Geographical origin: Europe
Primary use: Dimensioning lumber, creating grooves in wood, and profiles in edges of wood.
Alternative use:
Category: Hand Plane
Hand Tool
Bench Plane
Smoothing Plane


1 A hand plane is a tool for shaping wood using muscle power to force the cutting blade over the wood surface.




1 Hand planes are ancient, originating thousands of years ago. Early planes were made from wood with a rectangular slot or mortise cut across the center of the body. The cutting blade or iron was held in place with a wooden wedge. The wedge was tapped into the mortise and adjusted with a small mallet, a piece of scrap wood or with the heel of the user's hand. Planes of this type have been found in excavations of old sites as well as drawings of woodworking from medieval Europe and Asia. The earliest known examples of the woodworking plane have been found in Pompeii although other Roman examples have been unearthed in Britain and Germany. The Roman planes resemble modern planes in essential function, most having iron wrapping a wooden core top, bottom, front and rear and an iron blade secured with a wedge. One example found in Cologne has a body made entirely of bronze without a wooden core. A Roman plane iron used for cutting moldings was found in Newstead, England. Histories prior to these examples are not clear although furniture pieces and other woodwork found in Egyptian tombs show surfaces carefully smoothed with some manner of cutting edge or scraping tool. There are suggestions that the earliest planes were simply wooden blocks fastened to the soles of adzes to effect greater control of the cutting action.

In the mid-1860s, Leonard Bailey began producing a line of cast iron-bodied hand planes, the patents for which were later purchased by Stanley Rule & Level, now Stanley Works. The original Bailey designs were further evolved and added to by Justus Traut and others at Stanley Rule & Level. The Bailey and Bedrock designs became the basis for most modern metal hand plane designs manufactured today. The Bailey design is still manufactured by Stanley Works.

In 1918 an air-powered handheld planing tool was developed to reduce shipbuilding labor during World War I. The air-driven cutter spun at 8000 to 15000 rpm and allowed one man to do the planing work of up to fifteen men who used manual tools.

Modern hand planes are made from wood, ductile iron or bronze which produces a tool that is heavier and will not rust.

How it's used

1 Generally all planes are used to flatten, reduce the thickness of, and impart a smooth surface to a rough piece of lumber or timber. Planing is also used to produce horizontal, vertical, or inclined flat surfaces on work-pieces usually too large for shaping, where the integrity of the whole requires the same smooth surface. Special types of planes are designed to cut joints or decorative mouldings.

Hand planes are generally the combination of a cutting edge, such as a sharpened metal plate, attached to a firm body, that when moved over a wood surface, take up relatively uniform shavings, by nature of the body riding on the 'high spots' in the wood, and also by providing a relatively constant angle to the cutting edge, render the planed surface very smooth. A cutter which extends below the bottom surface, or sole, of the plane slices off shavings of wood. A large, flat sole on a plane guides the cutter to remove only the highest parts of an imperfect surface, until, after several passes, the surface is flat and smooth. When used for flattening, bench planes with longer soles are preferred for boards with longer longitudinal dimensions. A longer sole registers against a greater portion of the board's face or edge surface which leads to a more consistently flat surface or straighter edge. Conversely, using a smaller plane allows for more localized low or high spots to remain.

Though most planes are pushed across a piece of wood, holding it with one or both hands, Japanese planes are pulled toward the body, not pushed away.

