A hand planer, also known as a hand plane, is a manual tool used in woodworking for shaping and smoothing wood surfaces.

It is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of tasks such as shaving edges, chamfering corners, and straightening warped wood.

The hand planer consists of a flat base, a cutting blade, and a handle for applying force to the blade. When compared to other woodworking tools, a hand planer is known for its precision and control over the final shape and finish of the wood surface.

However, for larger tasks, a motorized power tool like an electric handheld plane would be more efficient. Overall, the hand planer is an essential tool for any woodworker who wants to achieve a fine, smooth finish on their projects.

a Hand Planer

How a Hand Planer Works

A hand planer works by using a sharp blade to shave off thin layers of wood from a surface, resulting in a smooth and even finish. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how a hand planer works:

  1. Preparation: Before using a hand planer, ensure that the blade is sharp and properly adjusted. Make sure that the workpiece is securely clamped in place, and that the surface to be planned is free of any obstacles that could damage the blade or the workpiece.
  2. Blade adjustment: The cutting depth of the blade can be adjusted by turning the adjusting knob located near the blade. This knob controls the height of the blade, which determines how much wood will be removed with each pass of the planer.
  3. Starting the cut: Hold the hand planer with both hands, and place the blade onto the surface of the wood. Apply gentle pressure to the handle, and push the planer forward along the surface of the wood. The blade will begin to shave off thin layers of wood as it moves forward.
  4. Continuous cuts: Continue making passes with the hand planer, making sure to keep the blade in contact with the surface of the wood at all times. It is important to keep the planer moving at a consistent speed and angle to achieve an even finish.
  5. Adjusting the blade: As the blade becomes dull, it may be necessary to adjust the cutting depth to ensure that the planer continues to remove wood evenly. The blade can be raised or lowered as needed to maintain an even cut.
  6. Finishing the cut: After several passes with the hand planer, the surface of the wood should be smooth and even. It may be necessary to make additional passes with the planer or to use sandpaper to achieve the desired finish.
  7. Cleaning: After using the hand planer, it is important to clean the blade and base to remove any sawdust or debris that may have accumulated during use. This will help to extend the life of the tool and ensure that it is ready for use the next time it is needed.

Types of Hand Planes

Bench planes

Bench planes are the largest type of hand plane and are designed to be used on a workbench. They are typically used for rough planing and leveling large surfaces. Examples include the jack plane, the try plane, and the jointer plane.

Block planes

Block planes are small and compact, making them easy to use with one hand. They are commonly used for trimming and smoothing small areas, as well as for end grain work. Examples include the smoothing plane and the low-angle block plane.

Specialty planes

Specialty planes are designed for specific tasks such as hollowing, grooving, or rebating. Examples include the router plane, the rebate plane, and the plow plane. These planes are not as commonly used as bench and block planes, but can come in handy for specific projects and joinery work.

Techniques for Using a Hand Planer

Setting the blade depth

Before starting to plan, it’s important to set the depth of the blade to match the amount of wood you want to remove. This is done by adjusting the knob or lever located at the back of the hand planer. Start with a shallow depth and gradually increase it as needed.

Planing with the grain

It’s important to plan with the grain of the wood to avoid tear-out and achieve a smooth surface. If the grain direction is unclear, use a sharp pencil to mark the direction of the grain on the wood. This can also be helpful when working with figured or irregularly-grained wood.

Removing plane tracks

If you’re using a power planer, it’s common to get “plane tracks” or marks left by the blade. This can be caused by the blade being dull, the blade not being properly aligned or the blade is tilted.

To remove these tracks, you can use a hand plane or fine-grit sandpaper. Additionally, you can also make sure your blades are sharp, keep the blades clean, and check the alignment of the blade often.

Advantages of Using a Hand Planer

Precision in shaping wood

One of the main advantages of using a hand planer is the precision and control it provides when shaping wood. A hand plane allows you to achieve precise thickness and smoothness on a piece of wood, which can be difficult to achieve with other tools.

Control over the final finish

When using a hand plane, you have complete control over the final finish of the wood surface. This allows you to create a smooth, polished look or a rustic, hand-planed finish, depending on the project and your desired outcome.

Versatility in different types of woodworking projects

A hand planer is a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of woodworking projects, from rough planing and leveling to fine detailing and smoothing. It can be used to create custom-fit joints, remove imperfections, and create decorative elements such as bevels, chamfers, and coves

Comparison of Hand Planer Types Table

Type of Hand PlanerDescriptionBest Use
Bench PlaneLarger and heavier than other hand planes, with a long iron blade. Ideal for long, straight cuts and flattening large surfaces.Rough work and dimensioning
Block PlaneSmall and lightweight, with a shorter iron blade. Ideal for fine detailing and finishing work.Trimming end grain, chamfering, and other small details.
Specialty PlaneDesigned for specific tasks such as jointing, scraping or bullnose planes.specific tasks such as jointing, scraping or bullnose planes.


What is the difference between a hand planer and a power planer?

A hand planer is a manual tool that is powered by the user’s muscle power, whereas a power planer is an electric tool that uses a motor to drive the cutting blade. Hand planers are typically used for fine-scale planning and detailing, while power planers are better suited for larger, more heavy-duty tasks.

Can I use a hand planer on painted or finished wood?

It is not recommended to use a hand planer on painted or finished wood as it may damage the surface and remove the paint or finish. If you need to remove a small amount of material from a painted or finished surface, it is best to use sandpaper or a specialized wood scraping tool.

How do I sharpen the blade on a hand planer?

The blade on a hand planer can be sharpened with a honing stone or a specialized blade-sharpening tool. It is important to maintain a consistent angle and to sharpen both sides of the blade evenly. It is also recommended to have a professional sharpen the blade if you are not familiar with the process.

Is it possible to plane end grain with a hand planer?

Plane end grain is possible but it’s very difficult to achieve good results because of the direction of the fibers. it’s recommended to use a specialized tool such as a scrub plane, jack plane or a jointing plane for this purpose.

How often should I clean and lubricate my hand planer?

It is important to keep your hand planer clean and lubricated in order to maintain its performance and prolong its lifespan. It is recommended to clean the blade and other components after each use and to lubricate the moving parts with a light oil or wa


A hand planer is a valuable tool for any woodworker. It is a manual tool that allows for precision and control when shaping wood. It can be used for a wide range of woodworking projects from rough planing and leveling, to fine detailing and smoothing.

We’ve discussed the different types of hand planes, the techniques for using them, and the advantages of using a hand planer. The precision and control that hand planers provide allow for greater creativity and flexibility in woodworking projects.

It is also a cost-effective tool and can be found easily. If you’re interested in learning more about hand planers, there are many resources available online, including tutorials, videos, and forums where you can connect with other woodworkers and learn from their experiences.

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