Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazine
15/4/2014 Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazinehttp://www.popularwoodworking.com/tools/understanding_bench_planes 1/5Register Log InSearchA smoothing planeA bevel-up smoothing planeFREE ADVICE AND A FREE DOWNLOAD Sign up fore-mails (newslet t er, st ore, part ners) anddownload one of 7 project s.Understanding Bench PlanesBy: Christopher Schwarz | October 8, 2008The bench plane has three jobs in thewoodshop: to straighten the wood, to smoothit and to remove it.It sounds so simple when you put it that way,but many woodworkers are confused by all thedifferent sizes of bench planes available, fromthe tiny 5-1/2-long No. 1 smooth plane up tothe monstrous 24-long No. 8 jointer plane.Add into the mix all the new bevel-up benchplanes that are available in the catalogs now,and its bewildering enough to make you wantto cuddle up close to your belt sander.Believe it or not, there is a way to make senseof all the different sizes and configurations of bench planes out there and to select the few that youneed in your shop. You dont need one bench plane of each size to do good work (though donttell my wife that). In fact, its quite possible to do all the typical bench plane chores with just onetool (more on that later).In this article, Im going to walk through theentire line of forms of the metallic-bodiedbench planes and describe what each tool isgood for. Because people can work wood inso many weird ways, Ill admit that what followsis equal doses of traditional workshoppractice, personal preferences (formed byyears of planing) and stubborn opinion thatcomes from growing up on a mountain.But before we jump headfirst into describingeach plane, lets first divide the tools into threebroad categories: smoothing planes, foreplanes and jointer planes.Three Jobs for Three PlanesYou can tell a lot about what a plane is supposed to do by the length of its sole. Smoothing planes have a sole that ranges from 5 to 10 long. The primary job of the smoothingplane is to prepare the wood for finishing. It is typically the last plane to touch the wood. Fore planes have a sole that ranges from 14 to 20 long. The traditional (but by no means only)job of the fore plane is to remove material quickly. By virtue of its longish sole it also tends tostraighten the wood to some degree. The fore plane is typically the first bench plane to touch thewood to get it to rough size. Jointer planes have a sole that ranges from 22 up to 30 (in wooden-bodied planes). The primaryjob of jointer planes is to straighten the wood, a task it excels at by virtue of its long sole (thelonger the sole, the straighter the resulting work). The jointer plane is used after the fore plane butbefore the smoothing plane.Smoothing PlanesLets begin at the small end of the scale and look at the smoothing planes. People tend to end upwith several of these (sometimes even in the same sizes). Why? Well theres a lot to choose fromVIDEO BLOGS MAGAZINE PROJECTS TECHNIQUES TURNING TOOLS EVENTS SUBSCRIBE STORE 15/4/2014 Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazinehttp://www.popularwoodworking.com/tools/understanding_bench_planes 2/5A jack planeA bevel-up jack planeand different ways to configure them.A collectors dream: An entire tray of No. 1 planes.The No. 1 Bench PlaneSole length: 5-1/2Cutter width: 1-1/4Prized by collectors, the No. 1 bench plane is like an exotic little dog. It is designed to make peoplepick it up and say, Its so cute! And its designed to empty your wallet its easy to spend $1,000on a vintage No. 1 plane. With a price like that, its got to be one amazing and useful plane, right?Nope.Some woodworkers like to use the No. 1 in place of a block plane woodworkers with arthritisreport that its easier to cradle in their hands than a block plane. Some woodworkers buy a No. 1 fortheir children. Some woodworkers have special small-scale applications for the No. 1, such asworking linenfold panels.But in reality the No. 1 is not a useful size forbuilding most furniture. You cant hold it like aregular bench plane because theres notenough space in front of the tote. Andadjusting the depth of cut is no fun eitherbecause of the cramped area behind the frog.Add to that fact that the cutter is so narrowand you can see why youd be working waytoo hard to plane a typical carcase side.Buy one because you want one. But dont foolyourself into thinking that youre going to useit all that much. Most woodworkers end up putting it on a shelf and admiring it.The No. 2 Bench PlaneSole length: 7Cutter width: 1-5/8Pity the poor No. 2 bench plane. Its not as rare as its smaller and cuter sibling, nor is it all that muchmore useful. Collectors love them, though the No. 2 doesnt fetch the same prices as the No. 1.Woodworkers are bewildered by them. Its almost impossible to grip the tote because things are socramped in there. And holding the tool makes you feel like youre an awkward giant.I do hear occasionally that the No. 2 is a goodsmoothing plane for children. Its usually bigenough for their hands, and it isnt terriblyheavy. The vintage ones were 2-1/4 lbs. AndIve heard from maybe one woodworker in allmy years that they had abnormally small handsthat were suited for a No. 2. But other thanthat, I think its best to avoid the No. 2 benchplane unless you stumble on some uniqueapplication.A No. 3 smoothing plane.15/4/2014 Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazinehttp://www.popularwoodworking.com/tools/understanding_bench_planes 3/5A jointer planeThe No. 3 Bench PlaneSole length: 8Cutter width: 1-3/4The No. 3 is one of the most overlooked planes in the pantheon. Because of its small size, it getslumped