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Low-Angle Block Planes

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Low-angle Block Planes

 

The first hand tool every power-tool woodworker needs
Tools with motors cut faster and with less effort than many hand tools, to be sure. But the quiet and simple block plane performs some tasks better and faster without all the racket. Whether removing milling marks from the edge of a jointed board, trimming the end of a tenon, or softening the hard edges of a bedpost, the diminutive block plane serves even power-tool devotees well.

 
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    • Block Plane Introduction      Block Plane Chart
     Tool and Tool Buying Forum

Three jobs a block plane does better than a power tool

Smoothing end grain. You won't believe how glass-smooth your cross-grain cuts (such as dovetails, box joints, and tenons) can be until you've sliced them clean with a sharp block plane. Power-tool crosscuts in hardwoods can burn and softwoods may fuzz.

Planing edge grain. Think a jointer gives you a perfect gluing surface? Think again. Any rotating cutter, including router bits and a power planer, creates a series of closely spaced scallops. A few quick strokes with a block plane levels those peaks and valleys into a truly smooth surface for gluing.

Chamfering. To soften the sharp edge where two adjoining faces meet on, say, a table leg or bed post, you might be tempted to reach for your router or a sanding block. By the time you find your chamfering bit (much less install it), you could have knocked off those hard edges with a block plane with less effort and smoother results than sandpaper. Not only is a block plane faster, but it also can chamfer in ways power tools cannot, such as creating a tapered or asymmetrical chamfer.

How to buy the right low-angle block plane
Now that we've sold you on the idea that even power-tool woodworkers should own a block plane, you're probably ready to run out and buy one. Not so fast: Make sure you get a low-angle model. Low-angle block planes use a cutting angle of about 37°, compared to a standard block-plane cutting angle of 45°. The standard angle works well in face grain and edge grain because it's easy to part the soda-strawlike wood fibers. On a low-angle block plane, the shallow cutting angle helps the blade cut more efficiently in end grain. Yet, it still cuts well going with and across the grain, making it the more versatile of the two styles.

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In the December 2004 issue of WOOD magazine, you'll learn how to tune up a block plane, and how to set it up for different cutting situations. We'll also tell you the results of our testing of six low-angle block planes: the Anant 60-1/2, Lie-Nielsen 60-1/2 and 102, Stanley 12-960, and Veritas 05P22.01 and 05P27.02. Our special section on hand tools begins on page 41. Or, you can download the complete review, including charts and photos, for only $4.95.


 

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