What are wooden hand planes made of?
At its most basic, the wooden hand plane is made entirely of wood except for its iron.
Wooden planes generally lack the sophistication of mechanisms that control the depth and lateral position of the iron and the size of the mouth.
Many woodworking enthusiasts and traditional woodworkers are adept at setting up this kind of basic wooden plane, using just a hammer or mallet to adjust the iron.
However, there are many older planes with wooden bodies that have metal parts other than the iron, including in some cases a full metal frog assembly with the types of metal adjuster used in many metal planes.
It's no surprise that the stock, or body, of wooden planes are made of wood, but the wide range of woods used is quite remarkable.
All of the woods used are hardwood and include beech, oak, ash, hornbeam, maple, mahogany, boxwood and lignum vitae, which is among the densest of woods and sinks in water.
The wood needs to be hard for the stock and sole to stand up to repeated knocks and continual contact with workpieces.
Some wooden planes are made of two or even three different types of wood – one for the stock, another for the sole, and perhaps another for the handles. There might even be a fourth type of wood used for the wedge.
This wooden rebate, or rabbet, plane has a hornbeam body; an adjustable mouth; a metal clamp to hold the blade; and a metal blade depth adjustment mechanism.
It also has a sole made from lignum vitae wood, which has great strength, toughness and density so that the sole remains in good condition in spite of repeatedly sliding over workpieces, sometimes with considerable downwards pressure exerted by the woodworker.
The irons of wooden planes are made of similar steel to those of metal planes. See, The iron, for details of the types of steel used.
Totes and knobs
Some wooden planes don't have totes (rear handles) or knobs (font handles). The woodworker simply holds the rear and front of the body when using the plane.
Where handles are included, they are often made of the same wood as the stock.
In other cases, the handles may be a different type of hardwood, perhaps slightly softer than the stock, but still hard enough to withstand hard knocks.
Most wooden planes don't have a frog as a distinct part like those in most metal bench planes.
However, the sloping bed, the part of the stock on which the iron is held with a wedge or clamp, is still sometimes referred to as the frog.
Lever cap and chip breaker
The most basic wooden planes have neither a lever cap nor a chip breaker, only a wooden wedge on top of the iron to hold it firmly in place.
Steel, bronze and brass
Some, more sophisticated wooden planes have lever caps, or chip breakers, or both. The lever caps can be made of steel, brass or bronze.
Chip breakers, where present, are usually made of plate steel – similar to those used in metal planes.
Most don't have any
Again, basic wooden hand planes don't have adjusters, unless a mallet or a hammer can be called an adjuster.
But, as you've probably guessed by now, some wooden planes do have adjusters, and these parts are made of metal similar to those used in metal planes.
See, Adjusters for further information about the materials used.