hand plane parts
Hand plane parts diagram by Woodcraft.com

Plane types

  • Jack plane - A jack plane is a general-purpose woodworking bench plane, used for dressing timber down to the correct size in preparation for truing and/or edge jointing. It is usually the first plane used on rough stock, but in exceptional cases can be preceded by the scrub plane.
  • Fore plane - The fore plane is built exactly like a jack plane, but is 18 in. long and has a plane iron 2 in. wide.
  • Jointer plane - The jointer is also like the jack plane, but is 22 to 24 in. long, and has a plane iron 2 3/8 in. or 2 5/8 in. wide. The latter two planes are used for leveling larger surfaces and for jointing the edges of boards to be glued.
  • Smooth plane - The smooth plane is of the same construction as the above named planes, but it is shorter, being from 5 1/2 in. to 10 in. in length.
  • Circular plane - The circular plane differs from the others in that it has a flexible bottom 10 in. long, which can be adjusted to either convex or concave curves. It is used on curved work, such as round table tops and aprons.
  • Block plane - The block plane is a small plane from 4 to 8 in. long. It has only a single plane iron, which is placed at a very low angle with the beveled side up. The lever cap is generally curved so that it fits smoothly within the hollow of the hand. This plane is used for planing end wood and in places where an ordinary plane could not be used.
  • Bullnose plane - The bullnose rabbet plane is about 4 in. long, and has the plane iron fastened to the extreme front of the body.
  • Rabbet and Fillister plane - The rabbet and fillister plane is an iron plane used for planing grooves or rabbets on the edges of a board. It has both a depth and a width gauge, as well as a spur, which scores the wood in advance of the plane iron, thereby preventing splitting.
  • Dado plane - A dado plane is similar to a rabbet plane, but is used for cutting across the grain.
  • Match plane - A matching plane is used for matching boards; i.e., plowing a groove on the edge of one and a tongue on the edge of the other. It has two cutters, a plow and a tongue cutter.
  • Router plane - The router plane is used for removing the wood between two sawed or chiseled edges such as dadoes or grooves. The plane iron is lowered after each cut. It is furnished with a 1/4 in., a 2 1/5 in., and a smoothing cutter.
  • Universal plane - The universal plane is a very complicated piece of apparatus for planing moldings, dadoes, beads, flutes, etc. It is furnished with as many as 53 different cutters.
  • Molding planes - Molding planes are wooden planes, having but one plane iron for one particular type of molding. Wooden planes of all types are still used a great deal, especially by European cabinetmakers and carpenters. The inexperienced worker finds them more difficult to adjust, but they have certain advantages over the iron planes. One of these is lighter weight, which is especially noticeable on jointer planes, and another is that shavings from resinous woods do not stick to their bottoms.
  • Plane gauge - Plane gauges are made both for iron and wooden planes. They can be attached to the sides of smooth, jack, fore, or jointer planes, and enable the operator to plane bevels or chamfers of any angle on the edge of a board without the continuous use of a bevel or try-square.


Paragon No.5 Jackplane
Lie Nielsen No.6 Foreplane


Additional reading, please install links here directing your readers to more information about this subject.

File references

  ID T Name Size Last modified Actions
555 Hand Plane
A No.4 smoothing plane in the German style.
Reference: "File:Strug gladzik.jpg." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 10 Nov 2015, 08:49 UTC. 17 May 2020, 21:38 .
165.64 KB 05-17-2020
558 Hand Plane Parts Identification
A diagram showing the parts of a basic hand plane.
Reference: Loyer, Jessica. “Plane And Simple.” Woodcraft, 2 June 2005, https://www.woodcraft.com/blog_entries/plane-and-simple.
162.49 KB 05-24-2020
404 Paragon Jack Plane No. 5
Bailey type No. 5 Jack Plane by Paragon retrofitted with a Hock plane iron.
Attribution: Aerolin55 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jack_Plane_No._5.jpg
636.34 KB 03-06-2019
241 Lie Nielsen No. 6 Fore Plane (1)
Lie Nielsen No. 6 Fore Plane as displayed by "Worth Point", a valuation website.
Reference: “Lie-Nielsen No. 6 Fore Bench Plane | #1822626295.” Worthpoint, https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/lie-nielsen-fore-bench-plane-1822626295. Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.
109.69 KB 11-16-2018


1 Wikipedia contributors. "Plane (tool)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 May. 2020. Web. 17 May. 2020.


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Page last modified on Wednesday July 29, 2020 04:45:03 PDT by admin.