Different Types of Plane for Planing Wood
Planes come in a multitude of patterns to cope with special jobs. The basic planing job, however, is to reduce wood to exact dimensions, leaving it smooth and flat.
Three sorts of metal plane do this: the jointer plane 550-600 mm (22-24 in) long; the jack plane 350-375 mm (14-15 in); and the smooth plane 200-250 mm (8-10 in). The longer the plane the flatter it cuts a surface, since a short plane ‘rides’ the bumps instead of straddling them. The best all-round plane is the jack, as it is long enough to cope with most surfaces and is not as heavy as the jointer plane.
Familiarise yourself with the different parts of your plane and their functions, as you need to adjust the plane before use and to take it apart to sharpen the blade.
To remove the blade, lift the wedge lever and slide the wedge out; remove the blade and cap iron and release theso that they slide apart. After the blade is sharpened the blade and cap iron together tightly, so that the cap iron is about 1.5 mm (1/16 in) back from the cutting edge, and parallel with it — this is vital for smooth cutting.
Replace the blade and cap iron — the blade’s bevel face downward — and the wedge iron, then depress the lever. If the whole assembly is loose, tighten the centreslightly. If the lever will not depress, then the assembly is not in correctly.
Adjust the depth of cut by turning the knurled knob, which controls how far the blade sticks out of the slot, then adjust the blade so that it will cut evenly across its full width.
Longer-lasting tungsten-tipped blades used in certain planes must be sent away for regrinding when blunt.
Some metal planes use replaceable blades that are thrown away when blunt. They are released, and new ones are secured, by the simple operation of a cam lever.
Wooden planes are less common than metal ones, but are available in three sizes — trying plane, jack and smooth — equivalent to the three basic metal ones.
Adjusting them for use takes practice. Remove the blade, cap iron and wedge by holding them in one hand, turning the plane upside down and rapping its front end on the bench. To reassemble, hold the blade and cap iron in place with the thumb and tap the wedge in with a hammer. Align the blade by tapping with the hammer, ending with a firm tap on the cap iron and the wedge so that the whole assembly is firm. To make minor readjustments, loosen the assembly by tapping the top front end of the plane — often there is a domed knob there for this purpose.
To prevent drying out, wipe wooden planes occasionally with raw linseed oil.
Used with one or two hands, the block plane is useful for small work and for end-grain trimming, to which it is particularly suited because of its shallow blade-angle.
The blade, 35-41 mm (1-3/8 – 1-5/8 in) wide, is controlled for depth by a nut under the handle, and for side adjustment by the projecting lever. It cuts bevel uppermost. The mouth opening on some makes also adjusts for coarse or fine shavings.
Use it one-handed for chamfering — pressing with the forefinger on the button at the front — and two-handed for end-grain work.
Trimming end grain – Use the block plane with the left thumb and forefinger guiding the front and keeping it level. Cup the right hand round the body of the plane. Trim from each end to the middle to avoid splitting the far corner.
The steel equivalent of a wood block plane is a Jack Plane.
Moulding planes are specialist tools for forming and smoothing shaped edges. Planes for cutting a variety of shapes, both convex and concave, are available. The shape cut by a moulding plane can be altered by regrinding its blade and planing the body to match. Blades are removed and fixed by tapping the wedge, and sharpened by using a slipstone on the ground side and a flat stone on the back. Before using a moulding plane, chamfer off as much waste as possible with a flat-bottomed plane.
Use the moulding plane two-handed. The fingers of one hand should just be touching the timber as you work, as a guide.
The shoulder plane is chiefly used for trimming up shoulders/tenons and rebates. The blade cuts the full width of the plane body so that it can trim right into the angle.
There are two types — the traditional wooden pattern and the modern all-metal type with a screw-adjusted blade.
Another version has a detachable fore section which, when removed, enables you to work close up to internal corners, as with a bullnose plane.
When cutting a rebate, cramp a straight-edged length of wood along the line of the cut as a guide to the plane. Keep the side of the plane pushed in against the guide as you work.
Tenons and shoulders in cabinet work are cleaned up with the shoulder plane. Work in from the edges to the centre to avoid splitting the wood.
