Squaring up a board using hand planes alone is more than an
academic exercise. Anyone who appreciates wide boards knows
the heartbreak of ripping them into smaller pieces to get
them into machines.
Armed with only three planes, you can convert a rough-as-a-cob
board to something ready to finish. The techniques to do this
are so well prescribed that they were written down in the
first English-language woodworking book, Joseph Moxon's Mechanick
The most notable thing about Moxon's book is that the tools
and techniques are the same now as they were in 17th-century
England. The only difference is that these techniques and
skills were once commonnow they are quite rare. So, let's
follow Moxon's instructions on truing a board that is
x 6-1/2" x 48" to understand how simple it really
To convert rough stock into something suitable for furniture,
you need three hand planes: a fore, a jointer and a smoother.
The fore plane removes material quickly, the jointer plane
makes the work flat and the smoothing plane prepares it for
The fore plane is about 14" to 18" long (a jack
plane will do) and has a cutting edge with a thumbnail shape.
This shape allows it to remove lots of wood. The jointer plane
is 22" or longer and has a cutter that is either straight
or slightly curved. The smoothing plane is 10" or shorter
and has a cutter that is either slightly curved or has its
corners relieved to keep them from digging into the work.