What's the difference between Block Planes Low Angle and others?

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Forum topic by JohnMcD348 posted 07-08-2014 02:46 AM 4646 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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50 posts in 1471 days

07-08-2014 02:46 AM

I’ve been browsing Block Planes and want to get one and I’ve read bits and pieces, a couple of articles and a few things on the net about the differences and uses for Block Planes and I see some that are listed as Low Angle Block planes. I recall reading somewhere but cannot remember where that there was either the Low angle or the standard Block plane that was the best “all around” unit.

So which one should I look for if I only could get 1. My thought for using it is for relatively small jobs, adjusting angles on frames and small cuts fine tuning small pieces, etc. I’ve been doing a lot of searching but I haven’t been able to get the education I’m looking for so far.

Thanks for the input. I appreciate it.

12 replies so far

View Loren's profile


9769 posts in 3522 days

#1 posted 07-08-2014 02:53 AM

Standard. It’s a sturdier design. But most will disagree.

Have you mastered sharpening? That’s what’s really
important. End grain, for example, can be planed
with great refinement with a standard bench plane.
The angle of block planes, either low angle or standard
allow really fine depth adjustments which standard
bevel-down planes don’t do as well.

I use block planes almost entirely for carpentry and
one-handed chamfering. If working end grain I prefer
something heavier.

View bigblockyeti's profile


4888 posts in 1594 days

#2 posted 07-08-2014 03:23 AM

Have to agree with Loren, standard is less fussy than low angle and usually with fewer moving parts they’re usually less expensive too.

View Redoak49's profile (online now)


3015 posts in 1862 days

#3 posted 07-08-2014 02:40 PM

I agree that the low angle are a bit more expensive. BUT…I find for a go to plane for small work even with end grain the low angle is a pleasure to work with.

As mentioned, the most important thing is to get it sharp and keep it that way. Learning to sharpen takes some time and practice. No matter what plane you purchase, a dull plane is useless and a sharp one is great.

View JohnMcD348's profile


50 posts in 1471 days

#4 posted 07-08-2014 05:21 PM

Thanks for the info. Anything else I should consider or know about these smaller planes? I fell I’m pretty good at sharpening. I do pretty well with my #5 plane blade and think my chisels do the job better than my talent allows at this point. They cut very easily with little effort. I learned may years ago to take my time when I was young and learned to put a shaving edge on my pocket knife.

Thanks again for the help. I appreciate it.

View Loren's profile


9769 posts in 3522 days

#5 posted 07-08-2014 06:31 PM

Lee Valley makes a block plane that takes a ball-tail handle and
larger front knob they also sell. Pretty cool. Makes it a
little 2-handed plane.

ECE/Ulmia/Primus make wood block planes in Germany. They
have a 45 degree pitch and chipbreaker I think but they are
sized for one hand use.

I like the old Stanley and Sargent style knuckle-cap planes. They
feel nice in the hand. One I bought on ebay was a Sargent
badged Craftsman with a moveable mouth for about $5 +shipping.
I like the Stanley knuckle cap design better because my pinky
gets stuck in the side of the Sargent. Minor quibble.

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

18563 posts in 2441 days

#6 posted 07-08-2014 07:08 PM

If its sharp, and you know how to tune it, almost any well built block plane will do 90% of what a block plane is designed to do. I like these features in a block, I order.

An adjustable mouth. I think an adjustable mouth in a block is more important then a bench plane because of the single iron. Its still not a requirement, but if I had only one block plane, it would need the adjustable mouth.

Cutter adjustment. I’d like a cutter adjustment for fine tuning. I can fine tune a bench plane without an adjuster, but I don’t care for block planes without one.

The low angle is good, but I don’t see it as a must have in a block.

I agree with Loren. Love the vintage knuckles. I think I like the Stanley’s as users a little better then the Sargents, but not by much. Of course this is coming from a Sargent collector.

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

View WayneC's profile


13751 posts in 3971 days

#7 posted 07-08-2014 07:47 PM

I prefer knuckle block low angle planes. I have a LN low angle block but my favorite is a Stanley #65 with a Hock blade installed.

Standard angle knuckle blocks would be an #18 #19.

Other non-knuckle block options are 9 1/2 standard angle or 60 1/2 low angle.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Andre's profile


1572 posts in 1680 days

#8 posted 07-08-2014 08:11 PM

My go to is a 60 1/2 Stanely made in England with a LV PMV-11 blade, works on anything and very easy to control with one hand. For small work a LN 102 brass with a Hock blade, can chamfer all day on any wood any grain. For most other work tend to use Wood Krenov smoothers and jointers. The work will dictate the Plane and preference will dictate the blade. Did put a PMV-11 blade in an old Stanely 9 1/4 for rougher work and total amazed with the performance, if you have never tried the PMV-11 stuff you got try it to believe it, edges last forever!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Goodsh's profile


74 posts in 1794 days

#9 posted 07-09-2014 02:03 AM

I have the Veritas low angle and it’s great. I agree that the adjustable mouth is a great feature. I also have the front knob and handle that Loren mentioned that I sometimes add on to use as a small smoothing plane (like a number 3 maybe). I also like the set screws on the sides of the blade. It also has a norris style adjuster so you can move the blade side to side and advance it with the same controller which I really like. But it’s pricey though. I got mine as a second so it was almost 40% off.

Generally a low angle is considered better for end grain and standard for face/edge grain and tougher grains but I think if you are really sharp it doesn’t matter that much. With both standard and low angle the blade is bevel up so you can always control the angle and in a previous review in Fine Woodworking on block planes the author didn’t see any difference in performance on end grain so I don’t think it matters. Low angle might be easier to hold as it has a lower profile than standard angle but I haven’t used a standard angle so I don’t know firsthand.

The other thing with the low angle is that the adjustments are slightly less sensitive so easier to use. For example when you advance the blade turning the knob a quarter turn will make the low angle blade advance in a downward direction less than the standard angle. This means it is easier to make very fine adjustments. The difference in this respect is much more so when you compare larger planes in the bevel up version or standard version (like a smoothing plane or jack plane) where the blade bed is 12 degrees compared to 45 degrees but there would be a small difference between the block planes as well, although small enough that I don’t know if it would be noticeable. .

View JohnMcD348's profile


50 posts in 1471 days

#10 posted 07-12-2014 02:14 AM

Thanks everyone for all that. Fine Woodworking may have been where I read and got the idea that I could get by with one or the other until I can get both. I just couldn’t remember where I’d seen it before and had been searching for a few weeks for the article.

View Lumberpunk's profile


334 posts in 2211 days

#11 posted 07-12-2014 06:00 AM

One more thing… with a low angle you can change the cutting angle of the blade by grinding a new bevel. (I have three irons for my low angle jack plane). So you can grind a iblade that will bed with a 45 degree cutting angle and have another that beds at 32, and another that beds at 60 and…. you get it.

I had one of the new cheap low angle Stanley’s and I hated it, even with a Veritas replacement iron. Recently picked up the Veritas low angle and it is a whole different world of tool.

-- If someone tells you you have enough tools and don't need any more, stop talking to them, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life.

View Robert Tutsky's profile

Robert Tutsky

58 posts in 1924 days

#12 posted 07-13-2014 01:55 AM

I have both the Stanley 220 “standard” and the 60-1/2 low angle block planes. Once the irons are sharpened to the max and tuned properly they both work well, although the low angle I seem to grab first. I also have a Groz low angle and it does work but not nearly as well as the Stanleys. If I was to purchase a block plane to start out with it would be a low angle one.


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