What Is A Fore Plane?

what is a fore plane
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A 'Fore Plane' is a longish woodworking plane used by joiners / woodworkers / carpenters when flattening long lengths of board.

After any rough work has been handled using a scrub and/or jack plane on a large piece of timber, the fore plane is traditionally the first plane used in the process of flattening a board hence the name "Fore Plane" = First Plane.

After a fore plane has initially been run over the work-piece, the work-piece is then worked with a jointer plane / trying plane and then finished off with a smoothing plane to give a lovely flat, smooth board(s).

Fore planes are one of the longest planes, typically in the region of 18" - 20" long. The fore plane is best known today as the #6 plane such as the Stanley no. 6 fore plane.

The fore plane's length is longer than a smoothing plane and shorter than a jointer plane.

A fore plane wouldn't be used on a small piece of work as it is too cumbersome and not suited to the task.

A fore plane is also referred to as one of the bench plane range.

Why Is It Called A Fore Plane?

It is called a 'Fore Plane' because it is the first plane traditionally used when flattening a piece of timber after any rough work has been handled using a scrub and/or jack plane.

Sometimes the fore plane is bypassed in favour of just a jack plane... then followed by the jointer plane for larger pieces and finished with a smoothing plane being used.

The word 'Fore' means 'In Front' so the term 'Fore Plane' means use this plane in front of other planes or to simplify it means use this plane 'First'.

Different Types Of Fore Plane

The fore plane has evolved slowly over the last few centuries, during the evolution a variety of different planes have appeared on the marketplace.

Whilst the core design and function has remained the same, the materials and construction of these planes has evolved. Each evolutionary phase coincided with new technological advances which enabled makers to make enhancements or make changes to suit mass production techniques. The below charts the evolutionary stages of the fore plane from its early form through to its recent form.

The Evolutionary Stages Of The Fore Plane

Click on each era of fore plane to see the full list of fore plane reviews...
Or scroll down for more information about each type of plane...

wooden fore plane WOODEN

The commonly used fore planes of the 17th, 18th, 19th and the first part of the 20th century were made of wood.

infill fore plane INFILL

The second part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th also saw the 'Rolls Royce' of smoothing planes, the infill planes. Some still made today.

transitional fore plane TRANSITIONAL

The end of the 19th century through to the 1950's saw the transitional fore plane; a plane which was half way between a wooden plane and a metal plane.

metal fore plane IRON

The second half of the 19th century through to the current day saw the iron plane.

Wooden Fore Planes / Wooden Trying Planes

wooden fore plane

Fore planes were originally made from wood and were usually 18" - 20" long.

These planes were around for centuries with the peak of sales happening throughout the 1800's (19th century). Sales began rapidly dwindling from the beginning of the 1900's as the popularity of the iron fore planes increased.

By the mid-1900's there were very few manufacturers making wooden fore / trying planes....the iron fore plane had won....or had they... wooden fore planes are making a niche resurgence.

Wooden Plane Advantages:

- Sole glides easier
- Warm comfortable feel of wood
- Quick and easy to flatten the sole
- Durable if dropped

Infill Fore Planes

infill fore plane

The infill plane was a design of grandure while remaining functional.

The infill fore plane saw its popularity from the latter half of the 19th century through to the 1950's.

The most famous maker of infill planes was Norris with the Norris fore infill planes, there were a few of other infill plane makers however the only other infill fore plane maker I recall is Spiers Of Ayr.

Infill Plane Advantages:

- Grandure
- Collectable
- Long lasting sole flatness
- Blade fine adjustment mechanisms

Transitional Fore Planes

transitional fore plane

The transitional plane was a plane design which was a cross between the wooden fore plane and the metal fore plane.

The transitional plane saw its limited popularity from about 1900 - 1950 with transitional plane makers Sargent, Stanley, Union and Marples being the big players.

The transitional plane combines some of the advantages of the wooden and iron fore plane designs.

Transitional Plane Advantages:

- Sole glides easier
- Warm comfortable feel of wood
- Quick and easy to flatten the sole
- Blade fine adjustment mechanisms

Iron Fore Planes

iron fore plane

In the latter half of the 19th century, iron fore planes began being sold. In 1870 Stanley began selling their Stanley No. 6 fore plane.

The iron fore plane became more and more popular and new manufacturers stepped into the market in the 20th century, these included Edward Preston fore planes, Record fore planes, Marples fore planes, Union fore planes and a few others.

Today sees Stanley still making iron fore planes plus a few new makers of high-end fore planes such as the Clifton No. 6 fore plane and the Veritas fore plane.

Iron Plane Advantages:

- Long lasting sole flatness
- Blade fine adjustment mechanisms
- Standardised parts

Old Iron Fore Plane Makers:

New Iron Fore Plane Makers:

  • Clifton
  • Stanley
  • Veritas

Iron Fore Plane Parts

A typical metal / iron fore plane consists of the following parts:

fore plane

  • A - Plane Body
  • B - Rear Handle
  • C - Front Knob
  • D - Frog
  • E - Lateral Blade Adjuster Lever
  • F - Frog Screws
  • G - Mouth
  • H - Locking Screw
  • I - Back Iron / Cap Iron / Chip Break
  • J - Blade Holding Screw
  • K - Blade / Cutter / Iron
  • L - Lever Cap
  • M - Lever
  • N - Lever Cap Locking Screw Hole
  • O - Blade Depth Adjuster Wheel


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(ii) The details here are given in good faith, the details are constantly growing and evolving, there is scope for error and shouldn't be fully relied upon, please confirm any details for yourself by performing additional research from reliable sources.

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