Jack Plane Vs Smoothing Plane: What’s The Difference?

jack plane vs smoothing plane

Jack plane and Smoothing plane are popular hand planes in woodworking. They use muscle power to force the cutting blade over the wooden surface to reduce the thickness of the wood and achieve a smooth and well-shaped wood piece. Because of having similar properties, I was curious about the differences between the Jack plane and the Smoothing plane. So, let’s review, Jack plane vs Smoothing plane

Here’s what I’ve found:

Jack plane is used to shape the lumber to finer dimensions while the Smoothing plane is used to smoothen further out the surface by making it ready to finish.  Jack plane has a rounded dull cutting blade that can use for any task while the Smoothing plane has a sharp blade that does a better job at smoothing than the Jack plane.

But there’s a lot more to know about Jack plane vs Smoothing plane.

So, in this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at the 6 differences between Jack plane and Smoothing plane.

We’ll explore what is jack and Smoothing plane and what are they good for with pros and cons and I’ll answer a frequently asked question regarding Jack plane vs Smoothing plane.

Let’s dive in deeper!

What Are the Differences Between Jack plane and Smoothing plane?

Jack plane and Smoothing plane differ in terms of functionality and their physical appearances. Both Jack plane and Smoothing plane are hand tools that belong to the bench plane family. They are really important for many woodworking activities. Each plane is specialized for its functions.

Differences between Jack plane and Smoothing plane can be discussed under the following factors,

  • Functionality
  • The shape of the blade
  • Planes size
  • Planes frog
  • Camber
  • Mouth opening

So, let’s discuss Jack plane vs Smoothing plane under each of the above factors.

Functionality Of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Jak plane and Smoothing plane mainly differ because of their functionalities. Both are important in their own way.

Let’s take a deeper look at the differences in functions between Jack plane and Smoothing plane. The results might surprise you!

Jack plane

Jack plane is considered as the “Jack of all trades” because it can basically use for anything. Jack plane is used to shape and resize roughhewn lumber to finer shapes.

If can remove bowing or cupping of the wood by adjusting in 38 total angles which is quite impressive. Common Jack plane angle is 45-degrees.

Jack plane is mostly used at the beginning of woodworking projects for shaping and resizing the wood and providing the required smoothness to the surface.

 According to my experience, Jack plane is a combination of jointer planes, Smoothing planes, and fore planes. it can basically use for any task, and it is an essential hand tool for every woodworking expert.

Jack plane can be used to flatten the surface. But that needs a lot of skills to find the high spots on a wood surface and flatten them with the short plane.

Even though Jack plane is capable of anything, it is too short to be a good joint plane. Plus, the sole is too long to be good at smoothening. But when it comes to rough works, no plane can beat Jack plane. It can hog any wood quickly.

As a conclusion, here’re what Jack plane is good for,

  • Shape the wood
  • Resize the wood
  • Flatten large surfaces
  • Smoothen the wood
  • Jointing work

Smoothing plane

In terms of functionality, Smoothing plane is specialized for smoothing the surface.

The smoothing plane is mostly used in the final stages of woodworking projects to smoothen the surface without using any sandpapers. That means you don’t have to sand the wood prior to a final finish. Smoothing plane does the job perfectly.

It keeps the natural grain of the wood to avoid splintering. It makes the surface ready to finish. The common angle of Smoothing plane is 45-degrees.

Smoothing planes can remove fine shavings from the wooden surface and create a super smooth surface for staining or sealing the wood.

As a conclusion, here’re what Smoothing plane is good for,

  • Smoothing the surface
  • Remove fine shavings
  • Avoid splintering
  • Make the surface ready to finish

That’s all about the functionality of Jack plane vs Smoothing plane. So, let’s jump into the next factor, the shape of the blade.

Shape Of the Blade of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Jack plane and Smoothing plane differ not only in functions but also in the physical appearance of the cutting edges of blades. Way Jack plane a Smoothing planes work differ when the shapes of the cutting edges are different.

