Using A Level: Tips for the Workshop Shed & Bench Planes

Bench Planes for The Workshop Shed

WorkShed Tips and Ideas

A level in the workshop shed is an absolute necessity. Every workshop should have at least two levels. They are essential when you build a wall to check for plumb (perfectly vertical) and when making steps or bookshelves and counter tops that need to be level. If you are putting a roof on a shed or a house, you can check for the proper angle or pitch.

A 2-ft. Carpenter’s level is needed to check studs, joists, and other types of extended construction surfaces. A smaller 9” to 10” torpedo level is perfect for checking smaller work pieces and can be easily carried in a tool belt. If it is a framing project that is being done, then a carpenter’s 4-ft level is beneficial and can be purchased in a carrying case for protection.

Different from some other types of carpentry tools in a workshop shed a level is a finely tuned instrument that can be easily broken and should not be tossed into a toolbox or a bucket under a workbench in your workshop shed. We should test a level on a level surface before purchasing to make sure the vials are accurate. The best way to check a standard is to hold it against an even flat surface, mark the location and read the bubble gauge carefully. The level should be pivoted 180 degrees and reread and then flipped over and read from the other side. The bubble should read the same each time and if it doesn’t use the calibrating screws to adjust or buy a new level.

Levels, mostly, contain over one bubble gauge (which are vials with a single small air bubble suspended in the fluid) and show the angle of the level in space. When the level is tilted the bubble shifts its position inside the vial showing the change. This type of standard is known as a spirit level because the fluid in the vial is alcohol. Instead of using a bubble gauge an electronic scale that has a digital readout can also be obtained.

Most carpentry levels have three gauges, one of which checks horizontal orientation or level one for vertical direction or plumb and one for 45-degree angles. To improve readability, some levels will have pairs of gauges with opposing curves.

A quality carpenter’s level should contain screw-in or snap-in vial cases that are easily replaced if they become damaged. The level should also have a glass lens that is heavy enough to protect each vial or set of vials and for additional protection rubber end caps that will absorb shock.

Bench Planes Ideas for The Workshop Shed

As with many woodworking tools planes come in different sizes and types. The following article names and describes the various kinds of planes and their specific uses.

  • Bench Planes

The bench plane is considered the standard plane and is used with two hands on the workbench. The overall length of the body and the set or angle of the blade determines the specific function of the tool. To “try” or true-up (which means to square) a perfectly straight edge, a try plane or jointer plane id used. The body of these planes can be up to 600mm (24 inches) in length.  The slightly shorter Fore plane at 460mm (18 inches) is used for similar purposes as the “try” plane.

  • Jack Plane

For flattening the faces and edges of boards and for preparing sawn lumber a Jack Plane is used. For most workshops, the 300mm to 380mm (12-15 inches) length of a Jack plane is a very convenient size.

  • Smoothing Plane

The best plane for fine finishing in any woodworking is the Smoothing plane. The Smoothing plane is 225-250mm (9-inches) in length.

  • Block Plane

Although the body style is like a bench plane, the Block plane is not classed as a true bench plane. Having a much shallower blade angle, it can be set to remove very fine shavings when working across the end grain on a work piece. Shaped to fit the palm the Block plane is often used one-handed and tends to be very versatile.

  • Compass Plane

Working on curved surfaces require a specialized tool called a Compass plane. The Compass plane has a flexible sole (bottom of the plane) that can be formed into a shallow arc for working on curved surfaces.

  • Spokeshave

A two-sided hand tool for working on rounded stock the Spoke shave comes with a flat base or a rounded base for working on concave or convex surfaces. The name “Spoke shave” derives from the days when wheelwrights manufactured spoke for wooden wheels.

  • Shoulder Plane

The Shoulder plane has its blade set at an acute angle for the removal of fine shavings when the trimming of joints is necessary. When forming tenons or cleaning up rebates (rabbets) the Shoulder plane is an essential tool.

  • Rebate or Fillister Plane

When forming a rebate (rabbet) along the edge of a length of wood, a Rebate or Fillister Plane is used. As with the Shoulder plane, the blade of the Rebate plane spans the width of the body. The Rebate or Fillister Plane comes fitted with a sliding fence to control the cut width and has a depth stop.

  • Plough Plane

The Plough plane has interchangeable blades of different sizes. The Plough plane is used to form grooves or rabbets with extreme accuracy. As a combination plane, the Plough plane will accept other blades or cutters of different profiles to form beaded or tongue moldings.

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