What Is A Block Plane?

block plane
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A block plane is a small woodworking plane with a single cutting iron laid on a plane bed at a low angle (20 degrees, or less), and with a cutting edge bevel on the upper side of the blade. The design of this type of plane with the low angled cutter makes the tool ideal for working the end of a piece of wood (the end grain). The low angle of the cut and the small handy size of a block plane also make the tool very useful for finishing small pieces of work.

The block plane came about to satisfy the need of carpenters who required a tool which they could use in one hand while working cross grain, particularly at the end of boards; this used to be known as "Blocking in", a term which surely must have lead to the name "block plane" being coined.

Historically, as far as I am aware, block planes are a fairly recent design which began to take hold when constructed from metal in the 19th century and then in mass in the 20th century.

From the books I have studied and for the many years I have handled antique tools I do not recall seeing a mass produced wooden block plane (with a blade set at a low angle: 20 degrees or less) manufactured by a large well known maker.

There are many different models of block planes which have been made in the past and which are produced today. Generally all of these block planes are very similar with only a small difference between them. The main underlying differences of the majority these block plane which a user should be aware of when choosing to buy a block plane are:

  • blade adjuster - lateral: some blocks planes have a lateral blade adjuster for adjusting the cutter from side-to-side.
  • blade adjuster - depth: some blocks planes have a depth adjuster for adjusting the depth at which the cutter will cut; the adjuster moves the cutter downwards for a deeper cut and moves the cutter upwards for a finer cut.
  • blade securing mechanism: the blade is held in place by a lever cap and a securing mechanism such as a screw or a wheel lock.
  • mouth adjuster: some block planes have an adjustable mouth which can be set in position from a narrow fine mouth (for fine work) through to a wide open mouth (for coarse work). The adjusting mechanism is usually controlled by a lever located under the front knob.

Other factors include:

  • size: most block planes are in the region of 15cm (6 inch) in length. There are some much smaller types which are designed for model making and instrument making.
  • mouth type: most block planes have the standard straight across mouth. There are also some skew mouth block planes with the mouth set at an angle; this angled mouth helps create a finer cut, especially on end grain work.
  • one mouth or two: the majority of block planes have a single mouth. A couple of models have two mouths, these planes are often referred to as 'double end' block planes.

double end block plane

What is a double end block plane?

The double ended block plane has one blade which can be placed in one of two positions. The first position is the standard block plane position for normal block plane work, the second position is right at the rear which allows the user to use the plane for bullnose work.

model makers plane

What is a model makers plane? What is a violin makers plane?

Model makers planes are very small planes with a single non-adjustable plane blade; the blade can only be adjusted by manually securing the blade in position. These planes comes with flat, convex or concave soles. These types of planes are also used-by and reffered to as violin makers planes, instrument makers planes and pattern makers planes. Some of these types of planes have a tail handle, some have no handle. Planes with the tail handle are sometime called a squirrel plane.

Block Plane Parts

A typical metal / iron block plane consists of the following parts:

block plane

  • A - Plane Body
  • B - Lateral Blade Adjuster Lever
  • C - Depth Adjuster Wheel
  • D - Locking Screw
  • E - Mouth Adjuster Lever Lock
  • F - Front Knob
  • G - Lever Cap
  • H - Lever Cap Lock
  • I - Blade
  • J - Cutting Edge

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