So, let’s take a deep look at the differences in the shape of the blade between Jack plane and Smoothing plane.

Jack plane

The cutting edge of Jack plane is rounded, honed straight, and dulled. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about sharpening the plane before use. Cutter width can be 1” – 2”. Blade angle is 45-degrees.

Cutting width is important to get an idea about the flatness of the resulting wood surface and how much work should be done to get there.  Wider planes make flatter surfaces, but it takes time. narrower planes make flatter surfaces quickly if wielded precisely.

Because of having a rounded cutting edge, Jack plane can avoid wood from cracking and splitting which is wider than the iron of the plane.

Smoothing plane

Smoothing plane has a slightly cambered or crown-shaped, sharp blade. Therefore, the blade needs to be sharpened before use.

A properly sharpened blade is important to get the super smooth surface and you can use water stones to sharpen it.  

Because of having a cambered-shaped blade, Smoothing plane can work on minimal curves that are hard to see because of the overlapped cuts.

Recommended blade size for the Smoothing plane is 70mm.

Planes Size of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Both Jack plane and Smoothing plane come under the bench plane family. Plane sizes of bench planes range from number 1 to number 8 according to their sizes. Functionalities of each plane differ based on their plane size as well.

So, let’s take a deep look at the differences in plane size between Jack plane and Smoothing plane.

Jack plane

Even though you are able to use single planes for all the tasks, I recommend using multiple plane sizes that are set up differently to get finer dimensions.

Number 5 and Number 3 are the most common plane sizes for Jack plane. Number 5 plane is cheap and can use for scrub works. You can use one plane for aggressive work and while other for smoothing work.

Number 5 Jack plane has 2” cutting width and 14” sole length for rough and finishing tasks. It has a heavily cambered iron to dress stock. It is powerful and useful for almost any woodworking plane activity.

Smoothing plane

Number 4 is the most common Smoothing plane size with a sole length of 9” and the latter is 10” long. Smoothing plane iron width ranges from 1” – 2”.

It has a perfectly balanced cutter width and sole length which is important to smooth furniture and other woodwork parts. Number 4 Smoothing plane is popular for cabinet making which is heavy and won’t wear out easily.

Smoothing plane is smaller in size than Jack plane. Number 1 and 2 bench planes are Smoothing planes with 5 1/2” and 7” long. They cannot be used for smoothing tasks because the plane size is too small. Therefore, they’re called kids bench plane.

Number 3 Smoothing plane is also recommended for smoothing small parts (stiles, narrow rails, and mullions) and removing tear-outs in large panels. But the size is short and narrow.

Planes Frog of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Planes frog is helpful to eliminate the need for scrapers. The frog angle of a plane directly affects its functionality. 45-degree and 50-degree frogs are popular for most woodworking activities.

So, let’s have a deep look at the plane frog differences between Jack plane and Smoothing plane. The results might surprise you.

Jack plane

Jack plane has tooth-shaped edges (iron) that teeth into the wooden surface.

Number 5 jak plane frog angle is 45-degrees which helps Jack plane to move easily through the wood than high angle planes.

Smoothing plane

Smoothing plane has smooth edges that help to gain a smooth finish as you wish. The iron of the Smoothing plane has no sharp rough edges like the Jack plane. This is the key reason why Smoothing plane is specialized for smoothing the surface than Jack plane.

Even though Jack plane is good for smoothing, it cannot surpass Smoothing plane due to teeth-shaped edges on the blade.

Number 4 Smoothing plane has a frog angle of 50-degrees which helps to reduce the tearing of curly woods.

Camber of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Cambered iron is useful for light shaving and makes the wood smooth. Plus, camber can remove the stock quickly.

Let’s take a look at the differences in camber between Jack plane and Smoothing plane.

Jack plane

Camber is powerful and efficient in smoothing the wood surface.

You need a couple of irons to get the full functionality from the Jack plane. Heavily cambered iron is used to take deep narrow scoops of wood pieces out. A less cambered one does a similar job like a smoother plane by smoothing the surface.

