Plane Details

Bench Planes
Common bench planes range in length from 9 to 22 inches or more. The longer the plane, the better it will straighten an edge, because the long body bridges dips and rises in the board's surface. The blade, or iron, of a bench plane is pitched at 45 degrees, bevel side down. A cap iron stiffens the blade and directs shavings away from the mouth.

At 22 inches or longer, the jointer is the largest bench plane and the best choice for trimming, squaring, and straightening the edges of doors or long boards.

Before power planers, a jack plane smoothed and squared rough lumber. Good for truing long boards and removing warp or twist. At 12 to 17 inches, it's more versatile than the larger jointer plane.

Designed to flatten and smooth the face of a board, this 9- to 10-inch-long plane is ideal for leveling off high spots and for general planing. The best all-around bench plane if you have only one.

Block Planes
The pocket-size block plane is ideal for trimming small areas, but it's too short to straighten boards. The blade is positioned bevel side up; better models have an adjustable mouth for a super-thin shaving. Block planes come in two varieties: standard, with a blade pitched at 20 degrees, and low-angle, with a 12-degree pitch.

Low-Angle Block Plane
The low-angle block plane severs end grain easily and is comfortable in one hand, making it perfect for fitting shingles, quickly shaving down the corners of swelled doors, and fine-tuning miter cuts on trim.

Plane Alternatives

Planes are meant to be used only on wood and can be dulled by other building materials. For shaping wallboard, plastic, or wood products containing adhesives, such as plywood, choose one of these alternatives.

Replaceable-Blade Plane
The double-edged blades are disposable, so you can use them on plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard that will trash a good plane iron. They're also good if you don't want to bother with sharpening.

Surface-Forming Plane
The blade resembles a cheese grater and files away material rather than producing long shavings. Good for fast shaping of drywall, PVC, or plastic laminates, but leaves a rough surface on wood.
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