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19 Different Types Of Hand Planes & How To Use Them

While modern electric machinery is slowly taking over, hand planes are still doing well, and you can easily find them in woodworking shops. 

Types Of Hand Planes

These were initially a part of Japanese carpentry and would be maintained and passed on for generations. The simple tool would be kept clean as a symbol of a good craftsman. In fact, the Kanna is even found today in certain places, and it is the traditional form of hand planes.

But today, multiple varieties are sold in different shapes and sizes. You can choose one, depending on the work process and the size of the wood pieces you are working with. 

Moving on, we will take you through the top 19 types of hand planes and will explain how to use each of them. Just make sure you check the length of the products and their blades to understand the difference in how they function. 

So, without further ado, let us dive in! 

Types Of Hand Planes & How to Use Them

Woodworker using a hand plane to clean up a wooden board. Hands of the master closeup at work. Working environment in a carpentry workshop

Before we begin with the 19 different types, the essential parts will be discussed. This is to ensure that you get complete knowledge about every part and can understand the differences among the various options. 

Parts That You Need To Know About

Although most hand planes flaunt a simple design, they can be complicated when it comes to functioning. Hence, it becomes difficult to replace them with modern machines. In this section, we will discuss the standard components that serve various essential functions. 

  1. Body

As you can already guess, this is the central part of a hand plane that makes the core framework. Usually, it consists of a wooden or metallic frame with other components attached and sealed to it. The body is always made of sturdy materials to prevent any forms of damage and to keep the other parts safe. 

  1. Blade

Next is the blade, capable of all kinds of shaving, slicing, and cutting activities. The blade or the cutting mechanism is usually shaped like a rectangle and has a beveled tip. 

This will either be facing upwards or downwards, determining the use. At times, it also sticks out to provide better cuts, while some are designed to stay inside and slice better.

  1. Chip Breaker

The chip breaker sits on top of the blade and plays a crucial role in cutting wood chips into smaller pieces. It works well with wood chips produced by the blade and the breaker breaks them up to prevent any form of clogging. 

  1. Knob

The knob is generally not found in smaller hand planes, but they are a part of medium to big-sized options. This will allow one to use both hands while working, and that is required for bigger wood pieces. You will find the part located near the front of the blade. 

  1. Frog

The frog refers to a seat that blades sit on, and it is designed to hold the blade in place. It can come with levers and knobs, allowing one to adjust the angle and orientation of the blade. 

  1. Lever Cap

This fits on top of the blade and will protect it from outside forces. A lever cap is a part dedicated to safety, which allows you to store your plane easily without damaging the toolbox or drawer. 

  1. Mouth

The mouth is the slot-like opening, present in every sole and it is a very crucial part of a plane. It will help the blade protrude out, but this is not applicable for chisel planes. 

  1. Tote

The tote will help you hold a hand plane and is generally placed on the rear side. But this is absent in finger planes as they are small enough for you to hold the sole itself. 

  1. Sole

The sole is present on the bottom of a plane and will keep it straight against any surface that you may be working with. There is also a slot in the sole to help keep the blade assembly in place. 

Different Types Of Hand Planes 

  1. Block Plane

If you are a DIY enthusiast looking for a compact and efficient device, then the block plane will serve you well. It is known to work wonderfully and can be easily controlled by beginners. 

What’s more, it offers a hoard of benefits, and you can use it to shape, cut, grain, and chamfer wood. The versatility offered is impressive, and we were able to use it with one hand too. 

The one-handed operation makes it an incredible finish tool that is also cost-effective. Being affordable for all, you will find local woodworkers using it. 

That’s not all; as there are 2 types of block planes, which include the standard angle and the low-angle version. The standard one features a blade with a bevel facing upwards at 20 degrees. On the other hand is a pocket-sized miniature version of this, making it easy to carry around. 

  1. Bench Plane

Bench planes can be very versatile and can range from 5 to 30 inches in length. They are very popular among those who work with wood a lot and are known to be a crucial part of the work process. 

Moreover, it has a sharp blade that sits on a pitch and is placed at 45 degrees. The bevel side faces downwards and cones with a cap iron with which it is reinforced. This prevents clogging of any kind and will help in its continuous and smooth functioning. 

Moving on to the types, there are many different types, and each has a different size. But the most popular ones are smoothing, jointer, and fore planes. 

