Why not to use a Block Plane | Paul Sellers
Why not to use a Block Plane | Paul Sellers
Thinking of buying a block plane? Watch this first!
I have owned a block plane for all of my woodworking years, that’s 56 years to date, but I have to say that this plane is a plane I might pull out from the shelf once or twice a month. The thing to remember is that most of the time it will not do what you think it should do and it has very little value as a first plane.
Add it if you think you might have a need of it but don’t buy it because you think it’s cute. It’s probably the last in the list of planes I would buy.
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One of the best and clearest on utube. Well done Paul. Trust the English👍
Block planes are very handy tools for carpentry when you’re working on a sawhorse and need a one handed plane. Great for minor fitting, cleaning up sharp edges, fixing sticky doors. That sort of thing. I use one out in the barn quite a lot. Horses are always breaking things.
Block planes are handy when you’re doing finish carpentry, especially when for some reason you are working the plane with one hand. I installed about 80 feet of mop board and a similar length of picture rail. The pieces had to be installed in the house, while we were living in it, and to matched to the older wall and each other. I used a block plane for rounding over edges, trimming edge bevels to deal with undulations in a 90 year-old wall, and to fine tune lengths on the fly. They aren’t as handy for working on a bench with proper work holding and I don’t use them in the shop nearly as often. The only exception is a Lie Nielsen rabbet plane that is very handy trimming the cheeks of tenons and cleaning up rabbets.
Owned a block plane for about 25 years and have used it less than 5 times.
As a retired joiner I have to disagree, I have had blockplanes as part of my tool kit both in the workshop and on site (since 1967) and have found them to be indispensible, particularly for smaller pieces of hardwood joinery requiring light fine planing. I do however, agree that a smoothing plane is far more suitable for larger pieces and for working on softwoods and ply etc,.
Hah! I’m late to comment, but I’d like to suggest one good thing about them. If you want to tune the living daylights out of a plane, a standard angle adjustable mouth Stanley or Record is a good choice, because it’s much less palaver than any Bailey pattern plane. You can take the mouth opening very narrow easily, get rid of backlash from the adjuster, and if you want to try an overpitch cutting angle – strop a bevel and see what happens. Also, lapping the sole is a lot less work. You can definitely clean up mahogany curl veneers and the suchlike with these planes when they’re in good fettle; in my opinion that’s partly because the iron is bedded down almost to the point where it meets the sole, reducing chatter.
Just a talking point really – everybody comes to their own conclusions about this sort of thing.
I love my block plane and it’s very comfortable in my hand. I see how some might make due with a larger plane, but why heft more weight if you don’t need to?
I can find another reason not to use a block plane. The bevel up construction will cause wear on the flat side of the steel, so my experience is that the bevel up planes needs to be sharpened on the grinder every time they get dull. As a boat builder, i actually use the block plane a lot. I like to have the blade slightly curved, like a scrub plane. In Swedish, block planes are called "stöthyvel", that would translate to end-grain-plane, and that is their main purpose. I guess the reason why they have become so popular for all kinds of planing is because of the size, but a small bevel down plane would probably do the job.
Even for the corner work mentioned, I’d rather just stick it in a vise and use a spokeshave 🙂
Go tell a shipwright a block plane is not necessary and see what they tell you. Your opinion about a tool I use every day in boat building is completely irrelevant.
OK now that’s behind us, what are the top 5 best block planes???
I used to subcontract million $$$ homes in SW Colorado mountains and was crazy enough to carry a #60 block plane in my bags. It seems that several times/day i was grabbing an using it. Maybe some fire blocking needed a beveled corner – more than a hammer could easily do, because the stud/rafter/joist was bowed. Maybe i wanted to take off a sharp corner for many reasons. No problem – and i could quickly and accurately do it with the #60. Round over sharp edges to a slight radius….
Yes, if I were in a shop situation I’d find another plane more efficient – but you don’t have that luxury standing on bare framing 2 or more floors up…
I was actually just in the market for a plane. Thank you. This helped.
I keep one in my tool belt when running trim or other on site carpentry. I agree they are near useless for the workshop
DEFINITELY different advice to any we’d get in my luthiery school – we make LOTS of tiny little bits.
