Tool of the Week: Jack plane

By Micah Summers

This week at The West Seattle Tool Library, I unearth one of carpentry’s oldest (and most useful) modern tools, the jack plane, which is a general-purpose bench plane. This particular plane, the Stanley No. 5 ¼, predates World War II but has been fully refurbished and cleaned for use. The term jack refers to the ‘jack of all trades’ saying, in that this plane can perform the duties of both smoothing and jointing planes.

Smoothing refers to a means of finishing a flat wood surface by shaving off thin slices. Done to perfection, this method can actually produce a finished surface of higher quality than any created by sandpaper. Jointing, on the other hand, is the process of straightening an edge of a piece of wood, usually with the intent of jointing it to another equally straightened piece. As you might imagine, a smoothing plane is actually the best plane for smoothing and a jointer plane, or try plane, is the best for jointing. The jack plane, however, is the workhouse, and often the most used plane in a woodworker’s collection.

Much of the traditional work of these hand planes has been replaced today with various sorts of power planes and sanders, which are often a little easier to use and produce a rather similar result in a fraction of the time. Hand planes are certainly still is use, though, since these old tools last forever, if properly maintained. In fact, to this day, you’re probably bound to see a set of planes in any decent woodworker’s shop around Seattle, either stored on the shelf or busy shaving off a bit of yellow cedar.

The jack plane is just one of over 1,000 tools available now at the West Seattle Tool Library, which is free to use and run primarily on user donations. If you or someone you know you would like to be involved in The Tool Library, please consider attending one of our bi-weekly meetups or becoming a member. Our next meetup is scheduled for December 22nd, 7pm, at Uptown Espresso in Alaska Junction.

And if you’re looking for a unique gift-idea, Tool Library Gift Memberships are now available online!

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