What Is A Jack Plane?

what is a jack plane
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The jack plane is one of the most commonly used of all of the bench planes. The jack plane is used for rough work, straightening surfaces, reducing the thickness, it can also be used for accurate shooting of moderately long edges. One very common job a user will use this tool for is to take shavings off of a door which is sticking.

The best description to answer the question 'what is a jack plane?' is: they are best known typically as 14 - 15 inches in length with a 2 - 2 3/8 inch wide plane blade. The '2 inch' planes are generally known as 'number 5' planes and the '2 3/8 inch' planes are known as 'number 5 1/2' planes. These types of plane are very convenient to handle; with the use of a rear handle and most commonly a front knob (infill jack planes had a front bun infill; a raised shaped piece of wood).

A jack plane is usually the first plane reached for in the process of preparing a rough piece of timber for flattening. Once the timber has been worked with a jack plane, depending on what workpiece is being planed will depend on the next choice of plane. If a large piece is being work like a large table top then a fore plane may then be used, or/and a jointer plane / trying plane and then finally finished with a smoothing plane.

The term 'jack' is an old word used in reference to an item which is used for rough and familiar work. There are numerous old items which have references to the word 'jack' such as a 'jack' (a tool for raising heavy weights), 'boot-jack' (a tool to assist taking off boots), 'jack-boots' (pair of boots worn for rough work), and 'roasting-jack' (a tool for turning a spit).

Different Types Of Jack Plane

The jack 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 jack plane from its early form through to its recent form.

The Evolutionary Stages Of The Jack Plane

Click on each era of jack plane to see the full list of jack plane reviews..

wooden jack plane WOODEN

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

infill jack plane INFILL

The second part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th also saw the 'Rolls Royce' of jack planes, the infill planes.

transitional jack plane TRANSITIONAL

The second part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th saw the transitional plane; a plane which was half way between a wooden plane and a metal plane.

metal jack plane IRON

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

Jack Plane Parts

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

jack 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

Adjusting The Blade On An Iron Jack Plane

The same blade setup and adjusting process is used for nearly all common iron planes such as the Stanley No. 5 & 5 1/2, Record No. 05 & 05 1/2, Woden W5, Marples M5 & M5 1/2 and many other similar types of iron jack plane.

The process for adjusting the blade on these types of plane is as follows (refer to the parts image for parts identification)...

The blade (K) is secured to a cap iron (I) with the use of a cap iron screw (J).

The blade (and cap iron) is laid on top of the frog (D) and through the locking screw (H) with the cutting edge protruding through the hole (mouth) (G) in the sole of the plane; the blade cutting edge should be set with the bevelled side of the cutting edge facing downwards.

The blade (and cap iron) is locked in place with the use of the lever cap (L); the lever cap is locked by pushing the lever (M) at the top of the lever cap towards the blade until the lever cap locks and it feels like the blade is locked firm with no movement. If there is movement tighten the locking screw.

The blade can be adjusted laterally by moving the lateral adjuster (E) from side to side; the lateral adjuster is located just behind the top of the blade. This is useful if the blade cutting edge is protruding slightly more on the left or the right.

The blade can also be adjusted using the depth adjuster wheel/nut (O); the adjuster wheel is located behind the frog. This is useful for setting the blade cutting edge to protrude to the required depth of cut.

The Stroke

At the beginning of the stroke the hand holding the front knob pushes down tightly in order to prevent 'dipping' at the rear end; this pressure is relieved as the stroke is being completed.


(i) This review/article may give warning(s) / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines given in good faith, any such information should not be solely relied upon and seen as the exhaustive list of warnings / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines. Refer to good safety practices for the safety of you and others. Refer to good practices for the good health of your tool and property.
(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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