Bullnose Vs Shoulder Plane (Which Is Better For You?)

Having a planner tool is super important in woodworking. Without a good planer, you wouldn’t be able to give proper finishing. 

When choosing a planer, people often can’t pick between a bullnose and a shoulder plane. It gets more confusing because the bullnose plane is one kind of shoulder plane itself. 

What are the differences between the bullnose vs shoulder plane?

The differences between the bullnose and shoulder planes include price range, toe length, etc. Bullnose planes are cheaper than shoulder planes. But the reduced toe length of the bullnose plane makes the planning harder. Shoulder planes also have a blade adjustment system which is beneficial. 

Anyways that was just the summary of the entire comparison. We have compared both planer tools side by side in multiple categories.

Stay with us till the end to know more about bullnose and shoulder planes. 

Bullnose Planes Vs Shoulder Planes: Key Differences

Although both players are from the same family, they tend to have many differences. That’s why it can get tricky when choosing one between them. 

This is quite similar to picking between Laguna 14bx and 18bx. They’re both great bandsaws and have a lot of similarities. But they have notable differences that you can’t ignore. 

Before we start the full comparison, it’s better to look at the primary differences. Knowing a little prior to the full discussion is going to help you keep track. 

That’s why we’ve brought the differences under one table for you. Here’s what  you’re looking for- 

FactorsBullnose PlaneShoulder Plane
Price PointCheaperExpensive
Toe LengthShorterLonger
Blade GuideNoYes
Blade AdjustmentNoYes
Optimal UsageCasual PlaningProfessional Planing
Beginner FriendlyNo Yes

After going through the table, which plane do you like more?

Bullnose Planes Vs Shoulder Planes: Full Discussion

A table might not be enough for reaching a decision. So, if you haven’t picked a side yet, that’s totally alright. 

We have compared both planer tools head-to-head in multiple categories for you. This will reveal which tool is better for you in what situations. 

Simply sit back, relax and go through the categories one by one.

Price Point

Budget is always an issue and the biggest concern of many woodworkers. It’s not always wise to spend a lot of money on equipment.

If something exceeds budget it can impact decision-making. That’s why the price point is always something that can’t be ignored. 

Let’s start this with the bullnose plane. The bullnose plane has been around for decades. Usually, bullnose planes are cheaper than shoulder planes.

You can easily find bullnose planes for about $50 or so. Depending on the brand, the price may vary. But the bullnose plane price point is around 50 bucks and it’s your best bet. 

It’s because bullnose planes have fewer functions overall than shoulder planes. We’re going to elaborate on this later on. 

On the contrary, shoulder planes are comparatively more expensive. Don’t worry though, the price difference is not that high.

Most shoulder planes can cost around $70. Compared to bullnose planes, they are $20 or $35 more expensive. 

But unlike bullnose planes, shoulder planes have functions. 

Winner: Bullnose planes are cheaper. 

Toe Length

The biggest difference between the bullnose and the shoulder plane is the toe length. It’s the most important feature that sets them apart. 

The bullnose plane doesn’t have a big toe before the blade. This allows you to plane the places where the shoulder plane can’t reach. 

But it’s also a weakness for the bullnose plane. Since the plane lacks that toe length, the wood planing will not be perfect. 

The cuts will not register smoothly. That’s why professional woodworkers don’t plane wood with bullnose planes. 

On the contrary, the shoulder plane toe length is bigger than the bullnose planes. The extended toe length of the shoulder plane allows better wood planing. 

Thanks to the toe, you can apply enough pressure and cut wood smoothly.

But it’s not good for corners as you wouldn’t cut the wood all the way. For those places, the bullnose plane is better. 

This is a major reason why shoulder planes are used more in wood planing. Because you can always plane the wood before assembly.
After that, you can simply use the bullnose planes to give a finishing touch. This is why bullnose planes are seen as an auxiliary tool instead of a primary tool.

Winner: The shoulder plane is better due to the longer toe length. 

Speaking of the bullnose planes, here’s what our experts recommend-

Both options are great and quite famous among professional woodworkers. You can pick any option you want and it’ll get you all set. 

