For woodworkers, choosing the right hand plane for the job is crucial. Two of the most popular types of planes are the jack plane and the bench plane. So what’s the difference, and when should you use each one?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know to decide whether a jack plane or a bench plane is best for your woodworking projects.
If you’re short on time, here’s the key difference: jack planes are shorter and used for initial surface smoothing, while bench planes have longer soles and are used for final smoothing and fitting joints. Keep reading as we explore the nuances in depth.
What is a Jack Plane?
A jack plane is a versatile woodworking tool that is commonly used for shaping and smoothing wood surfaces. It is an essential tool for any woodworking enthusiast or professional. Let’s dive deeper into what a jack plane is and its key characteristics.
Definition and common sizes
A jack plane is a hand plane with a long, flat sole and a narrow blade that extends through the body of the plane. It typically has a length of around 14 to 15 inches, making it shorter than a bench plane but longer than a smoothing plane.
The blade is beveled at an angle, allowing it to cut through wood fibers smoothly.
There are different sizes of jack planes available in the market, ranging from #5 to #7. The most commonly used size is #5, also known as a “jack of all trades” plane, as it is suitable for a wide range of woodworking tasks.
What it’s used for
A jack plane has numerous applications in woodworking. It is primarily used for removing rough surfaces, flattening large boards, and reducing the thickness of wood. It is also useful for straightening edges, chamfering, and smoothing surfaces before finishing.
Whether you’re working on a small DIY project or building a piece of furniture, a jack plane can help you achieve the desired results. Its versatility and ease of use make it a go-to tool for woodworkers of all skill levels.
There are several advantages of using a jack plane:
- Efficiency: A jack plane allows for quick material removal, saving you time and effort.
- Versatility: It can handle a wide range of woodworking tasks, making it a versatile tool in the workshop.
- Control: The adjustable blade depth and throat opening give you precise control over the amount of material being removed.
- Portability: Its compact size makes it easy to carry around and work with in different locations.
While a jack plane offers numerous benefits, it also has a few limitations:
- Size: The shorter length of a jack plane compared to a bench plane may limit its effectiveness when working on larger surfaces.
- Finishing: Although a jack plane can smooth wood surfaces, it may not provide the same level of finish as a dedicated smoothing plane.
- Specialized tasks: For specific woodworking tasks such as joinery or intricate shaping, a jack plane may not be the ideal choice.
What is a Bench Plane?
A bench plane is a versatile woodworking tool that is commonly used for shaping, smoothing, and leveling wood surfaces. It is an essential tool for any woodworker, whether amateur or professional. Bench planes come in various sizes, each with its own specific uses and functionality.
Definition and common sizes
A bench plane typically consists of a cutting blade, known as the iron, and a handle or knob for control. The blade is set at an angle to the sole (the bottom surface) of the plane, allowing it to remove thin shavings of wood as it is pushed along the surface.
Common sizes of bench planes include the No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6, with each number indicating the length of the plane in inches.
What it’s used for
Bench planes are primarily used for flattening and smoothing wood surfaces. They can be used to remove roughness and irregularities, such as knots or saw marks, from the surface of a piece of wood. Additionally, bench planes can also be used for shaping and chamfering edges, creating intricate profiles, and fitting joints.
Their versatility makes them indispensable in various woodworking projects.
One of the main advantages of using a bench plane is its ability to quickly and efficiently remove material from a wood surface. Unlike sanding, which can be time-consuming, using a bench plane allows for more precise control over the shaping and smoothing process.
Additionally, bench planes can also be used on a wide range of wood species and can produce a smoother finish compared to other tools.
While bench planes are highly versatile, they do require some skill and practice to use effectively. Achieving the desired result may take time and patience, especially for beginners. Additionally, bench planes can be relatively expensive, especially if you opt for high-quality models.
However, investing in a good bench plane can significantly improve the quality and efficiency of your woodworking projects.
Jack Plane vs. Bench Plane: Key Differences
Length of sole
One of the key differences between a jack plane and a bench plane is the length of their soles. A jack plane typically has a shorter sole, usually measuring around 14 inches, while a bench plane has a longer sole, often around 22 inches.
The length of the sole impacts the stability and control of the plane during use. A longer sole provides more stability and is ideal for flattening larger surfaces, while a shorter sole offers greater maneuverability for smaller, more detailed work.
Blade bevel angle
Another important distinction between a jack plane and a bench plane is the bevel angle of their blades. A jack plane typically has a bevel angle of 25 degrees, which makes it more suitable for rough work, such as removing large amounts of material.
On the other hand, a bench plane usually has a higher bevel angle, often around 45 degrees, making it more suitable for fine finishing work, such as smoothing and leveling surfaces.
Weight and balance
The weight and balance of a plane also differ between a jack plane and a bench plane. A jack plane is generally heavier, which helps to provide more power and stability when removing material. In contrast, a bench plane is lighter and more balanced, allowing for greater precision and control when working on intricate details.
