Know Your Handplane


Don’t spend massive amounts of time tinkering with your handplanes. You heard me right. There’s just no reason to waste time fiddling with a plane when you could put that time to use, or practice the skills that allow you to use it effectively. Let’s face it, some woodworkers tend to over-analyze things. Somewhere in the past decade or two we’ve applied that tendency to handplanes, and that’s where the train went off the track.

(Fig. 1) It’s easy to check the bottom of your plane with a straightedge – check side to side and along the length in several locations then check the sole diagonally .

I’m all for precision woodworking, but there are limits. Sitting at my bench for days on end with a plane body, sandpaper, glass and a straight edge isn’t an activity I relish. The reality is, if you know what to look for and how to check it and how to sharpen and set up the blade, just about any handplane can be put into service in a matter of minutes (Fig. 1).

Knowing how to use the plane is also handy, but understanding what it is and how it works and how to adjust it to make it perform the way you want is far more important. In fact, that knowledge is integral to figuring out how to make it work. In the video, I run through the parts of a plane and explain how it works and how you can use the proper parts to control the cut. I’m a huge fan of hollow grinding and free-hand honing, and that’s something covered, too (Fig. 2).

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