Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
They are especially useful for chamfering, smoothing end grain, fairing convex curves, cleaning up dovetails, box joints and other exposed joinery, fitting doors and for all manner of precision planing. Most have an all-metal body. Low angle block planes have the bed set at 12°; standard block planes have it set at 20°. The plane iron is usually ground at 25°, which gives an effective cutting angle of 37° for a low angle plane, and 45° for a standard plane. Some have an adjustable throat plate that allows you to close up the mouth to help minimize tearout. On some planes there are two adjusters – one to move the plane iron forward/ backward, another to move the iron from side-to-side. The ‘Norris style’ adjuster combines both adjustments. Since a block plane is a lifetime tool, don’t skimp on cost. If buying a first block plane, consider a low angle model.
Price: $50 – $400
Body: Magnesium Bronze, Ductile Iron, Steel or Wood
Length: 3-1/2″ – 6-5/8″
Bed Angle: 12° – 20°
Top Brands: LeeValley.com, Lie-Nielsen.com, Flinn-Garlick-Saws.co.uk, Ecemmerich.de
A sharp blade requires less effort to push the plane, and it makes a cleaner cut, especially when working end grain and wild reversing grain.
For fine work, adjust the mouth (throat) so that it’s only about 1/64″ wide (applicable for planes with an adjustable throat plate).
Skewing the plane lowers the cutting angle and does a more effective job slicing wood fibers.
You only need to apply enough tension to the cap adjustment wheel to secure the blade in place.
A few strokes with a stick of beeswax or paraffin across the sole of the plane will help it glide more easily across your work surface.
Not sure about the advice on using wax: it might transfer to the wood and affect later finishing.
“Wax sticks to everything but nothing sticks to wax”