Modern woodworking, as seen on many internet guides and videos, don’t always feature tools that are not powered by motors and electricity.
However, we in the DIY and professional building community know that some jobs require specialized tools proven effective by workshops across the world throughout the history of the craft.
Some of these tools look deceptively simple, but their modern versions add additional options and versatility that will definitely aid the woodworker with all kinds of tasks.
Here we will talk about the Block Plane, and how it can be an important tool for your next project.
The Block Plane is, at its simplest, a tool used to trim away wood for a particular portion of your workpiece.
Specifically, the block plane is a plane that is smaller than a regular plane and intended to be held in one hand. It is usually short, among woodworking tools at least, at only about 6 or 7 inches or less and is usually shaped so that it can be held in the palm of the worker’s hand.
There is usually a rounded part on the rear side of the tool to accommodate this useful technique. There are hundreds of different types of block planes in a myriad of shapes and sizes but the basics do not change.
6 Best Block Plane Reviews
Stanley 12-220 Block Plane
If you’ve been around tools for some time, then you should have heard about Stanley. The brand is famous, not just for woodworking tools, but also across almost all industries that rely on tools for their work.
With that said, the Stanley 12-220 Block Plane retains the company’s style of providing the baseline performance required by workers with the durability and reliability we all expect from such a popular brand.
- Made in Mexico
- Commercial brand Stanley
- Both the 12-247 and 12-220 have machined sides
- Cutter rests at a 21° angle, ideal for cross-grain planing
- Cutter is fully adjustable for depth of cut and alignment
A cast-iron base ensures a flat and stable platform for the blade and ensures that the tool travels along your workpiece smoothly without damaging both the wood and the tool. It has a 21-degree angle cutter that can be adjusted for both depth and alignment, making it more versatile.
This is extremely important for those who expect to work on different types of wood and unique project which use multiple small pieces of wood from different sources. Cross-grain planing is simple with this tool and the precision by which the sides and bottom have been ground ensures that it is simple and easy to use.
Sheffield 58452 3 Inch Block Plane
Sheffield is another renowned brand that has produced a remarkable block plane at a great value price point. The company did a remarkable job in forming the body of this block plane into a contoured shape that is easy to grip.
We found that the tool can be used to remarkable precision due to the comfortable layout of the body in relation to its cutter.
- Hardened and tempered for long life
- Ideal for trimming projects
- Chamfered drive end for quick attachment
- Die cast body and contoured shape for easy gripping
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
Speaking of which, the 1” cutter is ideal for trimming the ends of projects, even near the completion of the work due to the tool’s size and portability.
Durability wise, we noted that the body is die-cast, meaning less moving parts to fail and that the tool has undergone hardening and tempering, which makes such tools last longer. Finally, we really like the chamfered drive end that allows for quick attachment on the tool itself.
Stanley 12-920 3 Inch Block Plane
Like Stanley’s other planers, the Stanley 12-920 noticeably carries the company’s pedigree when it comes to tools, and this particular model is considered a premium option as it was specifically made with contractors in mind.
As you know, a contractor’s tools need to be more robust and versatile due to the sheer amount of jobs and tasks that the tools are required to do. This particular model carries a 1 ⅝ inch cutting edge, which makes the iron easy to manage.
As a professional model, it also has some features you might not usually see in similar tools.
- 6-1/4-inch contractor grade block plane with a 1-5/8-inch cutter
- Fully adjustable cutter rests at 21 degrees
- Gray, cast-iron base with precision-ground sides and bottom; durable epoxy coating provides long-lasting protection
- Quick-release cam-lock makes iron removal easy
- 6-1/4 inches long; 1-5/8-inch cutter; limited lifetime warranty
For example, we found that the tool’s quick release cam lock makes it significantly faster to rearm with a sharper blade. The body is of the tool is of sturdy material, cast-iron with a very well made bottom allowing it to move smoothly along the wood surface.
There is also a lot of available adjustments on this particular model, with a bevel up setup which can rest at 21 degrees. Finally, the adjustment knobs on this unit look particularly more durable than the flimsier ones you find on cheap tools.
