The Best Hand Planes for Woodworking

If you’re a woodworker who needs to straighten or smooth wood, a hand plane is a must for your tool set.

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The Best Hand Plane Options

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Whether shaving down a wood door that’s sticking or smoothing the surface of a wavy board, no tool works quite as well as a hand plane. Although these simple hand tools have been around for hundreds of years, they still have a place in today’s wood shop.

These wood smoothers that run on muscle power, not electricity, are a craftsman’s best friend. Most hand planes are similar in shape, but they come in sizes and types, and each type performs slightly different tasks.

The best hand plane for you will depend on the types of woodworking projects you do. Learn what factors are essential in choosing the best hand plane, and discover why one or more of the following models deserves a spot in your workshop.

  1. BEST OVERALL: YOGEON Woodworking Hand Planer, Rosewood 4” A
  2. BEST FOR TIGHT SPOTS: Stanley 3-1/2″ Small Trimming Plane
  3. BEST FOR ROUGH LUMBER: Stanley Low Angle Sweetheart Jack Plane
  4. BEST FOR PRO JOBS: WoodRiver #6 Bench Plane
  5. BEST BLOCK PLANE: Stanley 12-220 Block Plane
  6. BEST JOINTER PLANE: Grizzly Industrial 22″ Smoothing Plane
  7. BEST JACK PLANE: GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane
  8. BEST BENCH PLANE: AmazonBasics No. 4 Smoothing Bench Hand Plane
The Best Hand Plane Options

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Hand Planes

All hand planes remove excess wood by shaving it off, but within the hand plane classification, you’ll find different types that are suited to specific woodworking goals.

Bench Plane

The bench plane—so called because it’s used most often at the workbench—is a two-handed plane that features a knob in the front and a handle at the rear for controlling with both hands. Its shaving blade sits at a 45-degree angle with the bevel pointing downward. The depth of the blade is adjustable, and most bench planes have a chip deflector above the cutting blade. More than 20 types of hand planes fall under the bench plane designation.

Joinery Plane

Joinery planes make the grooves and cuts necessary to fit joints together in fine woodworking. They are often named for the type of joint they cut, such as rabbet planes and dovetail planes. These hand planes come with different-size blades and guides, called shoulders, that help the user create uniform cuts and notches along the sides or ends of a wood board. There’s a wide variety of specialty joinery planes for cutting grooves and notches of various widths and depths, and with the wood grain and against it (cross-grain).

Note: Joinery planes are different from jointer planes that create flat edges for butting two pieces of wood together, such as for wood strips in a butcher-block cutting board.

Molding

The molding plane, also known as a moulding plane, creates the shapes and contours found in wood molding and trim. This time-honored hand tool has a rich history in the creation of the ornate moldings found in early European cathedrals and other decorative interiors. Often, more than one molding plane is necessary to create custom trim—a large curved plane may be used first to create a wide contour along the length of a trim board, followed by two or more smaller planes that cut grooves or rounded beads to give the trim a fancier look.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hand Plane

When shopping for a new hand plane, keep the following in mind.

Metal vs. Wooden

Hand planes are made from wood or metal, and the best hand plane for you will depend on whether you’re working in a workshop or on a job site.

  • Metal planes are heavier than wooden planes, and some woodworkers use that extra weight to their advantage: they don’t have to push down hard on the plane to shave off the wood. Adjusting blade depth is easier on a metal plane. They’re often made from powder-coated cast iron for durability and have either metal or wood handles.
  • Wooden planes are lighter weight than metal planes, so they’re handier for planing wood that’s upright where a heavier metal plane might be fatiguing to use. Woodworking traditionalists love the smooth feel of timeworn wood planes, and scoring one that’s a century old can be an accomplishment. However, adjusting the blade depth in a wooden plane often requires the use of a mallet, which takes time. For artisans who love wood planes, though, the extra time is well worth it.

Low Angle

Made from metal but lighter in weight than other metal planes, low-angle planes are shallower in depth and often come with thicker blades that are easy to adjust. If you’re new to woodworking, a low-angle plane is an excellent first plane to start with because it’s easy to set up and control.

Stanley-Bailey

If you can get your hands on a Stanley-Bailey plane, you’ll have a tool wood crafters hold in high regard. Stanley sells high-quality hand planes today, but as of the late 20th century, Bailey is no longer part of the manufacturer’s name. Authentic Stanley-Bailey planes are still in demand by collectors because Leonard Bailey—the man who designed the planes in the mid-1800s—was a master wood craftsman, and he created planes that made precise cuts and shaves. Stanley-Bailey planes came in various designs, including molding planes, joinery planes, and standard bench planes.

Comfortable Grip

A large knob and a curved back handle can make it more comfortable to use a heavy plane. Small hand planes often come with only a single knob for controlling the plane, and some all-wood hand planes feature just a block of wood the user grasps while sliding the plane along the wood. On a two-handle plane, the handle is typically gripped by the user’s dominant hand, while the knob in front serves as a second handle for guiding the plane. Round metal handles are acceptable, but polished wood handles absorb more vibration and impact, making them more comfortable to use.

Our Top Picks

The following hand planes are meant for different jobs, and one or more of these will be a boon in your workshop whether you make furniture or cabinets.

