Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Handplane Essentials

Tune, sharpen and restore hand planes. Accurately dimension and smooth stock. Weekend class in hand tool woodworking designed by Jim Tolpin.


Hand Plane Essentials

Weekend Hand Tool Woodworking Series



This course teaches you to sharpen, tune and use handplanes. Handplanes are an under-utilized resource in many workshops. Working with truly sharp and well tuned planes marks the transition of a woodworker to the next level of proficiency. You can work with greater precision, greater safety and much less effort.

This course will remove the mystery from bench planes. Bench planes are the family of planes that are used to flatten boards, true and trim edges.

At the end of this course you should be able to get a smooth surface on a squirrelly piece of wood using a plane with a razor sharp blade. Plus you'll have had a great workout.

Class Description

Day 1:  

Plane theory - how a plane works. An introduction to basic planing techniques.
Sharpening a plane blade using locally available materials and commercially available jigs:

  • Grinding and initial honing with the sandpaper method

  • Sharpening with waterstones

  • Comparison of various commercial jigs

Then we'll teach you how to tune up a plane.

  • Anatomy of a plane - naming the parts

  • What makes a good plane

  • How to clean up and restore old planes

By the end of the first day your plane should be creating long transparent shavings, even across endgrain!

Day 2:

Techniques for using bench planes to dimension and surface boards. Learn to thickness stock, flatten a board, joint edges, square endgrain and smooth to a mirror surface using:

  • Fore planes

  • Jack planes

  • Block planes

  • Smoothing planes

  • Specialty planes


The school has an extensive collection of hand planes for you to use during this class. However, you will get the greatest benefit (and biggest grins) if you can bring your own handplane.

We suggest that you bring at least one handplane to class.  Ideally a Number (#) 5 Jack Plane - one found at a garage sale or inherited is perfect. If you find a spare blade, that is even better!  We'll show you how to transform a #5 plane into a foreplane. 

Otherwise bring a small block plane - the ones you find in most hardware stores are just not good enough. Record Block planes for around $40 are good candidates for the sharpening / tuning session. If you don't want to buy a handplane bring a 1-1/2" chisel to practice sharpening.  Irwin/Marples is a good value at about $16, as long as you don't mind a plastic handle.   Ask us if you have questions.

We recommend that you don't bring your brand-new Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen plane for the sharpening / tuning session on the first day. You'll be twiddling your thumbs because they come tuned out of the box. But it'll be great on the second day!

If you have some old and interesting planes feel free to bring them along - hopefully we can identify them and suggest how to use them.

More about this class

More Classes in the Weekend Hand Tool Series

  1. Hand Saw Essentials

  2. Handplane Essentials

  3. Hand Cut Dovetails

  4. Hand Cut Mortise and Tenon

  5. Traditional Finishing


There are no prerequisites for the class - you'll benefit as a complete beginner or as an experienced woodworker who wants to experience the liberation of using a well-tuned handplane.

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday in Building 315 at Fort Worden.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $295
Materials Charge: $35

Minimum enrollment: 5

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.