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4 Different Types of Hand Planes & Their Uses (with Pictures)

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different types of planes

Hand planes are almost a novelty product these days. A long time ago they were the main tool of the carpenter. And they had not just one, but many of them suited for performing a wide range of tasks.

Modern technology has, in some ways rendered this tool unnecessary. A power hand plane and a couple of sanders can now quickly do work that might have taken significantly longer with a hand tool.

Power tools are great but true craftsmen also know that they forfeit a personal touch that can turn a typical workpiece into a piece of art.

The easier that modern tech makes things, the more we lose out on the finer touches of artisanal craftsmanship.

But, with the right set of hand planes, you can elevate your work, and enjoy the immense sense of satisfaction that comes with doing things the old fashioned way.

That in mind, today we will be taking a look at a few hand planes to see which one (or ones) might be right for you.

1. Scrub Planes

Scrub planes are very compact and usually used for quickly removing layers from a workpiece. They can be as small as a stapler, and are usually lightweight, and made to be comfortable to hold.

Because the speed with which these tools are used puts a lot of stress on the body the blades are made very thick so that they can withstand the stress.

Because of their size, you will probably only use these units on smaller workpieces.

scrub plane

2. The Bench Planes

The bench plane is a staple of any woodworker’s hand tool collection. There are actually a few different options out there. The jack, fore, jointer, and smoothing planes.

Each has their own unique function. The jack plane is going to be best suited for reducing the size of the stock (you know, the standard feature of the planer). As a result, most people are probably going to find a use for this type of tool.

The fore and jointer planes are used for straitening the workpiece, and the smoothing, plane, naturally, is used for smoothing it out.

With a full set you will be able to tackle a wide range of different jobs.

The bench plane gets its name from where you use it. These tools are a little bit bulkier which means that most people don’t actually bring them to a jobsite. They use them, instead, on the work bench.

bench plane

3. Shoulder Planes

Shoulder planes are used for cutting recesses that join two pieces of wood together. Many woodworking projects require this function, making the shoulder planer a versatile asset that many craftsman will need at their disposal.

shoulder plane

4. Block Plane

The block plane is much like the scrub unit. It is a compact tool meant for stock reduction. It is so small in fact that it can fit in a single hand.

You might use this tool if you are working on something that can’t comfortably be mounted onto a workbench.

block plane


It is also worth keeping in mind that there are several different materials you will encounter as you shop for planes.

Though the blades will always be made of metal, there is often variation in the body. Metal planes are sturdy options with all metal workings, except for the occasional wooden handle or grip.

Wood planes are the exact opposite, with all wood builds, and metal sometimes introduced as a clamping mechanism.

Then there are transitional units that feature a more evenly mixed composition of wood and metal.  The material will mostly affect the weight and durability of the unit, with metal options being more durable, and wooden tools being a little bit easier to transport and work with.

Which is right for me?

Which of these planes will be right for you? It ultimately depends on what you are hoping to get out of this purchase. The average user will at least need a decent set of bench planes.

These tools will be able to perform the tasks of the modern sander and power planer, making them a versatile enough set to tackle most jobs.

However, if you are taking on a specialty task, or you need to take your tools on the road for some reason, you might look to supplement the collection.

For example, the scrub plane can be used as a portable bench plane in a pinch. In fact, that is how many people think of it.

You can think of the block plane similarly. Then there are other options that will further improve the versatility of your tool bag. Shoulder planes are often used for joint making.


Now that you have a pretty good idea of what is out there, make your purchases with confidence. The truth is that you will probably buy several planes throughout the course of your lifetime. As new projects come up it is very likely that you will also find the need for new planes.

These tools are made to be very sturdy, and as a result it can often cost a healthy chunk of change to get a decent one.

As a result many people go antiquing for the planes. Older units were built sturdy, they are affordable, and they have lots of charm.

But whatever you go with, buy with pride. Your new hand planer means that you are entering into the venerable ranks of traditional woodworkers.

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About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!