Why are smoothers shorter?

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Forum topic by Ripthorn posted 02-09-2013 07:01 PM 961 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1458 posts in 2984 days

02-09-2013 07:01 PM

So I have started getting in to hand planes recently and have found several instances where people say that a jack doesn’t work really well as a smoother because it is so long. So why are smoothers shorter? I have a transitional jack/fore plane that I am considering chopping down some (already have a jack, fore, and jointer). Are there other design elements in a jack plane that do not lend themselves to smoothing other than length?

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

5 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10396 posts in 3647 days

#1 posted 02-09-2013 07:10 PM

The jack won’t get into subtle valleys in a surface the
way a smoother will, so when you do smoothing with
a jack, you make more work for yourself because
you will be obliged to make the board flatter than necessary.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#2 posted 02-09-2013 08:07 PM

So in reality a jack has a cambered iron, and a smoother doesn’t. A smoother will have a tighter mouth and chip breaker closer to the edge of the iron.

The length has more to do with it than the leveling qualities. Its also about size. You tend to skew a smoother a lot more than you will a jack when planing. So at that point your not flattening with the waves, but actually making them worse.

If its a transitional, you’ll need to make sure the mouth is tight enough for a smoother, other than that, if you get it shortened as a smoother and tuned as a smoother it should work just fine. It may be a little awkward because your knob and tote will be closer to the ends than normal, but that will just be a technique change. Most transitional smoothers either didn’t have a tote, or have a razee style back end.

For the price of a good #3 or #4, why not just sell the jack and buy a smoother?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3392 days

#3 posted 02-10-2013 02:16 AM

planes are like guns or Camera lenses, the long the distance to be “shot”, the long the canon or lense needed.
you can perfectly “shop” the plane and use it as an smoother, in fact if you compare the Stanley No 4 1/2 and a jointer No7 both uses the exact blade and body width. the only diference could be the position of tote and front knob, obviously a jointer has more room for them.

Mouth opening, chip breaker issues, cambered edge do not have anything to do with the plane lenght, BUT with the type of wood being planed, a matter that is the same in both planes.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2984 days

#4 posted 02-10-2013 02:33 AM

Thanks for the replies, it makes sense now. Turns out I broke transitional casting (lots of rust), so I won’t be going that route, but it’s great info for future stuff.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View JohnFT's profile


2 posts in 1924 days

#5 posted 02-17-2013 10:37 PM

If you want to understand the different planes and their uses get the DVD, ‘Coarse Medium & Fine’, by Christopher Schwarz. This is a really good explanation of the different planes and their use.

-- John - Van Alstyne ,Texas

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