Is a No. 6 plane sufficient for leveling a bench top?

I guess you could call me an emerging neanderthal. I have all the power toys but I have discovered a renewed interest in my hand tools. I am beginning my next project, a traditional European style workbench. Once I get the top glued up (approx 72" x 20") I will need to level it. The problem is that I currently own only a No. 4 smooth plane and a No. 5 jack plane, both are Stanley Bailey style. I will be purchasing a long plane in the near future and since I buy only high quality tools this will be a considerable expense. I love the look and feel of Clifton's bench planes and have decided to buy one. My question is this; Is a No. 6 long enough to do a good job of leveling a bench top (and maybe a table top or bed headboard sometime in the future) or should I spend the extra money on a No. 7 jointer? It seems to me that the No. 6 would be more utilitarian since the jointer doesn't get a lot of use in most cases (I still use my power jointer for most operations). Any comments?
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It sounds like you are proficient with the use of planes, so I think that you should be able to flatten the bench with the #6. Obviously for a piece that size longer is better but I believe that skill trumps length any day.
When you are ready to invest in a jointer plane I think that you will be surprised at the amount that you will use it.I have a LN #8 that I use a lot. I also have a restored Stanley #7 that I don't use as much since I purchased the #8. I don't find the size a problem. I also remember reading that one of the big name woodworkers uses his jointer plane for just about everything.
Good luck - Bob McBreen
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Depends on what you call flat. A #7 will get it to a few thousands and a #6 a few more. You can get a good user Stanley #7 for under $100 and do it right and then spend your big bucks on the #6 for general usage.
--
Alan Bierbaum

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I bought a very clean, virtually unused '60's vintage Stanley #6 from Patrick Leach, www.supertool.com, last summer. $135 plus shipping. It is big enough to do what you want to do. I've built a couple of headboards, four or five tables, two entertainment centers, a couple of storage chests, and am in the middle of a mission-inspired blanket bench. Almost all of it in red oak. The #6 gets a workout. I haven't decided to make room for a powered jointer yet, and it may wait a while longer.
I'm not a collector, but these handplane things ARE growing in number around here, and they all seem to get used pretty frequently...
Patriarch
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EJ wrote:

The questions are, "How flat do you require and How good is your technique." When flattening, longer is better, but if you have good technique 18",22" and 24" may not make THAT much difference. OTOH, that's a 1/2' Difference between a #6 and a #8. I'd go to my #7 at least, maybe my #8 depending on "How flat". Used Stanleys should cost $100 tops for a #7 or #8 if you keep your eyes open. B worth having anyway.
My .02 Dave in Fairfax
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I have both a #6 Bailey and a 607 Bedrock (#7). I very seldom use the #6. I use the 607 frequently.
I'm sure your #5 will flatten the workbench and the #6 certainly will. I'd purchase the #7 though.

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The direct answer to your question is "yes".
However, the #6 is really just a slightly larger version of the #5 you already have. In my opinion, it would make more sense to jump up to the longer planes, the #7 or #8, before getting an intermediate sized plane.
BTW, where you'll find yourself reaching for the long plane is when you find your 13" wide glueup won't fit thru your 12" wide planer... :-)
John
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I don't know about the Clifton, but a #6 Bailey has a 2 3/8" iron vs. a 2" iron in a #5. I regard the #6 to be a shortened #7 rather than a longer #5. I have found that the #6 is almost as good at joining boards a #7. I agree on buying the #7 though. :-)
As a side note, I regard the #5 to be a smoother even though it is called a jack plane. I don't know why a #6 is called a fore plane.

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Cuz you use it 'fore t'other planes. And a jack-something is a short something-else.
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Well, the width of the iron has a bearing on how fast the job gets done, but I don't see it as having any effect on the quality of the result - that's pretty much entirely based on the length of the plane.
That said, I agree you can view the 6 as a short 7 or a long 5. My only point was that given the choice between having a 5 & a 6, or a 5 & a 7, it seemed to make more sense to skip the intermediate size and choose the 5 & 7.

