All About Hand Planes, Rasps and Files

Planes are used to shave fairly small amounts of wood off of long wooden boards. Rasps and files have functions similar to planes, but remove material in a different way.

Jack Plane

Bench planes are generally categorized according to length. The most versatile of these is the jack plane. It is fairly heavy duty and removes wood quickly and efficiently. The iron is positioned bevel-down in a bench plane. So, on the push stroke, place greater pressure on the toe. Hold the handle and the knob when moving the plane back and forth.

Smoothing Plane

This smaller version of the jack plane is used for final finishing. (The largest plane is a jointer plane, which can be about 2 feet long.) A smoothing plane can be used after a jack plane, or it may simply be used for less rigorous planing on smaller pieces of wood.

Compact Block Planes

Block planes are smaller than smoothing planes and are capable of finer shaving because the iron is set at a shallow angle. The iron is positioned bevel-up in a block plane, but bevel-down in a bench plane. A block plane is normally used one-handed, but pressure can be applied with the other hand if necessary. The block plane is particularly useful for planing the end grain.


Use a rasp for rounding edges and curves. Traditional rasps have a series of abrasive blades, varying in coarseness. Modern rasps, like these, have holes punched across the entire surface of the blade. Each hole has a sharpened edge that shaves off layers of wood. The two-handed rasp works with a pulling and pushing action. The one-handed rasp has a cutting area similar to its two-handed counterpart.

Flat File and Half-Round File

Like rasps, files have an abrasive blade used for rounding edges and curves on wood, metal and stone. The flat file is most commonly used, but the half-round file makes access to curved areas much easier.

Round and Needle Files

A round file has a completely rounded blade for accessing curved areas. A needle file is a very small round file that is capable of extremely intricate filing tasks.