Jack plane vs scrub plane, what's the difference?


Recommended Posts

I was watching a video with Chris Schwartz and he said that a Jack plane is also called a Fore plane because it was used before other planes to rough out a board to approximate thickness then a jointer plane is used to flatten the board so you can follow up with a smoother.

Every now and then I see scrub planes mentioned and they seem to be about the same size as a Jack plane and usually I see them mentioned as being used to take out lots of wood to get a board to rough thickness before using other planes.

What's the difference between the Fore/Jack plane and the scrub plane? Are they ground to different angles or something? So you can keep the Jack plane more for general planing and the scrub for heavy wood removal?

Just wondering...

Thanks

-Jim

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's really just a matter of degree.

A scrub plane will tend to have a more open mouth, a narrower blade, a shorter and narrower sole, and a camber with a tighter radius compared to a jack plane set up for heavy stock removal.

The theory has been floated that a scrub plane is more of a carpentry tool than a woodworking (as in furniture making) tool.

I have an 8" radius camber on the jack plane that I have, and it's plenty aggressive for me. I used that plane to initially flatten both sides of my 22" x 8 foot workbench, and I needed to get rid of at least 1/8" of wood on each side, and never felt like I needed a true scrub plane.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A scrub plane will have an extravagantly radiused blade, and a wide open mouth. It is used for putting a relatively flat face on a beam or a log or such. It is a roughing tool. I once saw a guy who used as #6 Stanley as a scrub plane, so I guess you can make one out of most anything. The guy was a hoss.

I have some factory versions, and they are relatively small. I have a couple of ECE or Ulmias that I bought to modify for scorping out a chair seat. I have never gotten around to modifying them yet. I have only had them about 15 years.

I was watching a video with Chris Schwartz and he said that a Jack plane is also called a Fore plane because it was used before other planes to rough out a board to approximate thickness then a jointer plane is used to flatten the board so you can follow up with a smoother.

Every now and then I see scrub planes mentioned and they seem to be about the same size as a Jack plane and usually I see them mentioned as being used to take out lots of wood to get a board to rough thickness before using other planes.

What's the difference between the Fore/Jack plane and the scrub plane? Are they ground to different angles or something? So you can keep the Jack plane more for general planing and the scrub for heavy wood removal?

Just wondering...

Thanks

-Jim

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just used my LV low angle bevel up jack plane on a used workbench I bought. I needed to remove a good 1/16" throughout the whole 6' x 2' and it worked fantastic. I even went across the grain in a similar method that you would employ a scrub plane.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We are really talking about some regional differences when considering the Fore and the Scrub planes. The Fore was traditionally used by English cabinetmakers while the Scrub was found in the shops of German cabinetmakers. I don't think one has to be too picky, but typically the Scrub is shorter and narrower than the Fore plane. In today's standards, the Fore is often said to be the #6 in the Stanley numbering system while the Scrub could be around a 4 or 5. 300 years ago in an English shop the Fore, Try (jointer), and smoother did all the milling work. The Jack was really a joiner or carpenter's tool but was set for a thick cut. The Jack and Scrub could be interchangeable in this instance as the joiner would have thicknessed boards with it, but then would have reset it for trying work.

At what point the Scrub and Fore planes diverged across the English channel I still have not figured out. I believe they performed the same job in their respective shops but what cultural difference provoked the size and increased blade camber of the Scrub I still have not been able to glean. I had this conversation with the Schwarz last year and neither one of us has yet to really find an answer so I will keep digging.

However by today's standards, the Scrub is shorter and has a more radical curve to the blade. Personally I like using my Scrub for planing a board to width, or working down the end grain of an out of square board. It works great for traditional thicknessing of a board, but if the board is longer than about 18", I like to switch to my Fore plane to take advantage of more mass, and a longer sole. My Fore has lesser camber to the iron with about a 9" radius, whereas my Scrub has a 3" radius. Both do a great job at quickly removing stock, but when you have a plane problem like me you will find subtle differences and reasons to use one over the other.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Shannon! That was fantastic. I always wonder what to get in the future and now I think you are convincing me to get eventually a # 5 & a #6 (as a Fore) I use a #8 as a jointer.

