The "unassuming" block plane, is probably the hardest working of all the wood planes. They are small, easy to handle, and can fix a huge variety of woodworking issues and modifications.
Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/6soEuYUYvzc
I felt it was high time that I dedicate some time to this often overlooked woodworking plane and show off what I think is the easiest way to set one up and get excellent results, and then the wide variety of chores that a block plane can do for us.
I think one of the best reasons for using a block plane is not because it is small and handy to use, but because it does NOT create even more dust in our workshop, AND, it's much quicker to use than sandpaper, which is probably its closest rival for small close work.
A couple of so years ago, I finally upgraded myself to a good-quality block plane. After years of struggling with lesser quality and used planes, I thought it was high time to finally invest in a block plane that will last me the rest of my life. WOW ... what a difference that has made to how I use a block plane and how often I now use one and the amazing results that I am getting from its use.
For anyone interested in looking at a better block plane, please see the end of this article to see what to look for in selecting a better quality block plane.
Set-Up of a Block Plane
Before I begin here, I want to say that an absolute MUST, is to have a super sharp blade in your block plane and there are different ways of achieving that, which I am not going to talk about here.
I have found the best way to set up a block plane, as I show in the video, is to wind the blade back so it is not even touching the wood. Then slowly move the plane a tiny bit forward, move the plane back and forth, move the blade forward a tiny bit more, then work the plane back and forth until you have moved the blade where it is just barely slicing off curls of wood.
Now that you have your plane set up, the first trick I want to show you is how to hold the plane at a slight angle to the wood. This is an old, old trick that works with pretty much any cutting tool, and that is to approach the wood from a slight angle. What this does is ease the blade into the wood in a slicing action rather than attacking the wood straight on. It makes for easier and cleaner cuts.
Notable Uses of Block Planes
Chamfering Tenons ... so that they are easier to fit into mortise slots. For this, always trim the cross grain FIRST. The cross grain is the hardest part of the board to cut and very often, no matter how sharp a bit or blade is, it will create a bit of tear-out. My planing the cross-grain first, which means you will next be trimming the long grain which is the easiest and cleanest part of the wood to trim and by doing this you can cut off any cross-grain tear-out you may have created.
Edge and Veneer Trimming
As I said earlier in this article, one great use of a block plane is to remove saw blade marks from the wood you have cut. In a situation where you are using plywood for something like shelving and are cutting your own strips of wood or veneers, a block plane is a useful tool for trimming the veneer or edging flush with the surface of the plywood, If you want to "sneak up" on the edge of the plywood during this process, cutting a very slight angle will allow you to do this and still give the appearance of a squared off edge
Edge Trimming and Round-overs
Long before there were routers, wood planes were used for making round-overs and they still can be. By figuring out the upper and lower sides of your radius, you can make perfect round-overs that only need a tiny bit of sanding to be perfect ... and again, save all the dust in the air from sanding or using a wood router.
Parts Creation and Sizing
Anyone who has used Splines will attest to the fact that they can be finickity to get exactly right for their thickness, but a nice sharp, well-set-up block plane can fix this up in no time.
I don't have a picture here, but mounting a block plane in your wood vice, bottom side up, is another great way of using it for trimming small parts for more intricate woodworking like intarsia, model making, and inlay work.
Trimming Arcs and Arches
The picture says it all, yet another way to cut down dust in your workshop and make quick work out of saw blade marks.
What to Look For in Purchasing Better Quality Block Planes
For anyone serious woodworker who is interested in upgrading to a better quality block plane, regardless of the brand, here are some tips to look for.
1 - Block planes that are heavier tend to make better cuts because the weight of the plane helps to add to the smoothness as the plane is pushed along the wood. For me, lighter-weight planes seem to want to "chatter" more when they hit rough spots or saw blade makings.
2 - Adjustments for blade depth, locking the blade tight and even blade angles are all good features to have in order to set up the block with the finest adjustment which is HOW you get the best results. Blade depth and blade tightening are paramount, blade angle is a "nice to have" but not critical.
3 - Good "fit and finish" as we call it, in other words, a plane that is clearly well-made will have a machined base and adjustment knobs that are well-defined.
A couple of German Made block planes that look very favorable are available from Taylor Tools, which as you can see is an Affiliate I work with ...
My first choice of a block plane for Taylor Tools is this one ...
Kunz #9-1/2 Low Angle Block Plane
The reason I picked this plane first is because it has the adjustment knob for tightening the blade, it also has the blade forward and backward adjustment, AND it also has the blade side-to-side adjustment AND even the mouth adjustment so that no matter what you are trimming you can adjust the distance of the mouth of the plane so chips don't collect in front of the blade. I have not used this plane, but it does get good reviews and has all the adjustments a block plane can have.
You can see details - HERE
Kunz #220 Low Angle Block Plane with Fine Blade Adjustment
This is the second choice, but only because it does not have the blade angle adjustment, but that's not critical. This looks like a very nice plane for the money, though I confess, I have not tried it, but it does have good reviews and has the most important block plane adjustments.
You can see details - HERE
Woodworkweb / Taylor Tools Home Page Affiliate Link - HERE