You can’t claim anything other than a block is nice for end grain on small pieces either like…
I respectfully disagree. I use the block plane for end grain extensively. Yesterday I rounded 4 square corners of end grain in
No 4’s just peaked again.
About the only thing I routinely use a block plane for is either easing edges (like Paul showed) or planing the edge of a guitar fretboard flush with the neck blank. Since the edge of the fretboard is only about 3/16" maximum, the block plane is a good tool since it’s easy to balance and fit in the tight area near the headstock transition. But I rarely use it apart from those two instances.
I like the 9 1/2 but yeah, it’s pretty much just a tool for bevelling with one hand. I have planed a little end grain in tight locations with it too, the slightly lower angle does help. It’s definitely not an essential plane though.
I completely agree. It is always lauded but I only ever use mine for chamfers.
I’d agree it’s not essential, but to say there’s very little use for one is just not true. I use mine every day. Some woodworkers own no planes except for the block plane.
Perhaps…but you can pick up a block plane 2nd hand for 20 bucks
I like the block plane for 2 reasons
2- one handed use
Grab your block plane, grab your board, knock off a few shavings, ez pz done and dusted. If you’re already working at the bench & securing your work in a vise there’s not much reason for one.
Wonder what it would cost Stanley to start producing planes of the same quality as they used to.
when you run a block plane a little short of perpendicular (70-80 degrees) along a (rough) cut scribe line, it cleans it up pretty nicely, it also allows you to take off material along the scribe line being extremely maneuverable when run almost perpendicular. I use mine basically only for scribing, and occasionally for smoothing trasititions from one piece of baseboard to the next if one board is slightly wider than another, if you invest in a block plane its nice to get the lie nielsen rabbeting block plane for this reason…. oh yes another good use is to take a little length of shoe molding to get those perfect fits, cut a few rooms of shoe molding and shorten as necessary if necessary.
I found a use for my block plane. When my friend asks to borrow a plane, they get block plane. Smaller blade is easier to fix after they have blocked it up.
I have the Henry Eckert no 65 block plane…. great as a small smoother and I use it always on boxes…. SO it really boils down to personal preference like in all things woodworking… I use nothing but low angle planes just because of the quick mouth adjustments and simplicity in setting up… my poor veritas 5 1/4 barely gets used nowadays and sits there as an ornament in most jobs…
Perhaps of more use for site work than bench work?
I never thought I`d flat out disagree with you Paul, but it`s a no from me on this one, as a maintenance joiner, I use my blocky all the time, I own 3 completely different designs, the No1 being the most uncomfortable to use, but it`s a nice wee plane to own, the Quangsheng is to replace the basically worn out Stanley No9 that served me for over 30 years.
In construction I carry one in my tool belt for cleaning up the ends of boards. One handed tool
I have a little bit of nostalgia for my block plane. I bought a handful of planes (including a brand new Harbor Freight cheapo) when I first started with wood, and the block plane was the first one I could get to work in any decent fashion. So I have a soft spot for the little guy t,hough I don’t use it too often.
For woodworking in a shop all day everyday I agree. For a remodeler/carpenter/woodworker block planes are the way to go on site for several tasks.
In The Netherlands we often call them endgrainwood plane. If sharpened correctly and adjusted well… works a miracle! On end grain.
According to Lance Patterson at North Bennett Street School "That’s a butcher’s tool."
I have a rabbet block plane and then it suddenly becomes very useful for inside corners.
I love your videos Paul. You have taught me a lot…But perhaps the best plane is the one your most used to?
I’m a fiddle maker and I use block planes all the time. I do quite a lot of hand joinery which is why I watch your videos…but if I had to choose one or the other I would have a block plane.
25 five years specialized on small scale work I can do anything with a block plane but with a number 4 I am less comfortable. Also I can take thinner shavings with a block plane.
I don’t use a 5 anymore. It’s a block plane a number four or a number 7 for me. Out of the three planes it’s the four I need the least.
That said I do appreciate the no4 because it is short and light… and powerful. I agree that for joinery it is a brilliant tool.