Now If you would have to choose between a $6 & a scrub as your first pick, which one of both of these planes is going to give you more flexibility for the short term?

We are really talking about some regional differences when considering the Fore and the Scrub planes. The Fore was traditionally used by English cabinetmakers while the Scrub was found in the shops of German cabinetmakers. I don't think one has to be too picky, but typically the Scrub is shorter and narrower than the Fore plane. In today's standards, the Fore is often said to be the #6 in the Stanley numbering system while the Scrub could be around a 4 or 5. 300 years ago in an English shop the Fore, Try (jointer), and smoother did all the milling work. The Jack was really a joiner or carpenter's tool but was set for a thick cut. The Jack and Scrub could be interchangeable in this instance as the joiner would have thicknessed boards with it, but then would have reset it for trying work.

At what point the Scrub and Fore planes diverged across the English channel I still have not figured out. I believe they performed the same job in their respective shops but what cultural difference provoked the size and increased blade camber of the Scrub I still have not been able to glean. I had this conversation with the Schwarz last year and neither one of us has yet to really find an answer so I will keep digging.

However by today's standards, the Scrub is shorter and has a more radical curve to the blade. Personally I like using my Scrub for planing a board to width, or working down the end grain of an out of square board. It works great for traditional thicknessing of a board, but if the board is longer than about 18", I like to switch to my Fore plane to take advantage of more mass, and a longer sole. My Fore has lesser camber to the iron with about a 9" radius, whereas my Scrub has a 3" radius. Both do a great job at quickly removing stock, but when you have a plane problem like me you will find subtle differences and reasons to use one over the other.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The main, and most important difference is length. The scrub plane is typically about 9" long. The jack/fore plane can be anywhere between 14" and 20" long. In the English tradition of woodworking, there was no such thing as a scrub plane. None of the English language books on woodworking before the late 19th century make any such mention of such a plane. It simply didn't exist in the Anglo-American tradition. There is some speculation that the modern scrub plane is a contemporary adaptation of an early German design, but there's little documented to confirm this. Stanley said the scrub was used to plane down board edges when there was too little material to rip it narrower with a saw.

Back to the differences between the two. The length. This is really important. When dressing lumber completely by hand, length in a plane's sole is very helpful. In fact, next to the ability to take a thick shaving, length is probably the most important attribute for dressing rough lumber and making it flat. The longer length of the fore/jack plane serves to self jig the plane on the surface of the wood, helping to begin to make the surface flat. The short sole of the scrub can't do this. It's simply too short, so it rides the hills and valleys, effectively making things worse, unless you are checking every two seconds with a straight edge and selectively planing the high spots (this takes WAY too long). The fore plane can be set up to remove wood just as fast as a scrub plane simply by grinding more camber and deepening the cut. When my fore plane (17") is set up to quickly work soft woods like pine and poplar, it can hog off 1/16" or more per pass. But unlike the scrub plane, the longer sole helps keep the board relatively flat while doing so.

I have used a scrub for the same task, way back when I first began my hand tool journey. It was frustrating, and made the job of planing rough stock take much longer than it had to. As I learned more about traditional woodworking and read many of the old (17th, 18th and early 19th century) texts on the trade, I realized that they never used such a plane. So I tried it their way (i.e. fore plane to try plane to smoother). I found things went much easier and faster, and sold the scrub plane. I've never missed it.

Now, I plane all my rough lumber by hand. I use a 17" wooden fore plane for my first plane. I've found no plane better for the task. Short metal jack planes (#5 sized, 14") work ok, but I like the longer length of the wooden jack planes (typically 16-18") better. Longer metal fore planes (#6 sized, 18") are a great length, but are way to wide and heavy for rapidly removing stock. Trying to use a #6 as a thick shaving fore plane will make you tired really fast. The wooden fore/jack plane is the ideal combination of long sole, thick iron, narrower width, and light weight. It allows you to really hog material quickly, begin to bring the board to flat, and not work like a dog doing it.

