Lie Nielsen No. 4 Bronze Bench Plane

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Uses of a Bench Plane

The bench plane is one of the most mysterious tools in the shop for many woodworkers. I've seen woodworkers with dozens of years of experience that think that a plane is either some antiquated tool that is no longer useful or a mysterious tool that is only for experts. I think the bench plane is one of the most useful tools in the shop and I use it on almost every project. I've listed just some of the uses of a bench plane where it can be used effectively and easily.

Replacement to Sanding
I've seen so many people complain about sanding yet those that complain seem to perpetuate the problem. For some reason there seems to be a need to start sanding every piece of wood starting at 80 or 100 grit and then go all the way up to 220 or finer using every grit between. I can't stand sanding so if there is a shortcut I'm going to take it.

Once I've completed my cutting I run everything possible under my smooth plane. This will ensure that there are no planer marks on the board once you put the finish on. This is even more common if your planer knives aren't cutting with enough cuts per inch or your roller pressure it too much. Using a plane will also flatten a board. A plane will only cut on the high spots and will serve to flatten the board, this can't be said of sandpaper.

Now the main reason I use a plane in replacement of sanding is time. A board that is 3 feet long and 1 foot wide can be smoothed with a plane in a minute, tops. It all depends on how fast you want to plane, I personally like the workout so I like to plane with a bit of conviction. After this minutes worth of work the piece is ready for finish or can be sanded with 220. I used to sand with 100, 120, 150 and 220. Not only sanding time consuming but it produces a ton of dust in the shop. I'll never go back to my heavy sanding ways.

Removing Saw Marks or Burned Edges
Have you ever cut a board on the table saw and noticed that you had saw marks on the edge of the board? If you own a table saw I'm sure the answer is yes.

This problem is solved in a matter of seconds using any bench plane. If the first pass doesn't get off all of the marks or burns, the second pass will surely get every last bit. This whole operation takes less time than finding sandpaper let alone the sheer boredom of sanding the edge until all of the marks are gone.

Easing an Edge
There are not many project that don't require some type of edge treatment to the boards. Sometime you just need a very slight round over or just a very slight easing of the edge. In less time than I can find my router and 1/8" round over bit I can have a board in great shape with a plane.

In illustration No. 1 is an example of how a board might come off of the saw. In the second illustrated I just run the plane few times across the edge on a forty five degree angle. The next passes on the third illustration is where I would just knock off the high spots left as seen on the third illustration. Keep in mind this whole area is magnified and the whole edge may only be 1/8" so minor imperfections would not be noticeable.

Chamfering an Edge
Below I included an illustration of a chamfer edge. To chamfer the edge just run your plane across the edge at a forty five degree angle until you reach the desired depth.

There are literally dozens of other uses for bench planes. If you can only afford one plane I highly suggest that you purchase a vintage Stanley bench plane (a No. 4 or 5). These can be purchased through tool dealers, flea markets, antique dealers or on eBay. For less than the price of a meal for two (sit down meal not drive through) you can own a tool that if properly cared for will last your lifetime and save you countless hours of sanding time.

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