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Whats the difference between a smoothing, jack plane and jointer (beginner question)

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Forum topic by DavidL41 posted 03-25-2015 10:25 AM 2472 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DavidL41

11 posts in 625 days


03-25-2015 10:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane beginner jointer smoothing jack

Im looking into getting a japanese hand plane in a smoothing, jack plane and jointer style. The angle of the japanese hand planes are exactly the same angle (41 degrees). The only difference between the japanese hand planes from jointer to smoothing is the length of the body.

In theory couldn’t someone use a japanese jointer to do all the work seeing as the only difference between the jointer and smoother is 20cm of length? Is this the same with western planes besides ergonomics?

Does anyone use a jointer to straighten and smooth a board?


15 replies so far

View Robert Tutsky's profile

Robert Tutsky

58 posts in 1514 days


#1 posted 03-25-2015 12:40 PM

Generally a smoother plane is set up to take lighter shavings in order to “smooth” out the surface. Many find that a properly set up smoother will leave a surface requiring no sanding prior to a final finish. The jack plane is longer than the smoother and is used more for shaping a surface like removing a twist, bow or cup of a board. Some jacks have cambered irons for removing stock quickly. While a jack plane used by an experienced woodworker can accomplish all that is needed to prepare a board before using a smoother. The jointer is used for larger surfaces to remove any irregularities of a surface. Think bench top. Hope this helps.

-- http://www.benchtopwoodworkingtools.com

View WoodNSawdust's profile

WoodNSawdust

1417 posts in 641 days


#2 posted 03-25-2015 12:45 PM

I was talking to the Lee Valley folks recently and had expressed the opinion that using a jointer plane would be best for flattening a surface and they said no. The plane is too heavy and I would get tired out too quickly. They suggested a medium length jack plane for flattening and the jointer plane for edge work.

It still seems to me that the longer the plane the better chance if it only hitting the high spots on a surface.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

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OSU55

1058 posts in 1454 days


#3 posted 03-25-2015 12:54 PM

In theory yes. The differences in length, blade edge camber, and mouth opening were not developed over time to satisfy a theory but to address practical use differences, eastern or western. Smoothers are to get a surface ready for finish, instead of sandpaper. They are for feathery shavings and are shorter to follow the larger surface contour. The larger surface contour is to be flattened with a jointer, try, or panel plane. The jack is to shape rough hewn lumber to finer dimension. There is overlap of functionality.

I have the Veritas BU jack and their BU jointer – I don’t notice the 1-3/4# wt difference in use. I do like the longer plane for large surfaces. Same is true between the Stanley Bailey 5-1/2 and 7 I have. My perspective is the effort required is more the blade cutting wood vs the weight of the plane. I prefer my metal planes to my wooden planes because they are heavier and have momentum to pass through tougher cutting areas, but users will develop their own preferences.

I am not that knowledgeable of Japanese planes, but my research suggests they may be the most difficult design to select as a beginner. Japanese planes are designed more for fairly straight grained softwood, as the ~40* cut angle suggests, and I believe the plane body must be fitted to the blade to achieve cut depth.

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Tim

3115 posts in 1426 days


#4 posted 03-25-2015 01:30 PM



It still seems to me that the longer the plane the better chance if it only hitting the high spots on a surface.

- WoodNSawdust

That’s true, it’s just not necessary until the last few passes on the board, and only then if you have a reason to need particularly flat stock. Before that a jack does the work more easily.

My understanding is that a longer plane used to flatten the face of a board was historically called a try plane. The only difference from a jointer is the iron may have little to no camber. Though some people set their jointers up for jointing that way too.

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Andre

1022 posts in 1270 days


#5 posted 03-25-2015 01:58 PM

Most Japanese planes are designed to cut on the pull stroke the same as there saws, and with there lower bed angle are a little better at end grain. Really depends on the intended work and wood, tea boxes or table tops?
IMHO if you like a wood planes stick with Krenov style!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3022 posts in 1262 days


#6 posted 03-25-2015 02:24 PM

This article by Chris Schwarz opened my mind up about planes, Coarse, Medium, Fine. Changed my approach to woodworking.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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RandyinFlorida

181 posts in 1532 days


#7 posted 03-25-2015 02:36 PM

BTW the term “Jack” stems from the phrase “Jack-of-all-Trades…”

-- Randy in Crestview Florida, Wood Rocks!

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DavidL41

11 posts in 625 days


#8 posted 03-25-2015 09:46 PM

Charles, that link is very helpful. I understand sharpening better and it seems like its a similar theory.
A scrub plane = 40 grit
fore plane = 120 grit
jointer = 240 grit
jack = 400 grit
smoother = 1000 grit
When sharpening knives you can’t skip from a 40 grit to 1000 grit (scrub to smoother), but you can get good results with a 400 grit to 1000 grit (jack to smoother) . You can just get a decent result with 240 grit to 1000 grit (jointer to smoother).

Is this correct?The obvious best option is all the planes from scrub to smoother.

Is the process a jack plane (38 total angle) to remove the cupping/bowing of the wood. Then on to a jointer to flatten it a bit more and finally the smoothing plane.

Is a jointer necessary for something like a bench table, most of the other things I plan to make are small in size.

Could I get by with a bit more effort using a jack plane to get something as large as a bench face flat or would it just too large a gap?

For hardwood what angle is suitable for a jack, jointer and smoother.

I apologize for the amount of questions..

