As I read through the wreck some things I glance over or just pass by
as most of you probably do. Steve Knight? Who is this guy?
Recently I bought a Stanley block plane just to try it out. Right out
of the package I wasn't impressed. The opening in the base wouldn't
allow the blade to come out and the base was as smooth as 60 grit
paper. So I figured I'd tune it up.
Remade a jig I built years ago from Wood #149 for sharpening (this
thing is slick!)
http://store.woodstore.net/womais1ju20.html (third picture from bottom)
Sharpened the blade to 600 grit
Filed the opening bigger in the base and smoothed it out to 400 grit
Put it all back together and tweaked it.
Works great on 3/4 pine and poplar. Thin shavings that curl up that
you can almost see through. And about as smooth as if I sanded it with
100 grit. Now if I only knew what you are supposed to use a block
plane for. Couldn't get it to stop skipping on a piece of 3/4 maple I
had lying around but maybe it was the grain, it looked like this:
I also have a No 4 SoJo plane that needs work but I will do that one
next. Not ready to turn my back on Norm and AC current yet, but I plan
to keep these things handy.
Did I screw up on my tune up procedures above?
What is a good wood to practice on?
What kind of plane should I get next? (I'm thinking rabbet)
Book for plane newbies?
Welcome to the world of "elbow grease" powered tools.
I have to warn you that buying and using hand planes can almost become an
addition. I have to admit my own "plane" addition has progressed farther
than your present situation.
I had a Stanley block plane (9 1/4) for many years. This gathered dust in a
cupboard due to my foolish belief that power tools were better for
everything. I recently sharpened the blade, flattened the sole and it now
gets regular use for trimming/chamfering taking off small high spots.
You are asking what plane to buy, but really you need to think about which
operations you do and whether you want to use a hand plane.
About 3 years ago I decided I wanted a "decent" hand plane and walked into a
woodworking store declaring "I want to buy a plane - what do you recommend".
The store clerks were generally very helpful, but in this case were honest
and declared "I have no idea".
I bought a Record#5 (clone of a Stanley #5). It was just so-so.
I now understand that my statement was too open. Later I realised that
procuring a plane without knowing the specific operations for which it was
intended is futile. There is no single plane which can work well for all
I bought a Stanley #3 from a friend of my wife. This was used by her
father, a professional carpenter for several decades. I could tell from the
groves cut into the sole from repeated use. I flattened the sole, but have
not added any replacement blades. The later Lee Valley purchases have made
this item redundant.
I later bought a Lee Valley Low Angle Smoother. This was followed by a Lee
Valley Medium Shoulder plane. This was followed by a Lee Valley Scraper
Plane. The last purchase was a Lee Valley Router Plane.
I also invested in a Hock blade for the Record #5. What a difference. I
had flattened the sole of the Record using the Scary Sharp technique, and
also the out-of-the-box blade, but the Hock has transformed the plane.
I am now likely to purchase the Lee Valley iron edge triming plane - at
least once it is in stock.
My Record #5 is now flat, but the sides are about 89deg. This only matters
when using the plane in a shootting board to get a decent edge. I can
presently only use the Low Angle Smoother.
I find myself using hand planes for a lot more operations which at one time
would have been router or some other power tool.
I love the feel of creating curly shavings. It is almost a therapy to
My favourite plane is the LV Medium Shoulder Plane. For so many years I
needed to clean out dadoes or tenons or a rabbit. I am now able to do this
with the Shoulder Plane. It is a true joy to use.
My LV Low Angle Smoother gets the most use. I recently bought a higher
angle blade so now I can switch between Low Angle use for cross grain and
normal high angle use.
Welcome to the dawning of your own realisation that sometimes hand tools are
more appropriate than power tools.
Independent maker of very good-quality wood-bodied planes.
knight-toolworks.com If you call him up and explain what you need he
might give you a discount on your first one (as would any dealer of
rare, expensive, highly-sought-after goods...).
Sounds good - you might need to tweak and re-tweak several times -
you'll get better with practice. I'm still working on that also. I
can say from experience it's a LOT easier when you start with a
top-notch plane (i.e. Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley, etc.)
Not too surprising - maple is a LOT harder than poplar/pine. Are you
sure you're going with the grain? That can be hard to tell on maple.
I'd recommend practicing on oak, which has grain that's quite easy to
"read". Also, harder and/or figured woods tend to plane easier with a
high-angle plane and a narrower mouth opening (neither of which can be
adjusted on a cheap block plane, though you could re-grind the blade to
a higher angle if you really wanted). Cherry and walnut might also be
nice to practice on if you have some scraps - softer than maple, but
harder than poplar.
Good plan. I think hand planes are a very useful complement to power
Sounds good to me - just keep practicing. You might go a grit or few
above 400-600 to get a really nice polished finish.
