10 Best Block Planes of 2023 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
If you are in the market for a new block plane, you might be wondering if there are any new models out and which ones are the best. A block plane (also known as a jack plane) is a simple tool, but all parts must work together to provide an even cut you can use. Poor machining and quality control can result in an unusable tool.
We’ve picked 10 different modern block planers to review for you so you can see the difference between brands, as well as the different available features. We’ve also included a short buyer’s guide, where we look at each part of the block planer to see how it works and what you should keep an eye out for as you shop.
Keep reading while we discuss length, width, angle, setup time, ease of use, and more to help you make an educated purchase of your block plane.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Stanley 12-139 Bailey No.60 Block Plane||
|Best Value||Senkichi Wood Block Plane||
|Premium Choice||WoodRiver Low Angle Block Plane||
|Stanley 12-220 Block Plane||
|GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane||
These are the ten block planes we are going to review for you.
The 10 Best Block Planes
1. Stanley Bailey No.60 Block Plane – Best Overall
The Stanley 12-139 Bailey No.60 Block Plane is our pick for the best overall block plane. They cast the block and frog as one, which ensures accuracy and durability. The base is precision machines to provide a smooth and accurate planning surface, and the heavier body moves smoother and is easier to control than a lighter weight planer. The adjustable mouth lets you set the perfect blade sharpness for different types of wood. The blade is three millimeters (mm) thick, and the entire unit is 6.5 inches long and 2.125 inches wide.
We really enjoy our Stanley 12-139 and have used it countless times. However, the first one we received was damaged, and we needed to send it back for a replacement. But customer service was very easy to deal with and promptly sent a replacement.
2. Senkichi Wood Block Plane – Best Value
The Senkichi Wood Block Plane is our pick as the best block plane for the money. It’s a Japanese plane made of wood. It’s lightweight and extremely sharp and works as well as many of the other planes on this list. It’s 5.5 inches long and a little over two inches wide.
While we definitely feel that the Senkichi is one of the best planes on this list, especially for the price, there are two big problems with this model. The first is that it’s a little on the small side, so it’s great for doors and other small jobs, but it will struggle with larger surfaces and become uncomfortable to hold. The second problem is that it will require some set up to get it operating properly, and a beginner may not understand the process, so this tool is better suited to an experienced planer.
3. WoodRiver Low Angle Block Plane – Premium Choice
The WoodRiver Low Angle Block Plane is our premium choice as the best low angle block plane. It’s based on a classic design with the bed at a 20-degree angle and the blade set at 25 degrees. The knuckle shaped cap I chrome plated and looks attractive while being easy to hold while working. The high carbon steel blade is extremely sharp and allows you to make very thin shavings while you plane. It’s about 7.8 inches long and 3.4 inches wide, so it’s a perfect size for small and medium-size jobs.
The biggest problem with the WoodRiver is that there are no instructions included with the tool, so if you are new to working with planes, you may need to find instructions online. Another problem we had with this model was that the high carbon steel blade, while sharp at first, would dull quickly and require frequent sharpening.
4. Stanley 12-220 Block Plane
The Stanley 12-220 Block Plane is an inexpensive plane brought to you buy a company well known for building reliable tools. This general-purpose planer features a cast iron base with precision-machined sides and bottom. The depth of cut, as well as the alignment of the cutter, is fully adjustable, and an epoxy coating helps protect it from rust and other types of corrosion.
The downside to the Stanley 12-220 is that there are no instructions, so if you don’t have experience planning or setting up a plane, you will need to search online for help. The tension device as also hard to work with and can become frustrating, and the base may need some additional sanding to get a flat surface.
5. GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane
The GreatNeck C4 Bench-Jack Plane features a cast iron body that is machined and polished to create an attractive tool that works well. The iron is hardened and tempered for strength and durability, and two wooden handles give you precise control while you use it. The two-inch blade is fully adjustable and allows you to set the depth as well as the angle.
The downside to the GreatNeck is the chip-breaker. Ours came bent and was hardly usable before we did some work with a belt sander. This part is cheap and poorly made, its chrome plating is almost laughable, and our belt sander removed most of it. The bottom was also not quite flat and required some work with our belt sander as well. Finally, the rear handle was loose despite the screws being tight, and we need to glue it to keep it stable.
6. Sheffield 58452 3 Inch Block Plane
The Sheffield 58452 3 Inch Block Plane is a small but handy planer that features a die-cast body that uses hardened and tempered steel. Its contoured body is easy to grip and comfortable to hold. The two-piece design adds strength to the tool, and large thumbscrews make adjustments easy to complete. It’s only three inches long and can fit in any toolbox.
The downside to the Sheffield is its extremely small one-inch cutter. It’s better suited as an accessory for small jobs when you have larger planers for regular work. There is also a lot of set up required, and we needed to use several pieces of sandpaper to get the bottom flat enough to use. The blade is another problem area, and ours wouldn’t stay square no matter what method we tried. It would always move out of place.
7. Caliastro Low Angle Block Plane
The Caliastro Low Angle Block Plane features a fully adjustable mouth, and you can set it to make fine cuts for detailed work or coarse cuts for quickly flattening a rough or curved board. The hardened, tempered blade stays sharp longer, and an extra replacement blade comes with it. It’s forged as a single piece of iron and is a little over six inches long and almost two inches wide.