Japanese Wood Block Plane KANNA 40mm
On the opposite side of the spectrum is this Japanese style wooden block plane from Kanna. Unlike other planers on the market today, this design focuses on the simplicity and effectiveness of traditional Japanese woodworking tools, while incorporating better material to make it affordable.
Like other Japanese planes, this specific tool has a friction fit blade, a significant difference compared to modern designs. However, once the tool has been properly prepared and conditioned, this tool can outperform modern designs, especially for detail work.
- Total length: 150mm
- Blade width: 40mm
- Size: W54 x H150 x D38mm
- Weight: 140g
- great for grinding wood surface
One notable challenge for us users would be to ensure that the proper preparations are made prior to using the tool, including research on how to prepare the workpiece due as these classic tools tend to be less forgiving to the inexperienced.
One way to do this is to practice on some spare or scrap wood lying around so that you can dial in the required strength and technique to produce the beautiful results this tool is capable of creating.
E.C. Emmerich 649P Adjustable Block Plane
The E.C. Emmerich 649P is an excellent block plane that uses a wooden base but retains many features you find on metal block planes. The plane is great to look at and a lot of woodworkers purchase this specific tool not just for working, but also to add it to their display collections.
The tool is adjustable and can work on end-grain effectively with a sharp cutting edge. The functional but elegant design is also robustly made and can handle the stresses of an active workshop.
- Lightweight wooden smoothing plane, easy to carry, precision control.
- Lignum Vitae sole
- Precision depth adjustment
- Iron width: 39 mm
We found that the wooden body made using this tool more comfortable for longer periods when compared to the mass-produced metal block planes we see on the market.
The sole itself is Lignum Vitae, a great wood that is hard enough for work but also self-lubricates with use. The placement of the tool’s adjustment know is perfect for use as a palm rest and provides just the right amount of leverage for the tool to glide along the workpiece smoothly with precision.
SENKICHI Kanna 65mm
Senkichi’s Kanna 65mm is another of one of their classically designed Japanese style block plane that is coveted by many professionals and enthusiasts for their uniqueness and capability.
If you are considering buying this, then you should also look at resources like books and videos that can show you how to effectively set-up this block plane so that it can deliver its best results.
It does take a bit more effort to set up this block plane in comparison to western style block planes, but it can deliver better results than block planes that are more expensive.
- Blade width: 65mm
- Size: 68 x 80 x 272mm
- Weight: 1057g
- Base: Wood (Oak)
- great for grinding wood surface
With this block plane set up properly, you can create extremely thin shavings on many different wood types, perfect for projects which require extremely high precision and finish level. As it is a Japanese plane, you can sharpen the blade quite effectively and it can hold that sharpness for a very long time.
Unlike what many new users fear, only the initial set-up of such block planes can be a little complicated. Many users like us have noted that once the tool is ready to use, you can pretty much forget about it and just continue to use it for long periods of time before needing to adjust it again.
Best Low Angle Block Plane Reviews
WoodRiver Low Angle Block Plane
There are a lot of reasons to use a low angle block plane instead of a standard angle one, but most of the time the benefits can be hard to see. This is not the case for the WoodRiver Low Angle Block Plane.
This particular tool features the classic design knuckle cap type arrangement yet presents itself in a more durable and efficient construction.
- Based On A Classic Design
- Knuckle Style Lever Cap
- 12 degree Bed Angle
- High Carbon Tool Blade, 25 degree Blade Angle 1-5/8"W x 0.125"T - 2"W x 7"L
- WoodRiver is proudly made by Woodcraft, America's leading supplier of saws, planes, power tools, hand tools, wood stain and paint, routers, sanding, wood, kits, dust collection and more. Our award winning family of brands includes WoodRiver, Highpoint, Woodcraft and Woodcraft Magazine as well as the greatest selection of woodworking books, videos, and plans.
The first thing to look at is the strengthening we found on the weak points of the classic design, including notorious areas that fail often. This protects you from the problems caused by the old style of the plane while delivering the exact same coveted performance.
