Woodworker? Collector? User? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re particular interest is, if you’re looking to buy a handplane then check out the latest listings from eBay at Handplane Central’s “Handplane Marketplace“. You never know – you might pick up a bargain or two.

Woodworking Planes And Their Use

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The following article first appeared in the British magazine 'The Woodworker' in November, 1939. It was part of a series of articles which would run throughout the rest of that year and into 1940. Part 5 looked at planes and their use, and includes the sharpening and setting of the plane iron (blade) within the plane. There's even an advertisement for the author's new book on veneering at the end of the article. Known simply as "Craftsman" in the magazine, we now know the author to be none other than Charles H. Hayward, who went on to write many fine books on woodworking over the years.

Again this article is primarily aimed at the beginner woodworker and is merely an introduction to some of the hand planes which would normally be found in a woodworker's basic kit. As with the earlier article, some Handplane Central readers who are just starting out in the craft may also find this one of some benefit.

What To Know About Tools

Part 5. Planes And Their Use

The plane is one of the most important tools in the kit, and needs considerable practice before it can be used with complete confidence and success. The writer gives many useful hints below.

By Craftsman

The invariable advice given to the beginner in woodwork in connection with planes is that he should first go and buy a jack plane. Well, on the assumption that he will never have any other planes in addition, the advice is sound enough. Certainly some excellent practice can be obtained with it, and it is useful for all-round purposes. That is why it is always included in handicraft kits in schools. Yet the fact remains that the cabinet maker seldom (if ever) uses it. When he has some rough, heavy planing to do he will most likely turn to it, but, against this, there is not very much of this kind of work to be done nowadays.

Even the home woodworker, who has no access to machinery, usually buys his timber ready planed. Thus it happens that the only use the serious woodworker has for his jack plane is for rough work. If one were able to examine the jack planes in a hundred cabinet maker’s kits, I believe that few would be in condition to turn out really true work.

It is held at anangle of about 30 degrees. To remove the burr it
is reversed and held perfectly flat on the stone as shown inset.

My own suggestion is, get a jack plane by all means, but, if you are going in for woodwork seriously, get a trying plane and smoothing plane as well as soon as possible. Both are necessary to really good work, and you are handicapping yourself if you are going to rely upon a jack plane to do all your work. Consider for a minute some of the disadvantages of this. You will have to do rough work, plane joints, and smooth, each of which requires a different setting (and a different sharpening to the cutter), and this is not practicable in the long run. I have already dealt with the various types of planes you can have-wood or metal-and we may therefore turn to their actual use and conditioning.


When a plane is first bought the cutter is ground but it needs to be given a keen edge on an oilstone. Generally it is ground at 25 degrees. The sharpening angle is rather greater than this-about 30 degrees. Thus only a small amount of metal has to be rubbed away on the oilstone since it is only the metal at the edge which has to be rubbed (see A, Fig. 2), It will be realized that with continual sharpening the new bevel formed on the oilstone gradually becomes wider, so making the sharpening a lengthy process, and eventually it becomes necessary for the cutter to be ground afresh (see B, Fig. 2).

The experienced man can put a cutter on an oilstone at the correct angle without hesitation. For a start, however, the simplest plan is to lay the cutter on the stone so that the bevel lies flat, and then raise the hands a trifle. Work the cutter back and forth and endeavour to maintain the same angle the whole time. Some workers adopt an elliptical movement; others keep to a straight stroke, but in any case it is advisable to hold the cutter so that the edge is somewhat askew as shown in Fig. 1.

It is an indication that the edge is sharp when a burr is turned up at the back (Fig. 3), and this is detected by drawing the thumb across the edge at the back. It is no indication of the quality of the edge, however, and it does not show whether the edge is gashed or not.

One good way of doing this is to hold the cutter up to the light, A keen edge cannot be seen, whereas a dull one shows up as a line of light. Similarly any gashes show up clearly. Some workers draw the thumb along the edge, a keen edge gripping the flesh without cutting, whereas a dull one feels smooth. This is hardly to be recommended to the beginner, and my own advice is to first draw the thumb across the edge at the back to show that the metal has actually been turned up. Then, after the burr has been got rid of, the edge can be examined in the light.

To remove the burr, lay the cutter flat on the stone, bevel uppermost, and rub it back and forth a few times (Fig. l). This will loosen it, and it is finally got rid of by stropping either on a piece of dressed leather or by drawing it across the hand first one side and then the other. An excellent preparation for dressing the leather is the paste used by motor mechanics for grinding in valves. By rubbing first one side and then the other the burr gradually drops away. The shape of the edge has to be considered, and readers should turn to page 329 in the October WOODWORKER to see details of this.

Note how the fingers pass beneath the sole and act as a sort of fence.
They help to keep the plane square on the wood and prevent drifting.


