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 planes. In this guide we will be talking about the bench plane which is the most common type.

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 body 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.

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

Without Highlighting

Parts 1
Parts 2
Parts 3
Parts 4

Sole

Handles (Front Knob and Back Tote)

Cutting Iron Assembly (Cap Iron, Cutting Iron and Screw) and Setscrew

Depth Adjustment Wheel

Lever Cap

Frog

Lateral Adjustment Lever

Frog Setscrews

Frog Adjustment Screws

Further Reading

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

Which Plane- Bevel Up First or Bevel Down?

2 Comments

  1. Gary McCourt on 14 March 2020 at 1:17 am

    Hi Paul. I’ve recently started to follow you both here and on your YouTube channel and have to say I really enjoyed your style.
    I’ve recently dug out all my dad’s old hand planes ( 2 Stanley No. 4’s, 1 No. 5, and I think a No. 4½ wider than the rest? And a Brazil No2 block plan by Tramontina)
    I have a quandary about the Brazil No2.
    I’ve taken it apart and sharpend the blade but I’m struggling to figure out how to reconfigure and set it again correctly. I’m thinking it’s like the wooden plane were you need to tap it one way or another to set it, but I don’t want to be mess with it to much until I figure out how it works. I’ve had a quick Google and can’t find much about their block plane.
    Just wondering if you have ever had one of these or know anything about them that might help me out.

    Look forward to your reply and see more of your work.

    Best Regards
    Gary

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 16 March 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Gary,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Paul says:
      I’ve never heard of the plane so unfortunately I am unable to help.

      Kind Regards,
      Izzy

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