How to Use A Hand Plane – (Use Like A Pro)

No matter what tool you are using, if you don’t follow the proper method or don’t know about the necessary approach for using that tool, you won’t get satisfactory results. A hand plane is generally used to remove the lumps, straighten the wooden board, or get a smooth finish by shaving the rough grains.

Using a hand plane might seem to be child’s play, but trust me, there are many things you need to keep in mind while using a hand plane. Your stance, your strikes, the amount of force you will be using, how fast you are going with the plane, and everything will impact your outcome. In this article, I will guide you on how to use a hand plane.

How to Properly Use A Hand Wood Planer

A woodworker using a a hand plane

Get the Correct Posture

Try not to stand parallel to the wooden board while planning. It’s gonna be an awkward position to start your work. Also, you won’t be able to get the desired result and end up wasting too much energy and time.

Try standing behind the board, and instead of pushing with only your hand, try to add momentum with your hip and leg. Pushing the plane with the help of leg momentum will surely make your work easier. Try to keep your elbows tucked in and aligned with the plane and the board. This will ensure better results for sure.

Read Also: How to Pick A Perfect Jack Plane for Woodworking.

Be A Lawnmower and Not A Shovel

What I mean by that is a lawnmower touches the entire surface of your lawn and reduces it by the same thickness or the same amount and a shovel is something that’s used in one specific location to dig a hole or dig a ditch. You don’t want to do that with a hand plane. You want to touch the entire surface of your material, generally speaking, rather than one specific spot.

Do Not Go Crazy with Downward Pressure

You don’t need a tremendous amount of downward pressure as you’re working. If you have to really use your body in order to make things cut, then one or one of two things is happening. Either your blade is dull and not cutting correctly, or you just got too aggressive of a cut, and you need to back it up a little bit. It shouldn’t take that much pressure to cut, and it should be very easily above full motion. You’re not starting in one spot and just going over that same spot over and over again.

Be Flat In And Out And Also Pause In And Out

This is the most common scenario, people first pick up a hand plane as they see somebody who’s used a hand plane frequently, who is relatively quick and efficient with the tool, and then the person who has never used a hand plane before just grabs it and starts going back and forth. As you can imagine,  they are typically not using the entire board, but also the faster you go the less control you have over the tool.

It’s not a race. You should start with the plane flat and keep the blade off the material. You need to have downward pressure on your front hand to keep the plane level. You would need to use both of your hands for using the plane. If you put too much downward pressure on your hands, you’ll end up creating a kind of crown on the board.

So, start with pushing the plane with your front hand and as you make your cut and reach halfway through, apply pressure on your backhand. It’s your backhand that should finish the cut. It doesn’t take much effort just to pause before you start and after you stop. And, you have a lot more controlled strokes that way. The faster you are, the less control you’re going to have.

Also Read: 5 High Quality Rabbet Plane for Woodworker.

Use Wax to Lubricate the Bottom of the Plane

Only a couple of wax streaks on the bottom of the hand plane really makes a huge difference in how effortless the actual plane is going to glide across the wood. There is nobody who ever said that wax has caused problems with their finish or caused problems on the surface of the material. Now also some people use oil.  But I typically don’t suggest doing that because it spills oil on the surface of the wood. So yes using wax makes a huge difference anything with wax or oil to lubricate the bottom of your plane

To Use the Angle of the Blade to Restrict the Depth

You should use the blade’s angle, not the angle of the plane itself to restrict depth. Now what I’m talking about is the particular narrower board than the plane blade. If the plane blade is wider than the board, it can cover the entire surface, which is not that big of a deal.

However, when you try to flatten a broader panel in the forward motion, pick up and go to the next area, plane forward while going to the next area, and pull forward. What you are doing is essentially creating a series of ditches and hoping that they’re at the same elevation.

To maintain a more consistent depth with the cut as you traverse across the panel, instead of planing forward, push the plane in the forward direction skews it like so. When you’re planing, you are using the plane’s sole to reference material that’s not being removed. So that restricts the actual cutting depth where the material is being removed.

If you keep going across the panel like this, you will have a much more consistent depth as you go down. You can take that a step further and go in a straight direction rather than alternating directions back and forth with the plane skewed to crisscross and kind of cancel each other out, and that’s much more effective. Closing high spots rather than going in the same direction with the plane as you go across the board.

Always Plane in the Downhill Direction

You should look at the face grain on the adjacent face. Try holding the board so that the grain seems horizontal, which means you should plane from over there to the end of the board in the downhill direction. And, if your plane in the uphill direction, It’s going to snag your finger. You need the plane’s blade to slice over the top of the grain rather than dig in and pull up so always plane in the downhill direction.

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Final Words

I hope this article will be able to help you understand the necessary approach you need to take while using a hand plane.  At this point, I believe you have learned how to use a hand plane. If you follow all the steps mentioned in this article, I can assure you that you will have an effortless and satisfying peel with a wood shaver.

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