Why are Woodworking Planes so Expensive?

Every woodworking tool comes at its own price.

From those that only cost a few bucks (thank you screwdriver) to those that cost a fortune (we’re looking at you, table saws), what makes them the price that they are.

Even more, is there a reason woodworking planes cost so much? 

When it comes to cost, decent woodworking planes are expensive because they are made of high-cost materials like iron. They are also being produced at a slower rate than some other tools and this means that the selling price is a bit higher than that of other hand tools. 

It is always so unfortunate to be in need of a tool and then realize that it is going to seriously cost you.

As painful as it may be, investing in a high-quality woodworking plane is something that will pay off long after your own woodworking days are over.

Continue reading to see why exactly planes are so highly-priced and discover the two biggest reasons that contribute to their cost. 

Why Do Woodworking Planes Cost so Much?

For a tool that is so small, it seems almost impossible that some can be priced well over two hundred dollars.

Of course, you are going to put the big bucks down for your circular saw, your jigsaw, your workbench, and your miter saw, but who in the world would lay that much money down for such a small device?

Although there may be sticker shock, when it comes to planes, you get what you pay for, and you want something that will perform seamlessly. 

The two main reasons that woodworking planes have such a high cost include the material that they are made from (often, iron) and the law of supply and demand. Still, investing in a high-quality woodworking plane will pay off in the long run.

Planes are tools that do not really catch your eye.

They look simplistic, they are small, and they are a hand tool. So, how could they be anything special?

They would equate to the cranberry salad that your Aunt Martha makes for every Thanksgiving, but when you take a bite of it, you absolutely cannot stop.

It is the best thing you have ever put into your mouth, but appearances would never give away such a reality. 

Woodworking planes are the same for woodworkers.

Although simplistic in design, these little tools are something that can slice through cherry wood like it is a hot piece of butter.

By using your own body’s force, you use a plane to shape and cut over a wood’s surface.

If you have the right plane, you can end up with a surface that is smoother than the finest sandpaper can achieve.

With these capabilities, I now want to explain why they can be so pricey. 

Let’s take a little closer look at the two main reasons that woodworking planes cost so much.

High-Quality Material 

Let’s think of some very inexpensive materials out there: you have plastic of course, there’s wood, and you can even use different types of engineered materials.

These come at a low cost for those designing and producing and thus, transfer to a low cost for consumers.

This is why a swing set with plastic swing seats and a plastic slide is going to cost much less than a swing set that has high-quality rubber seats and a metal slide. 

For woodworking planes, you can find one made of all kinds of different material variations, but we do not want to focus on just any plane.

If you want a cheap plane, you can find it, but that does not mean it is going to perform the way it should.

No one wants to buy a tool that is only going to last them a year or so.

They want a product that can be bought once and will work in their shop and long as they have a project to complete. 

That being said, this is where the higher expenses come into play.

Higher quality planes are typically made from cast iron.

Yep, that same material that your grandmother cooks her hot water cornbread in.

That skillet of hers has been around for as long as you can remember, hasn’t it?

That is because it is made out of a material that can withstand the test of time, can buck up to serious heat, and ages like a fine wine.

That piece was an investment for her. 

Her cast iron skillet likely cost her a considerable price, but it is something that can now be passed on to other generations aspiring to recreate her recipes.

Cast iron is a material that weathers exceptionally well and because of this, it is going to cost you when you purchase a tool that is made from it. 

Even more, it takes a ton of money for iron foundries to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  environmental standards if the product is being made in the U.S.

The EPA sets a national emission standard to hazardous air pollutants for iron foundries and this means that there is a limit on how much they produce, but also how foundries go about producing those products in a clean way, which can be costly. 

Consequently, if you find a lower priced product made of steel, it is likely coming from an area that does not have such standards in place.

Therefore, they are able to produce more at a faster rate, but this also comes at a cost- although the cost might not be directly reflected on your price tag.

Still, you can also recognize how the long-lasting material can directly affect the longevity of the tool you plan to bring into your woodworking shop.

Although you may be getting a cheaper product, it is one that likely came from a place that is emitting hazardous air pollutants (bad for the Earth!) and will likely not have the same quality due to quick manufacturing.

The cost of marital plus what it takes to manufacture such a material is the reason that some of the planes out there can give you quite a shock when you see the price tag.

However, quality and responsible purchasing should be considered. 

Supply and Demand 

Beyond the quality of the material and the cost at which that material is made into something usable, there comes the issue of supply and demand.

Long ago, woodworking was one of those trades that was an absolute need.

When you think of what it takes to build a home, to piece together furniture, to restore a porch, and to bring the beautiful detail that a house needs in order to become a home, you have to have the right tools to get the job done. 

This was a situation that modern technology was not able to accommodate.

Long ago, you only had the tools that would work with your body and with your hands.

There was no such thing as electric tools, tiny motors that hummed beneath your fingers, or inventions that cut through logs in a matter of minutes.

These things took time and many people needed the tools to get that certain job done.

Because of this, large amounts were made. 

The demand for woodworking tools was much higher in the 1800s than it is today and because of this, that meant that many more hand tools were being produced in order to accommodate the demand.

This includes the need for woodworking planes.

If there are a plethora of people out there who are in need of a plane, then a large amount will be manufactured in order to accommodate what consumers are wanting. 

However, with the development of the modern world, woodworking took a bit of a backseat to the capabilities of mass production, but also the capabilities of modern machines to get the job done that woodworkers would have otherwise taken care of.

Because of this, tools like woodworking planes have seen a drastic decrease in production. 

A decrease that has been cut in half due to the lack of need within the world.

This doesn’t mean that woodworking is dead in the least sense, but due to the smaller amount of production, this means that the price will be higher.

Alternatively, some would argue that this is even more of a reason that skilled woodworkers are in need themselves- because the supply of highly skilled woodworkers is, itself, limited.

Still, to produce such a high-quality tool (like woodworking planes) in a smaller number means to put in an investment that manufacturers have to see in profit.

This means a higher price for the customer.

An unfortunate situation for your pocket, but a reality of the world.

Either way, this is a high-quality tool that will last you for as long as you plan to use it- and can even be passed down to your friends, family, or fellow woodworker alike.

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