The blade adjustment mechanisms are precise and can be used to fine-tune the tool for sensitive projects and cuts. The machining on the body of the tool is excellent and has been hardened for durability and reliability. One significant advantage of this tool is the included high carbon steel blade that is definitely better than what you’ll find in a lot of other block planes.
Stanley 12-139 No.60-1/2 Low Angle Block Plane
Stanley’s block planes are the standard to which all other block planes are compared to and this low angle model is no exception. You will find the expected high quality and performance from this tool with additional benefits from better modern manufacturing techniques used in this particular model.
A great example of better manufacturing is that the base and frog on this block plane has been cast as one. This improves the accuracy of your plane as there is less chance for the misalignment of these integral parts.
- Base and frog cast as one for accuracy
- Precision machined base for accuracy
- Heavier body for increased performance
- Iron casting for weight and durability. Replacement Blade 12-143
- Mouth adjustment for different types of wood
We observed that they used high precision machining for finishing out the parts and this creates a more comfortable fit without risking overall durability. The tool has a good weight to it and we like that the replacement blades are easy to find and install.
The block plane also has high-quality adjustment points that can help you tackle different types of woods and end-grain material. The brass knobs make for smooth operation and great looks if you display your block planes when you store them.
Woodstock D3831 Adjustable Low Angle Block Plane
Block planes are standard tools that you can find in most workshops but some are great pieces that look great when they are displayed. Woodstock’s D3831 is great looking cast iron and bronze piece that is beautiful to display without sacrificing any functionality whatsoever.
This particular block plane is fully adjustable so that it can tackle a variety of jobs and material, but the knobs themselves match the bronze and cast-iron colors of the tool quite well to make them great to look at. There is an adjustable throat opening for the 1-⅜ inch blade.
- 6-Inch Block Plane is fully adjustable
- Low blade angle for face grain and end grain
- Bronze and cast iron construction
- Plane blade measures 1-3/8-Inch wide
- Adjustable throat opening
The low blade angle is perfect for end grain applications as can even be used for some face grain projects as well. The shoe itself is perfectly flat meaning that it can deliver great cuts with the appropriate blade.
We consider this to be better than a lot of the block planes commonly found at stores at this price point, making it a great value purchase. The tool is also very comfortable to use, which is great considering how good it looks on display.
Why do you need a block plane?
There are several reasons to use a block plane instead of other woodworking tools on your workpiece.
First, like other planes, it can be used to smoothen and level the surface of a workpiece, or trim wood to an appropriate size using very fine adjustments. The block plane can be extremely precise and can shave paper-thin slices off of the wood to get the desired perfect result.
Another one is that the block plane is a relatively small and one-handed tool that is extremely useful for applications that have limited space or placement constraints that would prevent the use of other, larger, planes and chisels.
Things to Look Before Buying a Block Plane
While block planes have already proven themselves handy, it doesn’t mean that you can just pick up the first item you come across with and call it a day. There are lots of factors that you should take into consideration if you want to find the perfect match for you.
While they do the same job, not all of them perform at the same level. Some can be easier to use more than others. There are also a few that are readily adjustable and simpler to work with. Because of this, you should be careful about taking a pick.
To get you started with your search, here’s a list of the things you should look for before purchasing a block plane.
Low Angle or Standard Angle
The first thing you should decide on when choosing a block plane is whether to go for a Low Angle or a Standard Angle variety. Making this choice will not only narrow down your options but it will also determine the ways you can use the said tool.
As you have seen above, low and standard angle block planes have their own charms. Low Angle varieties offer versatility and more working options so lots of experts recommend it to beginners.
They’re also very comfortable to use in one hand. With the lower angle of the bed, the lever cap isn’t too protruded like how it is with standard angle block planes. As a result, low-angle block planes prove to be a lot simpler to handle.
When it comes to performance, it cuts end grain with ease so it’s a good match for fitting shingles, fine-tuning miter cuts, or shaving down swollen doors. However, despite the ease of cutting, Low Angle block planes can cause tear out along the grain, so you also have to be careful when working with them.
