In short, Bench Plane numbers are numbered from 1 to 8, with halves and quarters, and these correspond to the type of plane you have, giving numbers 1 to 5-1/2 refer to Smoothing Planes, Numbers 5 and 6 are Fore Planes, and numbers 7 and 8 correspond to Jointer Planes.
Hand planes are now frequently referred to as a ‘number five’ or a ‘number seven,’ rather as smoothers, jointers, jack planes, or any of the previous traditional plane length designations.
The Stanley Rule and Level Company created the numbering system over a century ago to distinguish the sizes and kinds of planes they produced.
The numbers 1 through 8 essentially indicate various plane lengths, with #1 being (very) short and #8 being rather long. After number 8, the numbering system becomes as strange as some of the specialty planes to which the numbers correspond.
A #4 and a #7 are the typical smoother and jointer planes. A #5 plane is known as a jack plane, whereas a #6 plane is comparable to a jointer but is known as a fore plane. The breadth grows in proportion to the number and length: a #4 has a narrow blade, while a #8 has a wide blade.
The four most helpful planes in my view are the 4, 5, 6, and 7s, and I would expect an experienced carpenter to utilize three of these four standard lengths on a regular basis (along with a block plane). The #1 through #3 hand planes are seldom utilized due to their tiny size, and the #8 plane is a hefty beast, which also makes it popular.
The smoothing plane is usually the final plane to be used on a wood surface, removing extremely fine shavings to leave a smooth finish. It removes very fine shavings to leave a smooth finish. When used properly, it provides a finish that is on par with or better than that produced by sandpaper in a short period of time.
Let’s start at the very bottom of the scale, with the smoothing planes, and work our way up. The majority of people end up having a number of these (sometimes even in the same sizes).
There are a plethora of options to select from, as well as many configuration options.
The No. 1 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 5-1/2″
- Cutter width: 1-1/4″
The No. 1 bench plane is highly sought after by collectors. It is a pampered exotic little puppy. The design is intended to encourage consumers to pick it up and exclaim, “It’s so adorable!
It is simple to spend $1,000 on a vintage No. 1 bench plane, which is why it is packaged to make you want to buy it. It must be a really helpful and wonderful bench plane, wouldn’t you say? Nope.
Some woodworkers choose to use the No. 1 instead of a block plane, due to arthritis, as a number 1 is smaller and fits the palm easily. For youngsters, some woodworkers may purchase a No. 1. Additionally, some woodworkers use the No. 1 for smaller-scale projects, including linenfold panels.
In truth, however, the No. 1 is often useless for furniture construction, and there is just not enough room in front of the tote to be able to hold it, as well as changing the depth of cut is difficult due of the little workspace behind the frog.
Adding to that, you’ll find that the cutter is very small, thus you will be spending a lot of time and effort to plane a normal side of a carcass.
It’s definitely something you should get because you desire it. And be aware that you’ll utilize just a small fraction of it, but most woodworkers will display it on a shelf and appreciate it.
The No. 2 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 7″
- Cutter width: 1-5/8″
People have an affinity for them, but the No. 2’s value does not compare to the No. 1. They can’t understand woodworkers’ bewilderment with them, yet it’s difficult to hold on to the tote, since materials are crammed in there. You feel like an uncomfortable giant since you are able to wield tremendous power when you grasp the instrument.
The No. 2 smoothing plane, which is large enough for children’s hands, doesn’t seem to be too weighty for them.
The 2-1/4 pound ones were the antique ones. And in all my years, I’ve heard of just one person who had unusually tiny hands, as if they were built for a No. 2. Besides that, I believe the No. 2 bench plane should be avoided unless you find some special need for it.
The No. 3 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 8″
- Cutter width: 1-3/4″
Perhaps the most underappreciated piece of equipment in the pantheon is the No. 3. Although it’s tiny, it gets thrown in with the “cute but useless” group along with the top two choices. Everything you just said is nonsense. The No. 3 is the smallest bench plane I would offer in my range. It’s a very good tool.