The weight and balance of a plane are important considerations depending on the type of woodworking tasks you will be performing.
Both the jack plane and the bench plane have their own specific uses and are designed for different woodworking tasks. The jack plane is often used for rough work, such as flattening and dimensioning lumber, while the bench plane is commonly used for finer finishing work, such as smoothing and shaping surfaces.
It is important to consider the specific needs of your woodworking projects when choosing between a jack plane and a bench plane.
Choosing the Right Plane for Your Needs
When it comes to woodworking, choosing the right plane can make all the difference in the quality and efficiency of your projects. Two popular options to consider are the Jack Plane and the Bench Plane.
Each has its own unique features and benefits, so it’s important to take various factors into account before making your decision.
Consider your experience level
The first factor to consider when choosing between a Jack Plane and a Bench Plane is your experience level. If you’re a beginner or relatively new to woodworking, a Jack Plane may be the better option.
It’s versatile and easy to use, making it a great starting point for those who are still honing their skills. On the other hand, if you have more experience and are comfortable with more advanced woodworking techniques, a Bench Plane may be a better fit.
It offers more precision and control, allowing for finer woodworking details.
Factor in types of projects
Another important consideration is the types of projects you typically work on. If you primarily work on larger projects such as tables, cabinets, or doors, a Bench Plane may be the ideal choice. Its larger size and heavier weight make it better suited for tackling larger surfaces and removing more material.
However, if you tend to work on smaller projects like boxes, picture frames, or smaller furniture pieces, a Jack Plane may be more appropriate. Its smaller size and lighter weight make it easier to maneuver and control on smaller surfaces.
Smooth vs dimensioned surfaces
One key difference between the Jack Plane and the Bench Plane is the intended purpose for which they are designed. A Jack Plane is primarily used for rough dimensioning and leveling surfaces, making it a great tool for preparing rough lumber.
It quickly removes material and helps to flatten and smooth out uneven surfaces. On the other hand, a Bench Plane is designed for fine-tuning and smoothing surfaces. It excels at creating smooth, polished finishes and achieving precise thickness.
If you’re torn between the Jack Plane and the Bench Plane, you may want to consider a combination plane. These versatile tools combine the features of both planes, allowing you to switch between rough dimensioning and fine-tuning surfaces.
While they may not offer the same level of precision as dedicated Jack or Bench Planes, they can be a convenient option for those who want the flexibility to handle a variety of woodworking tasks.
Using Jack and Bench Planes Together
When it comes to woodworking, using both a jack plane and a bench plane can significantly enhance the quality of your finished projects. These two types of planes serve different purposes and can be used together in a two-step smoothing process to achieve outstanding results.
Two-step smoothing process
The first step in the two-step smoothing process involves using a jack plane. The jack plane is typically used to quickly remove material and flatten rough surfaces. Its longer length and slightly curved blade allow for efficient stock removal, making it an excellent choice for initial leveling.
By using the jack plane, you can quickly bring your stock to a rough dimension.
Once the rough leveling is complete, it is time to transition to a bench plane. The bench plane, also known as a smoothing plane, is used for finer smoothing and achieving a flat, polished surface. Its shorter length and finer blade allow for more precise control, enabling you to remove any remaining imperfections and leave a smooth finish.
Transitioning from rough to finish
Transitioning from a jack plane to a bench plane requires some adjustments. When switching to the bench plane, it is essential to ensure that the blade is sharp and properly aligned. Dull blades or misalignment can result in tear-out or uneven surfaces.
Taking the time to prepare your bench plane properly will yield better results and a smoother transition from rough to finished surfaces.
Start by using the bench plane to remove any visible marks left by the jack plane. Work in the direction of the wood grain, taking light, shallow passes. As you progress, adjust the blade to take finer and finer cuts until you achieve the desired smoothness.
Remember to frequently check your progress by running your hand over the surface to detect any imperfections.
Achieving flat, square stock
One of the ultimate goals in woodworking is to achieve flat and square stock. Using both a jack plane and a bench plane can help you achieve this goal efficiently. The jack plane allows you to quickly flatten surfaces and remove any high spots, while the bench plane refines the surface and ensures it is perfectly flat and square.
By using these two planes together, you can achieve a high level of precision and accuracy in your woodworking projects. The jack plane and bench plane complement each other, making them indispensable tools in any woodworker’s arsenal.
While both jack planes and bench planes have their pros and cons, understanding the key differences between these two essential woodworking tools is the first step to mastery. Consider how you’ll use your hand plane and match it to the length and bevel angle best suited for those tasks.
With practice and experience, you’ll be able to use jack planes and bench planes in tandem to efficiently dimension lumber and achieve fine smooth surfaces.
Now that you understand the nuances between these two versatile tools, you can confidently choose jack planes vs bench planes for your next woodworking project. Happy planing!