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The multi-talented low-angle block plane

The standard-angle block plane’s construction is identical to the low-angle block plane except for the cutting angle of the blade.

Q:

 I’m a lifelong power-tool junkie who wants to try hand tools. I’ve heard my first tool should be a block plane, but I’m confused about the differences between a standard block plane and a low-angle block plane. Can you sort them out for me?
—John Gutierrez, Coshocton, Ohio

A:

If you have to start with just one, go with the low-angle block plane, John. The 45° angle of the standard-angle block—typically a blade with a 25° cutting-edge bevel and held at 20° by the plane body— works well on edge and face grain, parting the layered fibers of wood grain.

The low-angle block plane holds the blade at about 12° for a shallow 37° cutting angle. The shallow angle adds the ability to efficiently cut end grain as well as make cross-grain cuts, making it the more versatile of the two.

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