I'd recommend keeping your eyes open for old (pre-WWII) stanley planes
- outfitted with a new iron (i.e. Ron Hock, Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley),
they can be tweaked to perform very well. I picked up a 1930-1931 #4
smoother at an auction for $15. If this used plane says "Bedrock", it
might cost twice as much, but from what I've heard, it would probably
be worth it. Do some googling for old planes, identifying, dating,
One other type to consider is a shoulder plane - useful for trimming
mortise & tenon joints as well as rabbeting. I like my Lee Valley
Medium shoulder plane, but have heard good things about the other
brands mentioned above also.
"The Handplane Book" by Garrett Hack is a good one, and though I
haven't looked at them closely, two others that look good are "Working
with Handplanes" (New Best of Fine Woodworking) by Editors of Fine
Woodworking and possibly "Making & Mastering Wood Planes: Revised
Edition" by James Krenov and David Finck. See what's available at your
local library first. There are also several magazine articles if you
can get your hands on old issues of Fine Woodworking, Popular
Woodworking, Wood, etc.
Have fun with quiet woodworking,
You're checking/savings account(s) are in jeapordy!
You did google "slippery slope" right?
Hand planes are the stealth tools of woodworking.
They can be used at 2 a.m. and not even wake
Hand tools can be catalysts in the Zen Moments
process - when all is quiet, providing the pleasing
and calming sound of whispered whoooosh - the
woodworker's equivalent of OMmmmmmmmmm.
Tune a drawer fit? Grab a block plane. Tune
a tenon's shoulder? Grab a shoulder plane - duh!
Take that little twist out of a board? Grab a
#5. Take that little bend out of an edge?
#6 or #7.
Then there are the rituals. Flatten the sole,
square the sides, flatten the back of the iron,
settle on a bevel angle and break out the water
stones. Work it. Wipe it. Check it. Repeat until
the bevel gleams. Reassmble and make whooshing
sounds as curlies begin floating - the wood's
surface revealing things you couldn't imagine
were hidden in it.
You in so much trouble now - boy!
Wait until you see what you can do with command of hand AND power
In my eyes, a good set of hand tools and skills, sharpening skills,
and a handful of _quality_ stationary machines can truly make the
Block planes are sued for 'blocking in', hence the name.
Blocking in is the trimming of slightly oversized or irregular pieces
get a good fit.
You can also use a block plane as a low angle smoother or as a
shooting plane. (DAGS "shooting board")
It will need to be sharpened finer than 600 grit to get a smooth
or to produce shavings from end grain.
Sounds like you've made a good start.
Steve makes a very good quality wooden hand planes. They are a pure delight
Warning! Warning! Warning! Warning!
The use of a quality hand plane will change how you approach woodworking.
It will lead you to the virtues of Lie Nielsen, Veritas and Hock tools. It
may also shape your thinking about just how sharp is sharp.
I had a friend, a fellow woodworked that disparaged hand planes as a relic
from the past and refused to use them. Until one day, when he was visiting
my shop and I was final fitting some inset drawers with my trusty low angle
block plane. Swish, swish, swish and the sticky drawer fit perfectly. Not
just fit, it fit perfectly, all of the drawers did. He tried it and now he
is hooked. He now has more planes than the Iraqi Air Force.
Maybe I jumped the gun on this but I bought a plane on EBAY last night.
Yeah I know, should have done some research first. It is a No 14
Shelton with wooden handles. I figured for $23.49 total it can't be
Never used EBAY before so I hope this works out and I don't get taken.
Seems like you have to have a lot of trust to buy things from there.
Never heard of Shelton before, but from the pix on ebay, it looks like
you have a servicable plane. Looks a lot like an old Stanley. I'd
recommend taking the whole thing apart, cleaning it carefully, and
sanding/scraping away any debris from machines surfaces. Use some
paste wax to prevent rust and reduce sliding friction. I'd also
recommend getting a new blade, as mentioned above, from: Ron Hock, Lee
Valley, or Lie Nielsen. Possibly a new chipbreaker as well, depending
on the condition of yours. It will probably cost more than the plane,
but will probably be worth it (unless Shelton is known for other
Have fun fettling,
OK, maybe I jumpted the gun on my reply. A little searching of wRECk
archives reveals that Shelton planes are NOT well-respected tools.
Apparently they were made by a company that primarily made picnic
Still, in my opinion, if it gives you practice in tuning planes, it's
not a complete waste. If you have the time, see how well you can get
it to work, and then either refute or confirm the prevalent rumors that
"Shelton planes = junk". Maybe it's not worth the money for the new
blade, especially if your plane has the unique blade-adjuster mechanism
that supposedly doesn't work well.
Hey, at least you're only out $24. Maybe you can polish it up and
re-sell it on Ebay.
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