Hand Planes
Photo: Keller & Keller
Time was, a hand plane was an indispensable tool, used to smooth, shape, and straighten just about every piece of wood in a house. The typical carpenter lugged around a whole chestful of planes, each with its own special function. Today, power tools — routers, jointers, belt sanders, and power planers — do the same tasks much faster, relegating many old planes to the shelves of collectors.

There aren't as many types as there once were, but the hand plane is far from extinct. Because it can pare off just a thin slice of wood, no tool is better for shaving the edge of a sticking door, chamfering the corner of a board, or straightening one that is twisted or warped. That's why most carpenters still pack a hand plane or two in their toolboxes.

A decent new plane will cost $40 and up at the hardware store. Woodworking catalogs carry a more extensive selection. But don't overlook the many fine used planes for sale at flea markets and antiques shops. These vintage tools were built to last, and there's plenty of life in them still.
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