Reply by David Kirtley

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Posted on My first best handplane

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2993 days

#1 posted 02-26-2012 04:52 PM

I think that one of the things that discourages people adding hand tools to their basic tool set is that people attribute almost mystical properties to planes at times. It is just a jig to hold a blade. They don’t do anything that you can’t do with a chisel and a steady hand. Grab what feels comfortable to you and work with it. There is no correct choice. It is all personal preference. There is a set of trade-offs that you choose for the results you want. A longer plane is going to have to take everything down to get a planar surface. A smoother can clean out in a “low” spot. Same difference with the width of the blade. If you have a narrow blade, you might have to make a couple passes to cover the same area. A high angle plane doesn’t lift as much and is good for highly figured wood. A low angle plane is nice for end grain. You can get the same effect by skewing the blade (or the whole plane) while using it.

If you only have one, a #5 jack plane is a nice general size. When you get into the smoothers, whatever feels comfortable. A #4 is not a bad choice but if it is too large for you, drop down to a #3. If it feels small, jump up to a #4-1/2.

The low angle planes are not bad if you do a lot of end grain. I don’t personally feel much of a point to the bevel up bench planes but there is nothing wrong with them. Historically, they were prone to cracking but I can’t say that is an issue with modern ones.

The one thing you do want is the ability to adjust the mouth size. It is a really nice convenience. Whether it is moving the toe on a bevel up plane or moving the frog on a bench plane makes no difference.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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