The history of the block plane may not be as old as some of the other hand planes out there, but it certainly has earned the respect of the others. This little plane was widely used by carpenters. Back in my Grandfathers day, every carpenter on a job site had this in their apron or tool belt. But i doubt today you could find a carpenter that uses one, let alone owns one. However, it’s not quite in extinction just yet. This hand plane has found it’s way into the shop of the woodworker.
You probably won’t find an old wooden block plane since the block planes came around the end of the 19th century. It’s rumored that it earned it’s name from flattening butchers blocks. Whether the rumor is true or not, one fact is certain. They work great on end grain. They also are good for,
cornering on drawers
some curved edges
cleaning up saw mill marks
squaring small pieces
Most bench planes have the bedding angle at 45 degrees with the bevel down. However, the block plane’s bedding angle is around 20 degrees with the bevel up. This set up makes it great for working end grain. Now if you want to get technical, bedding angle low plus bevel up on the blade equals (approximately) 45 degrees again. Not being an engineer i can’t say for certain why this works better. I can just say it does.
There are even low angle block planes at around 12 degrees. These work superbly on end grain but could cause some tear out on face grain. I have one, but i don’t use it as much because the cap release is where my palm rests on it. And when you push it sometimes will release causing you to set the blade setting again. You can see in the photo the first and second one are at 30 degrees. The third one is set at 12 degrees.
All three block planes work really well. The stanley 110 (first one on left) is a very basic block plane. It offers no mechanical adjustment to move the blade. The Stanley 9 ½ (middle one) offers adjustments to move the blade in and out, laterally, as well as an adjustable mouth in front of the blade. Being able to adjust the mouth opening allows you to make thicker shavings.Close the mouth and it helps prevent tearout on fine shavings. The third plane is a Craftsman low angle block plane. It does have the adjustable mouth and mechanical adjustment to move the blade in and out but no lateral adjustment. (note in the photo i have the middle mouth wide open and in the third one the mouth is closed tight)
I really love my Stanley 9 ½. It’s the one i reach for every day. However, if you don’t change your settings on your planes, the Stanley 110 works just fine! And you can pick them up at garage sales for under $5. Bonus!!!
Savings like that makes me want to dance!