How to Buy a Hand Plane

At some time in a beginning woodworker's career, s/he needs to smooth a board with a hand plane. Using a plane transforms the wood from rough to glassy smooth and prepares it to be turned into a piece of furniture. But first, you need to buy a hand plane.


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    Choose a hand plane based on the different types available. There are two primary types of hand planes for the beginning woodworker – a bench plane and a block plane. Each does a different job. Understand their jobs to better decide what hand plane to buy.
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    Select a bench plane if you want the most obvious satisfaction of those curls of wood coming off. Even in bench planes, there are two types of planes for you to decide on.
    • The first is a jack plane – the hand plane of choice for taking a rough piece of wood and preparing it for milling. This is due to the plane's longer base, which allows it to take out the high and low points and smooths the wood to a flat surface.
    • The second is the smoothing plane. This plane, with a shorter base, is used for the final finish. With some practice, an accomplished woodworker using a smoothing plane will not need to sand the finished surface.
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    Decide on a block plane if you can only afford one. This plane is used by woodworkers to help fine-tune miter and dovetail joints or for putting a chamfer on an edge of a board.
    • It helps when working against the grain due to its smaller size and the way the block plane blade bevel is turned up at a lower angle(25 degrees).
    • While the bench plane with the bevel on the blade turned down does a better job of cutting with the grain than the block plane, the block plane is often found in the woodworker's shop apron pocket.
    • The block plane can do some smoothing of wood, although not as efficiently as a bench plane.


  • After a block plane, a woodworker would want to buy (in order) a bench smoothing plane and then a bench jack plane. Other specialty planes, like a router or jointer plane, would follow as needed.
  • They all require sharpening and fine tuning no matter what price, or brand, of hand plane you choose. There are many fine web sites, books and classes offered by woodworking stores like Rockler and Woodcraft where you can learn how to tune up the hand plane you bought.
  • Hand planes tend to have a long life because of their value to a woodworker. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see them for sale at second-hand stores. EBay, pawn shops and garage sales are great places to look.
  • When buying second-hand planes, stick with well-known brands like Stanley "Sweetheart" hand planes, as these are highly valued.
  • Always carry a metal straight edge for checking to see that the sole of the plane is flat when shopping for a hand plane.


  • Sticker shock is not uncommon when you buy your first hand plane. Don't go for the cheaper version, however. The quality of the steel and manufacturing reveals itself in the flatness of the sole and ease of keeping it tuned.

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Categories: Purchasing