ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Woodworking Planes - Basic Types of Planes for Working Wood and Their Uses

Updated on November 3, 2013

Woodworking planes or hand planes are still in use by many woodworkers even with the advent of power tools of today which can do the same job faster. Often the result obtained with a woodworking plane is better and exhibits the qualities one looks for when identifying pieces of fine craftmanship.

Hand planes used for woodworking have evolved over many years. They have been found among artifacts left by the ancient Romans, and were also believed to have been used by the Egyptians in making certain furniture items. While the original concept of the plane hasn't changed much, the design was refined and greatly improved by Leonard Bailey, an American who is generally considered the inventor of the modern woodworking planes. Bailey's designs were purchased by Stanley, and incorporated into some of the most sought-after hand planes by collectors. Some of these old Stanley planes with Bailey's name engraved into them fetch several hundreds of dollars, and are no longer used as tools in favor of prized collectables.

Woodworking Planes diagram - click photo to enlarge
Woodworking Planes diagram - click photo to enlarge

There are many variants of the woodworking plane, but I will cover the basic parts of a plane and the basic woodworking planes that a person interested in handmade carpentry work would want in their workshop.

Two basic plane styles, the bench plane (top of image) and block plane (bottom of image)

Woodworking Planes Parts

  • A: The mouth – this is the opening on the bottom where the blade protrudes. The wood shavings also come up through the mouth.

  • B: The iron – this is actually tool steel, not iron, but it is the blade that actually does the work of cutting or shaping the wood.

  • C: The lever cap – secures the blade onto the body of the plane.

  • D: The depth adjustment knob – this controls the protrusion of the blade below the sole (bottom) of the plane through the mouth.

  • E: The knob – front handle to hold the plane securely.

  • F: The chipbreaker – may also be called the cap iron, it adds rigidity to the blade and forces wood shavings to break apart as they come up through the mouth.

  • G: The lateral adjustment lever – this moves the iron laterally in order to make a uniform depth of cut across the mouth of the plane.

  • H: The tote - handle in the back of the plane.

  • I: The finger rest knob - block planes don't require two hands like bench planes so this is where the tip of the user's index finger rests in the indentation on top of the knob. This also allows adjustment to the size of the mouth on some planes.

  • J: The frog – this sliding iron wedge holds the iron at the correct angle. This is one of the advancements in modern plane design that Leonard Bailey is responsible for.

There are four major types of planes which, of course, have several variants:

The Bench Plane is a larger woodworking plane the basic parts of which are shown above with high blade angles usually around 45 degrees.

Four Types of Woodworking Planes

The Jack Plane – These are the all around woodworking planes to start a project with. They are generally found in sizes of 12” - 16” which is a good in between size for a hand plane. Primarily the jack plane is used to remove large amounts of wood. If the board is rough or uneven, then the jack plane is a logical start since it works quickly. It is not generally a finishing type of plane, although in a pinch the jack plane can be used to do the work of a jointer plane or a smoother plane.

Jointer Plane – This bench plane is used primarily to “joint” the edges of boards to make them uniform and flat so they may be joined together as in forming a wide table top without gaps between the separate boards. Jointers are typically the longest of the woodworking planes so that the long sole of the plane rides along any imperfections in the edge while the iron shaves these down uniformly.

The Lie Neilson smoother featured here is the gold standard, and while it may seem expensive, you will not find a better plane for the price.

Smoother Plane – This is another bench plane, but their primary use is on the face of a board rather than the edge. Smoothers are usually 9” -10” in length so they still benefit from riding over imperfections in the wood surface, but their shorter length make them more maneuverable. As the name implies smoother planes are used to smooth the face of a board. Usually a much finer, almost glass-like surface can be obtained by a properly sharpened and tuned woodworking plane of this type, and no further sanding or scraping would be required.

Block Plane – The block planes are smaller and have their irons set at a lower angle. They are commonly used to smooth end grain on boards, but there are many specialty versions that perform various tasks such as chamfering or curving edges, rabbeting grooves, and creating molding shapes.

If you are a woodworker looking to get back to basics or simply wanting an occasional alternative to a noisy and dusty power tool so you can finesse that piece you are working on, you really should purchase at least a good jack plane and a versatile block plane. No matter what, the job is always easier if you have the proper tool and woodworking planes are no different.

Get a set of planes together to start your woodworking off right.

Woodworking Planes Video


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have been using hand tools exclusively for over 8 years and the plane is invaluble. Most of the time I don't even have to sand a surface after planing with a good sharp blade.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This was very helpful to my WoodWork project. Keep on doing the good work.

    • ThePelton profile image


      6 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      Keep your blade sharp, and you have one of the best tools in your toolbox.

    • houriganb2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Sorry, link didn't work haha! Here it is,

    • houriganb2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome article! I'm just getting started, and I found this pretty cool site with tips for beginners, Pretty good place to get started if you're just getting into woodworking like I am!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good article

    • profile image

      Grizzly Tools 

      7 years ago

      As someone who enjoys working with wood, I must say you did a very thorough job explaining the different types of planes. Great hub.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeffrey Neal 

      8 years ago from Tennessee

      Thank you, Cheeky Girl! I will be adding a few more hubs about the specific planes mentioned here. You are right that old ways of doing things sometimes need a boost to keep them relevant. I'm sure any woodworker who values the art versus the mechanics would prefer the result achieved using a quality handplane to that of a power tool.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      This is a great hub on what might be a lost art, or may become a lost art if we don't do something to help revive it, and you did a great job of that here! My grandfather would love this! He's into this in a big way! Muchos gracios Amigo!

    • Jeffrey Neal profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeffrey Neal 

      8 years ago from Tennessee

      Sounds like fun and a lot of work! Thank you NewHorizons for the nice comments.

    • NewHorizons profile image

      Joseph Attard 

      8 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU.

      Hi Jeff. It's true that you and I have some things in common. Last January and February I spent many hours working with a hand plane to construct a mast and a boom for my sailing boat. Quite a job to make the mast, rounded and tapered. I even hollowed it somewhat to make it lighter, since I go sailing single-handed. I like gardening too, a little. I have a small garden at home which I try to keep in good order. Congratulations on your hubs. They are very interesting and varied. Regards.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeffrey Neal 

      8 years ago from Tennessee

      Thank habee! Woodworking is another of my long list of hobbies, but I am just getting into planes and some other hand tools.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Oh, my husband would love this! I'll pass it along.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)