This video reviews some of the most common, and popular, hand planes used by crafts people today. At first glance, the whole subject looks complicated, because there are dozens of major plane types and many different variations within each of those categories. But most accomplished woodworkers agree that there is a core list of planes that any woodworker should consider for their toolbox.

In this segment, I introduce and demonstrate five of the more useful handplanes used by contemporary artisans who work with wood. You’ll learn the characteristics and uses of the jack, smooth, shoulder plane, block, and jointer (try) planes. And you’ll see them put through their paces. Then you decide which planes you should buy or own. (7 Minute Video)

(Similar Terms: Rabbit, Rabbet)

(7) Comments   


Nice video. I was wondering if the average wooden jointer plane on eBay is worth getting? I think I could really use one since I don’t have (nor will I have) an electric jointer or planer, but I have limited finances. Might be the ticket! Do you know if those old wooden-bodied planes will accept modern plane irons?

Keith’s Note: On Eric’s wooden-bodied plane question – Opinions vary on wood planes vs. metal planes. This is a tough one to answer because there are so many types, but if you are referring to the historic version with no mechanical adjustment screws, the main issue will be ease of use and learning curve. The older wooden planes are more difficult to adjust (for most users) and require some skill and finesse. That said, there are many artisans who swear by them. For example, Patrick Edwards from San Diego is a master user of old planes.

Regarding modern blades fitting. Hock Tools makes a wide variety of top line blades, some of which fit older planes. — Thanks for dropping by and share the word.

Colin Wilding

Dear Keith, Great video on hand planes. I have Primus improved smoothing plane which I have owned for number of years but have never got to grips with it, The iron is ground square and the cap iron is as close as I can get it and the wood shines when I use it. THe problem I have got with it, is that the iron keeps moving around from side to side in the plane body and Iam constantly adjusting it, everything seems to be nice and tight and yet it still keeps moving around. Can you help or suggest anything? What am I doing wrong?

Love watching your videos (over and over again).

Keith’s Note: In the next day or so, when I get back out in the shop, I’ll take a look at this and see if I can come up with any ideas. In the mean time, anyone else have some tips?

Best Regards



Wooooo. Keith is talking? This has never been done before.

Keith’s Note: Only occasionally do I come from behind the camera. :-)


This is to Eric about the wooden jointer planes on EBay.

Eric, One thing you must understand about these older planes is that first, they are made from wood, are very old, and have acclimated to the climate/environment they have lived in for the past 50+ years. Depending on where you order the plane from and where you live, it stands a very good chance of cracking, warping, twisting, or suffering from any number of other side-effects of acclimating old, dry wood to a new climate.

I myself have seen this with my own eyes, and there is little that can be done once it has started to happen.

It’s worse when taking a plane from a humid environment and bringing it to a dry environment, like from Washington state to Arizona. But the reverse can have negative effects as well. Even if the plane has lived in a basement and now you bring it to your unheated garage, bad things can happen.

Not to mention many, many of the old wooden planes on EBay have truly seen better days. Most need new irons, are missing wedges, or have already begun to crack, split and twist or are starting to dry-rot. It’s very difficult to accurately judge the condition of a wooden plane from a few pictures and a description written by someone who wants your money.

Really and truly, wooden planes are best purchased when you can see, touch and thoroughly inspect the plane, and also when it’s in your area already, as acclimation will be less of an issue.

Your best bet is to find a nice old iron plane such as a trusty old Stanley #7 and work with it. These planes really hold up to the test of time better than the wooden planes that were made a century ago. As well replacement parts are available from a number of sources, and they can be upgraded with better irons and chip-breakers to make them truly exceptional tools.

And don’t think they need to cost a ton either. Very, very good deals can be had on older iron planes.
Take this example: I have two #5 jack planes, a #4 smoother, two standard block planes and a low-angle block plane that have all been purchased on EBay, and I have less than $50 in all six of them including shipping. And that’s under $50 total, not per plane. I have about $8 per plane invested, and all are very nice working tools.

You can get very, very good deals if you keep your eyes open and are willing to spend some time cleaning them up and refurbing them. Just beware of anything too rusted or heavily pitted, as deep pits are something that should be avoided. But, in my experience, planes usually appear to be worse than they really are in the photos, and are often just really dirty.
You will need to learn to flatten soles and tune them up, but there are tons of videos and articles showing this.