On the flip side, standard angle block planes offer balance. So while it’s not as comfortable as low-angles one from the get-go, they’re less tiring to your hands. They’re also better suited for trimming edges and face grain.
If you do a lot of woodworking, it wouldn’t hurt to get both. But if you only want one, a low-angle block plane might be a more versatile option.
Wood or Metal
Another big decision that you have to make is to choose between wood or metal block planes. It might not seem like a big deal at first glance but your decision will contribute largely to the usability of the tool. The housing of the blade you’ll use to plane edges and detail some projects can really affect how you’ll be able to make the most of it.
Wood, for starters, looks great. They have this classic appeal that lots of woodworkers like. It might also appeal more to those who prefer using manual hand tools instead of electric power tools. There’s just something about using a wooden tool to work with wood.
However, mastering its adjustment is also described by many experts as an art form in itself. In short, it’s quite challenging. Beginners might not have the skills and patience for such an intricate job just yet.
You also can’t adjust the opening of wooden block planes. Such an issue can be too prohibitive in some projects so using wooden block planes may prove to be counterintuitive on those occasions.
However, if you’re a fan of all things wooden, it should also be enough reason for you to opt for a wooden block plane. There’s nothing wrong with buying something you find cute or interesting, so why not opt for a wooden block plane? If you don’t mind having to hammer strike buttons and irons, this would be a good pick.
Wooden block planes also glide more smoothly on workpieces than metal-bodied block planes. They’re also easier to maintain and repair so you don’t have to worry much about their upkeep.
Metal block planes, on the other hand, are said to be more durable and stable options than wooden block planes. You will not need to flatten its sole very often which is a good thing as they can be quite hard to do.
They are, however, heavier, so handling can be slightly more tiring. They’ll also require some waxing in order to glide smoothly on wood surfaces.
Experts emphasize, however, that there is no functional difference between wooden and metal block planes. So it’s really a matter of preference when it comes to this detail.
A product’s quality is definitely an important factor to consider when choosing the best block plane for you. It wouldn’t be wise to settle with a sub-standard tool as that will just put your safety at risk.
You should make sure to go for a well-made item, no matter what type it is. Its construction should be solid and made with high-grade materials. This way, you can trust it not to fall apart when in use.
To ensure great quality, take a close look at the kind of steel used in their construction. The rule of thumb is, the thicker it is, the better they are. The minimum requirements are at least ⅛” thick and made from O1 or A2 steel to ensure great quality.
It’s also very likely that you’ll come across some tips on opting for used and vintage models. Certain old models are said to be made of the highest grade materials so lots of serious woodworkers aim for them. You can also check them out if you’re interested.
Check The Angle
Each block plane will have its own final cutting angle, you can determine this working angle by adding up the measurements of the other angles that contribute to it.
First and foremost is the bedding angle which is often what differentiates a standard and a low-angle block plane. Next is the angle of the bevel on the blade. Adding both of these angles will get you the final cutting angle of the block plane.
You can check with the manufacturer or tool documentation to find these numbers as the angle will determine the aggressiveness of your cut and its capability to tackle harder woods without catching and damaging the surface.
If you are going to be working on a lot of material for your project, you must ensure that the block plane you choose will be durable enough for the job at hand. Using an inferior tool during these situations will often lead to damage to both the tool and the workpiece and the accompanying additional costs. Invest in your block plane accordingly, taking special note to get good sharp blades for the type of wood you will be working on.
Block planes, in general, are made of use with a single hand and are sized as such. But, not all hands are the same so it is best to choose the one that fits your hand well. This will help you avoid hand and wrist soreness as well as make your cuts more accurate and deliberate. Also, sometimes a larger plane might be a better option if both the workpiece and the space you would be working in will allow for it.
Since you will most likely be handling block planes single-handedly, you should also take into consideration the weight of the block plane you’re eyeing. If it’s too heavy, you might have a hard time handling the tool and that’s not a good thing. You will also need to exert more effort in their use which can be a waste of your energy.
Sure, you can get used to the weight eventually but why should you complicate things when it’s likely that there are lighter options? While heavier block planes also promise a smoother glide on top of wooden surfaces, it might not be worth the effort.
