I bought a few planes and a honing guide at some garage sales (total
expenditure $12), and have been having fun playing with them; but have some
1) What is a short plane good for; why would you want to use a #4 rather
than a #5? Wouldn't that be like using a short jointer when a long one is
available? I suppose it is lighter, but what else.
2) One of the Stanley planes came with a Dunlap iron. Is that likely to be
better or worse than the Stanley irons?
3) An article in a "Fine Woodworking" book said that a hair's width off
perfectly flat on a #5 might be okay for rough work, but for precision work
it has to be better than that. Is this to be taken seriously?! I find it
hard to believe that a hair's width could even be measured over 14" (by the
home woodworker anyways), let alone make a difference.
All planes, no matter how flat their soles, can plane a concave edge.
The radius is proportional to the square of the length divided by the set.
However, flatness is important partially because it is essential that the
front lip of the mouth makes firm contact with the wood.
Jeff Gorman - West Yorkshire - UK
Username for email is amgron
Shorter planes are used for final smoothing. The shorter length allows the
plane to follow the ridges and valleys on the surface, removing material and
creating a smooth surface. This is why #1 to #4 planes are dubbed
"smoothers". Longer planes (like the #5 jack or the #6 fore and the #7 & #8
jointers) are used to remove the hills. The longer length means they will
NOT follow the surface, but will rather work to make the surface flat by
taking off the tops of the hills. If you're following me, you can see the
difference in their use. Of course, if you set up a #5 with a very tight
mouth and very sharp iron you can use it as a smoother, assuming your
surface is flat enough. I often use a #5 or even my #6 to smooth large
panels, simply due to the size issue. Having various lengths available,
however, gives you more versatility. The different weights, lengths,
widths, etc. offer you the option to choose the best plane for the job.
Also, don't forget about the blade angle. For difficult woods, you often
need a higher angle to avoid tear-out. Also, using a plane to shoot the end
grain of boards might necessitate a low-angle plane, or a miter plane. It's
a neverending struggle, but it's a lot of fun :-). And this is all coming
from someone with only about 3 years of hand tool experience, with only the
last one being very serious.
I have no idea about Dunlap irons, but there are better irons available from
Hock and others. I have several older Stanley planes with Stanley irons,
and generally speaking, those irons don't hold up quite as well as the newer
irons in my Lie-Nielsen and other planes. But, the thing to do is flatten
and hone the iron and try it and see how it goes.
I haven't seen that article, but it does sound a bit ridiculous to me. You
do need the sole to be flat, but talking about hair's widths is going a bit
overboard, IMO. There are several woodworkers out there with immensely more
experience than I have that say similar things about not needing it to be
perfect. There are critical areas that DO affect performance more than
others, however, so you have to keep that in mind (just in front of the
mouth, for example).
The other post with the links should give you some good ideas, especially
the first one.
It's not a clear size equals task sort of thing, but what you'll find is that
you tend to start with a short coarsely set plane like a #40 scrub to knock down
just the obvious hi spots then jump up to medium set #7 jointer sized plane to
work over the entire surface more thoroughly because it will bridge across the
low areas and bring down the more subtle high spots. Once you're taking nice
full length curls, move to a finely set #4 smother size to get your final
Of course every craftsman has his or her favorite planes for various situations
and often the wood dictates some plane selection. I don't own a scrub plane so
I usually open up the mouth on a #5 jack instead. A #6 or #8 would work
basically as well as a #7 jointer. I tend to use a wider #4 1/2 smothing plane
more often than a #3 or #4.
The thing you will begin to learn is that some simple tuning issues impact the
performance of a plane a great deal, others not as much depending on what level
of performance you try to get from a specific plane.
My advise is to jump in and let your struggles teach you a few things, read the
archives of some forums dedicated to hand tools like the one at woodcentral.com,
resolve to learn to sharpen your tools. Scarry sharp method is an inexpensive
option worth trying. Have fun!
Heh. There ought to be a support group or something. Or maybe this
is as good as it gets? I just got a shipment from LV today - Hirsch
firmers and the some accessories for the LA block. "That's
It's only just begun.
First I was planing only on the weekends...with my friends, c'mon one's
not gonna kill ya, then I started planing during the week...then later on
I would find myself planing alone, I tried to tell myself that I could
stop anytime I wanted....I was still in control or so I thought...then
came the others...jacks jointers scrubs, anywhere I could find them, I
bought, and bought and bought, I was hiding them from my family, I could
hear them whispering, knowing I was different...that I had a "problem" I
told them they were crazy, I was just fine, leave me alone I am just
Sure is a slippery slope...but i am much better now...
Try bidding low on eBay. All the fun of shopping, but you rarely
actually need to pay for the thing and if you do, you got a real
Wonder if I'll get the #62, the #101 1/2 or the #10 1/4 ? 8-)
My name is Patrick. That's the icky version of Patriarch.
I haven't bought a hand plane in 3 months. But even then it was only
the $29 foot print, that I could afford. And then after 3.0 hrs
worth of flattening the sole, flattening the iron. Changing the
bevel angle and then some serious honing. I could actually plane oak
and it did a pretty decent job. It did a god job of smoothing the
face and edge. It even did a good job of planing end grain.
Someday the hair will grow back on my arm, and the nicks on my fingers
will eventually heal. Ya know - testing...
I think the reason it started out as a crappy plane, had something to
do with the 25 degree bed angle, compounded with the 25 and 30 degree
bevels. "Try pushing that sucker on oak"... I went with a
single bevel about 18 to 20 degrees. Then put a mirror surface on
both sides of the iron. Goes through oak quite easily.
Oh well, back to the Lee Valley Catalogue and some dreaming....
Maybe someday "assuming I stop buying wood" I'll be able to afford a
real plane. Preferably one that's made by Hawaiian Airlines and
takes me to the Big Island for the rest of my life.
On Wed, 04 Aug 2004 19:27:53 +0100, Andy Dingley
So you bought the Footprint H4 for $29 and completely tuned it "out the bazoo"
and it is now a perfectly fine working plane, as good as any other no matter what
brand, except maybe the iron not being a Hock A2... that teaches me something
about the cost of things and their necessity. Do a little studying on tuning, work
hard doing it and we'll be just as good. It is not so much the tool as it is the
manship. I suspected as much, and frankly, you get more of my respect.
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