Hand Plane Essentials

Hand Planes

This course teaches you to sharpen, tune and use handplanes. Handplanes are an under-utilized resource in many workshops. Working with truly sharp and well tuned planes marks the transition of woodworker to the next level of proficiency. You can work with greater precision, greater safety and much less effort.

This course will remove the mystery from bench planes. Bench planes are the family of planes that are used to flatten boards, true and trim edges.

At the end of this course you should be able to get a smooth surface on a squirrelly piece of wood using a plane with a razor sharp blade. Plus you’ll have had a great workout. Class size 10.

Class Description

Day 1:

Plane theory – how a plane works. Introduction to basic planing techniques.
Sharpening a plane blade using locally available materials and a commercially available jigs:

  • Grinding and initial honing with the sandpaper method
  • Sharpening with waterstones
  • Comparison of various commercial jigs

Then we’ll teach you how to tune up a plane.

  • Anatomy of a plane – naming the parts
  • What makes a good plane?
  • How to clean up and restore old planes?

By the end of the first day your plane should be creating long transparent shavings, even across endgrain!

Day 2:

Techniques for using bench planes to dimension and surface boards. Learn to thickness stock, flatten a board, joint edges, square endgrain and smooth to a mirror surface using:

  • Fore planes
  • Jack planes
  • Block planes
  • Smoothing planes
  • Specialty planes


The School has an extensive collection of hand planes for you to use during this class. However you will get the greatest benefit (and biggest grins) if you can bring your own hand plane.

We suggest that you bring at least one hand plane along. Ideally a Number (#) 5 Jack Plane – one found at a garage sale or inherited is perfect. If you find a spare blade, that is even better, we’ll show you how to transform a #5 plane into a foreplane.

Otherwise bring a small block plane – the ones you find in most hardware stores are just not good enough. Record Block planes for around $40 are a good candidates for the sharpening / tuning session. If you don’t want to buy a handplane bring a 1-1/2″ chisel to practice sharpening. Irwin/Marples is a good value at about $16, as long as you don’t mind a plastic handle. Ask us if you have questions.

We recommend not bringing just your new Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen plane for the sharpening / tuning session on the first day – you’ll be twiddling your thumbs because they come tuned out of the box. But it’ll be great on the second day!

If you have some old and interesting planes feel free to bring them along – hopefully we can identify them and suggest how to use them.

More Classes in the Weekend Hand Tools Series:

  1. Hand Saw Essentials
  2. Hand Plane Essentials
  3. Hand Cut Dovetails
  4. Hand Cut Mortise and Tenon


There are no prerequisites for the class – you’ll benefit as a complete beginner or as an experienced woodworker who wants to experience liberation of using a well tuned hand plane.

Class price includes a $35 materials fee.

If you cancel your registration for a course less than or equal to 10 days prior to the beginning of class, we will keep 50% of the course fee.
If you cancel on or after the first day of class, you forfeit 100% of the course fee.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking

Our mission is to inspire a lifelong passion for craftsmanship through education in woodworking and traditional building trades. We range in age from 10 to 85. At first glance you might wonder what brings us together. The answer: a shared love for woodworking. We’re serious about technique, we maintain a tireless work ethic, we thrive on helping each other problem solve, and we believe the only failure isn’t trying.

Our passions include: hand tools, joinery, fine furniture, Northwest Coast Arts, woodturning, tiny homes, Vardo Wagons and creating an inclusive, supportive community.

More classes from Port Townsend School of Woodworking

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