Block planes are a type of woodworking plane that is characterized by the presence of a small section of iron that is positioned to achieve a bevel in an upward state. Considered one of the easiest of all hand planes to use, the main function of the block plane is to cut the end grain on a piece of wood, leaving a relatively smooth surface. The iron bevels in the typical block plan are embedded at a lower angle than with many other types of planes, which help to make the tool especially suited for dealing with end grains.
While many different types of planes are configured for use along the exposed surface of a section of wood, these planes often require two hands during operation. This tends to make the larger planes unsuitable for detail work, such as on the end grain of a plank. By contrast, the block plane is small enough to be operated with the use of one hand. This leaves the other hand free to steady the section of wood, making it easier to position both the small hand plane and the wood so that trimming and cutting the end grain area is more efficient.
The name for the block plane comes from the usual term for smoothing and cutting end grains. Carpenters refer to this task as blocking in. Because this specially designed plane helps to make the process of blocking in easier, quicker, and generally more efficient, the tool soon became known commonly as a block plane.
While the block plane is designed primarily for use in woodworking projects, the tool can be used in any type of task where paring or shaving of a material is necessary. For example, a block plane can be used to remove dried wood glue from a surface, using a simple shaving motion to gradually pare away the glue. The tool can also be used to smooth the surface on small sections of masonry, such as end bricks on a retaining wall. While it is possible to make use of the block plane in many different types of shaving and paring activities, it should be noted that the iron blade can be damaged over time when utilized on substances other than wood.