I use block planes for shaping cedar shingles when I’m on a ladder
I use mine every day for what it was intended, especially fitting cabinets. No, it is not a low angle. A Number 4 is too unwieldy single handed and tiresome.
Running trim and being able to stash in my tool apron, ready for easing an edge or shaving some end grain, I wouldn’t use anything else.
Hi Paul, I am a Carpenter of just over 40 years and until this week, when I bought an Axminster Rider No 5 plane, I managed very well with just a standard Stanley block plane that I bought as a trainee; it’s battered, bruised and been all over Europe with me but is still maintained in tip-top working condition.
The reason I bought a 5 plane (4 is out of stock at the moment) is because I am moving more towards small homemade joinery projects than my usual larger carpentry jobs, due to age and health – carpentry has all but wrecked my body over the years. I also bought an unused Record 050C Combination plane, still in original packaging, for £36 – bargain – that I will need to practise with for a while (I will make a hardwood handle for it because I don’t trust the original plastic one).
The beauty of the block plane for a carpenter is that it is small enough to fit in a pouch and weighs very little; I have planed innumerable door edges to perfection with it, quicker than messing around setting up horrible electric planers that make a mess of things because they are too aggressive and leave marks all over the place, just like electric routers. My block plane has a very, very slight camber at the edges and can be set to take quite heavy shavings if required, almost like a scrub plane – but not quite that heavy. The mouth is filed open a fraction more than standard and angled in at about 30 degrees or so. It has been set up that way for maybe 25 or 30 years, just as I like it.
Over the years, I have used my little block plane to do tasks that a joiner would normally reach for a much bigger plane to do, simply because it is always there in my pouch, just like my Estwing hammer and all the other kit a traditional carpenter uses.
When I go to jobs and get my block plane out, people laugh and say "Nobody uses them anymore" – but I do…!
Hey Paul, your staff sucks! I tried to upgrade my account. Sent three e-mails, no response. I checked my junk folder. You are making videos so covid is no excuse. Get your house in order. Unsubscribed and moving on.
It’s always great to see you Paul
The beautiful thing about woodworking is that everyone is different and not locked into one set thing. We can have different projects and different workflow or spatial limitations. Look at the works of the masters 200 years ago and look at their tools.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’m not sure I have ever disagreed with Paul – until now. The dismissive and disparaging way he talks about one of the most useful and popular tools is truly shocking and contrary to his gentle nature. Listen carefully to his justifications. He struggles to make any kind of rational or substantive case. Paul rarely uses a block plane – that’s absolutely fine. He is however entirely wrong in his interpretation of how little use the block plane is. 0 out of 10 for this video, Paul.
I only have a stanley jack plane. I use a block plane all the time because its so small and light by comparison. . Its so simple to shape small pieces and round things off. If I am planing a piece of wood which doesnt need to be totally flat it will reach places the Jack plane doesn’t!
They are super helpful for finish carpenters running trim in the field. Carry one around in your bags all day and you are gonna be looking to lighten your load.
I like a block plane but I’m primarily a power tool woodworker. In terms of what I wanna use I’d rather a regular No 4 but machines are my primary tool
My 2 cents. When I was doing finish work in houses, the block plane (apron plane) came in pretty handy for quick touch ups here and there. But a good solid long screw driver can round over an edge better than a block plane anyway. I’ve never used a block plane at my workbench. So ya, pretty darn limited utility. They are cute though.
Well that’s a bummer, as the only two planes I inherited out of my grandpa’s old shop are two block planes. One is a very old Craftsman, and the another is a 1947 P&C brand. I still plan on sharpening them up and maintaining them.
Respectfully, while a master may not need a block plane, they are handy for beginners. They offer a more intuitive introduction to planing than a bench plane. Their form factor makes them instinctive to use and less intimidating. They are particularly helpful tools for a woodworker who doesn’t yet have good work holding options and the skills to handle a bench plane the way you do. I started woodworking with a block plane and used it primarily for years before getting my first bench plane. I still have a fondness for them. Having said that, I do find myself using them less and less and reaching for an old number 4 more and more, in a large part because of learning from your generous videos.