How To Use A Hand Planer Like A Boss


A hand planer is an ideal tool in order to shape the wood. At present, there are many people using it for their different purposes though they are not the professional woodworker. Yes, because it is not difficult to utilize.


But, with the novices, how to use a hand planer is a problem. If you are also a new beginner that learn to utilize a hand planer, don’t ignore my article. In the article, I will show the features and how to use it effectively. Go on reading!!!

Watch Out For How to Use a Hand Planer Properly

Parts Of A Hand Planer

It is known that a hand planer is a shaping-wood tool through the muscle power, thanks to the cutting blade designed over the tool surface. So, the parts of the hand planer are built to meet this purpose.

>>> Read: How To Round Wood Edges Without Router 

  • Mouth – An opening part of your plane bottom. It will open down through the extended blades and up through the shaving-pass wood.
  • Iron – A steel plate is used for cutting the wood. It has the sharpened edge.
  • Lever cap – The blade worked in a firm way is based on this part.
  • Depth adjustment knobHow to adjust a hand plane? The answer is here. You can through the mouth to adjust and extend the blade.
  • Chipbreaker – It makes sure the sturdiness of the blade. Even, it can curl and break the wood when passing via the mouth.
  • Lateral adjustment lever – By skewing it, you can easily adjust the iron so as to get the desired depth.
  • Finger rest knob – In general, a block plane will have this part. Basically, you hold it in your palm while the tip of your finger will place on the knob top. Some of the models allow adjusting the mouth size, by sliding the sole forward or back to reach this.
  • Frog – You will not be able to hold the right angle if lack this part. By sliding, the position of the cutting edge and the mouth in the front is easily adjusted.

In What Way Can I Use a Hand Planer To Plane Wood?

Frequently, people utilize a planer to plane wood, don’t they? Now, I will guide how to use a hand planer. Step by step…

Select A Right Hand Planer For Your Need

Saying to hand planers, they are various. To get the straighten wood as desired, you should choose the planes with a longer body. On the contrary, the shorter planes are easy to control. Commonly, there are…

  • A block plane: This type is the smallest. Due to the too-short size, it is often used for shaving the thin woods.
  • A jointer plane: Yes, many people ask: Can I use a plane for jointing? With 22-inch body length, a jointer plane enables the users to straighten or trim the long wood, boards, doors, for example.
  • A jack plane: The length of this plane is short in comparison with the jack plane ~ 12 – 17 inches. That’s why it is more versatile. You can use it for the short wood or even the long boards.
  • A smoothing plane: The length is approximately 10 inches, so it is very enjoyable in order to smooth and straighten most projects.
Make The Blade Sharpened

It is known as the iron that needs to be sharpened before utilizing. Initially, choose a flat surface and place a sandpaper (dry/wet). At the 25-or-30-degree angle, remember to hold the blade. Maintain this position and start rubbing the iron on the surface of the sandpaper.

You can use the blade once seeing the metal shavings accumulated. Use this sandpaper to remove the leftover burr.

Adjust The Blade Angle

Keep in mind, the angle of the blade will decide the thickness of the wood surface that it will take away when planning. It means that your wood will get tearing or your plane will become jamming in case you set up the blade at a deep angle.

Different from the electric hand plane, need to adjust the angle of the blade so that it protrudes below the plane sole. I recommend beginning with a shallow angle and increase after that.

Plane The Wood Surface

Place your hand plane on the wood surface that needs to plane. Create the downward pressure on the knob (the front) while the back handle is to press forward. Start pushing your plane on the surface of the wood. During the planning process, don’t forget to consider the uneven positions on the wood surface.

Cut Along The Wood Grain So As To Avoid Tearing Out

Have to plane in the different directions. Like that, make sure that the wood surface gets smoothing. Nevertheless, don’t plane against the wood grain because this one can lead to the imperfections on the wood surface. The worse is to tear out your wood.

>>> Read more: Table Saw vs. Miter Saw – Which One Is the Best Ever?

Unfortunately, occur this one, re-plane the jagged position along the wood grain to fix.

