I've been using power tools for a while now and while they're great
for accuracy, saving time, etc., I find I'd still like to try using
hand tools more often, especially planes. So here are my questions:
If you could only have four planes, which would they be? What brand?
Where would I go to find the best information in tuning and using them
TIA for the help.
Here is a place to start looking. Steve Knight often contributes to the
group and hand builds each of his planes. I am sure he would be glad to
answer your questions with good answers.
This question is analogous to asking which of your children is your
Only four? What of the other twenty or so?
And does that preclude new additions?
These, however, I use more frequently than the others:
Lie Nielsen Adjustable mouth block plane
1920's vintage Stanley #3
1960's vintage Stanley #6
Lee Valley (Veritas) Low Angle Apron plane
On 25 Sep 2004 19:25:00 -0700, email@example.com (Ben) wrote:
A block plane. The Lee Valley low-angle block plane. Best there is.
A bench plane - Stanley #5, either an old one off eBay and tuned up,
or else a brand new Lee Valley equivalent. Not a #4 - the length of
the #5 is more useful.
A smoother - Stanley #4 1/2 (eBay again), Lee Valley, or maybe one of
Steve Knight's. The width of the #4 1/2 is useful compared to the #4.
If you really want a 4th, go for a #80 scraper. If you're rich, a #112
scraper plane. Lee Valley again, maybe Lie Nielsen, but not an old
A #92 is a tiny rebate plane, good for cleaning cross-grain dados, or
for cleaning up edge mouldings. The slightly larger #78 rebate plane
is handy for some work too - much better for rebates, because it
doesn't jam with chips.
One of the best resources around on tuning planes is Jeff Gorman's
IMHO, "tuning" a Stanley bench plane involves throwing the iron away
and fitting either a Samurai iron, or a Clifton iron on a big plane.
Others have their favourite brands, but I'd avoid Hock for beginners
because they need a lot of sharpening work before they're ready for
use - they're also an ugly shape with protruding corners.
The big list of Stanley variants is over here
Great reading, but you do _not_ need many planes !
Don't buy a #4. They grow on trees - pretty soon you'll have a dozen
and be wondering what to do with them.
Don't buy a modern plane from a "big" maker. Manufacturing quality is
If buying old Stanleys, anything from between the wars will work for
you. Let the collectors fight over the weird variants - you don't need
them as a user.
You really _don't_ need many planes. Have a handful of good ones, not
a shelfload that either don't work right, or that you never use.
The Stanley Bailey adjuster is basically rubbish. Almost all the
alternatives (Norris, Lee Valley, Calvert Stevens, even GTL) are a big
If you think Stanley bench planes are sloppy rubbish, you should see
the block planes. You can make their old bench planes work, but most
of the blocks are beyond hope! (buy that Lee Valley)
Avoid woodies, except for Steve Knight. Not because his planes are
better, but because he ships them sharp and ready adjusted. He's one
of very few planemakers where you can lift it out of the box and
actually use it straightaway. As woodies _are_ a little awkward to
set up right, they can be frustrating to beginners. Easy to use
though, once they're right.
For adjusting woodies, ask again for advice (there's an old FWW
article on Japanese planes that's good, if you can find it). Don't
just wale away on a woodie, or you'll dent it.
Today I am mostly killing woodworm in a crateload of old English
You're going to get a lot of "it depends" answers - here's another:
Generally, the modern metal bodied planes are easier to use than wooden
planes, but I find it more pleasurable to work with wooden planes. (with exceptions)
My favorite "do everything" plane that works well on every wood I've tried
regardless of figure is a Knight Toolworks infill plane. I've got the
serial # 1 infill. (a little drive-by for your gloat reading pleasure)
A couple of knight medium woodies with different angles handle most other
A knight small smooth plane for the little stuff. (seeing a pattern?)
When I want to remove lots of wood in a hurry, I've got a L-N scrub plane.
It's a pleasure to use, but I do really need to get a wooden scrub...
A jointer plane of some sort is a necessity. I've got an old #7, and a
japanese style wooden jointer for that. This is one size that I prefer the
metal plane over the wooden one.
At some point you're going to want a plane that will shave it's full
width, a rabbet plane in one of its variations for rabbets and shoulders.
(better yet, one of each. It gets kind of addictive after a while)
I'm kind of rambling here... back to your 4 planes. If limited to 4, I'd
choose a low angle block plane, a rabbet plane, a medium sized bench plane
(perhaps a #4 1/2 size), and a jointer plane. There. Now I pray to the
woodworking gods that I never have to actually make that decision. I'd be
paralyzed for months trying to find the right four. And I'll never give up
my infill, so I can't possibly do with just four!
As for learning to use and maintain them, you could do a lot worse than
Taunton's Handplanes in the Woodshop video. Watching the techniques used
is far better than reading about it. If you have access to an experienced
local woodworker who's willing to spend some time with you, that's even
better. By the way, I have yet to talk to a woodworker that wouldn't be
happy to spend some time passing along their knowledge to another. They're
a very friendly bunch as a whole, so don't be shy about asking someone.
I'm a newbie myself (2 years) but have picked up some ideas along the
First, a professional cabinet maker and instructor (at the Peter Korn
school and Anderson ranch) told me that only two planes are needed:
the Lie-Nielson (LN) adjustable mouth block plane and the LN #five and
a half which is a compromise between a "baby jointer" and a big
Many others have told me that you should get planes in this order....
If you're planning to take wood from the rough to finish, a scrub
plane is good. Some folks think a scraper is important but I use the
Lee Valley Veritas (LV) hand scraper. Beside the plane scrapers are
reputed to be tricky to use - I don't know.
