Block planes are one of the most essential tools in a carpenter or furniture maker’s toolbox. They are used to literally and practically smoothen out rough edges. Rough edges in the form of end grains can diminish the quality of your work, giving it an uneven look and feel. A block plane is a tool that potentially elevates your craftsmanship from the realm of mediocrity to a beautiful piece of artistic excellence. Their use is not limited to smoothening out end grains; they are also used to erase mill marks on wood, make chamfers, and trim mortise and tenon joints. With this in mind, our team of experts researched the block plane market to draw up a list of the best block planes in 2021.
Tools are made to make life easier; the same can be said of block planes. These mini planes may not be able to match other types of planes in size and output. However, none of the big planes offers the unique use that block planes offer. Therefore, the place a block plane occupies in a cabinet maker’s toolbox is reserved and unassailable. Having read through our review of the best block planes, you may still have niggling doubts about the best block plane for you. This buying guide provides detailed information on block planes. It discusses the various things to look out for and the factors to prioritize when making a choice of the best block plane to buy.
What Makes Block Planes Different?
The fact that there are many types of planes is undoubted. You may wonder what makes the block plane different. Below are some distinguishing characteristics of block planes.
The most visible difference between block planes and other plane types is their compact size. The compact size makes it easy to use them with only one hand instead of the two-handed operation of other bigger types of planes.
Lower blade angle
Unlike other types of planes, the blade of a block plane is usually placed at a lower angle than the regular plane. This low positioning makes it possible to use block planes to cut end grain.
Another characteristic of the block plane is the flatness of its sole. This is in contrast to the partially curved sole found in other planes. Note that a flat sole is not an exclusive characteristic of block planes. There are a few other planes that have flat soles.
What are the Types of Block Planes?
It is a given that block planes typically have lower blade angles and the blade is fixed bevel up. Block planes are then distinguished based on the bed angle. Therefore, block planes are basically of two types. The standard angle block plane and the low angle block plane.
Standard angle block plane
In this type of block plane, the bedding angle is 200; this makes it possible to have a 450 cutting angle with a blade angle of 250. Standard angle block planes are ideal for working on long grain woods.
Low angle block plane
With this type of block plane, the bedding angle is lower than the standard angle at 120. Thus, you have a cutting angle of 370 when coupled with a standard blade angle of 250. This cutting angle is suitable for slicing end grain.
Also, the miniaturized version of the standard angle block plane is often touted as the third type of block plane. However, it is better considered as a variant of the standard angle block plane and not a distinct type on its own.
What are the Things to Consider Before Buying Block Planes?
There are different models of block planes available to buyers. Making a sound buying decision may be an arduous task with the options available. The following factors are considered most important when choosing a block plane:
The first factor to consider is the brand that made the plane. Over the years, certain brands have built an excellent reputation for their planes and have become household names in the industry.
A block plane with an adjustable mouth gives the user the freedom to play around with the tool’s configuration to get your desired trim or cut. An unadjustable mouth means you are stuck with the default configuration. This effectively eliminates flexibility.
Type of material
When it comes to the type of material, our aim is to acquire a plane that boasts of a high level of durability. The type of material used to make the plane’s body, the blades, the chip breaker, and the nuts are of importance. For example, a blade made of high-carbon steel is stronger and potentially more durable than a blade made of ordinary steel. The anti-rust property of the plane’s nut should also be considered.
Ease of assembly
Assembling a plane would normally not be a problem for a master carpenter or furniture maker. However, there are certain types of block planes that can be assembled faster than the average block plane. This may prove useful when time is of the essence.
What to Do After Getting a Block Plane
A newly acquired block plane often comes with a relatively sharp blade. However, you may want to assess the sharpness before putting it to full use. It is not advisable that you test the sharpness with your fingers to avoid injuries. You should get a piece of paper to assess the sharpness. A sharp blade will make a clean cut through the paper, while a blunt blade will crumple the paper. Once the sharpness is confirmed, you can then proceed to put it to full use.
How Much do Block Planes Cost?
The price of block planes ranges from $11 to as high as $300. The type of materials used to make the plane affects the price. The size also influences the price. A balance can be struck between cost and efficiency with planes within the $30 and $150 price range.
Q: What is the difference between a bench plane and a block plane?
A: The bevel faces up in a block plane; the bevel is down facing in block planes. You can use the block plane with one hand; you use the bench plane with two hands. Block planes are generally smaller in size than bench planes.
Q: Can you use a block plane on plywood?
A: It depends on the task you wish to accomplish with it. It may work fine over a short length of plywood. But for a longer length of plywood, you should consider using sandpaper to avoid damaging the plywood.
Q: Are Japanese planes good?
A: Japanese planes are good planes that do a fine job on woodwork. The body is strictly made from wood. The entire set-up can be easily taken apart and assembled.
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