Does anyone know where I can find detailed information (discussion, diagrams, etc.) about the "proper" length of plane needed for any given length of wood, or any given type of imperfection needing to be corrected? I understand there's a lot of personal preference in the plane you use, and the techniques involved in achieving the desired result. What I'm looking for is something that demonstrates how uneven wood is transformed, on a shaving-by-shaving basis, by different plane lengths. I have already read this post, which does have some good info about what can be accomplished with one #4. When I google the topic, all I get is basic info about which plane to use for which stage of production. Thanks.

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    Hi, welcome to Woodworking. I can expand this into an Answer, but in essence it'll say the same bland thing: there is no such information, because there is no "proper" length of plane for any given task. In addition to exigent circumstances playing a role in what has to be used by a given craftsperson in some situations, personal preference plays a surprisingly large part in this. There are of course generally preferred plane lengths for specific tasks but this varies with diff. woodworking traditions — a Japanese plane used for what we'd term jointing isn't like a British/American plane.
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 6:40
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    Patrick's Blood and Gore is a great resource for Stanley planes and goes into some detail of their use and characteristics - supertool.com/StanleyBG/stan0a.html. It's not a use manual and you'd need to read a lot of flowery prose to get to what you are specifically looking for (which plane used for what)
    – Eli Iser
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 12:50
  • @Graphus Thanks for the info. That's kinda what I was thinking, but I hoped there would be something like "the science of planing" somewhere out there. Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 3:40
  • A good single example is to consider the first planing task for a few different craftsmen, from different woodworking traditions: one Japanese, one British and one from somewhere in central or eastern Europe (pre-Soviet or not Soviet Pact). First plane to touch the rough surface from the sawmill in each case would be completely different, respectively: a mid-sized plane (with no handles, used on the pull stroke), a jack or fore plane set up the old way (and either metal or wood, two handles for metal or just a rear handle for the woodies) and in the last case, a small horned scrub plane.
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 7:04

1 Answer 1


I am no hand plane expert and this is my understanding from reading around the internet.

The basic bench planes numbered 1 through 8 in Stanley nomenclature (also adopted by other manufacturers) are ordered by size, not order of usage.

The rough guide about their use is (not definitive):

  1. #6 (fore plane) or #5 (jack plane) for initial planing of rough wood. Might include a serrated blade to speed this up; take large shavings
  2. #7 or #8 (both jointer planes) to flatten out face and edge. Their long length facilitate the flattening; take moderate shavings
  3. #3 or #4 (both smoothing planes) to achieve the final smoothing of the board. Their short length allows easier access to small imperfections in the wood that the larger planes will simply skip over; take fine shavings and can be considered the final step in preparing the wood (forgoing sanding or scraping entirely)
  • and those are just the basic work (bench) planes, there are block planes, router planes, molding planes etc. and other specialty uses like bullnose, scrapers...
    – bowlturner
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 13:19
  • This is a great Answer... to a different Question than the one asked.
    – Graphus
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 17:29

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