Block Plane

Ive had a nice Block Plane for years, never used it much, never liked it.  I see it suggested use all over my Wood Duck 12 manual and CLC videos, particularly on bevels and Scarf Joints.  They say its easy, but there is no actual how to.  To me it seems like a pain in the ass,  because a Block Plane does not behave like a precision tool.

I've built Bevel and Scarf joint Jigs for my Belt Sander.  Seems like a quicker and more acurate way to go.  Has anybody tried that?  How did it work for you?  

Before I go that route on my pricey Okoume,  I thought it a good idea to get some thoughts on the matter, and a demo video on the Block Plane, how to cut Scarf Joints with it, and why it's so easy.

Also, anybody tried beveling on the router table?  How does that work out?





22 replies:

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RE: Block Plane

There's probably no how-to because the boat manuals are not basic carpentry manuals. There's no how-to for hammers or screwdrivers either, right?

A properly set up block plane (iron sharpened to razor sharpness, bottom ground flat, angle and depth correctly set) is a wonderfully precise instrument. You can get see-through shavings and leave surfaces that are so smooth that they need no sanding. With the right wrist and hand action you can easily make rolling bevels or flat surfaces.

As with any other tool, you need instruction and practice. In the good old days that would have been your school woodshop teacher. These days it's more likely the internet. Youtube has videos, google has all sorts of links if you type in "How to use a block plane". Even better, local vocational schools may offer classes in woodworking.

Someone else will have to answer about the routers, I don't have one, but don't give up on the manual hands tools. They still work just fine.



RE: Block Plane

Agree with Laszlo. A dead sharp plane is bliss to use, so I suspect yours would benefit from a few minutes at the sharpening stone. Few planes are adequately sharp out of the box, IMO, so don't be discouraged if it never seemed so great. I'm not a perfectionist in this regard, but I expect to be able to easily shave arm hair with a plane iron. A cheap, well-sharpened plane beats the socks off an expensive, moderately sharp plane.  

Without seeing your jig, it's hard to imagine a belt sander being more appropriate. I'm trying to picture bringing long pieces of plywood TO the belt sander (bench top-type?)- much easier to bring the tool to the workpiece. And the ply is so thin and a belt sander so powerful that it seems easy to have a "whoops" moment. I find it much easier to be deliberate with a plane, though I wouldn't call it slow. 

I feel more confident in saying a router is not the way to go. Even with a very sharp bit you'd probably experience major tearout with the plywood, and that is IF you could find a bit capable of creating a "deep" enough scarf. A 45' just isn't going to produce enough gluing surface on very thing ply. 

Good luck,


RE: Block Plane

 Scarfs are best when minimum angle is 1:6, 1:8's even better. Beyond that with ply they get too hard to control thickness. Hand planes in general take some skill to sharpen properly then more to adjust to get best results. Best path to success is practice, on the grindstone (rough shaping) then whetstone (final finish & setting curtig edge) then on scraps to get the feel for making everything work well.

Having a coach, someone who already knows how from start to finish, help you by looking over your shoulder shortens the learning curve.


RE: Block Plane

   I cut the gains for my skerry on a router table, only because I could not find a rabbet plane anywhere after searching far and wide.  It works, if your set-up is careful, but a sharp, well tuned plane would have been a lot easier.

Hooper Williams - Brevard, NC

RE: Block Plane

Hooper only thing I'd do different is a 'finger board' for tensioning the workpiece against the router bit & fence.

Maybe a guard fixed to the fence, help keep fingers away from that bit's end.

RE: Block Plane

   Block plane is a wonderful tool to cut scarfs with. The truth though is you'll need a jig to make the angle straight and consistant. If you use anything else for a scarf, power planer, sander, or router, you'll need a jig, table, or sled fixture, etc. to keep the angles straight and consistant.


I'm a little surprised you have any scarfs to cut. It seems most of the kits out of there have puzzle joints these days. Have you looked at the wood?


You can use a router for round overs easy...............if the deck angle and hull angle were a 90degree angle, they aren't.  A belt sander or vibatory sander can be free handed to do this radius better than a router.  Router as stated earlier can make more damage that good.  You can also screw up the edge with a belt sander faster than other things.  Best advice is don't get greedy. Don't take too much too fast. Check a lot.  Use 100 grit or finer.  


If this is your first boat a sanding block can be a good thing.

RE: Block Plane

 OK, Thanks you guys.  This is my first boat, not a kit, plans only. 

still drawing the lines on the wood which is turning out to be a tedious process. 

About done with that now, I plan to start cutting tomorrow. In the mean time I think I will look up some U-tube Block Plane demos.  

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks Again

RE: Block Plane

   The Hand Plane Book by Garrett Hack covers sharpening and tuning. Buy it and read it; you'll be glad you did. Planes rock!!!

RE: Block Plane

Planes are my favorite woodworking tools, chisels come in a close second.

Knowing how properly to sharpen them is a usefull skill to learn then practice for a lifetime's pleasure working with wood. I was taught how by my dad, surprised my middle-school shop teacher when I proved I already knew how.

I can't conceive anyone attempting to build a boat, from plans, using solid wood, that's not going to involve hand planes sooner than later.

RE: Block Plane

I'm building my first kit (Eastport Pram) & the Manual lists a block plane for "all builders."

I do have a few hand-me-down planes but will I really need one for a kit? If so, what for?



RE: Block Plane

   Cut proud of the line. You can always trim it, sand it, plane it to the line, but never be able to put material back after a crooked cut.

