Understanding Bench Planes

With this post a new category is born on my blog. I’ve been a woodworking for a long time now, and for some reason I have never blogged about it. I’m going to use this category to share links and articles I find related to woodworking and to talk about the projects I have in the works.

This first post is to point to an article by Christopher Schwarz over at Popular Woodworking where he discusses the different types of bench (hand) planes and their uses. A very useful guide.

The bench plane has three jobs in the woodshop: to straighten the wood, to smooth it and to remove it.

It sounds so simple when you put it that way, but many woodworkers are confused by all the different sizes of bench planes available, from the tiny 5-1/2″-long No. 1 smooth plane up to the monstrous 24″-long No. 8 jointer plane.

Add into the mix all the new bevel-up bench planes that are available in the catalogs now, and it’s bewildering enough to make you want to cuddle up close to your belt sander.

Believe it or not, there is a way to make sense of all the different sizes and configurations of bench planes out there and to select the few that you need in your shop. You don’t need one bench plane of each size to do good work (though don’t tell my wife that). In fact, it’s quite possible to do all the typical bench plane chores with just one tool (more on that later).

In this article, I’m going to walk through the entire line of forms of the metallic-bodied bench planes and describe what each tool is good for. Because people can work wood in so many weird ways, I’ll admit that what follows is equal doses of traditional workshop practice, personal preferences (formed by years of planing) and stubborn opinion that comes from growing up on a mountain.

Read the rest of it.

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