All that said, I've found many occasion to use a shoulder plane
(Veritas Lee Valley medium) and a LN chisel plane.
A friend of mine bought the Steve Knight coffin smoother and raves
about it so I just ordered one. (It should arrive next week - whoopi!)
He claims there's nothing that beats the feel of wood on wood. Steve
was such a pleasure to work with and willing to deviate from the woods
on his web page to provide me with what I think will be a piece of
art, that I also bought one of his razee style jointer planes.
However, LN and LV and also good to work with but they are more
pricey, especially LN. But .... LN is usually considered the benchmark
Here's what I have currently:
LN adjustable mounth block plane - I use this one more than any other,
usually after I've built something and need to shave a littel here or
LV medium shoulder plane - Also used frequently to clean tenons.
Steve Knight coffin smoother - should arrive soon but based on the
direction I'm headed, will be used a lot (instead of sand paper -
dust, noise, etc).
LN #4.5 - beautiful plane. I haven't used it much. However as I have
improved as a woodworker (and I have a long long way to go), I've
began using is more.
LN small chisel plane - lot's of folks said I'd _not_ use this one
much but I do. Sometimes I have large tenons which need cleaning. I go
in from the end with the block plane and then finish up to the
sholders with the chisel plane.
Steve Knight Jointer plane - since I have a powermatic 6# jointer, I'm
not sure whether I'll use this one. It would sure be quieter and
produce less dust though. Steve sent me pictures of the coffin
smoother he's building and made me a great deal on a matching jointer.
I couldn't refuse. Bloodwood with hard maple.
Oh, maybe the LN #5.5 as the "pro" mentioned above. Or the LN skew
angle block plane. A spoke shave may be in my future, too.
Lastly, let me say that there's lot's of people that do good work w/o
a single plane. There's lot's of people that eschew power tools. I
have found (and some of the books advise) a blending of the two. Going
into hand tools is sometimes referred to as the "slippery slope".
That's true. They have charm as pieces to collect and they have
utility as tools and they are fun to use...to a point.
There are many plane makers but I've discoverd that Steve Knight, LV,
and LN can meet all my plane lusts. The other manufactures don't seem
to have the same plane sex appeal (with the possible exception of
ECE). I also like buying American when I can. The Canadians (LV) are
BTW, I recently posted "What Plane Next" and some of the replies were
quite good. Do an advanced search in rec.woodworking with the author
Never Enough Money.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Ben) wrote in message
Start with a bog standard 4 or 4 1/2 which is what I use, then see what
comes up cheap/free in need of TLC, got a 5 and 4 that way, and drew a
bead on a 6 last week, if the old bugger will let it go....It might be
covered in fine red but it will clean up just dandy for a user.
Oh, I forgot to mention -- lot's of my friends swear by the low angle
jack. LV sells a good one at a good price. For some reason, I
personally have never been interested in it -- I guess it's because
I've been told it's great for beginners (who tend to tear out the
wood). Although I AM A BEGINNER, I don't want to admit it -- denial I
guess...go for the real man's planes and all that stuff....
email@example.com (Ben) wrote in message
1. Low-angle adjustable mouth block - either Lie-Nielsen or Veritas.
2. Lie-Nielsen 4.5 smoother.
3. Lie-Nielsen jointer or fore plane (#6 or #7).
4. Lie-Nielsen rabbetting block plane.
then, you'll discover you want/need others:
- low-angle jack plane
- shoulder plane(s)
- scrub plane
- more bench planes
- specialty molding planes
To find out information about tuning them and using them, a great source is
Lee Valley's website (look at a plane and then click on the info link and
you get a lot of great info) and Lie-Nielsen's website (look for a Use &
A few others I have found invaluable:
and by far the most comprehensive and helpful
Good luck and have fun!
Here's a google cache:
It's excellent, but let's not forget the date on the thread whenyou start
considering shoulder planes. Veritas's shoulder planes weren't even all the way
on the drawing board, so to speak, at that time, but exist now in several
varieties. And that is not to knock the Lie-Nielsen models that are truly
excellent, just to offer another choice (and to keep adding to the confusion,
"Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for
President. One hopes it is the same half." Gore Vidal
1 - a good block plane. In my experience, used (i.e. vintage Stanley)
block planes are pretty well used up, so I'd suggest a new Lie-Nielsen
or Lee Valley plane.
2 - a jack plane (#5). Lie-Nielsen if you have plenty of money, other
wise an older Stanley.
These two are useful for trimming & adjusting even if you decide to
stick with primarily power tool woodworking.
Beyond that, it sort of depends where you want to focus first. For
finish work, the third & fourth would probably be a smoother (#3 or
#4 size) and a scraping plane (like the L-N #112). Alternatively, if
you wanted to focus on casework, etc, then you'd probably make a
jointer (#7 or #8) and a shoulder plane the next two.
On Mon, 27 Sep 2004 16:33:24 +0000 (UTC), John McCoy
I would put a decent medium shoulder plane in front of the #5.
My own experience suggests that the shoulder plane is more often used
than and of my bench planes, as I use power tools for surfacing and
I find it interesting that no one has thought to ask the OP what sort
of woodworking he will be doing. So, Ben, what'll it be--cabinet
work, something with a lot of M&T joints, only Windsor chairs? Or
maybe you, too, are a well-rounded individual and plan on doing a
little of the lot? Your choice of planes would depend to some extent
on what you want to do.
I have a bunch of old Stanleys, and keep getting more. Haven't sprung
for the new high priced stuff. But I'm kinda cheap. :)
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