Best Woodworking Planes 2018 - Top 3 Choices - Full Buying Guide

Best Woodworking Planes 2018

How To Select The Best Woodworking Planes

Choosing The Best Woodworking Planes 2018

Boards, those smooth and flat pieces of wood that one can snag at the local big box store, are pretty much ready to use. A lot of work has been done by the saw mills, cutting the trees into slices of wood, smooth on all four sides.

Even with that, the woodworker sometimes needs to do more smoothing, or trimming. Saws can do only so much and sanding is slow, tedious, and messy, so there’s another tool to grab off your workbench or tool shelf, it’s the Hand Plane.

Basically, a hand plane is a sharp blade held by the body of the plane, and a clamp, with two handles to allow the woodworker to push it along the edge or face of a board, shaving wood away to make a smooth surface or a straight edge.

See Top Picks

 

RankProductOur ratingPrice
#1Stanley 12-1364.1
#2GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack3.8
#3Stanley 12-904 9-3/4-Inch2.9

Uses For Hand Planes

Hand planes are designed to remove controlled shavings of wood from the surface or edge of a board, or boards. They are used to smooth, trim, and straighten. Of course, jointers and planers have come along, but not everybody can afford those machines.

The hand plane is a cost efficient tool to get the job done. Although it is time consuming to set up and use a hand plane, there’s something so rewarding in cutting a less than paper thin ribbon of wood from the edge of a board while truing it up. It’s actually a little therapeutic.

Flattening Boards

Wood is not a static medium. Nope, instead it’s unstable, cupping, twisting, crooking, and warping. Need a flat board but don’t have a planer? Grab your hand plane. Mark the surface of the wood and carefully shave the high spots down. With a sharp plane and patience one can make a board flat. Oh, you have to account for loss of thickness, though.

Want a flat 3/4” board? You won’t have a flat 3/4” board when you flatten it with a plane or planer. Nope, you’ll loose some thickness. If you need a flat 3/4” board, start with a 1” board and smooth it flat, checking with a straight edge as you work.

Straightening Edges

So, your board has some crook in it. Grab your pencil mark the down the edge. Note the high spots with a straight edge, then smooth it down with your hand plane. Keep a square handy, so you know that the edge is square to the face.

It’s not a fast process, but it’s very rewarding and much less expensive than buying a jointer.

Leveling Glued Up Panels

Sometimes a woodworker needs a panel of wood larger than the boards available. By edge gluing boards to make a panel one doesn’t always get them completely level. After the glue has set, and any squeeze out is removed, the hand plane will smooth all the boards down to a level surface.

One just needs to mark the surface, note the high areas, and shave them down with the hand plane. Once again, it’s not a fast process, but is much cheaper than going out and buying a planer.

Cutting Rabbets and Dados

Special planes can cut rabbets and dados. They are specifically designed to do these cuts and are not useful for general work. Hand planes for this kind of work are usually only purchased by the dedicated hand tool woodworker.

Cutting Shaped Edges

Before shapers and routers came to be, shaped edges were formed with planes using specially grount blades. Again, these planes are also generally only purchased by the dedicated hand tool woodworker.

Different Types Of Hand Planes

There’s basically two types of hand planes, bench planes for smoothing and flattening wood and specialty planes for making special cuts such as dados, rabbets, and shaping edges. For the purpose of these article we will be discussing bench planes, as they are more likely to be useful to the novice woodworker.

Smoothing or Jack Planes

Smoothing planes are generally 8 to 24 inches and are primarily used for smoothing boards. An 8” jack plane would be a great first hand plane, as it can be used for smoothing and jointing edges. One can do much good work with such a basic plane.

Jointer Planes

Jointer planes are designed to joint, or straighten, edges of boards. The longer the board to be straightened the longer the plane should be. Jointer planes can also be used as smoothing planes when working with larger panels.

The longer the plane the flatter one can make large panels. Smaller planes tend to ride up on down “waves” in the board, the same way a dingy will ride up and down waves that a ship would actually stretch across. Think of that long jointer plane as a “ship” plowing across your wavy panel.

Blade Angle

Most woodworking hand planes have a blade set at a 45 degree angle in relationship to the base of the plane. Forty-five degrees is a compromise working well on both hard and soft woods. The blade is clamped at this angle in what is called the “frog.” I can’t tell you where that term came from, as I’ve not found any reference as to its origin.

There are smaller planes called block planes with blades set at 15 degrees. These planes are primarily used for smoothing end grain.

