There are those master woodworkers who believe that the only time you should use a block plane is if you are reaching one handed standing on a ladder. For us mere mortals who are stall learning the ropes, they’re a handy little way to trim a bit off when things don’t fit as tight as we want them to.
My first block plane was a Miller Falls no. 16 I bought for $15 at an antique store. It was so covered with rust I had no idea what brand it was, the shop was so dark I couldn’t even tell if there was an adjustable throat. I spent the next few days cleaning it, I probably used the better part of a can of WD-40 and quite a quarter bottle of Naval Jelly.
I was using this this winter and somehow cut my finger “looking” at the blade to see if it was sharp and dropped it on the concrete and it broke :0( The little lever sticking out of the top broke right off the cap.
Regular Block Planes
In searching for the broken part for my plane on eBay, I ended up with two working Stanley planes, plus the part for the broken one in the same lot. These are good for trimming down edges of boards, softening corners and generally getting things to fit just a little better.
The Stanley 9 1/2 is very similar to the Miller Falls plane, almost the same size, features etc. When looking for a block plane, generally you want one with an adjustable throat plate so you can open or close it off depending on the thickness of shaving you wish to take etc. You probably also want lateral blade adjustment, this makes it easier to set the iron square in it’s opening.
If you’re willing to put a little work into cleaning up an older tool , you can pick these up really inexpensively. The two I just bought were functional after just sharpening the iron.
Low Angle Block Plane
In my search for a new block plane I ran across this Sargent 5206 “Unbreakable” low angle plane. For less than $20, I was pretty sure I couldn’t go wrong with this one. According to the eBay description this model was made between 1910 and 1918
Most Planes have a cast iron body which can be brittle when dropped on concrete ;0) This one was stamped out of sheet metal making it more forgiving. This would be an economy model made for shop class….where things get dropped. It’s a little smaller than the other block planes I have and fits nicely into my hand, which is good and bad. Good because I can grip it easily, bad because it puts your knuckles that much closer to being scraped when in use. I have also dropped this one more (good thing it’s “unbreakable”) because of it’s size.
There is no adjustable throat, or lateral adjustment on this plane. It’s great for quick imprecise work like chamfering the edges of your work piece, like I did on this toy box, or taking a bit off here and there. It’s also great for younger people, it’s lighter, fewer moving parts, smaller, yet still has a good iron in it. The lower angle is also supposed to make it easier to shave end grain.
These little guys you can pick up at most Ace Hardware stores. Handy because they fit in your pocket, great for taking a little off as you put in baseboards or other trim. The body is made of stamped rather than cast steel, which means it can hold up to quite a bit. It’s a bit tougher to sharpen the little blade, just an inch or so so wide, but very handy when you just need to quickly take a bit off.