  1. Bullnose Plane

Next, if you are looking for a product for detailed work, then the bullnose will be a great choice. It is small and measures 3- 4.5 inches, making it perfect for use with rabbets that are smaller than the piece. 

There is a small metal nose in the front of the blade, and that acts as a natural stop. Hence it is required to use rabbets that are smaller in size. 

Moreover, the blades are wider than the body, ensuring smooth functioning. It can be used to cut along the grain and the end grain. 

  1. Combination Plane

One major problem that beginners face is that they cannot afford to buy the entire set of special tools for crafting. This leaves many processes incomplete, and you can often not work with many objects of various shapes and sizes because of this. 

However, that is exactly where combination planes step in. These are not used a lot, but they will let you replace the cutter making it perfect for a wide number of jobs. You will get the benefits of a rabbet and a molding plane both from this product. 

  1. Chisel Plane

This is a very simple option that will allow workers to work with perfection. They do not have any form of guard on the front side of the blade. This makes it easier to cut and clean until the edges which blades with guards cannot reach. So, if you are looking for creating intricate designs, this might help you out. 

  1. Finger plane

If you have to work on thin boards, then finger planes are perfect. These have narrow widths and are made for highly specialized jobs. This includes making a violin where these can be used to clean the joints after having glued them well. 

Now the downside here is that you cannot adjust them in any way. It proves to be a problem, especially in an artisan’s workshop where there can be soles of several kinds. 

Hence, use this for straightforward jobs, and you should have no problems with it. We will suggest measuring the thickness of boards that need to be worked on before proceeding. 

  1. Compass Circular Plane


While finger planes cannot be used for curved soles, the compass plane is specially designed to take care of that. This is a very unusual type and is also known as a circular plane. It works on curved surfaces and will allow you to smoothen them well. 

  1. Jack Plane

If you are looking for the jack of all trades, the jack plane is what you would want. True to its name, this offers a lot of versatility and will help you remove twists and warps in no time at all. They can also be used for truing boards of all sizes. 

Now generally, a jack plane is 12 to 17 inches long, and you can purchase a specific size depending on the use. They are often used by artisans as a replacement tool or when there are a limited number of tools. 

  1. Fore Plane

This is one of the longest bench planes on this list, and it is 14 to 20 inches in length. The length makes it indispensable to professionals working with wood. This is usually used on rough boards, and it can remove excess material fast. The length will let you straighten a workpiece, and that adds to its benefits. 

  1. Kanna Japanese Plane

Next up is a tool that is very popular among the Japanese and is almost religiously taken care of. It is cleaned and sharpened by every Japanese artisan each day before work begins and is kept with care. Plus, the Japanese are known to pass it down to the next generation of artisans, and these stay as sharp and strong as ever. 

Moving on to the build, this one is a great example of fine art when it comes to Japanese woodcraft. They are simple to look at and have everything that is needed to call it a hand plane. 

There is a polished and beautiful oak body, a chip breaker pin, and a blade that is held in place by the pin. A mallet tap is also present and that can be used to make adjustments to the blade. 

What’s more, the Japanese plane is supposed to provide one with superior control and complete accuracy. This makes it a great match for Western tools, although it is a lot simpler and minimalistic.

  1. Jointer Plane

If you are looking for something for straightening jobs, then the jointer plane might be a perfect choice. It is known to be the longest one among the lot and has a length of 22 to 30 inches. You can use it for large pieces which are otherwise difficult to deal with. 

  1. Molding Plane

Molding planes work excellently well when it comes to making furniture and other forms of craft. They are designed to work on edge trims and molding and will help you take care of the corners. 

And that’s not all; this is known to be very durable and can last for years. Some are even used after having crossed 100 years, and that surely makes it cost-effective. 

  1. Levelling Plane

As the name suggests, this works the best in flattening rough surfaces and for straightening edges. It is long and is pretty wide, and it makes absolute straight cuts. Also, because of the length and width, it can cover a lot of area in less amount of time. This makes it perfect for a large amount of work, and professionals often choose this. 

  1. Rabbet Plane

If you are looking to cut rabbet joints, then the rabbet plane will be very useful. Not only has it been around for centuries, but it can also make perfect square cuts, making it indispensable at times. This belongs to the specialized tools category and is used by professionals generally. 

Now, if you are wondering how it makes absolute square cuts, look at the blades which protrude from the sides a little. This prevents binding up, and you will be getting clear cuts. 