There was a lengthy arguement about that a year or so back, with the conclusion that no-one knows for sure (the idea that it was "fore" because it's used "before" something else was popular). Patrick Leach calls them "devils planes", and proclaims them useless.
John
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The #6 is long enough. It will just take more time & patience to level a 6 foot long top. Still, shouldn't be too bad a job. My comment is that for what a Clifton costs and for what a #6 or #7 is commonly used for, I would (and did) buy a used Stanley Bailey. I think I paid $25 for my #7 and the #6 was "thrown in" when I bought a used drill press several years ago. I did have to spend maybe 6 or 8 hours tuning the #7, and 1 or 2 on the #6.
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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Good price on the 7 Tony D

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The key to leveling a surface like a workbench is to employ the use of winding sticks (you can google for many conversations on the whats/whys/hows, I'm feeling lazy). The surface of a bench needs to be flat, not necessarily perfect-for-glue-up, which is what I'm generally shooting for when hitting something with a jointer plane (like a #8 or it's smaller sibling, the #7 - large Bailey Pattern bench planes, Jeff). My own preference is to have at it with a plain old jack plane (#5, Keeter) on account of it's a bit lighter than a #6-or-larger, with still plenty of bed length to plane the highs off the surface and scoot over the valleys.
You will be amazed at how quickly/accurately you can get a bench top flat just by eye and a set of winding sticks. You find the high spots with your sticks (and also the areas where there is twist - the twisted*up* part being the section you need to take down), mark them with a pencil and then plane the pencil marks off. Lather, rinse, repeat. It helps to be able to stand a good distance away from the workpiece/sticks so you can really see what's going on. Adequate lighting is a must here.
Once you've got it flat with a #5 and a set of winding sticks, you can set about making it perfect with a jointer plane, if that's your bag. The compelling reason to have a jointer plane is to joint edges dead straight. I currently have no jointer plane, but get along (somewhat) with a 3/4/5/6.
Yeah, there's nothing like taming an unruly board with a jack plane.
Hammuh
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On 28 Jan 2004 15:31:21 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@klownhammer.org (The Hammuh) wrote:

I watched my daughter's gymnastics class on Saturday. The guy who runs the thing was demonstrating how to do a dismount from the rings.
He performed an extremely intricate series of movements prior to the dismount that involved large and small motor skills, admirable upper body strength, and a finely tuned sense of spatial relationships that are possessed by about .001 percent of the population.
After watching this I decided that it would be best to take the glued up slab to a commercial cabinet shop and have them run it through their wide belt sander.
(watson - who feels that the plane numbering system indicates the degree of difficulty encountered in using the plane. Thus, a numbah three is pretty easy to use. A numbah five is a little less easy to use, etc. When we get to the Stanley 55, we can clearly see that it must be impossible to use. DAMHIKT.)
Your's in wooddorking.
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker (ret) Real Email is: tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet Website: http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Tom Watson wrote:

This may just be the best explanation of the Stanley numbering system that I've seen yet. <G> There are some exceptions to the rule, but that just shows it's right. Dave in Fairfax
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On 28 Jan 2004 15:31:21 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@klownhammer.org (The Hammuh) scribbled:
I have a serious complaint about you. You could at least have the courtesy to advise us when you change your moniker. My "watch" filter got fooled by it. Luckily, TJW responded to your post, and I thought: "How come I missed Paddy's post? Let me go check my filters. ... Yup, O'deen is there under a number of different names, so what happened?" I wasted a whole minute figuring out that you had a new address and then adding you to my filters. That was highly inconsiderate of you.
Luigi Note the new email address. Please adjust your krillfiles (tmAD) accordingly Replace "nonet" with "yukonomics" for real email address
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snipped-for-privacy@klownhammer.org (The Hammuh) wrote in

Totally changing the subject, but a while back you suggested using a scraper to level the surface of shellac, after laying on the buildup coats. It works well. I thank you.
John
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I know I'm being rude, but the definition of dead straight is apparently now a circle with something like a 5-10 mile circumference, depending on the thickness of shaving and the distance from the cutting edge to the farthest end of the plane (or maybe just to the front of the plane, I have to think about that one a bit). Still, it's a pretty big circle, so it would "seem" truly flat. Flat enough to create an effective glue joint at any reasonable length of board. Geez, I have too much time on my hands ;-)
So, you going to be at the show in Ontario this weekend?
Cheers, Eric
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