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How to Hold an Adjustable Shoulder Plane  


We routinely get people in the store looking for shoulder planes. They all grab the store samples and you can see the uncomfort on their faces. Very few people hold the Preston/Record/Clifton/LN shoulder planes in the way intended - I'm convinced the instructions were long ago lost - which is why they seem uncomfortable. Grab them by the front with the crux of the thumb and forefinger resting where the lever clamp comes out of the body and the thumb and forefinger grasping the finger holds in the back sides of the plane. Preston, Record, and Clifton cleverly have nice finger depressions right on the back where you grab. Then pull the plane towards you. It's a comfortable grip, you get tons of control, and by pulling towards you, you can see what you are doing, which is the point of a shoulder plane. You don't need the power of pushing the plane - you need the control of guiding the plane - try it you will see.
For more on the historic side of shoulder planes click here for an article on our content side that I wrote many years ago (1996).
Tags:Woodworking Tools and Techniques
Comments: 8
I have large LN and feel that discomfort you speak of. Thanks for posting this. As soon as I saw the picture, it became one of those slapping of the forehead moments. I feel like I got a new tool out of the deal.
02/07/2012Danny Hellyar 
I would have never known ! Thank you for sharing this bit of knowledge.This may be one good example of how some of the plain and simple processes of real craftsman get lost over time when they are not used or taught for many many years. I don't recall even being taught how to use a simple block plane in high school wood shop some 40 years ago.
02/07/2012Michael Astera 
Danny Hellyar wrote:

"I don't recall even being taught how to use a simple block plane in high school wood shop some 40 years ago."

Uh-oh. Is there a right way to hold and use a block plane too?

BTW, I had a semester of HS wood shop in the mid-1960s. My first experience of woodworking tools. I barely passed with a D. If my old shop teacher had known that I would go on to try and make a living at woodworking he would be surprised I hadn't starved to death.
02/07/2012Kees van der Heiden 
But how do you hold the plane while planing a tenon shoulder? That's the first task for a shoulder plane I guess.
Planing a shoulder - Good question.

I need to take some pictures. Infill shoulder planes have ears to make it easy to grab the tool at each end. With Preston style planes it is a little harder.
02/12/2012Jay Grant 
Dang ! Does this mean that our Japanese Daiku equivelants push their shoulder planes?
If the shoulder plane was designed to be used as you say, why would it have an handle in the back facing the "wrong" direction?
No idea - other than to cover the mechanism. And sometimes you do push a shoulder plane.
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