There is a saying among woodworkers, “We all need hand tools to produce our best work.” This thing may sound simple, but the truth is, no woodworker can survive without at least a hand tool. In fact, if you are new to woodworking, learning about this tool is the first thing you should do. The challenge, however, is learning about hand tools can become a little overwhelming.

The first thing you should know is there are 2 types of hand tools: bench and block planes. There are major differences between these two. The first difference lies in the direction of the bevel surfaces. The bevel on bench planes, for example, always faces down. This gives a better cutting performance with grain. Meanwhile, the bevel on block planes always faces up. This angle gives the tool better performance when cutting against the wood grain or end grain.

Bench Planes

While the bevel angle gives bench planes better performance when cutting with grain, the shape and size are also important. Short bench planes, for example, are usually good to create a glassy look on your wood. Jack planes are usually larger. You can use them to remove valleys and hills on the board surface, during the early milling stages. The largest of them is the jointer planes. Their long flat soles are perfect to ‘joint’ or straighten your wood.

Block Planes

There are different types of block planes. By the name, block plane is the most basic of all. They are small enough to hold but don’t underestimate the performance. They are perfect for trimming or chamfering end grain. Shoulder planes are the second type. These tools are perfect if you want to fine tune joints. Their blade will run smoothly across the full width of the surface and help you get into every corner or joints, even the most difficult one.

Recently, there’s been another type of block plane in the market. These new products share similar appearance with a bevel-up smoother or bevel-up jack. The most intriguing thing about these new products is it seems like the manufacturer is trying to combine bench and block planes into 1 product. If you inspect the tool closer, you’ll be able to see the same iron used in block plane and body in bench plane used in the new tool.


Choosing the Right Type

The answer depends on your needs. However, if you are looking for something that you can use for various tasks, I’d recommend purchasing a small block plane. It won’t take long until you fell in love with this small plane because of their compact size. However, in case you need a bigger one, you can consider buying a standard block plane. This tool comes with an adjustable mouth feature which allows you to take small shaving by closing the opening.

Next, you can get a smoother. You need this because your hand plane can create a finish-ready and beautiful surface. Another tool you should consider to purchase is a shoulder plane. This tool will help you to fit joints and clean up any joinery.

These are all the basic tools you need and soon you will realize how they will become more than you need.

Allocating the budget

This question is a bit tricky, but here is the tip. Don’t ever purchase second-hand tools, unless you have no option. Save your money to buy a brand new, nice new hand plane. They may be much expensive than a second-hand plane, but you won’t waste your time tuning up the plane or fixing the damages.

Simply said, you should always seek for quality and performance, instead of price. I know it may be difficult for some people, but it’s the safest option you can take. Also, remember to check the tool for any defect.

What next?

Once you have got the hand plane home, your next challenge is sharpening the plane iron. This is very important because your hand tool will become useless if it can’t cut well. That’s the real key to your success with a hand plane. It’s your stepping stone to learning woodworking. Once you’ve mastered this, you can proceed to learn other things.