The #5 Jack Plane Facts

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I’d like to highlight Lie-No. Nielsen’s 5 Jack Plane. As regular readers of this Blog are likely aware, the “bench” planes begin with the No. 1 (very tiny) and go progressively up to the No. 8, which is the jointer and the biggest of the group.

As the numbers indicate, the No. 5 is quite near to the middle of the pack, both in terms of order and size.

The No. 5’s dimensions and materials are as follows: The plane is 14″ long and constructed of ductile iron, with a 2″ broad iron made of A2 steel that is.125″ thick, and weights a total of 5 1/2 lbs.

The length of the No. 5 allows it to double as a “jointer” when dealing with tiny pieces of wood, such as for small boxes or the like. This is another example of realizing the full potential of a tool.  

I believe we may sometimes pigeonhole ourselves (and our tools) and lose sight of the fact that we have the ultimate flexibility to choose how to best use our abilities and resources.

The bronze lever cap is both sturdy and attractive, while the cherry tote and knob feel fantastic in your hands and give an air of elegance to the jack plane.

The Jack  Plane is an extremely versatile and convenient sized hand plane to have in your kit, in fact it’s one of the most sought after type of hand plane, and is in the top of our Best Hand Plane Review Guide. 

Jack Plane Adjustments

On this plane, the frog (45 degrees) and body are completely machined to provide a strong fit and a firm grip on the iron, resulting in a predictable and controlled shaving.

The user may change the mouth opening without removing the lever cap or iron/chip breaker from the frog. The operation is straightforward yet robust.

Unlock the two lateral locking screws and then rotate the center adjustment screw clockwise (to advance the frog and close the mouth) or counter-clockwise (to open the mouth).

Always keep an eye on the leading edge of the iron as you shut the mouth to prevent it from inadvertently coming into touch with the front of the mouth and nicking or blunting your beautifully honed iron.

Once you’ve achieved the desired mouth openness, tighten the two locking screws and check that the specified shaving thickness fits through the new mouth size.

Where can I use a #5 Jack Plane

The No. 5’s usefulness may vary from that of a big format smoother to that of a tool for fast stock removal. As a smoother, I prefer to sharpen the iron with a barely noticeable camber in the first scenario, which minimizes the likelihood of any corner sinking into the wood.

I use David Charlesworth’s method of employing a simple honing guide on water stones and alternating between concentrated finger pressure on various parts of the iron and extra stone passes to control the removal of steel towards each corner.

I begin this shaping/honing process with a 1000 grit stone and end with an 8000 grit stone. For both stones, the iron is held in the guide at a 35-degree angle (a 10-degree microbevel, since the base angle is 25 degrees).

If you’ve never used a plane with a cambered iron, this is something you should attempt. Because such a tiny amount of steel is lost when this minor camber is created, you may easily restore to a straight cutting edge by just returning to your 1000 grit stone and continuing your normal procedure. If you wish to experiment with the cambered form.

Additionally, you may stop by one of the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events to see the team sharpening and ask any questions that may arise.

As an aside, the late (and brilliant) Alan Peters used his No. 7 (a considerably bigger plane than the No. 5) as his smoother, demonstrating the planes’ considerable versatility.

Jack Plane as a Stock Removal Tool

In the second situation, when the plane is used as a fast stock removal tool, I give the iron a more noticeable camber (though still very minor in comparison to the camber on a scrub plane iron), which creates a more narrowly concentrated wood removal region than the cambered smoothing iron’s form.

The corners of these irons are set back from the leading edge by about 1/32” – 1/16”, resulting in a progressive decrease in form from the iron’s center to each corner.

When I prepare this kind of iron for the first time, I use my grinder to effectively remove the extra metal, since even this apparently small quantity would take considerable time and effort if just sharpening stones were employed.

I usually use a gentle touch with the grinder to avoid inadvertently overheating the iron’s steel. I grind the iron freehand, rotating its cutting edge around an arc on the grinder’s rest to replicate the iron’s original 25-degree bevel.

I prefer to use a sharpie to make a line in the middle of the iron’s back and then approximately 1/32″ – 1/16″ down from the corners on each side, and then draw a shallow curve connecting the spots.

This serves as a visible guide for my grinding, ensuring that I do not go too far or remove more material from one side than the other.

If I realize I’ve achieved a beautiful, smooth curve over the iron, I’ll come to a halt, even if I’m not quite to the full depth at the corners.

Given that I know I’ll be bringing the iron to my honing stones next, there’s really no need for a certain form, as long as the curve is smooth and continuous.

The next honing will be done at a 35-degree angle (again, a 10-degree micro bevel), and will use the normal honing guide.

If you take your time and concentrate on gently transitioning over the curved iron, you can easily work the whole width of the iron in the honing guide.

If your corners remain unhoned on the honing stones, this just shows that your camber is more prominent. This is unimportant, since the corners of this form of iron never contact the wood.

Other Adjustments to the #5 Jack Plane

For each of these tasks, I set the plane’s mouth slightly wider than the shaving I want to remove, keeping the plane from jamming. When performing the smoothing function, the mouth is often very closed, since the anticipated shaving is extremely fine (on the order of.001” –.003”).

As you would imagine, I expand the mouth larger for the fast removal function, which allows for the passage of heavier shavings. It is considerably more comparable to the smoothing operation’s mouth for the jointer function, since the shaving is less dense, but the shaving still determines the opening.

Additional accessories, such as the frog adjuster screwdriver, chip breaker screwdriver, and plane socks to assist prevent rust, are available.


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