The main problem with the Caliastro planers is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of quality control. Ours arrived all rusty and required a significant amount of sanding to get the bottom flat enough to use. There was also a problem with the mouth, and it seemed a little too big. Despite our best efforts, there was still a significant amount of play in the blade.
8. Woodstock D3831 Adjustable Block Plane
The Woodstock D3831 Adjustable Block Plane features a low angle blade that’s perfect for face grain as well as end grain. It has a brass and iron construction that’s durable and comfortable to hold. It’s easy to use, and its weight allows you to use momentum to your advantage when sliding it across the surface. The adjustable throat opening makes blade adjustments and changes quick and easy. It’s six inches long and a little over two inches wide.
The Woodstock D3831 is a great block plane, but it takes a considerable amount of work on your part to bring it out. We used belt sanders, files, and sandpaper on this tool because it arrived unfinished. It isn’t completely flat, and there were still burrs and other forging artifacts on the tool, some in hard to reach places. If you don’t have the tools and skills to finish it, you may want to look at a different brand.
9. E.C. Emmerich Adjustable Block Plane
The E.C. Emmerich 649P Adjustable Block Plane is another wooden style plane, and this one features a Vitae base. Vitae is an extremely hardwood that can put up with years of abuse. It’s easy to carry and has comfortable finger grooves in the side, which makes it easy to use and allows for precise control. The blade is sharp and ready to use right out of the box, and the precision depth adjustment lets you take off more or less wood each pass.
The downside to the E.C. Emmerich 649P is that it’s one of the most expensive block planes on this list by a lot. It’s very lightweight, and you don’t get much momentum while you are working, and it requires some set-up, and you may need to use sandpaper to flatten it before use.
10. Taytools 468273 Low Angle Block Plane
The Taytools 468273 Low Angle Block Plane features a stress-relieved ductile cast iron body and a comfortable to hold stainless steel cap. It has a precision ground finish and a hardened and tempered blade that stays sharp for a long time after it’s sharpened. It’s seven inches long and a little over an inch and a half wide.
While you can work the Taytools 468273 into a great tool for the amount of money you spend on it, we feel it should be a little more job-ready out of the box. You will need to do a considerable amount of setting it up, like sanding down the base to make it flat, as well as the blade to get a usable edge. While we were reviewing it, we couldn’t get the blade to come out of the mouth evenly, and it would always take a little more wood off the left side.
Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Best Block Plane
Let’s discuss what a block plane is and what you should look for when you shop for one.
What is a Block Plane?
Block planes are small tools for removing rough end grain on boards caused by milling. Many times, the ends of boards are rough, and a block plane will smooth it much faster than sanding the surface and creates less mess. The block plane can also smooth sharp edges that often occur, and if a board is slightly too large or misshapen to fit into place, the block plane is the tool for the job.
There are two types of block planes, standard and low angle. Both use a blade set at a 25-degree angle, but the base of each is different.
Standard block planes have a bed that rests at a 20-degree angle. The bed angle plus the blade angle combine to create a 45-degree angle where the blade meets the wood. This angle is perfect for shaving off very thin pieces of wood. You can see through some shavings created by a standard block plane if it’s sharp enough.
Standard block planes don’t remove a lot of wood each pass, so they take a little more time but are great for beginners because a mistake will rarely ruin a project. Slow and accurate material removal is also ideal for detailed work.
The low-angle block plane reduces the best angle to 12 degrees, which creates a 37% angle where the blade meets the wood. This smaller angle helps the blade remove much more material per pass, so large jobs get finished much quicker. However, a large amount of material removed will be hard to cover up if you make a mistake, and there is a real danger of ruining your project.
Metal vs. Wood
On our list, there were several models made of metal, but a few were wood.
Wooden Block Planes
Wooden block planes are more attractive than their metal counterpart and much lighter. They are extremely accurate, and many people prefer them to metal planes, but they are difficult to adjust, and they have a steep learning curve. Most experts recommend waiting on a wooden plane until you gain some experience.
Metal Block Planes
Metal planes are much heavier than wood planes, but it can help you gain momentum, which can make planning easier. It’s made of steel or cast iron and is easier to adjust because it usually has screws or twist-knobs that hold the blade in place. You can often adjust the blade depth and angle, which is not a feature on wooden block planes. We recommend metal block planes for first-time buyers and believe there is a good chance you’ll stick with it for life.
Most block planes are six to eight inches long and one to two inches wide. A larger plane will be easier to control, but they may not fit into smaller areas if you need them to, like working on a hinged door, for instance. A smaller plane will is great in tight places, but they are often difficult to control and get them to go where you need when working on larger areas.
We recommend a length of at least seven inches and the widest you can find for your general-purpose plane. You can always by or borrow a mini plane on the rare occasion you need one.
When choosing your next block planer, we highly recommend a metal planer for first-time buyers. The Stanley 12-139 Bailey No.60 Block Plane is our pick for the best overall. It’s extremely durable and completely adjustable. Their customer service is attentive and quick to respond to any problems you might have. If you have experience using block planes, we recommend the Senkichi Wood Block Plane. This wood plane is extremely sharp and can do amazingly fine work in the hands of a skilled operator.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over our reviews and have learned something new from our buyer’s guide. If you think it can help other woodworkers, please share this guide to the best block planes on Facebook and Twitter.