Blade Guide

Having a blade guide on the wood planer lets you avoid mistakes. That’s why a guide is a category that you can’t ignore. 

A blade guide sets a blade’s rotation when planning wood. In easy words, it lets the user choose what type of cut they want. 

Unfortunately, the bullnose plane doesn’t have a blade guide to help you. Since it lacks a blade guide, it’s up to human hands. 

For deeper cuts, you’ll have to use your hands and put pressure. Because of that, the wood planning depends completely on the user. 

On the contrary, the shoulder plane contains a blade guide. This allows you to set the angle of the blade when you plane wood. 

Thanks to this feature, you can choose thinner or thicker cuts by yourself. Planning is more comfortable and accurate thanks to the blade guide. 

Winner: The shoulder plane wins this round. 


So far we’ve talked about the technical differences between both types of planers. Now, let’s talk about how good they feel when it comes to planning. 

Because ultimately experience matters a lot when it comes to woodworking. Because you’ll be working for hours, you want the best equipment possible for your job. 

For instance, people often compare SawStop Premium and T-Glide table saws. Even though both saws are great, the experience isn’t the same due to differences. 

In the previous point, we discussed the bullnose plane toe length. Since the bullnose lacks the toe which allows smoother cuts, you only use it occasionally. 

Also with the bullnose plane, you’ll have to put pressure on yourself. This makes the wood planing harder than it actually is. 

But the bullnose plane does have some great usage. For example, there’s a drawer or a door trim that isn’t smooth enough. 

In these cases, you can simply take the bullnose plane and cut the extra part out. 

But you can’t do everything with the bullnose plane. That’s why it’s considered an extra tool. You only need it in specific cases such as planning corners or doors. 

On the contrary, shoulder planes are perfect for any sort of project. They are essential tools for woodworkers. 

If you’re planning to pursue woodworking as a hobby then you’ll have to pick the shoulder planes. Because the primary usage of shoulder planes is planning the woods. 

They’re also easier to work with because of the toe length. On top of that, the blade angle can be adjusted to your choice. 

This adds versatility and lets you be more creative. You can plane faster and cut thinner as well. 

Also, keeping the wood planer clean and sharp will help you with the planning. It’ll ensure longer durability and better performance.

Winner: Planning is easier and more comfortable with shoulder planes. 

If you’re looking for a shoulder plane, we’ve got your back. We’ve already had our experts recommend their best picks

Choose any shoulder plane that you like the most and get started!

Final Verdict: Which Option Should You Pick?

If you’re still confused and can’t reach a conclusion that’s totally fine. We have shared our own decisions about what we would do in your situation. 

If you’re looking for casual wood-planing, go for bullnose planes. Bullnose planes are enough for small projects like a box or smoothening the door’s edge. 

In other words, you can do basic planning with the bullnose plane. 

But if you aim to learn woodworking, you’ll have to get the shoulder plane. Because shoulder planes have more options and it has a higher learning curve. 

Shoulder planes are necessary if you want to be good at planning wood. 


What is the difference between a shoulder plane and a rabbet plane?

The difference between a shoulder plane and a rabbet plane is the primary usage. The shoulder planes can be used in everything. But the rabbet planes are specifically used for making rabbets. Like shoulder planes, rabbet planes also have a fence, blade adjustments, and depth stop. 

What angle is the shoulder plane?

The default angle of the shoulder plane is 15 degrees. It’s also called the bed angle. The overall angle changes depending on the bevel angle. The bevel angle adds to the bed angle for the cutting-edge angle. For example, a bevel angle of 15 degrees will make a cutting-edge angle of 30 degrees. 

At what angle should you sharpen a plane blade?

You should sharpen a plane blade maintaining a 25-degree angle. It’s the default angle of the blade. Keeping this angle will help you achieve a sharp cutting edge. You’ll have to hone the back side as well. 25 degrees are chosen because they create the sharpest edge in a plane blade. 

Take Away

That was everything we could gather and explain on bullnose vs shoulder plane. We hope that our comparison and this discussion were insightful enough to reach a decision. 

If you’re still confused you can ask for expert opinions. Find people that are involved in woodworking and ask them for their opinion. This way you can understand even better. 

Finally, have a nice day!

Kevin Smith

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