Shoulder planes, rebate planes, filletster planes, bullnose planes, dado planes, carriage maker’s planes , badger planes and others too all create or refine step-downs in the wood to form or refine some type of rebate or housing. What’s the difference and which one should I buy? Some have square mouths and others skewed, while many are bevel up and others bevel down. Can they be used interchangeably or is there a single plane that does what the others do? What makes the rebate plane dedicated to specific rebating tasks and how can anyone understand which one or ones to purchase? The reality is that a shoulder plane trims up the faces of tenons better perhaps than it does shoulders and if you indeed use my knifewall method for cutting shoulders then, generally at least, the shoulder plane is rendered obsolete. That is especially true when the shoulders are shorter than say a couple of inches because so little of the sole of the plane actually has a decent amount of registration face. Anyway i want to take a look at the planes to give some explanation as to functionality to help you make some decisions as to which to buy or in what order.
Nomenclature can be difficult
Though all of the planes I listed are indeed designed to develop or refine angular step-downs with and across the grain at the intersecting faces that form the corners of our wood, they all perform differently and in their own right are indispensable. Of course then we must look at the type of work we do and the type of use we might put such tools to work on in our sphere or spheres of woodworking. These particular tools are not inexpensive, especially the highly engineered shoulder planes, but if our work demands a certain efficiency we might consider initial cost non-prohibitive even at £250 a pop. On the other hand, and though these planes can be nice to own, other planes will do or can be adapted to do the same task and more. Working on my new, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools book over the past year helped me to focus my experience using the core of the tools I considered most essential to developing the substantive skills needed for fine woodworking. Of course this meant that many tools were not included in the book and yet many a dozen hand tools cannot be simply dismissed as non-essentials when indeed we rely on them from time to time in any given year. In the list are the planes I want to cover here. Over the next week or two I will discuss the diverse range of rebate planes going from the high-end highly engineered versions to the simplest wooden ones that worked for two centuries and more. If you have questions along the way please let me know and we may be able to include them in this series.