If you only buy one plane, buy this one.
I’ve always had a small bench plane, which does the trick when you’re tweaking a door or smoothing out an edge. But when I finally picked up a block plane, I realized just how handy this little tool could be.
With its low angle blade, it’s designed to plane end grain, which is something larger, steeper-angled planes won’t do. That low angle means you can even trim rough materials, such as plywood.
One of the firsts tasks I put it to was trimming up the ends of the 6×6 posts we installed for a privacy fence. If you’ve ever tried to cut these to length – after installation – with a circular saw, you’ll know what you’re up against. The straightest lines and best cut, with the plate held flat to the post, will still invariably leave you with some unevenness on top. That’s where the block plane came to the rescue. Held in one hand, and passed over the top of the post at a slight angle to the blade, the block plane made quick work of my imperfect cuts, leaving a flat surface on which I could install the cap.
But that’s just the first of its many uses. You’ll find you’re picking it up for all kinds of jobs.
The low angle allows you to adjust it for a very fine cut, so you can shave off very small amounts from trimwork for a perfect fit, without heading back to the saw and risking cutting off too much. And because it’s small and you can hold it easily in one hand, you can “feel” the cut and make minute adjustments for a craftsmanlike finish.
A block plane is also great for shaving down a knot that’s protruding above the surface of your wood, quickly and easily beveling the sharp edge of a piece of lumber, erasing mill marks, or removing glue lines from your assembled work. You can even use it to sharpen your carpenter’s pencil!
If you think you’ll be using it primarily for end-grain work, get as low an angle as you can. If you’re going to be using it for a variety of tasks, you might consider a slightly higher angle.
Here’s the Stanley I picked up:
Stanley Hand Tools 12-247 6 5/8 inch Adjustable Block Plane