Starting with Hand Planes... New or Used?

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Forum topic by nordichomey posted 09-17-2010 03:30 AM 3240 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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100 posts in 3098 days

09-17-2010 03:30 AM

All my wood working in the past has been power tools. However, I have an increased desire to start using more hand tools. I have been looking to start with a #4 bench plane. For a beginner where do you start? New or used? There are a ton of planes of varying quality on ebay. My thought is to start with a good quality used plane versus a cheap new plane.

For the hand plane experts out there… what are your thoughts?

-- nordichomey

17 replies so far

View swirt's profile


2733 posts in 2968 days

#1 posted 09-17-2010 03:56 AM

Yes I suggest going better used than cheaper new. A much better investment if you don’t mind doing a little homework and a little restoration. Newer cheap will likely require more work anyway.

-- Galootish log blog,

View DrewM's profile


176 posts in 2995 days

#2 posted 09-17-2010 03:59 AM

Older stanley planes found on ebay are the way to go. With a little work and some sharpening they work great. Here is a great website for dating stanley planes. Try to find a stanley type 10 – 15 (1907-1932) they are my favorite “user” planes. Good luck, they are addicting to find, restore, and use.

-- Drew, Delaware

View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

702 posts in 3066 days

#3 posted 09-17-2010 04:08 AM

I’m also new to hand planes, and I took the approach of saving for a Veritas plane from Lee Valley because I wanted a plane that need no work other then honing.

5 months later i’ve honed a few more times, and it’s still working as good as a plane can work, plan to have the plane for life, buy a plane you’d want to have for life.

I now have a bevel up smoother, low angle block plane, medium and large shoulder planes

All top notch, exceeds my expectations every time, always have a smile on my face when ever I use one.

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3644 days

#4 posted 09-17-2010 04:31 AM

my vote is go with a used – take it apart, and through tuning and setting it up – you’ll learn more about it then any other way.

curious though, why do you want to start with a #4 though?

I’d start with either a block plane, or a #5 or bigger – something that can be useful to mill lumber or in the case of the block plane – be the most useful tool in the bunch.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#5 posted 09-17-2010 06:39 AM

Like PurpLev said, why do you want to start with a #4 ?
The way these bench planes work is:
- #5, 14” long, jack plane, with a slightly crowned iron, to hog off material fast. With a flat iron can smooth.
- #6, 18” long, fore plane, is better to take down the high spots. Extra length gives more even surface.
You can get by with either #5 or #6 if you must limit your choices for your first plane.
- #4, 10” long, smoothing plane. It removes the tool marks left by the #5 or #6. It would take too long to prep a board using only the smoothing plane. It only takes tissue thin shavings off when properly honed and set.
- #60 1/2, 6” to 7” long, block plane. A good low angle block plane is for working end grain.
- #7 or #8, 22” or 24” long, jointer plane. These are heavy, long planes for jointing edges straight.

If I was limited to only two planes, I’d want a #60 1/2 block, and a #5 jack with two irons (crowned & flat)
In a pinch, if I could start with three planes, I’d have a #60 1/2 block, a #6 fore, and a #4 smooth.
If I could have four planes, I’d probably have a #60 1/2 block, a # 7 jointer, a #5 jack, and a #4 smooth.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18268 posts in 3672 days

#6 posted 09-17-2010 08:14 AM

Yesterday, I saw 3 or 4 nice Stanleys and a Miller sell on ebay for under $20!! I would have bid, but I already have some.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3070 days

#7 posted 09-17-2010 03:11 PM

I have also developed an interest in hand planes recently. My strategy is to buy several cheaper used planes for the purpose of learning. Then I’ll buy some better planes when I better understand what I want.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3659 days

#8 posted 09-17-2010 03:21 PM

I started out with an old Stanley #5 that I inherited from my Dad. I then picked up vintage Stanley and Craftsman planes at garage sales and on eBay. I didn’t buy a new plane (Veritas apron plane) until I had a pretty good sense of how to use and care for a plane.

BTW, my older Stanley planes (#3, #4, #5, and #7) were all retrofitted with Hock blades and chip breakers.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View helluvawreck's profile


31056 posts in 2863 days

#9 posted 09-17-2010 03:24 PM

If I was you I would go the used rout. Take a look at Ebay. Buy some that are at least 50 to 75 years old. I think that it is better to buy them from somebody on Ebay that’s got a good track record. I have purchased over 400 items on Ebay and have been dissatified only once. I will admit that I haven’t bought anything in two years but I know others who have. I know that I have bought at least 10 or 12 planes. I would especially like to have a #8 stanley and also a stanley carriage makers plane or some people call it a bench rabbit. Good luck!!!.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3757 days

#10 posted 09-17-2010 03:37 PM

I started with a #5 Clifton, purchased from Highland Woodworking. It was $300 but beautiful beyond expectations, and was “ready to go” out of the box. For me, this was a necessary “jump start” on the learning curve.

Since then I have purchased several #’s 4, 5 and 6 at antique shops. I like to look for hand planes with adjustable frogs. Depending on condition, restoring, de-rusting, and tuning used hand planes can be time consuming and tedious.

Chris Schwarz, editor of “Popular Woodworking” has an excellent new book out, “Handplane Essentials”. I recommend it highly.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View dbhost's profile


5710 posts in 3228 days

#11 posted 09-17-2010 03:52 PM

IF you have the time, and patience to restore an antique hand plane, pre WW2 Stanley planes are well worth the effort.

Having said that, I opted for new Groz planes, and yes I did have a LOT of tuning to do to them. I have a low angle block, a #4, and a #5, and they all work exceptionally well, but it took a bit of work to get them where I wanted them… In the long run, an antique will hold value better, but I wanted users, not collectors pieces…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2948 days

#12 posted 09-17-2010 08:59 PM

Here is what I did to get into planes:

I bought used ones off Ebay. I read books about planes and learned how to tune them up. I took that knowledge and tuned my planes for optimum use. What I found was the older Record planes I bought are great users once they were given the proper attention. I validated that train of thought when I used a couple of Veritas and LNs this week. My old Records worked just as good as those. True, the LNs and Veritas’ didn’t need tune up, but I saved a pile of money with the Records. Those savings bought some quality saws and chisels and such. Bottom line: buy some quality used ones, learn how they work, tune them up and you will have great planes you can use and save some money on they way.

-- Mike

View Richard Dunlap's profile

Richard Dunlap

65 posts in 2861 days

#13 posted 09-17-2010 09:47 PM

I have several Stanley planes that I found on e-bay. 2 #4, #5, #7, # 9 1/2 and a #60 1/2. Each for less than $40 including shipping, except for the #7, that one is heavy so shipping was more. They are all in good shape and all were made in the 30’s and 40’s. I love them.


View bunkie's profile


412 posts in 3143 days

#14 posted 09-17-2010 10:01 PM

You could do what I did: Marry a woman who buys you a #4 Lie Nielsen bronze smoothing plane. My then-fiance surprised me with it for my birthday. The downside to this approach is that it only works once…

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View knotscott's profile


8009 posts in 3372 days

#15 posted 09-17-2010 10:06 PM

My sentiments exactly.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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