Two-in-one plane – This version of the shoulder plane also doubles as a bullnose, capable of working right up to an internal corner. The blade is removed from the plane through the bottom and is sharpened like an ordinary plane iron.
The router is for making grooves of uniform depth, generally across the grain It is invaluable for accurate finishing of work such as shelving-unit slots after most of the waste has been sawn and chiselled out.
The two types are the small router and the far more useful standard size. This is supplied with two kinds of cutter, one with a chisel-shaped end and the other rather like a pointed spade for working in corners where the chisel shape cannot reach.
Both types of blade are sharpened like chisels. Because of the ‘golf club’ shape of the blades, the oilstone has to be stood on the edge of the bench so that the blade post can overhang while the top of the cutting edge is being honed.
Standard router and blades – Always take care when using the router that you do not dig it into the side of the slot and split the wood.
Finish housings after chiselling out by adjusting the router (above) more and more finely between cuts, until the depth line is reached. The cutting action (above) consists of a series of short forward strokes ending with a final long sweep.
A side-fence comes with some routers. Fix it on for cutting grooves from a given edge. The fence will follow shallow curves.
The flexible steel base on this plane is adjustable for cutting regular convex or concave shapes. It is difficult to use but is more effective than the spokeshave for long, smooth curves. Adjust the curve of the sole by means of a screw through the centre of the plane.
Work with the grain at all times when planing a round shape.
A specialist’s tool for scratching the surface of wood which is to be hand veneered, to give thea good ‘key’.
The blade has a finely toothed edge which is set at right angles to the sole. Sharpen it with a triangular slipstone and adjust it as you would any wooden plane.
Use the plane with and across the grain to give a random hatched effect.
Side rebate plane
Two criss-cross blades, both of which are set at a low, oblique angle, allow this small plane to get right into corners for tight trimming.
The chamfered edges of the body enable you to work it from either direction, with or across the grain
This is a cabinet-maker’s tool, which is handy for occasional odd jobs.
The rebate or fillister plane cuts rebates for glass or panelling.
There are two blade positions. Use the standard centre position for all normal open-ended rebating on the bench; use the bullnose position for stopped rebates or for cutting or enlarging rebates in an existing frame.
To cut a rebate running up to a vertical surface, chisel out enough at the fore end of the work to allow the plane to run through in its bullnose setting.
The plane has an adjustable side-fence which controls the width of the rebate, and a gauge for depth.
The blades cut bevel down. Adjust the cutting edge with the lever behind the blade.
Cup the left hand comfortably round the fence rod and body of the plane, keeping it pressed well into the work. Push forward and down with the right hand.
Work the plane in progressive stages: start from the front end with a series of short cuts, gradually stepping backwards until you have the entire rebate. This method prevents the plane wandering with the grain away from the side of the rebate.
Arrange the work so that the plane never comes up against opposing grain. If you are in doubt about the slope of the grain, a trial shaving will indicate the direction — the plane will dig into and tear opposing grain.
The plough is the most useful of the `special’ planes. Make it your first buy after the bench planes.
‘Ploughing’ is simply planing a groove. The plough plane does this and cuts rebates as well.
Metal ploughs are supplied with sets of either three or eight cutters. The larger set gives a wider range of grooves, but you can make do with the three-cutter by altering the fence to cut a groove beside a groove. Remember to cut the groove nearest to the edge of the timber first, or the depth fence will have nothing to work to.
Cut a groove in stages from the front, working gradually backwards, as with the rebate plane. Clear the shavings frequently, because the mouth of the plough easily becomes choked.
Grip the fence firmly, particularly when it is at an extremely wide setting, otherwise the blade may wander with wild grain
Keep the blades square and sharp at the extreme corners. Make sure that all adjustingare tight.
Note that plough blades have channels across their width, which must lock on to the adjusting wheel.
The combination plane does anything that the rebate or plough plane can do, and the work of many moulding planes as well.
It is, however, a complex tool. It can be adjusted for width and depth of cut as well as for blade setting. Even some of the cutters are variable.
To a large extent the combination plane has succeeded the traditional moulding plane because of its versatility. By comparison it is a bit cumbersome and very expensive, but it does allow the cutting of a wide range of sections — probably more than you will ever need.