planes in a number of ways. Other than the most obvious size difference, it is the orientation of the blade that really sets it apart. The blade in the block plane is reversed so that the bevel of the iron is facing up, rather than bevel-down as is the case with bench planes such as the Jack or Smoothing planes. The blade in a block plane is also set at a lower angle than bench planes, generally about 20 degrees, however you can also get low-angle block planes, with an angle of around 12 degrees. The lower angle blades are great for working with difficult grain or very hard wood.

Block planes can be pushed or pulled, and are often used in a shearing style cut – the plane is rotated at an angle to the direction of travel. This allows the fibres to be cut in a shearing motion along the length of the cutting edge – perfect for that difficult end grain.

There are many different block planes on the market, and most will do a reasonable job provided that they are well tuned. When looking to purchase, the one feature I would recommend getting is a screw depth adjustment, as it is much easier to control the depth of cut, particularly for a beginner. The block plane that I own does not have a screw depth adjustment, and it is a feature that I really wish that I had looked for, as I did have a little difficulty getting the blade depth adjusted to my satisfaction, particularly initially.

The block plane is defiinitely one of my favourite tools, and whilst it wouldn’t be the first plane that I would buy (that would be a Jack or Smoothing plane), it would definitely be the second. Check out ebay for second hand block planes, there are plenty around, and you should be able to pick up one for a reasonable price.

If you prefer to buy new, you will find that Stanley still make good tools for their price such as the 12-220 or the 12-960 low angle block plane. At the top of the line are absolutely beautiful tools such as the Lie-Nielsen low angle block plane. I always recommend investing in the the best tool you can afford, and the Lie-Nielsen would certainly be a tool that would take its place proudly amongst your woodworking tools!

Other entries that may be of interest to you:
The Jack Plane
The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane
The Smoothing Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane

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