Poll: Which Plane Should I Get?

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Blog entry by Eric posted 02-13-2008 07:29 AM 3230 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, so I’m in the market for a plane that will help me clean up my tenons and maybe do some other tricks too. I’ve narrowed it down to a Stanley #78 rabbet plane and one of those skinny wooden shoulder planes that are so common on eBay (in fact, I just saw one listed for $9.99 that ended with no bids).

It seems that these two planes do mostly the same kind of thing, and that they would both work for tenons and rabbet joints. Right? But the Stanley #78 has the bullnose feature which might be useful (for what, though?). So let me leave it up to you: please take my poll and leave comments if you need to explain your answer! Thanks…

EDIT: I just added “Neither” as an answer after reading ChicoWoodnut’s comment. Since only 9 people have seen this entry, and only one has voted so far, this shouldn’t mess the poll up too much.

-- Eric at

16 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4051 days

#1 posted 02-13-2008 07:44 AM

funny you should post this right now. I was just in the shop trimming tenons with a chisel. Satisfying but slow. I am craving one of those LV medium shoulder planes my self. I have a 78. I think the blade is too far forward for trimming tenons. The mouth is a little wide for fine work and it is far too clumsy for trimming cheeks. I think it is realy designed to carve out rabbets fast.

If I had to choose I would go with the 78 though.

Thats my 02

-- Scott - Chico California

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4232 days

#2 posted 02-13-2008 08:41 AM

Though not ideal, I think the 78 gives you enough flat surface reference up front to make it worthy. With a sharp blade and the fence off anything is possible! Used as a shoulder plane to shave tenons cheeks, you may have to hold it over the top. It could be a good multipurpose tool for you…

Just don’t try to use it for smoothing!

By the way, the bullnose feature on the tool gets you closer to the end of the line, but you still need to use a chisel to clean out the end of cut, if you don’t have a chisel plane or shoulder plane with a removable nose…

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 4031 days

#3 posted 02-13-2008 12:17 PM

I’m actually partial to just a chisel. Slow, but effective. Besides, you’ve already got it :D

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Greg Salata's profile

Greg Salata

129 posts in 3998 days

#4 posted 02-13-2008 12:26 PM

I use a Veritas medium shoulder plane for a lot of that work and have been pleased.
I tried the 78 while being ok, I like it better for rabbets.


View Kaleo's profile


201 posts in 4375 days

#5 posted 02-13-2008 01:16 PM

I have a beautiful wooden shoulder plane made by HnT Gordon out of Australia. It is the sweetest little plane that I own. Check them out

-- Kaleo ,

View Recycler's profile


40 posts in 4000 days

#6 posted 02-13-2008 03:18 PM

Put me down for “chisel”, too. Not only does it do the job, I’ve found that using chisels for jobs like trimming tenons makes me think a bit about how chisels (and therefore, planes) actually work.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4198 days

#7 posted 02-13-2008 04:02 PM

I have a 78 that is worthless to me and a #92 that I use all the time. You need a good shoulder plane.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4019 days

#8 posted 02-13-2008 05:12 PM

I think as the comments (and an email) come in, I’m realizing that a rabbet plane actually CREATES the rabbet, not just cleaning them up. So that is a big plus for the #78, since I don’t have a table saw or any other means to easily make a rabbet. In fact, I’ll be making one on a box soon, and it’ll be two saw cuts. So maybe that would be useful.

But does a rabbet plane also work for touching up shoulders?

-- Eric at

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4232 days

#9 posted 02-13-2008 06:34 PM

I’d contend that it works – just not as effectively as a shoulder plane…which I have as well. I typically wouldn’t use the 78 for trimming tenons, but if it were all I had, you bet I would!

Everything is temporary!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View jcees's profile


1071 posts in 4034 days

#10 posted 02-14-2008 02:20 AM

For cleaning up tenons you really are looking at a shoulder plane ala #73 L-N or as I have which is a modern derivation of the wooden shoulder plane made by H.N.T. Gordon as previously related by Kaleo but mine is bigger! Beautiful fit and heft and does she ever work exceedingly fine! I also use an old Preston bullnose shoulder plane for those up close and personal kinds of joinery. If I weren’t particular about wood vs. steel planes, I’d opt for either the Veritas or Lie-Neilsen varietals.

The #78 is primarily a rabbet plane with spurs, stops and fence intended to make rabbets and nothing more. I honestly don’t know of way in which to use a #78 on a tenon.


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4232 days

#11 posted 02-14-2008 06:20 AM

Just to be a bit on the sassy side – in reaction to: ”I honestly don’t know of way in which to use a #78 on a tenon.”

I think you just sharpen and set the iron and have a go…the 78 gives more support than a chisel, but I bet you wouldn’t hear that one honestly wouldn’t know how to use a chisel on a tenon. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable plane to use for the job though…

Should I post this? Sure why not…in the spirit of forum.

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4333 days

#12 posted 02-16-2008 12:13 AM

I think that you would not have to spend too much on either to figure out you probably “want” a shoulder plane. I have not found the 78 to be a precision tool.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 4048 days

#13 posted 02-16-2008 12:26 AM

I’ll throw my vote in for the veritas medium shoulder plane….it is, by a long shot, my most used plane in the shop. It really is an outstanding tool at a great price.

As far as your making the rabbet… stated you don’t have a TS, but how about a router…or jointer? Both will make a great rabbet (although for some jointers you’ll have to make a jig)


-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4051 days

#14 posted 02-16-2008 02:21 AM

Just for kicks, I tried my 78 to do some tenon cheek trimming. It was O.K. Amazingly enough it is a left handed tool. The flat side of the tool is on the right hand side so if you are right handed, it is not where you want it to be (resting against the shoulder). That makes it hard to hold the work with your left hand. What I did was set the blade really fine and out just against the right edge of the plane, then I put the work in the front vise. Hold the plane with both hands, one in front and one in back and take a nice slow pass. Stop before the blade gets to the end of the stroke or you might blow the edge off your tenon :(

Finish the edge with a sharp chisel.

Still craving that LN shoulder plane :)

-- Scott - Chico California

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4232 days

#15 posted 02-17-2008 07:06 AM

I’m glad Scott tried it out -

My gut, Eric, is that you were looking for a fairly inexpensive way to get the function you desired – trimming tenons, and possibly cutting rabbets…

It didn’t sound like you were in the market for a $175 shoulder plane…

So, have you made any decisions? Or purchases? You getting one of each? Or neither? Or?

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

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