Plus, by inserting another iron in between, you can have the last iron with no camber or very little camber and the edges can be slightly loosened.

Smoothing plane

Smoothing plane has minimal camber because it is used to smoothen the wood. Smoothing plane irons are straight with softened corned which are useful as true camber.

Because of having a thin maximum projection, shavings might be transparent. Smoothing plane cambers corners are nicked to prevent tacks in woodwork.

Mouth Opening of Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

Mouth opening means the gap between cutting edge and plane. Body. Smaller the opening makes thinner the shaving. Mouth opening is another main factor that differs according to the type of the plane.

Let’s have a deep look at the mouth opening differences between Jack plane and Smoothing plane.

Jack plane

Jack opening mouth opening can be adjusted 1/16” (1.6mm) for general work and finer woodworking activities.

Mouth opening should be set according to the thickness of the shaving. The thickness of the Jack plane shavings is large; therefore, Jack plane mouth is open wider.

Mouth opening of Jack plane can be controlled by loosening the front button and turning the lever that moves the twisted plate to the front plane.

Smoothing plane

The mouth opening of the smooth plane is small because the shavings are too thin.

By making the mouth opening of the Smoothing plane small, you’ll be able to reduce wood tearing off.

When you use Smoothing plane for heavy rough smoothing tasks, the mouth opening will be wider. The mouth opening makes it large enough to shave the wood surface without clogging and choking the plane.

If you’re using Smoothing plane on a non-rough surface with very few defects, better to adjust mouth opening small to reduce tear-out.

That’s all about Jack plane vs Smoothing plane. So, let’s have a look at the summarized table of differences between the Jack plane and Smoothing plane to get a direct idea of what suit you the most.

Differences Between Jack plane and Smoothing plane

Jack planeSmoothing plane
Useful for general purposesUseful only for smoothing the surface
Rounded dull cutting edgeCrown shaped sharp cutting edge
Number 5 plane size with a sole length of 14”Number 4 plane size with a sole length of 9”
Tooth shaped blade edgeSmooth softened blade edge
Mouth opening is wideMouth opening is narrow

To get better understanding about hand tools and planes in woodworking, Read, 25 Essential Beginner Woodworking Hand Tools

So, let’s answer frequently asked questions about the Jack plane and Smoothing plane to get a better understanding.

Can You Use Jack plane as A Smoothing plane?

I know you’re probably wondering, why we can’t use Jack plane as a Smoothing plane if it’s capable of smoothing the wood. Yes, you’re correct, we can use Jack plane as a Smoothing plane. But there’re some exceptions.

If you need a super smooth finish, Jack plane is not the ideal plane you should go with. Because Jack plane can never replace Smoothing plane in terms of smoothing. Smoothing plane is specialized for smoothing the wood. it makes the wood ready to finish while Jack plane is used at the beginning of most woodworking projects.

If you use Jack plane at the end to make the wood ready to finish, you might probably ruin the wood grain or make the wood tear off. Jack plane is designed for rough works, not for finer tasks.

Therefore, I highly recommend going for Smoothing plane if smoothness is a critical factor in your woodwork because Jack plane can ruin the wood with its dull blade, and better not to take risks at the end of your beautiful woodworking project.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Jack plane Vs Smoothing plane

In this article, we have deeply looked at Jack plane vs Smoothing plane under various factors such as functionality, the shape of the blade, plane size, plane frog, camber, and mouth opening.

We have discussed how the Jack plane and Smoothing plane contribute to those factors with differences.

Jack plane is the king of all planes. It can use for any woodworking plane activity. But when it comes to smoothing, the Smoothing plane is useful to gain a super smooth finish which makes the wood ready to finish. Each plane is important under various factors.

Furthermore, I have answered a frequently asked question about Jack plane vs Smoothing plane as well. That’s it, folks! Hope you have gained good knowledge about the differences between Jack plane and Smoothing plane with pros and cons of each plane. Keep practicing with those planes to sharpen your woodworking skills. Have fun!


About Walter Parker

Walter Parker is a father and woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking!

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