To make things simpler for you, look for a product that you can handle with ease. This doesn’t mean that you should just opt for the lightest options as that might also compromise the item’s quality. Instead, look for something substantial but not unwieldy. This way, you can be sure that you’ll be able to find a good product that you can work with.
Opening and closing the throat of the block plane will allow you to adjust for specific applications like chamfering where the size of the opening will contribute to the depth of the effectiveness of each pass on the corners. Meanwhile tightening the space can create less chance of tear-out.
Depth of Cut
Modifying the depth of cut on your block plane basically dictates how much material is taken of the workpiece after every pass. You will need to take into account the desired amount you want to remove as well as the hardness of the wood itself when you are adjusting the depth.
A block plane’s easy adjustability can also come in handy for you. This gives it the versatility you need to be able to use it for various projects.
How to Use a Block Plane
Block planes are some of the simplest tools in the workshop, but it does take several steps to ensure the best results and avoid damaging your workpieces.
Here are some points to mind when you start using your block plane.
Mark your workpiece.
A lot of people eyeball the levels they want to plane, however, we advise beginners to mark the wood to the level you want to plane to before starting to avoid taking off too much material from your project.
Secure your workpiece.
Make sure that the wood will not move during planing. Doing so will help ensure you and your workpiece’s safety. It’s also easier to trim down a piece when it’s firmly in place, so ensure to take this step properly.
Check your block plane’s position.
Do remember to check that the cutting edge of the blade is placed before the workpiece and not in the middle, otherwise, there will be an uneven section.
Make firm strokes.
From your first forward stroke, try to ensure a firm solid motion across the entire piece. Although block planes are designed to be used with one hand, feel free to use your other hand to guide the plane through. Harder wood types can often require more pressure and a two-handed technique can help.
Check and adjust.
Don’t forget to check your workpiece every now and then to see if you are taking away the desired amount of material, it is common for many new makers to misjudge this and take to much. It is easy enough to stop and start with planing that stopping to check should not be too problematic.
How to Set Up a Block Plane
A proper set-up will ensure proper performance. A high-quality block plane set up incorrectly will often deliver disappointing results and can even lead to damage on the workpiece. Here are some tips on setting up your block plane.
Make sure your blade is sharp.
Nothing can damage a project more than a missed cut due to a dull blade. Your block plane should have a simple lock to disengage and remove the blade. Remove that and check on the edge of your blade to see if it is still flat and has not dulled. Sometimes the blade can be too damaged to be sharpened effectively, and you will need to replace it. Remember that not all new blades can be used out of the box, so check for sharpness before installing.
Check the sole for flatness.
The sole or bottom of the plane needs to be flat, perfectly flat, otherwise, the block plane will not perform accurately. If it is not flat check with your manufacturer or online as to what steps you can take to flatten the sole without damaging the plane.
Take special care for Japanese Planes
Wooden block planes, especially Japanese style block planes require special preparation that will not be immediately self-evident. Check the manual or online guides for your particular block plane before using it.
Benefits of Using Good Quality Block Planes
Block planes can be bought quite cheaply these days and there are many off-brand copies available in stores and online. However, there are several advantages to purchasing a good quality one instead.
Flat and Smooth Sole
Having a flat sole is extremely important for block planes. We find that bad ones will often have soles that have imperfections or are bent in one way or another and it takes a lot of work to correct such things. The better materials found on good quality block planes can also help ensure that the sole remains flat even after heavy use and long storage.
Sharp and durable Iron
Most good quality block planes will have a high quality and durable iron included with the tool. The iron is the working edge of the tool and as such, a low-quality blade will have an obvious result in your workpiece. We believe that it is extremely important to check on the quality of the iron included with the block plane.
High-quality Materials and Workmanship
The materials and assembly process will directly determine the durability of your block plane. Weak metals and softer woods will bend and gouge easier making the tool unsuitable for further use.
Block planes have been around for so long that it feels like you can just get whichever popular product and call it a day. This can’t be further from the truth, however. With this guide, we’re confident that you’ll get the vital information you need to find the right and best block plane to add to your workshop.