Best Hand Planes Reviews

RankProductOur ratingPrice
#1Stanley 12-1364.1
#2GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack3.8
#3Stanley 12-904 9-3/4-Inch2.9

Stanley 12-136 No. 4 Smoothing Bench Plane

Stanley 12-136 No. 4 Smoothing Bench Plane

This second offering by Stanley is the most expensive of the three hand planes. Although a bit more money, it’s still a good buy as it’s a quality piece that will last for years.

Price

Once again, if one was to divide the price by the years of expected us, one would see that the cost per year is still pretty low. Much lower than the cost of a jointer or planer.

Handles

The handles of this Stanley plane are of Cherry wood and the rear handle has a medallion inset in the side. These features provide for a warmth and richness that is not characteristic of the other two.

Base (Shoe) and Frog

Same as the other Stanley plane this one features a cast and machined base and frog on their hand planes. Both are painted with exception of the working surfaces which are machined and polished for accuracy. The bare metal surfaces need to be coated with oil or wax to prevent corrosion. (Wax is commonly used as it does not have to be removed before use.)

Blade

This Stanley plane also uses a common 2” blade, of high grade still, can be readily sharpened as needed. The blade includes a cap which helps roll chips off the blade and can be easily adjusted for various woods.

Depth adjustment is also made with a knurled brass nut and lateral adjustment with a lever above the rear handle. The blade is held in place by a common lever clamp.

Conclusion

Although the most expensive plane in the lot, it’s still not within reach of most woodworkers. This Stanley plane will not only look good on the tool rack but will also serve very well in the shop, lasting for years.

Click here to read user reviews on Amazon.

GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane 9 Inch Plane 2 Inch Cutter

GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Planes 9 Inch Plane 2 Inch Cutter

Great Neck, manufacturing tools since 1919, is know for quality tools that don’t cost an arm and a leg and the C4 bench plane falls in that category. This plane would be a great first plane for any woodworking and if cared for properly will last for years.

Price

This is the least expensive plane in this series of 3. Although not expensive it is not lacking in quality.

Handles

As is common for most hand planes, Great Neck’s C4 has two wooden handles. The rear handle is shaped similar to a pistol grip. The front handle is the standard round knob. Both provide for comfortable work.

Base (Shoe) and Frog

Great Neck casts and machines the base and frog on their hand planes. Both are painted with exception of the working surfaces which are machined and polished for accuracy. The bare metal surfaces need to be coated with oil or wax to prevent corrosion. (Wax is commonly used as it does not have to be removed before use.)

Blade

The C4 uses a common 2” blade, of high grade still, can be readily sharpened as needed. The blade includes a cap which helps roll chips off the blade and can be easily adjusted for various woods.

Depth adjustment is made with a knurled brass nut and lateral adjustment with a lever above the rear handle. The blade is held in place by a common lever clamp.

Conclusion

The Great Neck C4 is an economical hand plane that would be a good first choice for any woodworker. Well taken care if it should last a lifetime, providing for many a smoothed board and beautifully hand crafted projects.

Click here to read user reviews on Amazon.

Stanley 12-904 9-3/4-Inch Contractor Grade Smooth Bottom Bench Plane

Stanley 12-904 9-3/4-Inch Contractor Grade Smooth Bottom Bench Plane

Stanley, a well known tool manufacturer offers this economical, but quality hand plane. This would also be a good addition to any woodworker’s tool collection.

Price

Although a bit more than the Great Neck C4, the Stanley Bench Plane is also a reasonably priced hand plane. Stanley’s quality is evident through out this plane, which will last for years, serving the owner well.

Handles

The black painted handles are commonly shaped for hand planes, with a pistol grip type back handle and a ball shaped front handle. These designs have been used for years and are comfortable even after hours of work.

Base (Shoe) and Frog

Stanley also casts and machines the base and frog on their hand planes. Both are painted with exception of the working surfaces which are machined and polished for accuracy. The bare metal surfaces need to be coated with oil or wax to prevent corrosion. (Wax is commonly used as it does not have to be removed before use.)

Blade

This Stanley plane also uses a common 2” blade, of high grade still, can be readily sharpened as needed. The blade includes a cap which helps roll chips off the blade and can be easily adjusted for various woods.

Depth adjustment is also made with a knurled brass nut and lateral adjustment with a lever above the rear handle. The blade is held in place by a common lever clamp.

Conclusion

Stanley’s 9 3/4” Bench Plane is also a great addition to any woodworking shop. Stanley tools are know to be long lasting and quality pieces that will serve the owner well for years.

Click here to read user reviews on Amazon.

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Best Woodworking Planes 2018 - Top 3 Choices - Full Buying Guide
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Best Woodworking Planes 2018 - Top 3 Choices - Full Buying Guide
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Buying guide and full breakdown of important features. Top 3 choices with detailed reviews. Everything you need to choose the best woodworking planes.
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