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  • Setting Up Your Workshop Part 2

Setting Up Your Workshop Part 2

Block Planes

Many jobs you may use a power tool for can be easily achieved with a block plane. They are invaluable for chamfering edges, removing marks left by machines, small tuning and trimming jobs, such as the end-grain of a stile in a door frame, or cleaning up dovetailed corners. They are also perfect for flattening corner joints that have been mitred, mortised or dowelled and for fitting drawers and doors to cabinet frames. They are best used skewed on an angle so there is a leading edge, This creates a shearing action and gives a better cut. You can choose between two styles of block plane, the standard angle and the low angle. On both styles, the bevel faces up, on most bench planes it faces down. The cutting angle on the standard plane is around 45° and on the low angle, it is around 37°. The low angle excels on end grain, shearing the fibres cleanly with little or no chatter. This makes them excellent for trimming through dovetails.

The standard angle is better on long grain and difficult curly grain, it doesn't lift and tear the fibres quite as much. Although the blade does work a bit harder so it may not hold its edge as long as the lower angle plane. If you are going to have one block plane, a low angle is probably more universal even though there will be some compromise.  

Bench Planes

To identify bench planes a numbering system is used that originated from the Stanley Tool Co. There are three categories of bench planes; smoothing, jack and jointing. The long bed planes used for jointing (no. 6 and 7) are designed to span the dips and bumps in the edge of the board. With each pass, this uneven surface is gradually reduced until the edge of the board is a mirror image of the sole of the plane. If the sole isn't flat, then the edge of the board won't be either.

When you are just setting up and learning to use handplanes, you may not want to go straight to edge jointing your boards with a long bed plane, although don't be put off if you want to give it a go. However a no. 4 or 5 will prove enormously useful for dressing and smoothing the face of boards. The no 4 is particularly good for removing machining marks from a jointer or thicknesser. The finish off a number 4 should need very little sanding once you get proficient at using it. If you want to dress your board by hand, you would begin with a Jack plane with a slightly crested blade so the corners don't dig into the surface. This is used slighty diagonally to the surface of the board. The finished surface is then done on a no.4 or smoothing plane used in line with the grain. The no's 4-1/2 and 5-1/2 planes are the same length as the no's 4 and 5 but are wider, giving you more surface area on the sole of the plane.  

Shoulder Plane or Rebate Plane

Because the blade on a shoulder plane extends right across the body of the plane it has some unique properties not present in the block or bench planes. The shoulder plane is able to work into corners, making it perfect for cleaning and trimming rabbets or dados and fine fitting tenons. To ensure accuracy, it is essential that the sides of the plane is at 90° to the sole of the plane and that the sole is flat. The blade should project a fraction out from the sides of the plane and be centred. Shoulder planes come in a range of widths, a medium size is 18mm and is probably one of the most versatile sizes. They are also available in 32mm and 12.7mm widths.