If you’re a newbie to woodworking, then you might have been told that you need to get various tools and planes for your woodshop.
But it can be quite confusing to read and hear about so many different types of planes that you can’t make heads or tails about them.
If you’re not quite aware of what jack planes and bench planes are all about, then read on…
Bench Planes and Jack Planes
A bench plane is a general type of woodworking tool. It’s a type of hand plane that’s used very frequently. It’s called a bench plane because in general you use it at your woodworking bench rather than on site.
A jack plane is a certain type of bench plane. There are other types of bench planes too. These include smoothing planes, fore planes, and jointer planes. These have all different lengths and they’re used for different tasks.
Bench planes are rated with numbers, which tend to correspond to their size and function. The jack planes include the no. 5 bench plane and sometimes the no. 5¼ plane which is sometimes called the junior jack plane.
Uses for Bench Planes and Jack Planes
Bench planes have 3 major jobs, and you have a different type of bench plane for each specific task.
- Removing material quickly. You can have this done with the bench planes known as the fore planes. Since the sole of a fore plane can be rather long, ranging from 14 to 20 inches, it can also be used to straighten the wood a bit.
- Straightening the wood. This can be done better with the jointer planes, as they’re longer at 22 to 30 inches. The joiner plane is typically used after you’ve used the fore plane.
- Preparing the wood for finishing. This is done with the smoothing plane, which is usually the last plane you use.
So where does the jack plane come in? There’s no specialized function for the jack plane, because it’s extremely versatile. You can set it up to do just about any of the jobs that a bench plane can do.
That’s why it’s called a “jack” plane in the first place. It earned its name by being a jack of all trades.
How the Jack Plane Can Be Used
The jack plane is the general-purpose bench plane. It’s so good at numerous tasks that this is probably the first plane you need to get for your woodshop. With just this single tool, you can do just
If you camber the iron, you can use the jack plane as a fore plane and remove the stock.
You can dress stock that’s too wide for your jointer. If the material isn’t too hard and you have a sharp iron (blade), you can remove as much as 1/16 of an inch at a time.
You can also set it up with a straight iron or a somewhat cambered iron, and it can work as a jointer plane even if it’s a bit on the short side.
With a minutely cambered iron, you can also use this as a somewhat long version of a smoother plane. You can use it to smooth the wood surface and prepare it for finishing.
Jack Plane Characteristics
A jack plane can range from 11½ inches to 15 inches long, though 14 inches is very typical. The width of the blade (iron) ranges from 1¾ inches to 2⅜ inches wide. The rule with bench planes is that the iron is ⅜ of an inch narrower than its body.
The cutting edge of the iron is normally straight with rounded corners to help it do a lot of different tasks.
This particular shape of the cutting edge makes it usable for jointing, when you flatten the edges of your boards that you’ll be joining together.
The rounded corners prevent having any “tracks” left on the surfaces that are wider than the iron.
The angle of the iron for standard metal and wooden jack planes is at 45 degrees, with the bevel facing down. However, some types of metal jack planes are low-angle, as they have irons pitched at 12 degrees with the bevel facing up.
Bench planes can do many types of tasks for your wood, and they’re an integral component of your tool lineup.
The jack plane is a type of bench plane, and it’s so versatile that it can do the various jobs of other more specialized bench planes. You can use it to remove stock quickly like a fore plane or jointer, or as a smoothing plane.
Still, you may want to buy a smoother, fore plane, or jointer for your woodshop. These are better for specific tasks, and you can get better results than with your general-purpose jack plane.