View Tim's profile

Tim

3115 posts in 1426 days


#9 posted 03-26-2015 12:21 AM



Charles, that link is very helpful. I understand sharpening better and it seems like its a similar theory.
A scrub plane = 40 grit
fore plane = 120 grit
jointer = 240 grit
jack = 400 grit
smoother = 1000 grit
When sharpening knives you can t skip from a 40 grit to 1000 grit (scrub to smoother), but you can get good results with a 400 grit to 1000 grit (jack to smoother) . You can just get a decent result with 240 grit to 1000 grit (jointer to smoother).

Is this correct?The obvious best option is all the planes from scrub to smoother.


Switch the jack and jointer around and that’s a decent analogy. Not perfect but helps with the idea. A fore plane is awfully close to a jack plane, but some people like the longer #6 size for a lot of purposes other people would use a jack for. To get the full versatility out of a jack plane you need a couple irons for it. One more heavily cambered helps take deep narrow scoops of wood out, and one with less camber to approximate the job of a jointer or smoother. You can also fit another iron in between and have the last one with little or no camber and just the edges eased off a bit.

Is the process a jack plane (38 total angle) to remove the cupping/bowing of the wood. Then on to a jointer to flatten it a bit more and finally the smoothing plane.

Is a jointer necessary for something like a bench table, most of the other things I plan to make are small in size.

Could I get by with a bit more effort using a jack plane to get something as large as a bench face flat or would it just too large a gap?


If you really wanted to get by with less planes get a #6 size since it can do much of the job of a jack but do better at the jointing since it’s longer. You can flatten a surface with a jack, but it takes more skill because the plane is shorter and you have to know how to find the high spots. But the only reason to minimize the number of planes you have is if you are in an area they aren’t available or are too expensive or you have no space.


For hardwood what angle is suitable for a jack, jointer and smoother.

The angle comes set already for the common planes you’ll come across. Almost all metal planes are set with a bed angle a little less than 45 I think it is. Hardwood can benefit from a higher angle, but you can accomplish the same thing by putting a 10 degree back bevel on the iron.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3022 posts in 1262 days


#10 posted 03-26-2015 12:46 AM

I am not a plane expert, but that article did help me become far more proficient.
I went for:
Fore Plane (big old #6) for getting rid of the high spots—Coarse—80 grit
Jointer plane for flattening—Medium 12 grit
Smoother for final surface 180 grit

I use lower grit numbers because when I use the Fore plane on rough lumber, I am doing very coarse work, still not too great looking when I begin with jointer, and then nice surface with smoother. Also because in my research with finishing experts, I’ve decided that many hobbyists oversand their wood, and 180-220 is about as high a grit as most wood ever needs.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View BubbaIBA's profile

BubbaIBA

383 posts in 1841 days


#11 posted 03-26-2015 02:26 PM



Im looking into getting a japanese hand plane in a smoothing, jack plane and jointer style. The angle of the japanese hand planes are exactly the same angle (41 degrees). The only difference between the japanese hand planes from jointer to smoothing is the length of the body.

In theory couldn t someone use a japanese jointer to do all the work seeing as the only difference between the jointer and smoother is 20cm of length? Is this the same with western planes besides ergonomics?

Does anyone use a jointer to straighten and smooth a board?

- DavidL41

DavidL41,

I see no one else answered your question, I’ll try.

First you could use a jointer length plane to smooth a board but it will be more effort because with the extra length you will spend more time fixing small imperfections. Also a kanna for jointing and a kanna for smoothing are set up differently. Japanese planes are very simple in appearance but are very sophisticated in the way they are fetted. The sole of a dai intended for smoothing is set up so only the area in front of the iron and the toe are co-planer (touch wood). A dai set up for jointing will have the toe, front of the iron, and the heel co-planer (all touch the wood).

Bite the bullet and join most of us in having way too many planes, so many you have trouble finding a place to keep ‘em. There is a reason.

ken

View BubbaIBA's profile

BubbaIBA

383 posts in 1841 days


#12 posted 03-27-2015 03:32 AM

David,

Here is a line drawing of how a Japanese dai should be prepared for use as a smoother or jointer. The line drawing exaggerates the concavity, in practice there will only be a very small sliver of light between the low and high areas.

ken

View djwong's profile

djwong

167 posts in 2684 days


#13 posted 03-27-2015 07:58 AM

David41,

I use japanese planes for all my (hobby) work. As others have suggested, it is better to think in terms of coarse, medium, and fine. For coarse work, I use a 55mm plane with a 260mm body. The narrower blade is useful to allow taking thicker shavings. My jointer plane is a 65mm blade and a 390mm body. For smoothing, I use a 70mm blade with a 290mm body.

I have collected a number of different planes, with different blade widths and body lengths. You can use a single plane for everything, but you will find it convenient to have at least a couple of different planes setup differently. Generally for coarse work, you would tune the sole and mouth opening for a thicker shaving. A finish plane would have very shallow “waves” on the sole, with a very tight mouth.

If you are just starting out, try and get a 55mm or 60mm blade. Smaller planes are easier to sharpen and setup. They are also easier to pull through hardwood.

There are many good videos on setting up japanese planes on youtube. I would also recommend Desmond King’s book “Getting The Most From Your Kanna”, available on amazon. Chris Hall’s “thecarpentryway.com” blog, has an excellent series on setting up a japanese plane.

-- David W. Cupertino, CA

View BubbaIBA's profile

BubbaIBA

383 posts in 1841 days


#14 posted 03-27-2015 03:15 PM

David,

Excellent answer, much better than mine. BTW, I didn’t mention than some Japanese plane users forgo setting up a three point sole and just use the two point smooth plane set up for all work.

ken

View DavidL41's profile

DavidL41

11 posts in 625 days


#15 posted 03-27-2015 07:50 PM

thanks, the specs of the plane is very useful.

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