Good Luck


Keith, I am curious about the ECE jointing plane you show in the video on the 5 top hand planes. I myself am planning on buying an ECE joint plane, as I already have a block plane from them which I love dearly, as well as a toothing plane.
I was wondering if you could tell me which model you have? I know they make a 21.5″ model and two 24″ models. It would appear you have the 24″ Primus with the lignum vitae sole, but I have been mistaken in the past.

Also, if you could expound a bit on your thoughts and feelings about the plane, I would much appreciate that.
I have been leaning toward the 24″ Primus with Lignum Vitae sole, as I will need a large plane to finish the surface of the bench I am building now from Norway Pine.
I have a hand held power-planer, but I don’t feel it’s as well suited to the task as the Primus jointer will be.


Keith’s Note: My plane is indeed a 24″ ECE Primus Jointer Plane with the lignum vitae sole. It is a great plane and a “keeper” for me. I don’t use it all the time, but when I need it, I really need it. There is nothing like a long plane like this one achieve the final flattening of a board. As you may already know, start with the jack plane for rough flattening, then progress to the jointer when you’ve got it pretty flat. For your purpose, flattening a bench top, you won’t be disappointed with the ECE Primus. I use mine for bench-top flattening and much more.

Tony Clancy

Kenny makes a good point about timber planes….such problems occur…but these people never expected their planes to still be around in 100 years time and if not brought from Sear-Roebuck but made locally….and some superb planes have been made for themselves by carpenters using local timbers……he problem is somewhat overcome. Metal bases were often a reflection of a well used plane needing refinishing and the tradesman then fixing a machined steel or brass plate, expertly fixed to the sole.It added uniform weight to the plane as well.

One of the things seeming to be glaring lacking…to me…in this series is reinforced by every example..rabbet, scrubbing, smoothing etc – and that is selecting the grain formation in choosing which direction to approach the planing…it can be of VITAL importance in the finishing of the end product but more than that, sometimes work has to be redone owing to biting and chattering. I really think, Keith, unless I have missed it…. particularly in an era of commercially cut timbers where they don’t give a toss.

Choosing cutting direction can be as critical in a small job as a larger one and in fact the whole of the job should be in the mind of the tradesman as he chooses and turns the timber around to see if the grain will aid or disrupt his processes….How about it Keith…?

(paragraph edited/re-ordered for clarity: On a related topic…) In NSW Australia some years ago I wanted a quarter-sawn slab for a lathe bed….I rang numerous sawmills and timber suppliers…they didn’t have a cule about quarter sawing. Eventually I came across a place about thirty miles west of me …and they put on “the old boss”. He was literally delighted “no one’s asked me for quarter-sawn in 20 years!!…He said “I’ve a well aged piece tucked away and you can buy it ($27 for a piece 3 inches thick, 12 inches wide and 4 ft long) and I’ll tell you what I’ll do…I don’t live so far from you…I’ll personally deliver it to you (and he did and we had a great chat, my father was an outstanding expert on timbers and whilst he taught me nothing I used to watch him cabinet making and french polishing…he was a brilliant tradesman…and learned so much that when it came to me to do french Polishing for example I knew the way to do it…and that wasn’t using a spray gun!! ).

Keith’s Note: You’ve certainly encouraged me to do a more detailed video on the topic of grain direction and handplaning. As you’ll note, I try to tackle small ideas, in-depth, in each video. And while this allows more viewers to get drawn into subjects quickly, it also means that I’m challenged in attempting to cover every issue and nuance in a single video docu-tutorial alone. Like so many things in life, the truth is revealed only over time – by exploring, learning, and experience. So we are on the road anyways towards that goal. Thanks for your enthusiastic contribution here and a great story.

John Casson

I have a table with a curved inside rabbet cut. It is used as a seat for an oval glass top. The glass top broke and the new top is too large in some areas by 1/8 to 3/32 inch.

Any suggestions?


Is there a curved thumb rabbit handplane to do a 1/4 to 3/8 inch cut?

Keith’s Note: In all likelyhood, historically, there were hand tools that could accomplish almost any task. Where you would readily find something like this today I don’t know.