Have you ever faced a situation where you are done with all the machines and saws, but still cannot make a perfect mortise and tenon joint? For a joiner like you, it is a common occurrence.
It is caused for some minimal amount of material on the planes that make the shoulder or cheek of a tenon, rabbet, and dadoes slightly larger than the exact size.
This is when you need a tool to clean up or trim several thousands of an inch of material from the planes. A shoulder plane is a tool solely dedicated to this task.
So, buy a shoulder plane for precision joinery-tunning and to raise the quality of your work.
Our Top Selections
BEST FOR DOUBLE-DUTY: Stanley 12-140 No.92 Shoulder and Chisel Plane
BEST MEDIUM SHOULDER PLANE: WoodRiver #92 Medium Shoulder Plane
BEST PRECISION SHOULDER PLANE: Shop Fox D3751 Precision Shoulder Plane
BEST 3-IN-1 SHOULDER PLANE: Bench Dog Tools 3-in-1 Shoulder Plane
BEST SMALL SHOULDER PLANE: WoodRiver No. 91 Small Shoulder Plane
Top 5 Shoulder Plane Reviews in 2021
We are listing the best 5 shoulder planes with detailed reviews in this article to help in choosing one for you.
1. Stanley No.92 Shoulder and Chisel Plane – Editor’s Choice
The Stanley Store offers you a shoulder plane that will help you not only trim materials of the bed but also reach the corner as it can play both the role of a shoulder plane and a chisel.
This tool can work on any plane as it has an adjustable throat. You can adjust the throat by moving the top half of the plane forward and backward. This will aid you in fitting the sole of the tool to a larger or smaller plane.
The blade is thick enough and made of A2 steel that provides adequate stiffness to the tool. While shaving a plane, the blade will not cause any chatter and reduces the sound in the workstation. It will help you to retain the edges during operation.
You can perfectly flatten the shoulder or cheek of a tenon with this tool. But it will be hard for you to reach the corners with the flat sole. No worries. The removal toe will enable you to convert the plane into a sharp chisel for smoothing the edges.
The base of the tool is made of ductile cast iron that is precisely machined and ground. The finger grips will help you to have better control over the tool.
2. WoodRiver #92 Shoulder Plane – Premium Pick
The medium shoulder plane from the Woodriver store will serve your desire to have a fancy and classic tool in look and feel. The tool will work perfectly just like its shiny antique look.
The body of the tool is made of Cr40 stress-relieved ductile so that you can have a flat sole and sides in an exact square. This will enable you to get flat and square-cut while tunning the shoulder of a tenon or rabbet.
The blade is Mn65 tool steel hardened to 60-64 Rc to make it robust for cutting without getting blunt. The sides of the blade are slightly proud to make it able to take a keen edge. You can adjust the blade smoothly and precisely after sharpening it.
The tool can reach the corners because of the feature: adjustable toe. This will enable you to control the throat opening. Adjustable toe is an important feature to have a precise cut without tearing out the edges.
The sole or bottom of the tool is flat for a smooth cut with less effort. The sides of the plane are also in a perfect square with the sole.
3. Shop Fox D3751 Shoulder Plane – Best for Money
If you are looking for a double-duty shoulder plane that can operate both as a chisel and a plane, you can choose the precision shoulder plane from the Shop Fox Store. The plane is made of cast iron and hard enough to cut precisely.
You can adjust the throat to best fit the width of the working plane. The flexible set screws guide you in positioning the blade accurately and no adjustment is needed when resetting the blade after sharpening it.
After squaring off one side of the plane to another you may notice the edges are not in proper retention. The toe of the tool can be removed that converts the plane into a sharp chisel. You can trim the inside corners of the plane with this chisel.
You can get an even cut across the width of the plane without regrinding the cutting edge angle. The sole of the plane has two parts, toe and heel, and they pair in the most precise way.
You can adjust the whole plane using the knurled thumbscrew. Avoid tightening the screws firmly as they will break the blade lever.
4. Bench Dog Tools Shoulder Plane
If you are looking for a versatile tool, choose the shoulder plane from the brand bench dog. They offer a tool that can act as a shoulder plane, bullnose plane, and a chisel plane all at a time. It will be a great addition to your tool chest.
To avoid a tapered cut, the blade of the tool from the Bench Dog brand is slightly wider than the plane body that leaves the corners without a ridge.
For conversion between the planes, the tool has two nose pieces, one long and one short. you can install the long extension for a shoulder plane, the short extension for a bullnose plane, and no extension for a chisel plane using these nose pieces.
