Woodwork Tools Blog

May

6

The Smoothing Plane

The smoothing plane is generally slightly smaller in length than the Jack Plane – typically 9-10inches long, with a blade width of around 2 inches, and is the last plane to be used to finish the surface of your wood. Many fine craftsmen will use the smoothing plane as the tool which gives the final finish on their job – with this woodwork tool finely tuned and wielded by experienced hands, it really isn’t necessary to sand or scrape to obtain a professional, high quality finish. Indeed, some people use such a fine cut on their final pass with their smoothing plane that it is more of a polish than a cut!

There is some contention over whether the blade of the smoothing plane should be honed square, or whether the corners should be slightly rounded to prevent them from digging in. In general, considering that the purpose of the smoothing plane is to smooth, I would suggest that you grind your iron square, and only if you find that you are ending up with scratches or ridges in your piece, that you then try rounding the corners.

Rounded corners or square, the key to success with a smoothing plane is to ensure that the cutting edge is perfectly parallel to the mouth of the plane, and also ensure that the depth of the blade is set to the finest of cuts. A tip that may help you to determine if your blade is not square to the mouth is to look at how the shavings are coming out. If the blade is not square to the mouth of the plane, the shavings will often skew out to one side, rather than come straight up.

As with most woodworking tools, there is a large range in the price you can pay for a smoothing plane. You can get a reasonable smoothing plane such as a Stanley No. 4 for around $50.

Again, if you are looking for a top of the line model, it would be difficult to find a better tool than either the Lie-Nielsen No.4.

Check out related entries:
The Jack Plane
The Jointer Plane or Trying Plane
The Block Plane
The Block Plane – My latest woodworking tool
Woodworking Tools – The Scrub Plane
The Block Plane

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