Using the traditional Anglo-American planing system of fore-try-smooth, I can work the face of a board from rough sawn to finish ready in about 5 minutes.

Episode # 27: Fat & Square

So my recommendation is to skip the scrub and go for a wooden jack plane if you intend to hand plane your rough sawn boards. As a side benefit, a scrub will cost you probably $40-50. A wooden jack plane can be had for $10 or less, and will do the job of initial flattening better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally believe the Scrub has more flexibility because it is smaller. Like I said above, I use the Scrub on edge and end grain to help me in final dimensioning of my stock. I really only grab my Fore when I am thicknessing a face of a board. The lighter, smaller profile of the Scrub just makes it easier to use on narrow edges. Additionally, the more dramatic camber slices through tough grain nicely and quickly.

All that being said, a Scrub is meant to be rough so a wide throat is necessary and the sole doesn't need to be anywhere near flat.to take those thick shavings. So, don't be like me and buy a new Veritas or Lie Nielsen Scrub. That was wasted money (that plane works great, don't get me wrong). I would have been smarter to buy an old flea market boat anchor and save the money for a plane where high tolerances and precision are a necessity.

To my credit, my Veritas scrub plane was a gift. (I may have asked for it tho...)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Over the years I worked as a carpenter, I found a lot of use for a scrub plane. I used it for things like evening up sistered framing members or backing out trim. At the bench I don't have much use for one. They tend to be way to aggressive and make control of final thickness of stock pretty iffy. I can remove material every bit as fast with a properly set-up jack or fore plane but have a lot more control.

My business partner, Don, has been slowly translating and researching early Continental sources like André Félibien and, from what he's found, it appears the French, at least, used scrub planes much the way I did as a carpenter. Or much like what is described in my 1955 edition of Audel's Carpenters and Builder's Guide. I've attached the Audel's description of the scrub plane.

post-161-0-74395100-1298216720_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

An interesting development in this area is the Carter C10 plane - it is cast and is wider and heavier than the Stanley #40 or #40 1/2, but still has a single iron. From the example that I have, the blade seems not to have been as heavily cambered as appears to have been the case with the Stanley scrub planes.

Carter were a local Australian brand located in Sydney and operating in the period 1946 until the 1960s. This is one of their own designs (most of the other planes they made were Stanley/Record 'knock-offs') - at least I have not found an equivalent in my researches.

I assume that the making of this plane indicates that there was a distinct demand for a plane like this to justify the cost of setting up foundries and machine shops to make it.

I think that the reason for it was as a metal equivalent for the German Jack plane (as the German-style scrub plane brought to Australia by German immigrants was called).

From early on, in Australian books, the role of the scrub plane in carpentry and the Fore-plane in joinery/cabinetmaking in preparing rough lumber was given to the German Jack and it would appear likely that in the immediate post-WWII period, such planes may have been difficult to obtain from Germany, leading to a market opening that the C10 was directed to fill.

I am also prepared to suggest that the Stanley scrub planes may have had a similar market in mind with the German migrants in the USA. What is interesting about the Carter C10 is that it suggests that somewhere between about 1840 (first German migration to Australia) and WWII, the German Jack plane had replaced the English Fore-plane not jsut with those of German Heritage, but in the woodworking trades as a whole. My suggestion for reasons for this are that the German Jack is more portable (in an age when many woodworkers had to travel with their tools to their jobs) and versatile than the longer English Fore-plane.

post-732-0-85221200-1298257004_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Who's Online   2 Members, 0 Anonymous, 156 Guests (See full list)

  • Forum Statistics

    29431
    Total Topics
    398822
    Total Posts
  • Member Statistics

    22185
    Total Members
    3644
    Most Online
    Harry1962
    Newest Member
    Harry1962
    Joined