With ease, you can reach around the tote and manipulate the settings because the knob is large enough to handle like a conventional bench plane, it is the primary handle for this plane.
While the cutter is just just broad enough to be a practical size, it is nevertheless precise enough to cut the smaller pieces.
So what’s the point? When working on extremely tiny components (such as rails, stiles, mullions, and muntins), I like to use a No. 3 bench plane. It works very well for smoothing. For finer work, though, I often use a No. 2 bench plane.
This is excellent for smaller components since you don’t risk tipping or tilting when balancing the tool on material that is just 3/4″ broad.
Tear-out removal is achieved by the short length of the sole. A smaller sole lets the tool get into more precise locations on a board and get rid of tear-out. It is impossible to remove more than a shave (maybe two) in a small region with a long sole on a No. 4 or bigger plane.
The No. 4 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 9″
- Cutter width: 2″
A traditional No. 4 smoothing plane is the most often seen size.
It is a good balance between the length of the sole and the breadth of the cutter, which is great for standard furniture pieces.
Additionally, it is essential to remember that the last portion of that phrase is that standard furniture components are also required.
Typical furniture components include widths ranging from 2 inches to 24 inches and lengths from 12 inches to 48 inches.
Some people have suggested that the No. 4 could be helpful and popular. 10 No. 4s are usually found for everyone No. 3.
Most of my usual cabinet work is done with a No. 4. As a result, I installed a 50-degree frog on my No. 4 to assist minimize ripping (an additional 55-degree frog is available for this purpose for curly-grained woods). A bevel-up plane works well on domestic woods and exotics, but it’s not the plane I use when the task is really challenging.
Also an essential aspect of the No. 4: It’s light, so you won’t tire fast.
The No. 4-1/2 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 10″
- Cutter width: 2-3/8″
An inch makes all the difference. But the metal used for the No. 4-1/2 is a game-changer as well. These days, more people use the No. 4-1/2 smoothing plane than in the years after Stanley being the only game in town. What might it be used for? Positive publicity. Woodworkers have extolled the virtues of this instrument, which is known as “The Wood Whisperer”. Furthermore, in our society, we tend to prefer products that have been exaggerated to Super Size proportions.
The No. 4-1/2 is a superb tool, but I’m prone to use it up quicker due to its weight and larger blade. A tool will need to be pushed harder in order to move it ahead.
However, a broader cutter gets the job done in fewer strokes, so you may as well give it a go. The weight of the tool also contributes to the stability in the cut since less downward pressure is required on your part. So, determining if something is a trade-off isn’t that easy.
I believe the No. 4-1/2 is good for those woodworkers who like larger-scale furniture and for those who work with heavier wood. The No. 4-1/2 is for you if you construct tables or dining setss. Working in an armoire shop will make you a fan of it.
The No. 5-1/2 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 15″
- Cutter width: 2-1/4″ or 2-3/8″
Actually, that is not a mistake. When I was checking the No. 5-1/2 in the smoothing plane area, I realized I intended to put it in that part. A smooth plane is used much more frequently than it was a decade ago, even though the No. 5-1/2 is 6″ longer than a normal smoothing plane.
This is for what reason? David Charlesworth, an English furniture maker. Charlesworth has been a vocal supporter of having a large tool that is referred to as a “super smoother” in a contemporary woodshop. Between a jointer plane and a smoothing plane, the No. 5-1/2 lies in the middle, which is why this configuration works.
This is a quick and concise way to describe the fact that the No. 5-1/2 is of equal size to a historical English panel plane, a kind of equipment that was rare in the United States. As a result, English carpenters would use a panel plane to get a clean finish on big surfaces.
For woodworkers who do not want to set up a lot of planes, the contemporary No. 5-1/2 is a great match. To utilize the No. 5-1/2 to trues up the job and refine the stock at the same time, you have to dress your timber with your machines and then use your No. 5-1/2.
A one-size-fits-all solution often doesn’t meet expectations. Your relatively small foot size makes it tough for you to access hidden spaces to get rid of torn-out skin (shorter tools do this with ease). Additionally, to shoot long edges while gluing together panels, the equipment is hard to use since it is tough to utilize a jointer plane.
