How to use a block plane
Wooden planes may be lighter, blade pitches may vary, iron adjusters may differ and there may or may not be mouth adjustment, but using a block plane is essentially the same no matter which one you use.
Here's Wonkee's guide to two of the jobs you can do with a block plane: planing end grain and chamfering.
Planing end grain
Make sure your block plane is properly set up - seeor . You need a very shallow iron depth and a tight mouth for end grain planing.
You'll need a combination square, a pencil, a piece of scrap wood, a bar clamp, the workpiece, a woodworking vice and, of course, a block plane.
Step 1 - Mark workpiece
Using the square and the pencil, mark a line on the workpiece indicating the level you wish to plane down to. Continue the line around the edges and the other side.
Step 2 - Place workpiece in vice
Place the board in the workbench vice, end grain up with the pencil mark at the top.
Step 3 - Clamp scrap wood to workpiece
Using the bar clamp, fix the piece of spare wood to the end of the workpiece where your push stroke with the plane will finish. This will prevent tear-out of the far edge.
Step 4 - Position plane
Position the toe of the sole flat on the end of the workpiece where the forward or push stroke is to begin. Ensure the cutting edge of the iron is before the starting edge of the workpiece, not part-way along the edge to be planed.
Step 5 - First forward stroke
Make the first forward stroke. You can use the plane one-handed (as shown here). Press the palm of your hand down on the rounded area of the lever cap and place your forefinger in the hollow of the front knob, your thumb in one dimple and your other fingers in the other dimple.
Or you can hold the plane two-handed, with the palm of your dominant hand on the lever cap hood and thumb and fingers in the dimples, with the thumb of your other hand in the hollow of the knob.
Whether you use one or two hands will depend on how comfortable the grip feels and how hard the workpiece is. Harder wood requires more pressure, and you can press harder with two hands.
Step 6 - Readjust if necessary
Plane right over to and beyond the far end of the edge you are trimming and check that the shaving you are getting is consistent. If it isn't, or if the plane's progress was juddery or difficult, you may need to reduce the depth of the iron and correct the lateral adjustment.
Step 7 - Continue planing
Continue with more strokes, checking regularly your progress towards the pencil line. If the waste to be planed away is deeper at one end, make some shorter strokes at that end to equal up with the other end.
Step 8 - Finish off
When you have planed down to the line and the edge is square with its adjoining sides, and is smooth, the job is done.
There are other ways of avoiding tear-out at the far end when planing end grain.
One is to plane a bevel on the far corner - as long as you don't plane the bevel away completely, it should protect against break-out as you plane down to the line.
Another way is to plane halfway in each direction. However, it can be more difficult to get a perfectly straight edge this way.
You can also plane end grain with a shooting board plane in combination with a bench hook or shooting board.
Although it's based on a different, dedicated plane, seefor details of how this works.
Chamfering (planing a bevel)
For this simple chamfer you will need a pencil, a long rule and, of course, a block plane and a piece of wood to make the bevel on.
This will be a simple "through" bevel - one that goes the full length of the workpiece. A "stopped" chamfer goes only part of the length and requires more specialised tools.
Before you start, check the set-up of your block plane. To start, you can set the iron's depth to about 1.5mm (1/16th") with a medium mouth opening (if your plane has mouth adjustment), as you will be planing an extremely narrow width along the grain, with little resistance at the start of the operation.
Step 1 - Mark workpiece
Unless you're confident you can cut the chamfer perfectly without a guideline, mark the workpiece showing the depth you wish to plane down to on each side of the corner.
Measure and mark carefully to ensure accuracy.
Step 2 - Secure workpiece
Fasten the workpiece in the workbench vice. If it's very long, it might need support at both ends.
Step 3 - Position plane
Position the plane at an angle of 45 degrees at the nearest end of the edge to be chamfered, with the cutting edge of the iron before the edge of the wood.
Step 4 - First forward stroke
You can use the plane one- or two-handed. If using only one hand, place the palm of you hand over the rounded area of the lever cap, with your forefinger in the hollow of the front knob, your thumb in a dimple and other fingers in the other dimple.
If using the plane two-handed, place the palm of your dominant hand on the lever cap and your thumb and fingers in the dimples, with the thumb of your other hand in the hollow of the knob.
Step 5 - Lift and return
At the end of the stroke, lift the plane slightly and return to the starting point.
Step 6 - Readjust
Check that you are getting a consistent shaving. If not, or if the first stroke was not smooth and effective throughout, check the plane's iron and mouth settings and adjust if necessary.
Step 7 - Continue planing
Continue planing, progressing towards the pencil lines on each side.
Check the angle of the plane - keep it at 45 degrees for a normal chamfer - and reduce the depth of the iron to about 1mm (1/32") or less, and close the mouth a little, as the chamfer widens out.
Step 8 - Finish
When you've planed down the to lines and the chamfer is smooth and at 45 degrees along its entire length, the job is done.
If you are chamfering all around (that is, all four edges), remember two of the chamfers will be on the end grain, so beware of tear-out. You can avoid it by planing half-way in each direction rather than the full length of the edge.
Where the chamfers join at the corners, aim for perfect mitred edges. If they don't appear to meet at 45 degrees, make corrections.
If you find planing a perfect chamfer difficult (and some woodworkers do!) there are some planes that can be fitted with a chamfer guide.
The adjustable mouth plate of the plane is removed and replaced by the guide, which makes achieving a precise 45-degree angle easy.