Check Your Planning Total

The best result is a smooth surface. Check the flatness as well as the smoothness of your wood surface. Be able to utilize a try square to check the adjacent faces. Ensure that they reach a 90-degree angle.

Hand Plane Restoration

Flattening The Sold

The first step in restoring the plane was to flatten the sole. Here’s a picture of what it looked like next to the flat sole of the block plane. As you can see, there’s a good bit of surface rust on the sole. I’ve often heard a horse analogy that can be applied here: “Ridden hard and put away wet”. A coat of paste wax every now and again couldn’t have hurt.

In this situation, there are a few options: Either take the plane to a machine shop and have them flatten the bottom using a milling machine, or sand it down against a dead flat surface, such as a piece of granite, or float glass. I, obviously, chose the latter of the two.

The first thing I did was to disassemble the plane down to the sole, leaving only the handles. I knocked the surface rust off of the bottom and sides using some 80 grit that was attached to an old, thick piece of copier glass with a small homogeneous amount of 3M spray on adhesive.

After knocking the surface rust off, I scribed lines diagonally across the bottom of the sole with a Sharpie marker to give a good indication of how true and flat it was.

Working on it for about an hour, and 2 sheets of 80 grit, I was still quite a ways from flat. After about an hour longer with the 80 grit, I was left with a “true on 3 sides” plane. As you can see, 80 grit leaves real deep grooved scratches in the metal.

From here on out, we’ll step the grit down to sand out the scratches. In between grits, I just pulled the piece of paper off of the glass (the adhesive was still tacky but not hard), shot another thin layer of the spray on down, and secured my paper.

Next up is the 220 grit. Notice immediately that the metal is starting to develop a luster!

Now the 400 grit…

I had some 600 grit laying around. Why not?!

And since we’re going this far, might as well wet sand it too…

And finally, to protect all of that freshly sanded metal, a good coat of paste wax.

A lot of people seem to go overboard (that’s not to say that I didn’t take it a little too far as well, but I had the paper laying around) and use 1000 grit and 8000 grit wet stones to finish out the job. Why bother? It seems that it’s more of an aesthetics issue than accuracy at that point (hope you like how your wood substrate puts those scratches right back into the metal, too).

And if you want to argue accuracy, here’s proof positive we’re flat, as well as square to the sides using my shiny new “Guaranteed Accurate” (maximum deviation from nominal of less than 0.001″ at any point along the full length of the blade) Incra square.

Truing The Frog

So now the sole of the plane is flat. I would have to say that 80 percent of your grunt work here is done…But there are a few other crucial things left to accomplish. If the bottom of our plane is flat, we need to ensure that the rest of that translates all the way up to the plane iron, because what have we really accomplished if we stop here?

Flattening and truing the Frog isn’t JUST to make it parallel to the sole, it also ensures we have a mating surface for the blade to rest on the whole time the plane is in operation. When this surface is not flat, we get that ever so annoying movement named “chatter”. As the plane iron skims across the wood substrate, it will unseat itself and bounce around on the surface of the frog, causing an inconsistent cut.

With all of that in mind, let’s look at the Frog of our test subject

To disassemble our frog from the sole, there are two screws that hold it to the sole which need to be taken out. From there, removal of the frog is easy. We also need to push the pin out that anchors the blade fine adjustment screw lever to the frog (see a circled item in the above photo). I used a thin punch, and it easily came apart. One thing we ARE NOT removing here is the blade pivot lever that is used to pivot the blade left or right for cut adjustment. It is riveted to the body of the frog. Extra care will be used to avoid this part in the next step.

First, we need to address the tooling marks left on the top where the frog meets the blade

I will again use the float glass and 220 grit sandpaper to GENTLY remove the tooling marks. First, we’ll put some guidelines on the frog

Again, being very cautious, it only takes a few minutes against our flat surface to produce a surface with most of the tooling marks removed

Note that there’s a slight bit of tooling on the surface to the left (near the blade guide lever). It’s not perfect. On the frog, there’s very little material to work with on the mating surface for the blade, and we want to be careful not to remove too much. This should be leaps and bounds above what was there before though, and the ultimate goal is to increase the surface area where the frog meets the blade, which we have done in large quantities.

