Saturday, December 20, 2008

Used Hand Planes part 3.5: your arsenal continued

Bring on the weird looking specialty planes! The majority of these planes are designed to do detail work rather than board surfacing. Because of this, most of them have blades that butt up against or extend slightly past at least one edge of the plane body. this is so you can cut a specific area on the wood right up to an edge without disturbing the opposing edge. With that in mind, many of these planes can sub for each other in some situations. Keep in mind that a plane designed to go with the grain is probably going to have a standard bed angle and the ones designed to trim end grain will have a low bed angle. Most of these planes have obvious names that describe their use, as opposed to "jack" plane or "fore" plane, and so on.

Rabbet/Fillister plane: the use for this plane is to be able to cut a rabbet (or fillister) along the edge of a board. The most common version of this plane is the Stanley #78. The #78 has a blade that extends to it's edge. It has a side fence and a depth fence to allow you to set the rabbet dimensions. There is two blade beds so that you can use it in a bullnose fashion if you like. because this type of plane is designed to go with the grain, it usually has a standard bed angle.

Shoulder plane: A shoulder plane is designed to trim the shoulders of a tenon. For this reason, the bed angles are usually low because you'll be trimming end grain with this. Because shoulder planes tend to be narrow, they are often good for cleaning up dados. This can be one of the most useful planes in your shop.

Bullnose plane: these are very similar to a shoulder plane. However, the blade is bedded close to the front of the plane, allowing you to plane very close to the butt end of a dado or rabbet. Many of these planes allow you to remove the front nose altogether and turn it into a chisel plane to get right up to the butt end.

Router plane: The router plane is a funny looking contraption that is designed to make dados. It has a flat base with two knobs and a blade that extends below the base. The blade can be straight or wedge shaped. These excel at cleaning up dados that are made with a power router or dado blade. Some come with a fence to allow them to be used as a rabbet plane, although I would suspect it would be tough to get the kind of leverage you get with a Stanley #78.

Plow plane: A plow plane is similar to a rabbet plane but will allow you to make grooves parallel to the board edge. they have a set of blades in varying widths that will extend into the board to cut the groove. These also have a side fence and a top fence to set the groove's distance from the edge and the depth of the groove.

Molding planes and beading planes: these planes are similar in that they will cut various patterns into the edges of the board like a router bit will. Most molding planes are usually made of wood and have a singular profile that they cut. Stanley had a pair of molding planes called #45 and #55. these planes were like a Rabbet plane, but had dozens of blades designed to cut a number of profiles, beads, rabbets, etc. Many woodworkers with a hand plane affection often consider finding a Stanley #55 with the complete blade sets to be a holy grail.

Scraper plane: This is simply a scraper set in a bench plane type frame. The advantage of this is that the scraper angle can be adjusted easily and you have a solid, flat base to scrape with.

Scrub plane: The only one of this list that isn't for specialty trim or finish work. This plane is used to take very thick shavings from a board for quick dimensioning of rough stock. You might say "but Mike, isn't that what jack and fore planes are for?" Well, yes, but a scrub plane takes a VERY thick shaving. The blade is at least twice as thick as a standard bench plane blade - so thick, in fact, that it doesn't need a chip breaker for support. These planes are about the same size as a #3. The blade is honed with a very pronounced camber on the end. You would use this plane on large, rough stock to "hog" off a whole lot of wood in a short time.

And there you have it. I'm sure there are some other planes that I didn't cover that you all can come up with, but I think this is a pretty comprehensive list that shows you the variety of hand planes out there.

In the modern powered shop, many of these planes would be unnecessary. a good router and bit set can do most of these jobs in short order. I know, not very galoot-ish but I'm being honest. throw in a decent power planer and jointer and most of the bench planes are out too. Still, you might come across a board that's too wide for your jointer and/or planer. And not all power tool cuts are perfect. So, maybe I can make a few suggestions for your arsenal:
  • #3 or #4 Smoothing plane (to help smooth out planer marks and other odd jobs)
  • #5 Jack plane and #7 Jointer plane (to complete the board dimensioning trio when your jointer/planer is too small)
  • Low Angle Block plane (for triming board edges, etc.)
  • Shoulder plane (for trimming tenons, cleaning up rabbets and dados)
The rest, I leave up to you :)

In part 4, I will be cleaning and tuning up a used bench plane. Stay tuned.....



Handi said...



LOL, I thought it was 3 of 3 Post on Planes?

Not 3.5 of 3, That extends the Of 3 to another Have which means it needs to be 3.5 of 4 so you have another .5 of a Post to go on the Unknown Planes lol.

Good Post, I was aware of some of the other planes at least by reading some bout them, Like the Profile Planes for making Molding and other stuff, but some of the others Wasn't aware of.

Thanks for the Info.


Michael Marzullo said...

Sorry, it's 3.5 because it was a continuation of post 3, which was an additional post sandwiched between post 2 and the originally designated post 3 which is now going to be posts 4 - cleaning and tuning a used hand plane - followed possibly by a 4.5 which will demonstrate the difference an after market blade can make on a cheaper used plane.

The primary uses of many of those uncommon plane types are easy to figure out. Unfortunately, many of them seem similar. my intention was just to help sort out the fine points for anyone interested.

anyway, glad you're finding these posts least someone is :)


Handi said...


I'm just messing with you lol

I do the same thing, then once I finish all of my Post, I go back and edit them to the Numbers lol


Michael Marzullo said...

and I, you, Handi - :)