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How to Use a Block Plane for Woodworking

Learn how to use a block plane from Makeville Studio in this Howcast woodworking video.


Hand planes can be a useful to way of smoothing and squaring boards in the wood shop when you don't have access to a planer or jointer.

And, so I thought it would be useful if we looked at a couple different types of hand planes that we have in the shop here. These are basic models that, basically, any beginning woodworker might want to have possession of.

The block plane is sort of a multipurpose plane. Its real purpose was invented for smoothing out end grain on boards. But, it actually has a lot of uses in the shop. And that's why I always recommend that beginners start with this one.

Block plane is very simple. It has the cap, the cutting iron, the blade and the frog. The frog is the part where the blade rests on and it provides all of the adjustment features on the plane.

So, let's look at how this works. After you put the blade in, and the cap back on, there's a couple controls here that allow you to make adjustments to how the plane works.

The first one, and the most important one, is on the back. There's a brass knob here that you can turn clockwise or counterclockwise. And, what it's function is is to pull the blade in or push it out of the mouth down at the bottom here.

The other control on here, these silver levers back here, these are adjustments to make the blade be parallel in this opening. You just move them side to side, like that. And, it moves the blade in the opening.

So, if you sight through here, looking for something light behind you, it's pretty easy to get the blade parallel in that opening.

Once you've done that with these planes, you're all set to go. It's just, the first step is always finding the optimal amount to have that blade sticking out.

And so, retract it all the way back in. And, just through trial and error. Doing a quarter turn at a time or half turn at a time until you get that blade sticking out until where it's going to be doing some cutting.

And you'll see at first. You'll get little shavings. And then, you'll start to get larger ones. And that's when you know you've found a good spot. So.

Now, one of the things about these planes is that if you have them way out like that, they're very hard to use. So, I'm going to back that off a little bit.

This shouldn't be hard to use. It should be easy. And, this is a one handed operation with this plane. You should be able to just run it over the wood, quickly and easily one handed, balancing the front of the plane with your finger.

Some people do use these two handed, which is fine. But, I just think they're easier one handed. Even a rough board like this you can smooth out. If you look at this edge here, you can actually just chamfer the side of it with the block plane pretty quickly. Putting a soft edge.

Now, that could take you five, ten minutes to set up on a router table or on a table saw. But, you can do it in a couple minutes with a block plane.

One of the other important things you can do with a block plane, and the thing it was designed to do, is flattening and smoothing out end grain.

So, here we have a rough piece of end grain. And, I'll show you how we can use the block plane to smooth it out.

Now, one thing to bear in mind is, we're going to be running the plane across the top of this. And, because of the grain of the wood is sticking up, like this pencil, its going to tear out on the end. So, you always want to have a board sitting behind what you're doing so that you don't get tear out.

Set up. Clamp both pieces in the vice. And now, I can skim across this one. And this block board behind, its only purpose is really just to keep the end grain from tearing out on the opposite side.

Keep going. This trial and error of finding the right height is an important one. Now, one of the techniques I wanted to show when I'm doing this is, instead of going straight across the grain like this, and you're hitting rough spots when you do that. You can angle the plane slightly like this.

Keep going in the same direction but angle the plane. And, it creates a slicing motion instead of a straight on cut, like that. So, it ends up being a little bit smoother and easier to do.

Anyway, after a little bit of work, you want to back off the plane a little bit just to get it smooth again. There we go. You can just smooth it out.

Now, what you'll get at the end of this is a nice, smooth, glossy surface. Just like we did on the edge grain. Pretty quick way to take care of the end grain on a piece of wood.

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