The back iron is fixed with a screw, lt should be slid down to the required position, tightened with the fingers, examined again, and then tightened finally with a screwdriver. For the jack plane it should be about 1/16 inch from the edge; a trifle less for the trying plane, and about 1/32 inch for the smoothing plane. For the latter, however, it may be necessary to move it up still closer when difficult wood liable to tear out has to be smoothed. Remember that the closer the back iron the less the liability to tear out. On the other hand the resistance is increased. ln fact a closely set back iron cannot be used with a coarsely set plane.

In the case of wooden planes the cutter with back iron attached is placed in position, held with the thumb whilst the plane is rested with its back on a sheet of white paper as in Fig. 6, and the wedge inserted. Any adjustment is then made, and the wedge tapped in. A sight is made again when the cutter should appear as a black line, the thickness varying in accordance with the thickness of shaving to be removed. A tap with the hammer to the back of the cutter increases the cut, whilst tapping the front of a jack or trying plane makes a finer setting. Smoothing planes are struck at the rear. In the case of metal planes the cutter and wedge are put straight in and a sight then taken. This is because adjustment is easily made with the screw and lever.

The cutter is held by pressure from the left thumb whilst
it is being adjusted. The wedge is then tapped home.

The handling of the plane depends upon the work it is to do. When an edge is being planed the left hand should be held so that the fingers pass beneath the sole where they act as a sort of gauge, keeping the plane in position and parallel with the wood as in Fig. 5. For planing flat surfaces, however, the hand grips the top of the plane. In the case of the smoothing plane, when the end of the stroke has been reached the back of the plane is raised so that the shaving fades away to nothing. If the plane is merely halted, the shaving will remain attached to the wood and will leave a bad mark.

When an edge has to be planed straight, as in a joint, the simplest plan is to remove as much wood as possible from the middle, using the trying plane. The length of the plane and its fine setting will prevent it from dipping in unduly. When it ceases to remove any more wood take off a couple of shavings along the entire length. Assuming the plane to be true this will make the edge straight. If anything it will be the merest trifle hollow, but this is a fault more tolerable than a round edge.

In a butt joint it is generally desirable. The try square should be used to test whether the edge is square, and if it is at all out it should be corrected by shifting the plane tothe side which is highest rather than attempting to rock the plane (the latter is entirely impracticable).
The shape of the cutter automatically causes the shaving to be thicker at one side than the other as shown in Fig. 4.

Next month I hope to deal with various appliances used in planing and with certain other tvpes of planes.


Readers will be interested to note that PRACTICAL VENEERING, the latest handbookin the WOODWORKER series, was written by "Craftsman," the contributor of the above article. It is an authoritative book dealing with every phase of its subject, and is profusely illustrated with diagrams and action photographs which show every stage in the various processes. In addition are many designs which provide actual working examples of the craft. Every serious woodworker should have a copy.
lt explains in detail the tricky points which the inexperienced man finds difficult. It is published at 3s. 6d. net by Evans Bros., Ltd., P.O. Private Box No. 5 St. Albans, Herts.

The Woodworker, Volume XLIII, Number 552 - November 1939

Last Updated: May 9, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

Stanley Sweetheart No 9 1 2 Adjustable Throat Block Plane for Parts or Res
Stanley Sweetheart No 9 1 2 Adjustable Throat Block Plane for Parts or Res $17.60 (4 Bids)
Time Remaining: 52m
Stanley 10 in Surform Plane High Impact Polymer Handle Holds up to Heavy Use
Stanley 10 in Surform Plane High Impact Polymer Handle Holds up to Heavy Use $22.99
Time Remaining: 1h 11m
Buy It Now for only: $22.99
Stanley 220 Block Plane Stanley Rule Level In Circle NICE Clean Plane Ref5
Stanley 220 Block Plane Stanley Rule  Level In Circle NICE Clean Plane Ref5 $19.99
Time Remaining: 1h 54m
Stanley 220 Block Plane Crack Free Knob Made in USA Black In Color Ref 6
Stanley 220 Block Plane Crack Free Knob Made in USA Black In Color Ref 6 $19.99
Time Remaining: 1h 54m
Stanley 220 Block Plane Nice Crack Free knob Maroon Color Made In USA Ref 7
Stanley 220 Block Plane Nice Crack Free knob Maroon Color Made In USA Ref 7 $19.99
Time Remaining: 1h 55m
Stanley No 130 Double end block plane 32826
Stanley No 130 Double end block plane 32826 $45.00
Time Remaining: 2h 20m
Buy It Now for only: $45.00
Nice vintage Stanley 12 Veneer Scraper Plane
Nice vintage Stanley 12 Veneer Scraper Plane $100.00
Time Remaining: 2h 35m
Time Remaining: 2h 49m
Buy It Now for only: $75.00
Sweetheart No 60 1 2 Low Angle Block Plane Stanley 12 139 New
Sweetheart No 60 1 2 Low Angle Block Plane Stanley 12 139 New $84.50
Time Remaining: 2h 51m
Buy It Now for only: $84.50
vtg Stanley 2 Tone Bench wood Plane wood working tool rare
vtg Stanley 2 Tone Bench wood Plane wood working tool rare $28.99
Time Remaining: 2h 55m
Buy It Now for only: $28.99