What are wooden hand planes made of?

 
     
     
 Shop for Woodworking Hand Planes 
     
     
 Traditional wooden hand plane 

At its most basic, the wooden hand plane is made entirely of wood except for its iron.

 
     
 Adjusting the blade of a wooden hand plane with a mallet 

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.

 
     
 Wooden bench plane with full metal frog assembly 

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.

 
     
   

The stock

 
 Stock of a wooden hand plane 

Hardwood

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. 

 
     
 Hand planes made from different types of wood 

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.

 
     
 Wooden hand plane with different woods for stock, sole and handle 

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.

 
   

 

 
 Wooden rebate plane with metal clamp and adjusters 

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 iron

 
 The iron of a wooden hand plane 

The irons of wooden planes are made of similar steel to those of metal planes. See What are metal hand planes made of?, The iron, for details of the types of steel used.

 
     
   

Totes and knobs 

 
 Wooden smoothing plane with no handles 

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.

 
     
 Handles and stock made from same hardwood 

Wood

Where handles are included, they are often made of the same wood as the stock.

 
     
 Wooden plane with stock and tote made from different hardwoods 

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. 

 
     
   

The frog

 
 Sloping bed of wooden plane on wohich iron is wedged 

Sloping bed

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

 
 Iron fastened with wooden wedge; wooden hand plane; woodworking planes 

Wood

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.

 
     
 Some wooden planes have a lever caps 

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. 

 
     
 Wooden plane with cap iron or chip breaker 

Chip breakers, where present, are usually made of plate steel – similar to those used in metal planes.

 
     
   

Adjusters

 
 Wooden bench plane with no chip breaker or lever cap 

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. 

 
     
 Wooden hand plane with metal lever cap and blade depth and lateral adjuster 

Metal adjusters

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 What are metal hand planes made of?, Adjusters for further information about the materials used.

 
     
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