However, if you own and use equipment, the No. 5-1/2 handles over 90% of your day-to-day tasks. I’ve used Charlesworth’s techniques on a number of projects, and I find that they are accurate and dependable.
Bevel-Up Smoothing Planes
- Sole length: 9-1/2″ to 10″
- Cutter width: 2″ to 2-1/4″
Smoothing planes, especially the contemporary bevel-up designs, have lately gained a lot of popularity. They are simpler tools (without a chip breaker or moveable frog), and they are far less costly than their bevel-down counterparts. They are also easy to setup, and doing so has the additional benefit of enabling planing at greater angles, resulting in a lower rate of tear-out.
Advantages like this led me to describe the bevel-down smoothing planes in depth. It seems to be obvious.
First, you have to know where the controls are located. Bevel-down planes are set up the way that the blade adjuster is in front of your fingertips. To change the depth, you don’t even have to withdraw your hand from the bag. With the bench plane in motion, you may also make adjustments to the cutter. This is something I often do.
Because bevel-up planes have controls placed low on the tool, it is not possible to use the tool while holding the tote in place.
Another trade-off: a mechanism to regulate lateral movement. Separate depth and lateral adjustment knobs are used on conventional bevel-down planes (which centers the cutter in the mouth of the tool).
The two controls of Veritas’s bevel-down planes are all in one single control, known as a Norris-style adjuster. This arrangement appeals to certain individuals. It is difficult for some people to manage the two functions, therefore they find it difficult to deal with it (depth and lateral adjustment).
The Lie-Nielsen bevel-up plane, the No. 164, offers a distinct feature set because of its adjustable lateral adjustment using hammer taps.
Second trade-off: simplicity. Working with the bevel-up planes may be unsettling if you prefer conventional bevel-down planes. there is no spot on the tote where you may put your index finger You feel vulnerable, uncomfortable, and incomplete when you’re unable to extend your index finger.
Note that although bevel-up planes are exceptional tear-out-eliminators, it is not to say that they are without shortcomings. Honing the cutter to a higher angle raises the cutting pitch of the plane, making it possible to plane with a lower initial bevel angle. This is a massive benefit, and it’s why I keep one bevel-up tool available that’s set at 62°.
If you deal with exotic woods or curls, the conventional bevel-down tools would be completely useless for you. That is my point of view. Straight to the bevel-up models would be my first choice. You’ll be delighted.
However, before you make a purchase, you should be aware of the trade-offs between the two styles. On the other hand, it makes sense to get hands-on with each format to find out which you like.
The Fore and Jack Planes
Welcome to the oddly sized in-between zone where every tool can do almost anything, and trade-offs occur. This size plane has historically been used for roughing.
If you were to place a highly cambered iron in the tool, open the mouth as wide as possible, and pull off long ribbons of wood, that’s what you’d do.
Few individuals now use this size instrument in this historical way because of the cheap and precise equipment available to everyone.
Let’s examine them.
The No. 5 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 14″
- Cutter width: 2″
The No. 5 is also known as a jack plane. Before the war, the number of planes owned by an average pre-war household was most likely a jack plane. Why? Setting up the jack plane to do almost any task is very simple.
Soak the iron in camber oil and it may be used as a puller for removing stock. It may be a short jointer plane if it is setup with a straight iron or a cambered iron.
While you can get away with it, you are not going to achieve the same results with a jointer plane. To start using the jack as a long-ish smoothing plane, set it up with a minutely cambered iron and take a mild shave. However, you may be amazed by what you can do with the plane.
That is because when I just had one bench plane, a classic No. 5, I did everything this way. I typically suggest a No. 5 or its bevel-up counterpart to individuals who have purchased only one plane.
I have a larger fleet of bench planes now, so I utilize the No. 5 as a roughing plane.
Because of the heavy camber of the iron, I use it to dress wider pieces of stock that my jointer or planer cannot handle. I can remove nearly 1/16 of an inch of material with a sharp iron and a moderate abrasive. Even in a workshop packed with machinery, it’s an exceptionally powerful, effective, and helpful instrument.
