[GUIDE] Bench Planes vs Jack Planes | #1 Hand Plane Guide

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A bench plane is a woodworking tool and, in general, is used at your woodworking bench rather than the jobsite, while a Jack Plane is a type of versatile bench plane that can quickly remove stock like a fore plane or jointer, or smooth wood like a smoothing plane.

Knowing which type to choose is important because they have some significant differences between them and will prove very useful for your woodworking projects.

It is important to understand that both “bench planes” and “jack planes” serve the same function — a vey handy tool used by woodworkers to remove material from a board cleanly and efficiently.

In this article, will discuss the Bench Planes vs Jack Planes in depth to get a good understanding of the fundamentals between the two to make the best decisions in choosing your bench planes.

Where can I use a Bench Plane?

A bench plane is a sort of woodworking tool in general. It is a sort of hand plane that is often used.

It’s termed a bench plane since it’s often used at a woodworking bench rather than on the site compared to a bench planer, a power tool, the manual hand plane is versatile and flexible and is often preferred..

In the woodshop, the bench plane has three functions: straightening, smoothing, and removing wood.

Bench planes are the hand plane family’s everyday workhorses.

They are easily used to gradually decrease and straighten the parts of a woodworking project to the precise dimensions, while others are used to smooth the wood’s surfaces, giving it a final finish.

Bench planes are assigned numbers that correspond to their size and purpose, from numbers 1 to 9, and they are all handy and really helpful for most woodworking projects.

The cutting irons are often placed at a 45-degree angle (“common pitch”), however for hardwoods, the angle has traditionally been a bit steeper, maybe 50 degrees (“York pitch”) or 55 degrees (“middle pitch”) giving you great variations depending on the project you will work on.

Surface smoothing and squaring are accomplished using bench planes and smaller block planes and other planes are used to shape moldings or rabbets, as well as to shave wood.

There are other types of bench planes too:

  • Smoothing plane
  • Fore plane
  • Jointer plane

Where can I use a Jack Plane?

A jack plane is very efficient a type of bench plane that is also a general-purpose woodworking bench plane that is used to dress down timber in preparation for truing and/or edge jointing making it a great all around bench plane.

It is normally the first plane used on rough stock, and yet it can still be preceded by the scrub plane for tougher work making it quite a valuable tool.

A jack plane’s length can range from 12 inches to 15 inches, with 14 inches being the most common, while the width of the blade (iron) varies from 134 to 238 inches making it very flexible in size.

The iron on a bench plane must be 38 of an inch narrower than the body keeping it in giving a great proportion finish.

The iron’s cutting edge is usually straight with rounded corners to allow it to do a variety of jobs and this particular shape is perfect for the cutting edge because it allows it to be used for jointing, which is when you flatten the edges of the boards you’ll be connecting together.

The rounded corners prevent any “tracks” from being left on surfaces broader than the iron.

For ordinary metal and wooden jack planes, the iron angle is 45 degrees, with the bevel pointing down while some metal jack planes, on the other hand, have irons pitched at 12 degrees with the bevel pointing up, making them low-angle for easy smooth shaving and pruning.

Because of its tremendous versatility, the jack plane does not have a specialized role of its own, yet the jack plane can be configured to perform virtually any task that other types of bench planes is capable of performing.

It is for this reason why it is referred to as a “jack” plane in the first place, fittingly, It got the title of “Jack of all Trades” by being a preferred generalist all-rounder handy bench plane.

Similarities Between the Bench Plane and Jack Plane

Bench planes and Jack planes have three major jobs, and each work requires a distinct types of processes and different bench planes.

Those are:

  • Efficiently Shaving and Cutting Wood
  • Straightening the Wood
  • Preparing the wood for Finishing

Efficiently Shaving and Cutting WoodThis can be accomplished using the fore planes, which are bench planes that are used for cutting and shaving wood, and in addition, because the sole of a fore plane can be quite lengthy, ranging from 14 to 20 inches in length, it can also be used to somewhat straighten the wood making it real efficient in removing material.

Straightening the wood. Because the jointer planes are longer, ranging from 22 to 30 inches in length, they are more effective for this task, yet it is customary to utilize the joiner plane after you have used the fore plane first, a jack plane can accomplish this task easily and reliably as well.

Preparing the wood for finishing. This is accomplished with the smoothing plane, which is often the last plane that is used in the process, yet the jack plane can also smoothen the wood to a good extent and depending on the project, you may not need a smoothing plane to double the wirl.

This ends our Bench Planes vs Jack Planes 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. 

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