The bottom of the frog also needs to be addressed for flatness. Luckily, there wasn’t really anything out of square here, and basically, I just took a little time to remove the surface rust off of the mating surfaces with a flat file

Your mileage may vary here, but unfortunately, there wasn’t anything to show with my plane.

The last step we are going to address related to the frog is where it mates to the sole. There were a few tooling marks left over at the bottom at the four mating points. I marked the surface with a Sharpie on all four and used a flat file to knock down the back surfaces.

Use caution to make sure you aren’t beveling the surface, but flattening it out, or it will defeat the purpose of removing the tooling marks! For the front two mating surfaces, I used some emery cloth and a 1/2″ piece of dowel rod and just twisted the cloth back and forth until the tooling marks and Sharpie markup lines were gone. Here’s the before and after result

Well, that’s all for truing up the frog. We now have a parallel surface between our blade and material.

Modifying The Throat And Chip Breaker

A lot of people skip this step because they are more concerned with the blade being sharp and removing thin layers of material that look like a piece of lace in my grandmothers china hutch. The simple fact of the matter is, planes don’t JUST remove really thin layers of material, but thicker ones as well (in woodworking, we refer to this as a more aggressively tuned plane). These, above others, have a tendency to bind in the throat of the plane because they are more rigid and stronger than their thin counterparts. Any good plane should be set up to plane thick shavings as well as thin ones.

Let’s imagine, through the magic of bitmap graphics, a side cutaway view of what our planer looks like with an unmodified chip breaker and shavings being removed from a piece of wood stock (Ok so my animation skills are terrible and this isn’t EXACTLY like it might look, but you get the idea)

If your shavings don’t perfectly roll up inside of the plane (and let’s face it, they rarely do), then they need somewhere to go. Notice on the circled areas of the cutaway view where our major binding points are: the throat opening, and where the chip breaker mates with the plane iron.

Again, using a little imagination here’s a modified cutaway of what we’re going for

I see my faithful readers getting irritated with my long-winded explanations, so on with the modification!

First, I chuck the Planer sole into a vise, using some scraps (in this case, some offcuts from a new cedar fence I just finished) to protect the metal

Using a flat file, I made a relief cut into the lip of the throat, taking care to not touch the bottom edge. We don’t want to widen the width of the bottom of the throat, as that will affect the way our planer cuts, just the top where the shavings are in danger of binding. This is approximately a 15 degree cut (perhaps slightly more) from our previous vertical in the throat.

Most of the reference that I read prior to doing this mentioned to make the sole vertical, but I disagree. In my opinion, it’s easier to get a feel for your progress when the sole is horizontal (applying steep downward force from the sole top) than trying to file with the sole vertical (shallow upward thrust from the sole bottom). This also helps prevent accidentally filing away the bottom and enlarging the throat because more attention is given to where the file is, and we’re not cutting in the great unknown. Use whichever method works better for you, though.

Here’s a before and after picture so you can get a feel for how much material was removed

The next thing we’re going to want to do is modifying our chipbreaker so the tip of it is not elevated from the top of the plane iron. Apparently, my father in law, or whoever owned the plane beforehand, did this step for me, so I really don’t have a lot to demonstrate except for what it’s supposed to look like and a quick pictorial of how it is done.

In order to achieve a result similar to the above, you must re-establish the bevel of the chip breaker so that the tip contacts the plane iron rather than the heel (In other words, we’re gonna make the angle steeper). This can be accomplished by going back over to our piece of float glass where we’ve pretty much done all of the milling work to our plane

The next thing we’re going to want to do is modifying our chipbreaker so the tip of it is not elevated from the top of the plane iron. Apparently, my father in law, or whoever owned the plane beforehand, did this step for me, so I really don’t have a lot to demonstrate except for what it’s supposed to look like and a quick pictorial of how it is done.