The No. 5-1/4 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 11-1/2″
- Cutter width: 1-3/4″
Experts say that this bench plane is often seen in school manuals on manual instruction. The jack was different from the conventional kind since it was lighter and shorter, which made it simpler for the shop class rejects to handle.
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve only used this bench plane a few times and I’ve never bought one. While working with the tool for a short time, I came to the conclusion that there must be a good reason why it is so rare in size.
It was much too short to get a straight cut to joint an edge. In order to provide a perfect surface, the cutter width had to be the same as a No. 3, but the longer sole helped keep it from going into hollows, similar to a smoothing plane.
The No. 6 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 18″
- Cutter width: 2-3/8″
I have positioned them as fore planes, and they serve their purpose quite well in that role. By placing them in the position of a jointer plane, they have worked remarkably effectively for the job at hand.
For my money, jointing an edge with a No. 6 plane is a lot simpler than learning to joint an edge with one of the longer planes. As there is less iron moving about, this seems to be the case.
Additionally, I have a scraper set up with a slicing insert. That’s crazy, isn’t it? I concur. I get where you’re coming from, but it’s an excellent setting for rippled tabletops. This is why: When you use thinner boards to make a tabletop, it’s difficult to align the grain on all of the individual boards.
Grain reversals happen as you work your way down the tabletop plane. It is possible to get around this issue by alternating between two-handed planing techniques while working the top.
That may be difficult on sometimes. If you want to remove the surface finish, use a scraping plane. Another issue that cabinet scrapers, card scrapers, and short scraper planes may have is leaving dished regions on the surface of the work.
The good news is that the secondary market is abundant with No. 6 bench plane, and they’re cheaply priced.
Bevel-Up Jack Planes
- Sole length: 14″ to 15″
- Cutter width: 2″ to 2-1/4″
I’m a beginner and I’m looking to purchase one top-of-the-line hand plane, and I need it to be as versatile as possible because I don’t have enough money to buy everything I’d want.
Which product should I purchase?
In order to solve the problem, you need purchase one of the bevel-up jack planes.
These bevel-up tools are really helpful, flexible, adjustable, and simple to use.
You can have a longish smoothing plane with a high cutting angle if you purchase two more irons. For jointing edges up to 36″ long, you may use a jointer plane that is short and powerful. In addition, you may use a flat iron to prep the ends of boards for shooting. I possess just two planes, and they are both bevel-up jack planes that can do all three tasks!
Yet one problem with using the tool as a plane is that it is not particularly good at roughing out the surface. Although it has been difficult to use a highly cambered iron in the tool and take a super-thick shave, it hasn’t been impossible. It is very possible that there is geometry at work.
Straightening and flattening the work are the Jointer Planes which are longest bench plane jobs. Although many woodworkers spend their whole careers without ever taking one up, hand tools are still essential in my trade.
The No. 7 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 22″
- Cutter width: 2-3/8″
For most of their planing requirements, woodworkers utilize a No. 7 plane. To prepare lumber for further processing, woodworking expert Alan Peters is known to utilize a No. 7 plane for jointing, smoothing, and shooting.
Also, if you take care in setting up the instrument and you are a skilled artisan, this is feasible.
I experimented with using a No. 7 in place of everything, too. Once I used to the weight of the tool and balanced it on tiny bits of work, it was really simple.
The No. 7 size of jointer plane is the most popular in a conventional shop. Long edges of boards are often shaped into a larger panel using this machine. As well as dressing boards to create precise surfaces for joinery, it is also used to dress the faces of boards.
My method for using a jointer plane in my shop is as follows:
I use a machine to dress my whole supply of stock, and then I use a jointer plane to further refine the faces and edges.
Pitchy? It is well worth a try.
The majority of equipment is capable of producing boards that are simply flat. By using a jointer plane, they may go the extra mile. Just as prepared stock can assist you when it’s time to joint cut, if you’ve done your homework and have everything ready.
Additionally, I use it to connect the edges of boards before to applying adhesive. Adding a spring joint to a panel glue-up is made possible by using a jointer plane.
When planing the center part of the edge a little hollow, you are creating a spring joint. Clamping the joint in the middle prevents it from opening the ends. Using fewer clamps will help maintain the joint ends under tension.
This may be of assistance for certain stocks since the ends of your panel will wick moisture more quickly on the inside of the stock than the outside. The additional pressure ensures that everything stays intact throughout the rainy season.
Sharpening the iron of the jointer plane is quite controversial. Because it’s child’s play to square off an uneven edge, I use a slightly curved iron. By reducing the corner-digging of the iron, I decrease the chances of the iron marking the work surface.
The No. 8 Bench Plane
- Sole length: 24″
- Cutter width: 2-5/8″
It seems that the No. 8 is smaller than the No. 7. However, when measured against the No. 7, the No. 8 is really a much larger and more difficult-to-use instrument. This certainly pushes the scales into a whole new category of tool.
Although the additional weight and breadth of the instrument cause some individuals to hate it, others like it for other reasons. They like it other woodworkers. I consider myself to be in the “love it” group. In my workplace, I use a No. 7; however at home, I use a No. 8 since I don’t want to share it.
It’s like driving a freight train, the No. 8 works. It can’t be stopped once it gets started. Useful when you have difficult-to-handle areas of grain. The No. 8 just bulldozes past the other team’s defense.
Surfacing boards may be more exhausting with the additional weight. In order to accomplish this, you must maintain the No. 7 iron sharper than you do on the others. The increased bulk and breadth provide the No. 8 a more difficult time to maneuver as the iron starts to dull.
Additionally, you will want to purchase paraffin for the sole. This concept is equally applicable to any airplane, but especially the big boy of the plane-building world.
Bevel-Up Jointer Planes
- Sole length: 22″
- Cutter width: 2-1/4″
To make things simpler, the bevel-up jointer plane is preferable to the bevel-down version.
It is less costly as well.
However, its center of gravity is lower, and because the high center of gravity of the bevel-down jointer plane makes it simpler for me to feel when the tool is tilting to the left or right, the jointer plane allows me to use better spatial orientation.
It means that the bevel-down jointer plane allows me to feel “plumb” better. While the bevel-up jointer plane is effective, it does not provide the same level of feedback.
However, beveling the knife up and beveling it down result in the same overall trade-offs.
The Block Plane as an All-in-One Bench Plane
You could also consider the simpler plane, the block plane, which is very handy and straightforward to operate. 9-1/2, 15, 16, 60, 60-1/2, 120 are all numbers that are used on block planes. You can see that the numbering pattern becomes completely messed up after #8.
A simple, little plane that you can use with one hand for tasks like removing shavings sticking out, or smoothing a curve, is known as a block plane. They have many applications, and they are certainly worth having. Block planes come in a variety of various numbers but they all fit into one hand and function similarly.
Also known as bevel up, the bevel of the blade faces the ceiling rather than the floor. No cap iron is used in this design.
For a conventional bevel down plane, there is a belief that block planes perform better on endgrain. In my experience, a well-honed plane may do a better (or worse) job on endgrain.
A 60-1/2° (i.e., “low angle”) style block plane is a great purchase but if yours is a 9-1/2° (i.e., “high angle”) kind, you will receive a sense of satisfaction from it.
This ends our Bench Plane Numbers Guide Discussion.
With that, please always remember that you need a good set. And by ‘good’, a properly organized set of hand tools, including hand planes, will see you through the best projects. Nothing is impossible with dedication, practice, and patience, and better yet – choosing the right hand plane.
We want you to be sure of what you plan to get, please don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
Love our Bench Plane Numbers Guide?
You may be interested in our other related articles:
- Bench Plane vs Block Plane
- Bench Planes vs Jack Planes
- Bevel-Up vs Bevel-Down Planes
- What is a Bench Plane
- How to Sharpen a Bench Plane
- Bench Plane Sharpening Angle
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