Hand planes are a vital part of any woodcrafter’s set of tools. But while there are a wide range of hand plane types out there, you will rarely need more than three or four.
Hand planes are often also called bench planes, although they are different from an actual bench-mounted wood plane. What follows are eight of the best hand planes for almost every task, with our picks for the best model and an affordable alternative for that same type.
Hand Plane Reviews
|WoodRiver 150875||5||Jack||13-7/8"||6.75 lbs|
|Taytools 469607||5||Jack||14-1/4"||5.45 lbs|
|WoodRiver 153104||7||Jointer||22"||9.78 lbs|
|Taytools 469584||7||Jointer||22"||8.30 lbs|
|WoodRiver 150874||4||Smoothing||9-7/8"||5.35 lbs|
|Stanley 12-136||4||Smoothing||10-5/8"||6.20 lbs|
|WoodRiver Low Angle||65||Block||7"||2.04 lbs|
|Stanley 12-139||60-1/2||Block||6-1/2"||1.89 lbs|
Best Jack Plane
Often called the “jack of all trades”, jack planes measures 12 to 17 inches long are are probably the most versatile of all hand planers. This is often the first plane you will reach for before any finer work. If you were to only own one type of hand plane, this would generally be the best option.
TOP PICK – WoodRiver 150875 No. 5 Bench Plane (V3)
The frog adjustment system doesn’t require blade removal and features a precision milled ramp for the best blade fit. The blade itself is two inches wide, while the overall length of the plane is 13-7/8 inches.
Depending on your needs, the WoodRiver #5 jack plane is ready to use straight out of the box. Some users have found a final touch of sharpening or minor adjustments were beneficial.
Note that while the overall quality of this tool is great, occasionally customers have found burrs on metal parts, such as the lever cap and lateral adjustment lever.
BUDGET PICK – Taytools 469607 No. 5 Bench Plane
Polished brass adjusting wheels, solid yoke, and carefully crafted Sapele knob and tote add extra quality to this tool. With a bed angle of 45 degrees, the 469607 can hold its own against many more expensive hand planers.
The tool comes ready for use with minimal adjustments necessary. It makes great cuts and has an almost perfectly flat sole. However, the design can make it a little finicky to adjust, and the included blade isn’t stainless steel, so you may wish to change it out.
Best Jointer Plane
Also known as the try plane, these long tools measure over 18 inches. They’re used for truing the edges of long planks and other areas that will be glued into place. Their length also makes them a perfect followup to the jack plane when working on large surfaces, as the long foot helps ensure a level cut.
TOP PICK – WoodRiver 153104 No. 7 Jointer Plane (V3)
The castings and lateral adjustment lever have both been improved in recent runs. With stress-relieved, ductile iron castings, carbon steel blades, and carefully machined, adjustable frogs, this is one of the best hand planes you’ll find on the market.
These well-crafted jointer wood planes are made by a company which takes feedback seriously. As a result, the design is regularly tweaked to improve both handling and cutting power. They may require some adjusting before the first use and include an anti-rust coating.
BUDGET PICK – Taytools 469584 No. 7 Jointer Plane
The 22-inch long #7 from Taytools is a great addition for any workshop, not just those on a budget. Made of ductile cast iron and polished brass, its sides and sole have been machined to within .0006 inches.
A Sapele knob and tote add to the overall quality, while the adjustable frog and solid yoke make this bench plane one of the best for your truing needs.
The careful machining of this tool makes it quite accurate, although some adjustments may be needed out of the box. You may also wish to replace the included blade with a stainless one.
Best Smoothing Plane
The third and final member of the wood plane trifecta you will use is the smoothing plane. Measuring at 10 inches or less, these little guys work along the grain to produce results so smooth you won’t even need to grab the sandpaper or sander once you’ve mastered cutting with this essential addition to your hand tool collection.
The #4 plane is usually considered the most versatile size, although the #1 is so small it could be used to craft such small surfaces as doll house furniture in the right hands.
TOP PICK – WoodRiver 150874 No. 4 Smoothing Plane (V3)
As with the other bench planes in this line, WoodRiver’s #4 is based on the classic Bedrock series. This 9-7/8 inch smoothing plane has the same precise machining and stress-relieved ductile steel castings as the previous tools.
Unlike many smoothing planes, WoodRiver has included an adjustable frog for more precise tuning.
As mentioned previously, WoodRiver is constantly improving their designs. This is evident in the current V3 model, which addresses many of the criticisms regarding the V2. It may require a bit of fine tuning, but is generally ready to use out of the box.
BUDGET PICK – Stanley 12-136 No. 4 Smoothing Plane
The patented lateral adjustment locking mechanism and single-piece frog and base create reliable precision, while the mouth is fully adjustable to handle a range of woods. Rounding off this wonderful tool are a cherry handle and knob, as well as a limited lifetime warranty.
Overall, this is a great tool with excellent weight and 25 degree blade angle. A few users have had issues with the included blade having sharpening errors. However, this doesn’t appear to be the norm.
Best Block Plane
Block planes come in two main flavors: standard and low angle. Standard angle planes have a 20-degree bed, allowing a 25 degree blade to cut at 45 degrees. However, the low angle planes are easily the more useful of the two, with a 12 degree bed for a 37 degree cutting angle. This allows the low angle block plane to shave off end grain more efficiently.
Another advantage to using this type of plane is that the resulting cuts are quite smooth and leave exposed ends presentable. Note that the blade for a block plane faces downwards, whereas the bevel faces up in regular bench planes.
TOP PICK – WoodRiver 151125 Low Angle Block Plane
A rear adjustment knob allows precise blade tuning, while the mouth may be adjusted to create a range of shaving thicknesses. As with all of WoodRiver’s planes, it’s made of stress-relieved ductile iron castings that are precision machined to a uniform smoothness.
The included high carbon steel blade may be used out of the box, although it’s recommended to sharpen it prior to use.
Sharpening the included blade is quick and easy, and the overall quality of this tool has net with very little complaint. As with all WoodRiver tools, feedback is regularly reviewed, so the tool is always improving.
BUDGET PICK – Stanley 12-139 Bailey No. 60-1/2 Low Angle Block Plane
Its iron is crafted from 1/8-inch steel to improve edge retention and can be micro-adjusted to 30 degrees, while the adjustable mouth helps reduce tear out.
The Norris-style lateral lock and all other hardware are made of finely machined solid brass. An A2 steel blade and limited lifetime warranty round out this already impressive package.
Some users have found that honing the blade and softening edges helps reduce scratching. It’s important to note that the lever cap will feel loose if extended too far and may result in breaking the screw. Finger-tightening the screw after the lock in place generally seems to fix this issue.
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