in with the No. 1 and No. 2 in the category of cute but useless. Nothing could be furtherfrom the truth. If I were manufacturing a line of handplanes, the No. 3 would be the smallest plane Idoffer in my line. It truly is a useful tool.You can actually get your hand comfortablyaround the tote and work the controls withgreat ease. The front knob is big enough tograsp like a traditional bench plane. And thecutter is just wide enough to be a useful size.So what is it good for? I use a No. 3 for twothings: smoothing small-scale parts (such asnarrow rails, stiles, muntins and mullions) andfor removing tear-out in very localized areas ina larger panel.The tool is ideal for small parts because you can easily balance it on stock that is only 3/4 widewithout tipping or leaning problems.As for removing tear-out, its the soles small length that makes this possible. The shorter the sole,the more that the tool is able to get into localized areas on a board and remove tear-out. The longsole of a No. 4 or larger plane will actually prevent the tool from removing more than a shaving(maybe two) in a small area. The No. 3 goes where my other tools simply wont.The No. 4 Bench PlaneSole length: 9Cutter width: 2The No. 4 smoothing plane is historically the most common size. It is an excellent balance of solelength and cutter width to be useful for typical furniture parts. And the last part of that sentence iswhat is important here: typical furniture parts. Typical furniture parts range from 2 wide to 24 wideand 12 long to 48 long. Thats a gross generalization, but it works.Heres another clue that the No. 4 is useful and popular: When you are searching out a vintage one,youll find 10 No. 4s for every one No. 3.I use a No. 4 for most of my typical cabinet work. And because I work with hardwoods, I haveequipped my No. 4 with a 50 frog, which helps reduce tearing (a 55 frog also is available forreducing tearing in curly woods). This is not the tool Ill use for really tricky domestic woods orexotics I use a bevel-up plane for that (see below).Another important detail of the No. 4: Its not terribly heavy and wont wear you out as quickly asthe bigger smoothing planes.A Lie-Nielsen 4-1/2 smoothing planeCATEGORIESTools, Tools in Your ShopAbout Christopher SchwarzChris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press. He's ahand-tool enthusiast (though he uses power tools, too). 15/4/2014 Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazinehttp://www.popularwoodworking.com/tools/understanding_bench_planes 4/5POSTS PRODUCT SPOTLIGHTShopclass Monthly SubscriptionThat s right ! Shopclass is now offering alow monthly subscript ion to all yourfavorite videos! For only $19.99 a monthView all posts by Christopher Schwarz 4 thoughts on Understanding Bench PlanesI wish I saw and red this art icle when it came out , I could have save myself a bundle andbuy the real necessary hand planes and maybe that way I could have bought myselfsome LN planes instead of a lot of other planes. I own some cheap imitat ions of LN likeWoodRiver #4,5 and 6 which are not bad tools all together and a LA Veritas Jack plane,which I consider my Cadillac of planes. I got a 38 degree blade extra for hard woods andthe finished wood from shavings of this plane are smooth as glass. Now that I learned howto sharpen these blades, all my planes whisper when they shave wood. Here issomething interest ing: last year I bought a book Working Wood 1 & 2: the Art isan Coursewith Paul Sellers and read it , also he has a lot of interest ing videos on You Tube which areby all means, phenomenal, in his opinion, hes using only ONE plane a #4 Stanley vintage,I saw him this year at a woodworkers show in NJ, with ONE plane (he has a lot of them,but swears by that #4).I dont want to take away Chriss thunder from this art icle which I found most interest ing,thanks.ronin4711May 6, 2013 at 4:38 pmNicely done.This is a terrific guide for anyone want ing to get an idea of what they need and why (orwhy not ), especially for anyone start ing out . I had read a mult itude of art icles before Igot started with handplanes and if I had had seen this one first , all the others would havemade a lot more sense.I also learned that my #6 isnt as mysterious as I thought it was (and now, to find ascraper insert for it !). I too, use it for joint ing.Again, nicely done.DapperMay 4, 2013 at 12:12 pmWonderful art icle on Bench Planes. However I find I reach for my Block Planes much oftenerEasing edges, bevel, radius. I would to see an art icle on them.Dave_MohlerFebruary 6, 2013 at 8:48 amGiven that this was posted over four years ago, Im really surprised that no commentshave been posted yet .This is a very helpful blog with lots of good well-thought -out informat ion.Nicely done.Christopher, no, I dont have a #6, and probably will not buy one.The only plane Ive had is a Record 5-1/2 purchased new many years ago. It has met all ofmy needs so far. Gett ing back into wood working, Ive ordered a LN 102 and am shoppingebay for a #4 and #7, probably Stanley, given the number of them on the market .thanks for the blogs.bgiJanuary 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm15/4/2014 Understanding Bench Planes - Popular Woodworking Magazinehttp://www.popularwoodworking.com/tools/understanding_bench_planes 5/5you can view tons of new and old contentright on your computer and tablet . Checkout Shopclass for...FREE WOODWORKING DOWNLOADSFree Woodworking DownloadsAre you new to woodworking and lookingfor FREE t ips, plans, ideas & more? Look nofurther! Popular Woodworking Magazine hashand-selected some of the greatest guidesto gett ing started and even advancingyour woodworking skills! Wooden FurnitureDesign...