Plane Advice - Jack of All Trades?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by Tricorn posted 02-26-2016 12:07 AM 835 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Tricorn's profile


17 posts in 812 days

02-26-2016 12:07 AM

I am wading into the world of hand tools, and after doing some research, I purchased a LV LA jack plane and a LA block plane as my first planes. After doing some further videos, I am beginning to rethink the jack plane. When I watch videos of the dimensioning and squaring of lumber, the progression of planes used tends to be scrub > jointer > smoother.

My question is “where does the jack plane fit in?” I am aware that I can use my LA jack as a scrub plane by opening the mouth and installing cambered iron and that I can use it as a smoother by closing the mouth and installing a square-er iron; however, is it not preferable to have a dedicated scrub, a dedicated jointer, and a dedicated smoother?

Further, a scrub plane seems to be a rough tool, whereas a smoother seems to a be a refined tool. Is first using the jack plane, which I will later use as a smoother, as a scrub plane, am I not using a BMW as a farm truck?


13 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17307 posts in 2971 days

#1 posted 02-26-2016 12:20 AM

A #5 can be configured in a lot of different ways. If i was in your shoes id be using it as a smoother as well as a a jointer and find myself a lesser quality plane and convert it to a scrub by opening the mouth (if needed) and putting a big camber on the iron.

Ultimately what are you looking to do with hand planes? Fully dimension? Joint? Surface? Smooth? All of the above?

Imo its a tool. A nice tool, but all tools need to work or they aint tools at all. Work that pretty farm truck brother.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View jmartel's profile


7804 posts in 2115 days

#2 posted 02-26-2016 12:35 AM

You can set up your LA jack as a short jointer or a long smoother. Just depends on the blade profile. A bit of camber for jointing, no camber but relieved edges for smoothing. Be aware that for a bevel up plane you have to put more camber in than on a bevel down plane.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2148 days

#3 posted 02-26-2016 12:41 AM

A jack can fill the function of a scrub plane, and some people do just that.

I think you’re going to find that you’re never going to use a single plane as both a smoother and a jack/scrub. It’s just too much hassle to mess with the mouth and frog position, or switch blades. So take Stef’s advice and buy a cheaper plane to use as a scrub while your jack is a long smoother, or buy a #4 and use it as a smoother while your jack is used for rough work.

If I had to whittle all my bench planes down, I’d have a cambered jack plane, a wide smoother, and a jointer.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View chiseler's profile


124 posts in 853 days

#4 posted 02-26-2016 01:25 AM

The jack is my go to plane. I just find them to be more comfortable to work with.and I happen to own 3 of them
2 old baileys that I’ve restored and an old wooden bodied one with the adjustment mechanism similar to a primus
(not sure what they’re called but it’s my favorite).and I’ve been using them for all the procedures mentioned except for when I have to shoot a longer edge I’ll reach for the #6 even though I do have a couple #7’s .I don’t remember the the last time I picked up #4,and I own about 6 of them..
I’ve been doing that way for 38 yrs.

My point is :there is no wrong way,it’s all about what works for you

-- Scott.Triangle,NY Becareful and don't forget...They cut meat too! Ask me how I know

View Tricorn's profile


17 posts in 812 days

#5 posted 02-26-2016 02:14 AM

Chrisstef, I’d like to learn to thickness by hand. However, down the road, I will likely buy a planer.

View OSU55's profile


1630 posts in 1954 days

#6 posted 02-26-2016 02:31 AM

The LV LA jack is a very versatile plane, but the name is a bit of a misnomer. It does well as a jointer, panel flattener, large smoother, and on a shooting board, using blades at various bevel angles. It’s too heavy, and waaay too nice to use as a jack plane, i.e. rough work following up a scrub plane or as the scrub and jack plane. Find yourself a Stanley Bailey #5 for rough dimensioning lumber and then use the LV to slick it up. I suspect it won’t be long you will be looking for a planer of the electrical variety.

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1451 days

#7 posted 02-26-2016 02:40 AM

I have 3 old Stanley baileys setup as a scrub, a regular jack (a bit of camber), and a almost a smoother (has a tiny bit of camber.

My 5s and my 4-1/2 are my go tos.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15280 posts in 2583 days

#8 posted 02-26-2016 02:46 AM

Think of a scrub plane as an uber, lighter-weight jack plane for rough stock prep. Emphasis on rough. With a cambered blade, the jack plane will do what you want it to, without issue.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Timmy2Hands's profile


152 posts in 929 days

#9 posted 02-26-2016 03:28 AM

I mostly work on a smaller scale, small boxes and such, my LA jack is my most used plane.
I can joint edges of small stock (12” – 20”), then take some pretty heavy cuts to dimension the thickness, and then a quick trip the the sharpening stones to freshen the edge and I’m on to smoothing with it. I will admit that the final smoothing is left for my #4 or #4 1/2.
I really like the LA Jack on the shooting board though. It’s perfect for getting the end grain just right, and has a lot of room in front of the blade to line up wider pieces.
I’ll never secong guess my #62.

-- Tim

View bigblockyeti's profile


5092 posts in 1685 days

#10 posted 02-26-2016 03:35 AM

I’m kind of in the same boat, but I have a LV #4 smoother that has a little heft so it can handle heavier work, but works for what it was made for; smoothing. I have a variety of block planes, none of which are too nice but get the job done well enough provided they’re kept sharp. My next plane, I think, is going to be a #6 fore plane. From what I can tell, it will perform many of same tasks as the #4 and jack plane, but bigger and most importantly, heavier. I’d like a jointer but the cost and frequency with which I think I’d use it make it harder to justify.

View WillliamMSP's profile


1084 posts in 1569 days

#11 posted 02-26-2016 03:52 AM

This is a pretty good Woodwright’s episode with Chris Schwartz, wherein he discusses set-up and rough work with a jack.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View Tricorn's profile


17 posts in 812 days

#12 posted 02-26-2016 04:22 AM

Thanks for all the insight. I’ve decided the following: I’m going to purchase a scrub plane for rough work and press my LA jack into service as a smoother and jointer until I can afford dedicated planes for those functions.

Out of curiosity, does a smoother have to be ~9 inches to work properly? Can the 16” LA jack work as well as a #4?

View OSU55's profile


1630 posts in 1954 days

#13 posted 02-26-2016 01:04 PM

No a smooth doesn’t have to be 9”. There aren’t hard rules. The 4/4-1/2 size planes just tend to be the best size (except for smaller work, smaller than maybe 5-6”). The size allows slight undulations in the surface that are difficult for the eye to notice. A longer plane would cut through these areas and flatten them. The smaller plane allows for some concentration on areas of tear out without leveling a larger area, which a longer plane will do. Some like to use a #3 for a smoother. As you obtain more planes and experience, you will find what you like. It’s not a bad idea to start with tradition and modify to taste as you go.

Most all bevel down iron bench planes set the blade at a 45° cutting angle. Wood with reversing, twisting grain will tear out. An advantage of bevel up planes like the LV BU LA jack is any bevel angle can be put on the blade. I have blades at 38° (50° cut) and 50° (62° cut) for such work. Card scrapers, scraper planes, and cabinet scrapers (Stanley #80) can also be used for this.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics