The Plane Guide

There are many different types of tools under the term plane which all have a blade fixed at an angle inside a metal or wooden body, some of which include:

  • Bench planes
  • Spokeshaves
  • Plough Planes
  • Router Planes

Over time the term bench plane has been shortened to be known as ‘plane’, however it is important to remember that this is in fact also an umbrella term for many different plane types. In this guide we will be talking about the bench plane which is the most common type of plane.

Plane on the workbench

Overview

The bench plane is one of the most iconic and recognisable woodworking hand tools. It is used for truing, straightening, trimming and smoothing wood. The plane bodies can be made of wood or cast metal but the wooden planes are mostly considered vintage and are harder to find and can therefore be more expensive. The metal ones are more widely available and work just as well.

The most common of all the metal-cast planes are known as bailey-pattern planes. The size of these planes range from #1-8 with #1 being the shortest and #8 being the longest. Planes #1 and #2 are not commonly used as they are too small for most practical work, but more often you will see the #3-4 1/2 being used, these are referred to generally as smooth or smoothing planes. The #5 and #5½ are referred to as Jack planes, these are used for levelling and trimming in the same way as the smoothing planes but have the advantage of a longer sole. #6, #7 and #8 planes are called jointer planes and are much less commonly used.

Uses

The bench plane is used for levelling and smoothing wood to a high finish. The pushing motion allows the blade to cut the surface as much or as little as you need by adjusting the the depth of cut of the blade. To read more about using a plane, click here.

Terminology

Cap iron- A separate steel plate installed against the main cutting blade by a setscrew. The cap iron deflects the shavings up and into the mouth of the plane as planing cuts are made

Frog- This angled section of metal is less obvious when the plane is fully assembled. It holds the blade assembly at a fixed angle and houses all of the adjustment mechanisms of the plane. It can be moved back and forth to adjust the mouth opening but this rarely needs doing

Handle or Tote- The wooden or plastic part that you hold at the rear of the plane

Knob- The wooden or plastic part at the front of the plane that you hold

Lever cap- This sits on top of the whole blade assembly and locks it in place

Mouth- This is the opening in the sole of the plane through which the blade protrudes

Sole- This is the long flat surface forming the underside of the plane

Parts of a Plane

Sole

Handles (Front Knob and Back Tote)

Cutting Iron Assembly (Cap Iron, Cutting Iron and Screws)

Depth Adjustment Wheel

Lever Cap

Frog

Lateral Adjustment Lever

Frog Setscrews

Frog Adjustment Screw

Further Reading

To read more on the plane, we recommend the following from Paul’s blog:

 

Which Plane- Bevel Up First or Bevel Down?

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