An Experiment: Changing Smoothing Planes for a Year

I’m the weirdo who counts the number of steps and hand motions it takes me to brew a cup of coffee. And I’m always looking for ways to shave away a few minutes here and there from my routine activities (for example, brushing my teeth while simultaneously fetching my clothes for the day).

So it’s no surprise that I also do this in the shop. During the last couple years I’ve noticed how much I use my block plane for smoothing large panels. Its small sole helps me get into the hollows on tabletops and case sides, shaving off lots of time to get a finished panel.

The only problem with using a block plane as a smoothing plane is you don’t have a cap iron (a handy thing to have when you face nasty grain), and getting the iron curved just right for the tool’s low bed is more difficult than it is on a traditional bench plane.

So last week I decided to switch to a No. 2 bench plane for a year and put my No. 4 on the shelf. So I purchased (at full retail) a bronze Lie-Nielsen No. 2.


The No. 2 is just a wee bit longer (7-1/2”) than my block plane (6-1/4”). And its blade is 1-5/8” wide, which is just 1/4” wider than my block plane’s. And the No. 2 has a few things my block plane doesn’t, including a cap iron, a lateral-adjust lever and a blade adjustment wheel that is easier to reach while my hands are pushing the tool.

This afternoon I set up the No. 2 by sharpening the iron and tuning up the cap iron so it could be used for the most difficult woods. Tomorrow I’ll post a video that shows how I go about tuning and setting the cap iron – I’ll also show the grip I’m using on the tool right now.


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