  1. Plow Plane - Duplex Rebate Plane 

Also known as a grooving plane, this includes a depth gauge and a fence that will allow you to cut rabbets and grooves. This works well because of the angle of the blade, and that is fixed at a 35-degree angle. 

Coming to its usage, this works well in cutting tongue, window sashes, and floorboards. If you are into making houses, then this could prove to be very beneficial. 

  1. Scrub Plane

While all the other options are similar in a way, this one stands miles apart and is a category of its own. This was actually designed to help in ripping, and you can use it to rip and trim materials quickly. Many use this on large boards to trim it down and bring it to the required size. 

  1. Router Plane

This is a rare tool to see these days and has been vastly replaced by modern equipment. However, it used to work very well and would replace the need to have a chisel. It is uniquely designed, and many consider the shape to be pretty uncommon. 

The strange shape ensures that one can flatten the underside of depressions in furniture and helps in further detailing with this. You can also flatten the corners and give it a proper finished look. 

  1. Shoulder Plane

The shoulder plane is very similar to the bullnose plane and can be used for detailed jobs. It is around 8 inches in length and comes with a long nose. Since the nose is long, it helps in keeping it flat. This makes it perfect for use with tenon joints and shoulders of rabbets where you need to cut and trim parts. 

Moving on, these were used a lot in the early 1800s, and today, you might find this in local woodworking stores and with local artisans. However, bigger bodies have already shifted to modern machines as it is easier and less time-consuming to do shoulder work with them.

Now, although bullnoses and shoulder planes are seen to be very similar, bullnose ones do not work well with the shoulders, and there lies the difference. 

  1. Smoothing Plane

We have come to the final type, and this one is used for smoothing surfaces. Just like the name suggests, these smoothing planes work very well and will get the surface ready for finishing. These range from 5 to 10 inches and can take care of small to moderate sizes of wood. You can also use it for high spots that need to be leveled. 

How To Use Hand Planes?

Hand planes are used to smoothen a surface and make it ready for finishing. To use this, you will have to slide it across the surface while you apply pressure. Because of the pressure, the blade will slice through wood like a chisel. The shavings will then be passed out through the slit or its mouth. 

Next, the chip breaker will then cut these slices into smaller pieces so that the mouth is not clogged. Remember, the finishing will depend on the size of a plane. Bigger options will provide the roughest cuts, while smaller ones will provide a smoother surface. 

Hand Plane Buying Guide

While every kind of hand plane has its own advantages and disadvantages, you will have to select one based on your requirements. This section contains factors that you need to remember before purchasing to ensure that you are on the right track. Read on to know all about them.

  1. Type Of Body

The two materials that are generally used for this purpose are metal and wood. Metal bodies are heavier but are very resistant to wear and tear. These are not easily damaged and last for long. You can easily work with abrasive wood, and the body will not see scratches. 

On the other hand, the wooden ones are lighter and easier to work with, especially for those who are going to use them for long hours. These work best with professional woodworkers who work with intricate detailing. The wooden sole will also not leave any marks on the surface while working, which metal ones might do. 

  1. Blade Thickness

If the blade is very thin, then there is a chance that it might flex during the work process leading to uneven ridges. You might have to do the work over again with another piece because of this. These work better with small surfaces, which need little work. 

On the other hand, thicker blades are very resistant to flexing and will not move out of the way. These offer clean ridges and cuts and will provide you with a smoother finish. 

  1. Blade Angle

The angle of a blade can determine the effect that it will have on a wooden piece. In the case of lower angles to the workpiece, you will be able to cut end grains perfectly. This is because it will be slicing wood instead of shaving it. 

And if blades are placed at very high angles, then they are best suited for burrs and exotic timber, which usually has a very complicated grain pattern. 

On the other hand, most planes have their blades at a 45-degree angle which will allow working with most softwoods and hardwoods. If this is your first time working with this, it is best to choose this last option. 

Bench plane, wooden boards and saw dust on table in carpenter's workshop

Final Words

When it comes to price, hand planes are available at different price points. If the cost is high, an excess amount is generally charged for high-quality metal and the precision parts that it contains. 

This varies with different options and the brands that make them. Handcrafted objects are much costlier as you will be paying for the intricate handwork. 

Moving on, we hope that you have a clear understanding of the different types of planes in the market. Understand your requirements before you proceed to purchase one. And we will suggest reading the manual or watching YouTube videos before you begin. 

We will end this guide here, and you can tell us about your favorite kind of hand planes in the comment section below. 

Until next time. Take care! 

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