Planes are used to remove wood and produce a smooth surface. There are different types of planes available in various sizes.
There are three types of bench plane, all similar in design but with sole plates (the smooth metal underside of the plane) of different lengths.
This is the largest version of the bench plane with a sole plate of about 600mm (2ft). The Jointer plane is designed for trimming the edges of long boards. It is also suitable for levelling large flat panels as the long sole plate bridges any unevenness in the surface until the blade removes them. However, the size of the Jointer plane makes it too awkward for detailed work.
An excellent, all-purpose plane with a sole plate about 350mm (1ft 2in) in length. A Jack plane can be used for most types of planing and will remove wood quickly and efficiently.
Smaller than the Jack plane, the smoothing plane is used to achieve a final finish on the timber.
A Block plane is smaller than a Smoothing plane and has its blade set at a very shallow angle, making it ideal for very fine trimming work. Block planes are also suitable for working on the end grain of timber. It also differs from bench planes as it can be used one-handed.
Using a plane
Before starting to plane check the angle and depth of the blade.
- With the plane upturned ‘sight’ down the sole plate. The blade should project from the sole plate an even amount across its width.
- To alter the angle of the blade, adjust the lateral adjusting lever behind the blade. This moves the blade side to side.
- To alter the depth of the blade turn the depth-adjusting nut, also positioned behind the blade.
- When you are satisfied the blade is set correctly, position the sole plate on the edge of timber you wish to trim down. Push the plane forward ensuring the toe of the plane (the front) remains in contact timber, applying pressure by pushing down on the knob at the front of the plane.
- On reaching the end of the length of timber, keeping the sole plate in contact with the timber, transfer the pressure to the heel of the plane (the back) to pull it back to the starting point.
- Continue planning in this fashion until you have trimmed the timber to the required level.
Although not exactly a plane, a rasp is also used for trimming and shaping timber but only when you are creating a curve or rounded edge. Rasps differ in size and have abrasive blades that vary in coarseness.
Two-handed surform rasp
A two handled rasp fitted with a blade that has holes punched through its entire surface. As the blade runs over the surface of the timber, the shavings are forced through the holes to clear the blade.
One-handed surform rasp
This is a smaller tool designed to be used with one hand. Although smaller the blade is also punched with holes.
The power planer has removed the effort from planing and many DIY enthusiasts opt for this tool over its manual counterpart. Once again they come in various sizes including heavy-duty models. But it is the smaller power planer that is best suited for DIY projects. Even so, ensure that you buy a power planer with a sufficiently powerful motor, which should be at least 400W.
The blade of a power planer is designed to last but is easily damaged if it hits a nail or screw embedded in the timber. Therefore, it is important to inspect the timber carefully before you commence planing.
Using a power planer
Every power planer will come with its own operating instructions, but here are some general tips.
- The plane will be fitted with a depth gauge which when turned allows you to set the blade at the required depth for planning. If you are trimming a large amount of wood from the timber, set the gauge so the blade removes thick shavings at first.
- When you are close to the required level, reset the depth gauge so the blade removes finer shavings. By doing this you will end up with a smoother finish.
- Rest the back of the plane on the timber with its body raised at an angle.
- Switch the planer on and then depress the trigger to activate the blade.
- As the planer reaches full speed, lower it to the timber and move it at an even rate across the surface of the timber.
- Many power planers are fitted with an adaptor or bag for collecting dust. It is advisable to have these fitted when planning as the fine dust can cause health problems over a period of time.