Block Plane vs Sander

Newbie here. I will have plenty of questions as I move through this process, so please excuse me. Some of my questions may even be smart ones. The rest, well, sorry about those.

Anyway, I plan to try a couple of CLC kayaks one more time during next year's fall tour through Northern California. Then I will pull the plug and order one, likely a Shearwater 17, but...

Okay, the question: I am relatively comfortable with sanders (orbital, belt, hand). I have never used a block plane and am afraid of causing some serious gouges with even a low-angle unit. What is the benefit of using a block plane over a sander?


12 replies:

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RE: Block Plane vs Sander

Quieter, less dust, can be more precise and faster and you don't need to keep buying sandpaper. Nor do you run out of sandpaper on a Saturday night after all the stores have closed. Properly used, it leaves a surface that needs no sanding.

You'll need to learn how to keep it razor sharp and how to use it. There's plenty of time til you start your build to do that. Just practice on scrap wood. Lots of videos on the web to help you along.

Have fun,



RE: Block Plane vs Sander

it's not really a competition.....sanders have their place and block planes have their place too...

so, for example, when you are sanding a glassed hull, you will sand it (probably with a random orbital sander) would never try to fare a hull by using a block plane.  similarly, if you need to bevel the edge of a sheet of ply.....that's where you would use a block plane.....and i guess while you could use a sander for's a lot harder to control a sander trying to do a bevel and more likely to mess it up, in my view, than using a block plane.

the good news is this, based on my experience, is that while it takes a little bit of time to learn to use a block plane, they rarely, end up 'out of control' the way a power sander can.   so when i think of moves i have regretted....most of them were caused by power tools....with power sanders being the number 1 cause of the 'oh shit' moments i have created in over 20 years of building (best one was when my wife startled me when sanding a hull with course sandpaper on a high-speed sander {was wearing a dust mask and hearing protection when she tapped me on the back}, and quickly created a 4 inch gouge in, what to that moment, had been a picture perfect hull)

so get a low angle block will love it and appreciate it with a little work on learning how to use it.






RE: Block Plane vs Sander

   Cant say enough good about the shearwater 17 i highly recomend it aside from being a. great boat its an easy build ( im on boat 5  so ive got something. To compare it with) near as i recall the only places i used a block plane on was the shear clamps and i think i used a minature one to bevel the edges of the panels i used the plane for the bulk of the shear clamps and finished with a belt sander. Ive found spraying the back of sandpaper sheets with spray adhesive folding it in half then cutting pieces and hand sanding works better than the electric sanders. I only use the random orbital for the final sanding

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

Don’t be afraid to learn how planes can benefit your skill set. They all have a place in woodworking while some are more suited to various operations than others that are less frequently called for. Low-angle block planes are probably the most useful of the family!

Two skills need practice: keeping the cutting edge keen & sharp so it does the work without you having to force it, then how to adjust the blade to control depth of cut as well as ‘squareness’ across its width so it’s set to the same cut depth side to side. It’s easy to ‘creep up’ on how much the blade will be paring off, as well as making fine adjustments either to keep cut depth the same across its width, or to skew it a bit so one side cuts more than the other when necessary. These adjustments can both be mastered in minutes.

Once you’re familiar with these two operations you’ll never be afraid to reach for a block plane again!

(One suggestion: avoid block planes having anything adjustable with any kind of screw mechanism. The easiest to master need only a tap from small hammer or block of hardwood to adjust blade depth & squareness.)

RE: Block Plane vs Sander


Thanks for the input. I guess I'll be asking Mrs. Claus for a low angle block plane and sharpening stone. I already have the scrap wood to practice on. Now, let's hope I have all my fingers still whole by the time I order the 'yak

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

Good plan RobS! I did that last year, got a nice Lie Neilsen from my dear wife for Christmas. I have others but this one I’m saving for my Waterlust build.

Feel free to ask questions about how to sharpen your blade or adjust your new plane after Christmas! And know planes are a LOT safer than chisels when it comes down to watching your fingers... or saws of any kind!  

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

   I have all matter of sanders from a block of wood to four kinds of power had sanders to two types of bench mounted sanders.  I also have several hand planes and a power planer. I've used most all of them on a boat at one time or the other.

 Use the tool .......YOU can get the best result with.  Just remember the faster it removes material the faster you can mess up.

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

Sanders used on plywood and epoxy don’t always give the result you want. Another worthwhile tool to consider is the simple cabinet scraper. I find it faster than sanding and I think it produces a better surface. Enjoy your building.

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

I’m in Cyclone’s camp when it comes to edged tools. Sanders have their uses of course but having access to traditional edge tools, and the skills to both maintain and use them to good effect, are worth developing. Cabinet scrapers have an added advantage where curved surfaces are encountered when they’re shaped to fit the surface being worked. Beyond that they’re flexible enough to be ‘tuned’ by the user’s handling when in use, both in bending slightly or altering the angle of contact slightly.

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

Well, I may "have to" go buy some more tools, such as cabinet scrapers. And, of course, learn how to maintain them.

Again, I appreciate all the input and ideas. Everyone has developed a system that works for them. I will have to try them all to find what works best for me. Many of these I didn't even know existed, so the suggestions are really what I need. THANKS!

RE: Block Plane vs Sander

 just wanted to add a note seconding the value of cabinet scrapers....after a lot of boats and tools and sorting through...the three most used/useful finishing tools for me over lots of boats:

  • good ROS sander with connection hose to a vacume
  • low angle block plane
  • cabinet scraper (simple/cheap stainless set) 

have bought a lot of other stuff....and most sits on the shelf while these three do the work.


RE: Block Plane vs Sander

I built my skerry in a small and crowded 1 car garage. Even though I got a HEPA filter for my shop vac and adapter to my sander, I still wound up with dust to clean all the time. So I started using my planes, a chisel and my pocket knife for all manner of cleanup. Sweeping and vacuuming shavings is much easier than sander dust.

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