The Best Block Planes for Furniture Making

Block planes are called block planes because they were originally tools used by butchers. A butcher’s block was a slab made up in various timbers but made up with the end grain showing on the surface of the block. One of the jobs of the butcher’s apprentice would be to clean the block down at the end of each day with a small plane this is what we call block plane.


This is a useful tool to us because it is small and can be easily used in one hand. The setup is particularly suitable for use on end grain timber but it’s not exclusively used for that purpose. A well set up block plane can be used just as well planing a wide long grained surface as the end of a small rail.

If you look at the setup or small block plane you will see two things that are different from a bench plane. That the first is the blade is set in the body of the plane with the bevel facing upwards in a bench plane the bevel of the blade would face downwards and there would be a back iron fitted. in the block plane there is no black iron. The other difference is the low angle at which this iron is set into the body of the plane in some block plans this will be 20° in some it will go as low as 12 1/2°. Our recommendation is that you go for a plane at 12 1/2°  this is often called a 60 1/2 as it is named after a Stanley plane of that configuration.
The thickness of the blade is also important as the design of these small planes means that the blade overhangs the body of the plane quite a long way the cutting edge is unsupported so the stiffer the blade to less likely will get chatter when planing dense timber.

Many of the planes on the market at the moment feature an adjustable mouth, this is a nice feature but I cannot say that it has ever been an important feature, far more important is the quality of the blade and the machining and engineering of the body of the plane. If you can buy a small plane with carbon steel blade rather than the A2 blade I would strongly recommend that. When working end grain in particular sharpness is  of paramount importance.

There as no doubt at the moment the most popular block plane in our workshop is the Lie Nelson  60 1/2.  there are a few people that have Veritas block planes and these are nicely made tools but they tend to be slightly larger than the Lie  Nielsen equivalents. A key benefit of the Veritas planes is that carbon steel blades are offered as alternatives.


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