You can consider this DIY shoulder plane as an ideal tool of this kind because it has a ground flat fine iron casting sole and blade, and sides in an ultimate square with the sole.
You do not need to worry about if the tool is in exact measurements. There is a certificate of inspection with measurements provided with the tool that is specific to your plane for ensuring sole flatness and blade hardness.
5. WoodRiver No. 91 Small Shoulder Plane
The Woodriver store offers you another shoulder plane that is smaller in size. Smaller planes are convenient for all types of surfaces, be it smaller or larger.
The tool should fit in your palm for better control so that you can cut smoothly through several light strokes. The lever cap has a pivoting knob that enables you to adjust the tool for a better handling experience.
The concave knob will fit in your hand web for a secure hold and you can operate the tool with light passes.
The body of the plane is solid and heard and is suitable for heavy-duty works. Like an ideal shoulder plane for tenons, the sole of the tool is dead flat, the sides are perfectly square to each other, and the blade has the same width as the sole.
The blade is slightly proud than the base to help in cleaning up the inside corners. It has an adjustable mouth to support the plane and minimize tear-out on end grains.
This tool is super useful to clean up the shoulders or cheeks of a tenon and to create rabbet, dadoes, and grooves from scratch. The depth adjustment knob will help you to convert between thinner and thicker shaving.
The Anatomy of a Shoulder Plane
A shoulder plane is a versatile tool that assembles some parts to act as one. First is the flat sole. The bottom of the tool is called the sole which is mainly made of cast iron or steel. The front of the sole is called the toe and the rear of it is called the heel. The opening where the cutting blade comes out is called the mouth or throat of the tool. Up above the body of the plane, there is a lever cap with a pivoting knob and a lever cap wheel. There is also a depth adjustment knob, toe adjustment screws, and set screws for better flexibility.
Take Proper Care of Your Shoulder Plane
For better workability and a longer lifespan, you should take proper care of your tool. After each use, wipe out the planes with oil. This will resist rusting on the plane. You can store the oil rag in a secure place and the oil on it be saturated so that you can use this rag for cleaning without adding oil again. This tactic will help you to use your purchased oil economically.
In case the planes become rusty, you can use Sandflex block to remove this deadly enemy of metal. For long-term usage, the shiny antique parts may become matt. Use sunshine polishing claws to bring back the shine.
Features to Look for When Purchasing a Shoulder Plane
While buying a shoulder plane for woodworking, it must have some features without which the purpose of the tool becomes vague. The main purpose of the tool is to trim the shoulder of the tenons in a perfect square. That’s why the sides of the tool must be squared to each other. The sole should be dead flat for shaving without defect. The blade should be parallel to the throat and perpendicular to the sides. It should also be a hair wider than the width of the sole to avoid tapered cut at the edges.
FAQs about Shoulder Plane
How to cut a thinner or thicker shaving with a shoulder plane?
Ans. There is a depth adjustment toe just at the back of the blade to control the blade depth. You can rotate the adjustment toe clockwise and it will bring the blade down for thicker shaving. Rotate it anticlockwise and it will bring the blade up for thinner shaving.
When/why should you use a shoulder plane?
Ans. While fitting a joint you may find one part is slightly larger than the other. That is when you need a shoulder plane to trim out a slight amount of material from the shoulder or cheeks of a tenon, rabbet, dadoes, screws, or half laps. You can even make rabbet, dadoes, grooves from scratch using this tool.
Which is the all-purpose shoulder plane?
Ans. Shoulder planes of medium size can trim materials from all planes. Normally most carpenters choose a plane that has a blade of ¾ inch width. On smaller planes, you can trim material just by a stroke in the front direction. For larger ones, you may need more than one stroke on both sides of the plane to keep it flat across.
Why shoulder planes are a little bit expensive than other similar-sized tools?
Ans. A shoulder plane is an assemble of metal parts that are not only smaller in size but also expensive. Besides, all the parts must be in perfect proportion to enable the tool to serve its purpose. Because of the metal parts and accurate requirement of proportioning, the planes will cost you a little bit higher.
My Two Cents at the End
A shoulder plane is a basic tool that every joinery worker must need. With this tool, you can remove the required amount of material in a controlled and precise manner.
You need to choose a plane that fits into your palm and comforts you in operating. While buying a plane, make sure to check if the features are in exact dimensions. To save you from this hassle, we narrowed down the 5 best shoulder planes available in the market.
If you ask me to vote for one or two planes, I will select the two tools from Woodriver Store because of their exact geometry and fancy look.