Tool Focus – Bench Planes Part 2 – Jack Plane

A quick status update on the Arts and Crafts End Tables before I get into the tool focus for this week. A week ago I finished cutting the joinery and gluing up the last of the legs for the end tables. If I had to do it again, I’m not sure if I would choose to make the quadralinear legs. It was a LOT of work. This week I hope to get the components cut to rough size and ready to start laying out and cutting the joinery. Now…on to the tool focus.

Stanley # 5 - Jack Plane

Stanley # 5 – Jack Plane

This week’s tool focus is about perhaps the most versatile of all the bench planes. Rumor has it that this bench plane is called the Jack because it is the “Jack of all trades.” I have also heard that the name comes from the plane being so common, just like the name Jack.

With an extra iron or two and a little effort to change the plane’s settings, this work horse can perform most – if not all – the lumber dimensioning and surfacing tasks needed to make fine furniture.

My Jack is a Stanley # 5 and measures 14″ long. What makes the Jack so versatile is this medium length. It is the perfect size for removing material quickly and leaving a roughly flat surface – this is easiest with a curved (also known as a camber) iron.

Cambered Plane Iron

Cambered Plane Iron

It is also long enough that if you change the iron to one with a less extreme camber and set the plane for a finer cut, you can flatten and true faces as well as edges to get ready for joinery. At the same time, the plane is short enough that with a very sharp, straight iron (preferably with the corners rounded slightly) and a tightly closed mouth, you can set up the plane for a very fine cut and use the plane to smooth the wood to a nearly finish ready surface.

Going into the parts of the Jack Plane and how to adjust its settings would make this post WAY too long; and all the traditional metal bodied bench planes work the same way. In the next post, I will use the Jack Plane to show these details and how to use the plane to do basic dimensioning and surfacing tasks.

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