In order to achieve a result similar to the above, you must re-establish the bevel of the chip breaker so that the tip contacts the plane iron rather than the heel (In other words, we’re gonna make the angle steeper). This can be accomplished by going back over to our piece of float glass where we’ve pretty much done all of the milling work to our plane

Notice how the chipbreaker is hanging off of the edge of the float glass (I’ve got the float glass elevated on a piece of 3/4″ MDF), and only the tip portion is contacting our sandpaper. Using a side to side motion, rub the chip breaker against the sandpaper until your new, steeper angle forms. The tip should cleanly contact the back of the plane iron upon reassembly, and don’t worry about it if there happens to be a little space in between the heel of your new bevel and your iron

The last thing we want to do to the chipbreaker is smooth the surface where the curvature on top meets the blade. We need to do this so the shavings glide over instead of hang and get caught on the chipbreaker. Again, we will turn to our finer grits of sandpaper attached to our float glass to accomplish this.

A lot of people use a honing guide to smooth the surface, but I don’t like that approach. It creates a flat spot if you go too far. The method I used was just to run the surface across the sandpaper, rocking the chipbreaker back and forth over it’s ridge to distribute where the material was being removed. This worked pretty well, and as you can see, leaves the top shiney smooth

Now that we’ve done all of this modification to this old plane, I couldn’t help but see if I was achieving little more than sawdust and toothpick shavings. Since the edge of the plane iron needs to be re-established, I briefly sharpened it with the same flat file I previously used and reassembled the plane. Here’s a short video of the plane that we’re bringing out of retirement up to this point. Not quite perfect, but certainly better than sawdust!

Sharpening The Iron

First, we need to do something called “re-establish the primary bevel angle”. Sounds very techie, doesn’t it? I assure you it’s very easy to accomplish. All’s we’re really aiming to do is grind a new surface onto the iron that is perfectly flat, and a consistent angle all the way across. We want a general purpose bevel edge on the iron, around 30 degrees (I’ll cover how we know that in just a bit). For this, I will be using three tools:

  • A Honing Guide (I got mine at Amazon)
  • Our float glass with 120 grit paper from previous articles
  • A jig for measuring the distance between the edge of the honing guide and the edge of the iron.
  • 1000 grit/6000 grit combo Japanese water stones (Which I also got from Amazon)

The reason we use the honing guide is that like most of you visiting this article, I CANNOT judge angles by eye for sharpening, and, honestly, people that claim they can are, in my opinion, cheating themselves out of sharpening accuracy. Do what you want with your tools, but mine will be using the guide.

Anyway, if you take a look at the side of the honing guide, there is a legend that tells you the space in between the end of the guide tool and the tip of the tool that it takes to achieve a desired angle (feel free to do the necessary trigonometry if you don’t wish to use the legend).

From that, I built a really crude “stop block” measuring tool out of MDF, which can not only be used on my plane iron but on my chisels as well

This ensures that not only can I set the jig up quickly every time I sharpen my irons and chisels, but also that I will be able to consistently set it up for the exact distance, each and every time. Now grasshopper, you see how we achieved our 30-degree sharpening angle with the jig! Imagine a gong crash right about now. Let’s set up our iron with the 38mm mark and reestablish our bevel with our sandpaper and float glass

Since the bevel on my iron was so messed up, I had to do this twice. The first time was to make the angle homogeneous, and since a bit more material was removed than anticipated, I re-gauged the distance on my stop block jig and then went across the sandpaper/glass again just to make sure the angle was correct. Once the angle was correct, I finished the bevel off on some 400 grit and 600 grit wet sandpaper to polish the blade a little before I moved to my 1000 grit/6000 grit water stones.

At this point, we have a nice, consistent bevel worth putting a cutting edge on. To do this, we turn to the water stones! Personally, I would like to take these down to 8000 grit, but there’s only one company who makes a combo wet stone, Norton, and I haven’t been able to quite stomach the 75-something-dollar price tag, especially since the water stones I have are still in good shape.

Maybe in the future, but if it’s in your budget, go for it. Let me move on before I go too far off into that tangent. A good practice that I like to adhere to is to keep the stones soaked in water, so they are ready when I need them. Otherwise, you’re looking at soaking them for at least 8 minutes before use. I use one of those disposable tupperware containers, and it seems to work well, but a lot of water stones will often time come with their own “wet storage” containers.

