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A plane shaves wood without gouging a hole in the surface. See more pictures of hand tools.
A plane shaves wood without gouging a hole in the surface. See more pictures of hand tools.

A plane is a woodworking tool for removing or shaping wood. Most homeowners don't use planes except to trim a door so it doesn't fit too tightly against the door frame.

What Is a Plane?

A plane shaves wood much as a razor shaves body hair, by setting the blade at an angle to cut without gouging. Components of most planes include the flat bottom, called the sole, the cutting iron or cutter, an adjustment nut, and one or two handles for steadying.

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There are many types of planes designed for specific purposes. Most modern planes use a 45-degree cutter to remove thin layers of wood. Planes of 14 to 18 inches for general work are called jack planes. Planes of 6 to 9 inches are smoothing planes for finish work. Longer planes of 22 to 24 inches are jointer planes to square long edges. Power planes also are available, though used mainly by serious woodworkers.

How to Safely Use a Plane

To safely use a plane, be careful when handling it, especially the sole and the exposed cutting edge. Select the appropriate plane for the task. Use the adjusting nut to set the height of the cutting iron. Test the cut on scrap wood if necessary. Carefully place the sole down at the edge of the wood to be planed and carefully push it across the surface to remove wood without gouging. Repeat as needed.

How to Maintain a Plane

When not in use, set the plane on its side with the cutting iron retracted. To verify the position of the cutting iron, turn the plane over and look along the sole from the end of the plane. Periodically disassemble the plane and clean excess wood shavings from the assembly and visually inspect the cutting iron. Sharpen or replace as needed.

Tools Related to the Plane

Other wood shaving tools include power planes, chisels, and other woodworking tools. Electric Sanders also remove wood using abrasion.

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