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What are finger and palm planes?

Shop for Woodworking Hand Planes
Finger and palm planes Finger and palm planes are very small planes used mainly by woodworkers who specialise in making toys and other small items, and those who make musical instruments.

Finger planes

Finger planes are good for planing small pieces and non-uniform curves These are tiny planes – typically 35mm (1 3/8″) long by 18mm (3/4″) wide with a 12mm (½”) wide iron – with either a flat or convex sole.
Various sizes of finger plane However, they do vary in size according to the scale of work they are designed for.
Wooden flat-soled finger plane

What are they used for?

The flat-soled versions are for smoothing very small pieces such as toy parts, very thin strips of wood, and also for convex work (external curves).

Curved sole of a wooden finger plane The curved ones are for working on concave surfaces (inside curves).
Making a violin with the help of a finger plane Finger planes are used for final trimming work, often after glue-up, particularly around curved edges, and to level inlays across curved surfaces. Some types are used in making stringed instruments and are known as violin maker’s planes.
A collection of finger planes for use in making musical instruments A typical instrument-maker’s workshop will have several finger planes of different curvatures.
Parts of a finger plane

Characteristics

Finger planes are made with fixed mouths. The iron is fastened in place by a simple wedge or clamp and thumbscrew, and adjustment is usually by hand as there is no space for adjustment mechanisms.

Their bodies are often cast in a dense brass or bronze alloy to add weight to what otherwise would be a very light plane.

How to hold a finger plane

Where did it get its name?

The finger plane’s name arises from way it is usually held – you put your forefinger into it, a bit like you do with a thimble!

Palm planes

Curved- and straight-soled palm planes Palm planes are very closely related to finger planes, and about the same size. The main difference is that they have handles that fit neatly into the palm, which can help to give greater control over the movement of the plane, and make it easier to press down hard when cutting the hardest woods.
Using a palm plane

What are they used for?

Like finger planes, palm planes are used for precise craft carpentry, model-making and musical instrument-making. Some have rounded soles for concave work.

Palm plane with adjustable handle

Different handles

Some palm planes have handles that are adjustable telescopically to fit any hand.

Squirrel-tail palm plane Others have fixed “squirrel-tail” handles.
Wonkee Donkee on parts of hand planes

Number

Stanley 100 1/2 block plane; finger plane; specialised planes; woodworking hand planes Stanley made some very small planes, about 90mm (3½”) long, for craft and musical instrument work, but preferred to call them small block planes. The range included squirrel tail palm planes such as the flat-soled No. 100 and the 100½, which was convex-soled (rounded outwards) from toe to heel and from side to side. The No. 101 has a flat sole and no handle.