Now, we’ll set up shop on “ye olde workbench” with the water stone and my spray bottle of clean water handy, and at the risk of sounding as long and drawn out as a Joseph Moxon text, I’m going to try to explain how to get a razor sharp edge on to the plane iron. First, we need to put a slight back bevel on the back of the iron, spacing it at around 1 or 2 degrees using a thin strip of metal (I harvested this one from an old sheetrock mud bucket I threw away, but a lot of people use thin metal rulers for this). Why do we have to bevel the back of the blade when we’re cutting with the primary beveled side? The easy answer is that it (theoretically) improves your cut by slightly decreasing the cutting angle.

Right about now, you may be saying “Eric. Stop. You’re losing me here”. All’s I am saying is that we’re back beveling the edge in order to have a slightly steeper angle and reducing the amount of blade contacting the surface of the wood, thus making for a smoother cut by reducing cutting friction. Now I can hear you saying, “Well, why don’t we just grind the primary bevel at a steeper angle if we’re just reducing surface area?”

The answer is, it inherently makes the blade weaker by doing that. The metal of the iron has less structural support and becomes flimsy. Okay… “Well, what’s different about the back bevel then?” We’re accomplishing the goal of an “effective angle” by using a small compounded angle on the backside, leveraging the tensile strength of four compound surfaces instead of three. In essence, it helps to split the forces from the cut a little better by sharing the load in different directions.

As a layman’s comparison, think of a bridge with circular pillars where it meets the water of a river. They aren’t square because it would take a stronger material to absorb the force of the rushing water. By changing the shape, and adding more directions for the water to contact, we accomplish the goal of dissipating more force with the same amount of material. The magic of applied physics is a fantastic thing. I’ll move on now, I can see you’re growing tired of this discussion.

Anyway, using the 1000 grit side of the wetstone, with plenty of water on it, I place the back of the iron on it using the metal strip as the spacer. Rock it in a back and forth motion, while moving side to side, for about twenty or thirty strokes.

If you see the top of the stone start drying out, add a small amount of water to it from your spray bottle. What you do not want to do, is remove the dirty looking water. We refer to this as “slurry”, and that’s a good thing as it aids in the sharpening process. In fact, you absolutely want a slurry on the surface of your stone at all times. After you are done, you will notice a small mirror edge on the back of the blade.

I have been in several discussions on whether to go ahead and sharpen the back edge of the iron with the finer grit side. Some people think it is not necessary, others think it is absolutely necessary to mirror the finish of the bevel with the back bevel with the same grit.

I’m not sure who is right, so even if it’s not necessary, at the risk of overkill, I repeat the back bevel sharpening process with the 6000 grit side. I know it adds time, but, in reality, it’s just a little bit of patience, which is what most woodworkers possess anyway. When we finish with the back bevel, it should look something like this

Now, we just flip the blade over and return to the 1000 grit side. With the honing guide set, and using methodical strokes from the far end of the stone to the near side, run the bevel across the length. Do this slowly, taking your time to ensure the blade stays flush and fully contacting the stone. Eat your heart out, Moxon.

Anyway, I achieved a suitable edge from 30 strokes. Repeat this process with the 6000 grit side, and you should have a nice mirror finish edge that looks similar to this

Now, the good stuff. We want our iron to not just cut, we want it to cut with ease. This can be accomplished by using a bit of pressure on the edges while you drag the plane iron on the water stone. I generally match the number of strokes I use to put the edge on with this process. Use the same dragging motion as above, with the slight difference of adding pressure to the edges. Here’s a picture of where my fingers are during the sharpening process

This will give you a slight curvature to the plane iron that greatly increases cut quality. I’m talking the kind of ease in a planer that would make your mother so proud she would cry.

And with that, our planer has been fully refurbished. For those of you who do not know how to adjust your planer for operation, I will be coming out with a supplemental on that very shortly. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck with your woodworking endeavors, even if they do not include rehabilitating an old, worn out heirloom.

In A Nutshell

How? Don’t have the complicated hand plane technique when using a hand planer to plane wood, right?

After all, you can utilize your hand plane exactly once you know the parts and the way to use in a clear manner. Therefore, I believe that the whole my information above is helpful for you if you are finding an answer: how to use a hand planer. Good luck!!!