How to Use a Planer & Shaper Gauge

Written by tammy bronson
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How to Use a Planer & Shaper Gauge
Newer planes have the same design as older wooden planes and shapers. (woodworking plane image by Christopher Dodge from

While a woodworker could go through their whole career and never use a shaper gauge, planers are a necessity. Shapers run straight mouldings, raise panels, help with pattern cutting and make radius work much easier. Planes, whether they are the block, jack, fore plane or smoothing varieties, also have many uses, but their primary function is to smooth wood surfaces. Skilled woodworkers can use a plane to create a smoother finish than power planers, sanders or scrapers can.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Set the plane on the wood so the blade is off the end of the wood surface. Apply more pressure to the front of the plane by holding on to the front knob. As you slide the plane forward and the blade catches the wood, apply equal pressure to both the front knob and back handle.

  2. 2

    Apply more pressure on the back handle and lighten up on the front knob as you get to the end of the piece of wood. Avoid an arched edge on the wood.

  3. 3

    Move the plane away from you and with the grain of the wood. The stroke you take with the plane at times might need slanting. Slanting is when the wood grain isn't parallel to the cut edge. Do a test stroke. If the plane digs into the wood, you are going against the wood grain.

  4. 4

    Slide the plane at an oblique angle across the wood surface for the first couple of times. This creates a shear cut; planning is quicker with a shear cut then with a parallel cut. Here all you are doing is roughing the wood. The final cuts with the plane are parallel to the wood grain.

  5. 5

    Measure dovetails and other design cuts with shaper gauges. A shaper gauge is like a square or level on the plane. A shaper gauge also makes measuring slots easier. You can take inside measurements simply by inserting the shaper gauge into a slot in the wood.

Tips and warnings

  • Hold the plane at an angle to make a shear cut. There are times when you need to cut across the grain to rough up the wood surface.
  • Take the necessary safety precautions when handling blades by holding them on the sides. Never hold blades on their sharpened ends.

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