Using a Hand Plane


A plane is in principle (roughly speaking), as you will readily see, nothing but a chisel stuck through a block of wood or iron. Small or narrow surfaces may be smoothed to a certain degree by the chisel, the knife, or even a hatchet, but for large surfaces something is needed which can be more exactly controlled than the knife, ax, or chisel, held in the hands. So, to hold the chisel firmly in one position and to apply force to it more advantageously, it is firmly fixed in a block of convenient size and shape and becomes a plane.

A very short block will prevent the chisel cutting deeper at one point than another, but the tool will follow the irregularities of the surface and, though it may make the surface smooth, it will not make it level, or fiat; so the block is made longer, that it may not go down into all the little hollows, but plane off only the higher parts.

The two essential parts of a plane are the iron and the stock. The bottom surface of the stock is called the sole ox face (as in Fig. 621), the wedge-shaped hole where the iron goes is called the throat (c), and the slot at the bottom through which the edge of the iron projects is called the mouth (d).

Bear in mind that the shape of the cut made by the plane will be a reversed copy of the shape of the cutting-edge. If the edge is rounding, the cut will be hollowing. If the edge is hollowing, the cut will be rounding. If the edge is straight, the cut will be straight. If the edge is nicked, ridges will be left on the wood.

If buying new, you will do best, as a rule, to get iron planes, though very good ones can be had with wooden stocks, but with the convenient appliances of the iron planes. Some workmen still prefer the old wooden planes, but it is better to buy iron ones.

Plane Fig. 621

The jack-plane is used for coarse work and to rough off the surface with large shavings, ready for the other planes. Fourteen or fifteen inches is a good length. The edge of the iron is notground squarely across, like the chisel, but is rounded slightly so as to cut deeper in the middle (Fig. 622). Heavy shavings can be cut and the rough outside of a piece of wood taken off quicker and easier than with a more squarely ground iron, but it does not leave the surface smooth, as the strokes of the jack-plane from a series of hollows and ridges (Fig. 623, exaggerated). After taking off the rough surface with the iron projecting considerably, you can of course set the iron finer, and by going over the work several times you can take off the worst of the ridges, but without a great deal of labour you can never get a really smooth surface with a plane that cuts hollows. A common use of the jack-plane is for "traversing," or planing across the grain, which is often the quickest and easiest way to reduce a surface to the desired shape, and for cleaning off where pieces have been glued together. If you should use a jack-plane to do the work of a fore-plane, have it ground more squarely across like the fore-plane.

If you use an old-fashioned wooden plane, take the handle in your right hand, laying your left over the top and side, just a little in front of the iron, with the thumb towards you and the fingers on the farther side, as shown in Fig. 624. This position allows you to bear weight on the fore part of the plane when necessary and to control the tool to the best advantage. This applies to the old-fashioned wooden planes. If your plane is iron, there is a handle or knob for the left hand which you simply grasp in a natural way.


Push the jack-plane forward steadily an arm's-length. Then stop and start afresh for another arm's-length stroke. When drawing the plane back tip it on the farther edge. The cap or break-iron can be set quite far back from the edge for rough work, about one eighth inch, but much nearer for finer work.

Plane Fig. 624

In these days when almost everything is planed by machinery with greater or less smoothness, you will probably not have much use for a jack-plane unless you find you have a good deal of rough planing to do yourself.

The fore-plane or trying-plane is longer and larger than the jack-plane. Eighteen to twenty-two inches is a good length. It is used to straighten and level the surface after the worst roughness has been taken off. The surface having been roughed off by the jack-plane, the fore-plane is not required to take off such heavy shavings and the iron is therefore ground squarely across like a chisel, but very slightly rounded at the corners (Fig. 625). It is held in the same way as the jack-plane, but the stroke should be long and steady, for the fore-plane, which is long, will straighten the surface, and smooth it also. The iron can project more for soft and loose-grained woods than for hard, and the cap or break-iron should be nearer the edge for hard woods.

Plane Fig. 625

The jointer (22"' to 30" in length) or long jointer (from 24" to 30"), is still longer than the fore-plane and correspondingly more accurate for making a surface level and true, or for shooting the edges of boards. Twenty-four inches is a good length. It is very useful for making joints to be glued, and is used in the same way as the fore-plane, the stroke being continued steadily the whole length of the piece if possible.

The smoothing-plane is used, as its name indicates, for the final smoothing of the surface, so far as it can be done with a plane. It is from five to ten inches long.

It is an invaluable plane to the amateur, and the beginner can get along very well for a great deal of work with no other, for stock can be bought ready planed and can easily be trued and jointed, when necessary, at any wood-working mill or shop at slight expense.


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