RE: Block Plane

   Look up the "scary sharp" method.  There's tons of links online but nearly all are similar.  I got some honing films from McMaster Carr and an old piece of jig plate from my lab, but most of them use plate glass for a flat substrate.  It still takes practice and my edges were far from perfect, but the difference in the plane before and after was a revelation.  I'd never planed plywood edges before, and now I did, though again, not perfectly.  


I also use the plane instead of a router for rounding over many of my edges, including the mast of my skerry.  The peels of wood are easier to clean up than sawdust, even with a vacuum.  I beveled the mast corners into 3 or 4 faces and used hand sanding to round the edges just a bit.  I don't own a router and have never mastered them.  You can trash a lot of pricey wood really quickly w/ a router.  Also, I have a tiny garage and no shop, so no room to set up fixed saws or router tables.

RE: Block Plane


My tool of choice is the Stanley No 4 bench plane for creating scarf joints. I find the No 4 much easier to control while planing the scarf joint than a block plane. I love my block plane, but the No 4 works much better, for scarf joints, in my opinion. 
That being said, my boat building buddy uses a belt sander to make his scarf joints and his joints are every bit as good as my hand planed joints. No jig required, watch the plywood striations and keep them even just like when you hand plane them.
In my opinion you should use the tool that you are familiar with and that works for you.  Developing the skill to sharpen and use a had plane is cool, but it is a skill that may not be something you want to spend the time developing.
Here is a link to some pictures of my Sassafras 16 plan build.  The second and third picture is of the planed scarf joint..


RE: Block Plane

Frank- Re: "Do I need a new plane"

My tendency toward tool lust would say, "yes!" but I think a better investment- time and money- would be to sort out a sharpening method to tune up what you have. 

For years I've been looking for a good "excuse" to buy a few nice Lie-Nielson planes, but I just haven't needed to upgrade from my cheap big box planes. That said, I've used LN planes and they are fantastic.

There are many sharpening methods that will work, but the best is the one that you'll actually use regularly. For me, that's a few DMT steel stones and a cheap angle jig- simple, durable, and excellent results. I've not used the "scary sharp" method but I know it can be very effective. Think about your space, budget, and patience level, and go from there.

Sharpening can seem like a pain, but once you get a taste of what a sharp blade can do there's no going back. You'll likely find yourself using your planes a lot more, too. I'm no hand tool purist, but as I get older I've come to appreciate tools that don't require pulling out a respirator and hearing protection. 


Good luck,


RE: Block Plane

No idea what inspired Carlosford to add his post to this thread after the last one from 3-1/2 years ago, but my $.02 is that:

Edged tools put the onus on the user for how well they will perform. No volume of $$$  spent on high-end planes or chisels will buy tools that never need resharpening.

An edged tool with a dull cutting edge will yield no end of frustration and in fact may be downright dangerous.

There's no reason a hand plane bearing a competently sharpened iron won't perform its particular task in the hands of its user unless the user just doesn't understand how a plane is supposed to be employed; this isn't a conceit, rather it's a simple truth.

As for scarfing plywood, if a builder's not comfortable with using a plane for this, certainly a belt sander's an excellent alternative. Yet once again a measure of care is needed by its user if a proper scarf is to be achieved.

RE: Block Plane

I've enjoyed reading this thread.

triggered a question that's been nagging me for some time: building from plans, not a kit, and using hand tools, how do you create the rebates along the curved edges of planks for a clc lapstitch construction?


RE: Block Plane

spclark, it's a spam post. Spammers look for quality fora with a good reputation (like this one), find a thread that's generically related to their product and post a generic question/comment with a link to their product. This fits perfectly - 3+ year-old thread, ad-copy style verbiage that says not much and is barely related to boatbuilding with the link to a product and a username that we've never seen before. Note that with less sophisticated spammers the product may be something out of left field and be totally off-topic, like term papers, COVID-19 cures, etc.

So now he's got a link from CLC which will boost his search engine ratings in case that's a legitimate product, he's seen answers to his post so he knows he has a target audience suitable for more spam and in the event that someone actually follows the link he's got an opening for a phishing attack, malware installation, etc. if that's his actual intention.

glossieback, a rabbet plane does a nice job, though many folks have moved to routers.



RE: Block Plane

In hindsight I never gave the 'instant cash' bit a second thought, or the link either.

At least there's a 'report to moderator' button here....

RE: Block Plane

Thanks Laszlo for your helpful reply.

Via dr google I've now learnt enough about rabbet planes to feel comfortble that I could cut tlapstitch rebates along the curved edges of the planks using a bullnose rabbet plane.

Without any experience using a router, I'm not inclined to attempt using a router for the job. However I'm curious. Doesthis require hand-guided router cutting up to a drawn line?

RE: Block Plane

"Does this require hand-guided router cutting up to a drawn line?"

Typically no. A fence is set up such that the router base, or a pilot bushing, bears against said fence to maintain a straight edge at the cutter's face. Curved patterns can also be used for this if the shapes aren't straight.

If the laps are of uniform depth it's easy. If they're tapered, some kind of ramp arrangement is helpful to control depth so you're not trying to do that running the router... which is not a safe practice by any stretch of the imagination.

Bull-nose or rabbet planes are great for the tapers too. Often it's helpful to scribe the lap line lightly with a sharp knife to cut ply end grain when doing laps in plywood. Can also help with solid wood. Some rabbet planes come fitted with knife blades to facilitate this same kind of thing as they're run along the workpieces.

RE: Block Plane

Thanks for the helpful response spclark.   

RE: Block Plane

A silicon-bronze Lie Nielsen low-angle block plane is a true joy to use, a lifetime tool that in my opinion is worth every penny. 

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