Best Overall

The Best Hand Plane Option: YOGEON Woodworking Hand Planer, Rosewood 4 A
Photo: amazon.com

Smooth with or against the woodgrain, or shave away the splintery ends of cut boards with the YOGEON Woodworking Hand Planer. The razor-sharp blade is milled from ⅛-inch steel for precision and accuracy. The blade on this classic plane is fully adjustable using a mallet, and the rosewood block-style case is smooth and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. The small YOGEON hand plane (just 4.1 inches long and 2.4 inches wide) fits easily in a tool belt, so you will always have a hand plane at your fingertips whether you’re in the workshop or on the job site.

Best for Tight Spots

The Best Hand Plane Option: Stanley Small Trimming Plane
Photo: amazon.com

Measuring just 3½ inches long and 1¼ inches wide, the Stanley Small Trimming Plane can shave away uneven wood in tight spots where a larger plane won’t fit. This block-type plane is made from steel, and its high-quality blade adjusts with a thumb knob or removes for hand-sharpening when necessary. This mini but durable hand plane delivers clean cuts for sculpting wood and modeling or for other types of light woodworking.

Best for Rough Lumber

The Best Hand Plane Option: Stanley Sweetheart Jack Hand Plane
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For smoothing rough lumber, the Stanley Sweetheart Jack Plane doesn’t disappoint. Like a typical Jack hand plane, the Stanley plane is larger than a standard bench plane—15¾ inches long and 7 inches wide—and it’s designed to smooth the surface of rough-sawn boards and timbers. The Stanley jack plane is made from iron castings, weighs in at a beefy 6-plus pounds, and comes with two handles for controlled planing. Its low-angle, one-piece base helps it glide over rough wood. Wood craftsmen who fashion projects from raw lumber will find this hand plane a great option.

Best for Pro Jobs

The Best Hand Plane Option: WoodRiver Bench Hand Plane
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Designed for the dedicated craftsman, the WoodRiver Bench Plane is a high-quality tool that can smooth both softwoods and hardwoods with ease. This full-size plane measures 17¾ inches long and 2⅞ inches wide and comes with a knob in the front that can serve as a second handle, making this a two-hand plane. Manufactured from high-quality steel and polished wood, the WoodRiver hand plane proves a good choice for shaving away high spots on large wood projects such as cedar chests or toy boxes, making it well suited for the woodworking artisan who takes pride in creating custom projects.

Best Block Plane

The Best Hand Plane Option: Stanley 12-220 Block Plane
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Another plane from the manufacturer whose name is synonymous with quality hand tools, the Stanley 12-220 Block Plane is designed for use with one or two hands. The 21-degree angle of its cutter blade is ideal for shaving across the wood grain, and a block plane is the plane of choice for smoothing the rough ends of boards. The cutter blade’s depth is fully adjustable, and the tool measures a compact 7.7 inches long by 2.1 inches wide and weighs in at 1.9 pounds, so you can use it in the workshop or slip it in your toolbelt. The plane is made from epoxy-coated cast iron to resist rusting.

Best Jointer Plane

The Best Hand Plane Option: Grizzly Industrial 22 Smoothing Plane
Photo: amazon.com

If you need to straighten out curved boards, check out the Grizzly Industrial 22-inch Smoothing Plane that falls into the jointer plane category. Sometimes called a #7 plane or a leveling plane, this hand tool creates an even surface on wood so you can join two pieces of wood together without gaps. The plane’s bottom features lengthwise corrugations (grooves) designed to reduce friction and allow the tool to glide smoothly over the wood. This jointer plane weighs 8.55 pounds and is 3.5 inches wide, making it the longest hand plane in the lineup. It features smooth-to-the-touch rosewood handles, a fully adjustable blade, and a durable cast-iron base.

Best Jack Plane

The Best Hand Plane Option: GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane
Photo: amazon.com

If you’re looking for a good hand plane for smoothing rough or raw wood, consider the GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane. Considered a bench plane, the GreatNeck features a 2-inch-wide tempered cutting blade for quick wood removal and dual polished wood handles for superior control. The jack plane measures 9 inches long, 2.9 inches wide, and weighs in at 3.32 pounds. The blade is adjustable for either coarse or fine smoothing, and the plane features high-quality die-cast iron that’s coated and polished for durability.

Best Bench Plane

The Best Hand Plane Option: AmazonBasics No. 4 Smoothing Bench Hand Plane
Photo: amazon.com

Seasoned woodworkers and newbies alike can benefit from the AmazonBasics No. 4 Bench Plane that performs multiple wood-smoothing tasks. At 10 inches long and 2.6 inches wide, this bench plane is suitable for smoothing rough wood or flattening out uneven spots. It comes with a razor-sharp 2-inch steel alloy blade, a cast-iron body that’s coated and polished for durability, and a smooth wooden handle and knob for controlling the plane. The AmazonBasics bench plane features a fully adjustable blade and weighs in at 3.85 pounds.

FAQs About Your New Hand Plane

If you’re getting into woodworking, you’ll discover there are dozens of hand planes on the market. Some perform multiple wood-smoothing tasks, while others are designed for specific cutting and shaving tasks.

Q. What hand plane is good for beginners?

A decent all-around hand plane, either a #4 smoothing hand plane or a #5 jack plane will give you a good start. As you become more adept at using a hand plane, you may want to add specialty planes to your hand tool collection.

Q. What is the difference between a block plane and bench plane?

The bevel on the cutting blade faces up on a block plane. On a bench plane, it faces down.

Q. What is a jointer plane used for?

Jointer planes are the longest planes available, ranging from 22 to 30 inches in length, and their purpose is to flatten out curves in boards.