Differences in Plane quality

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Forum topic by HenryD posted 10-12-2010 05:58 PM 1965 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 3070 days

10-12-2010 05:58 PM

I’m trying to determine what type and brand of plane to purchase without breaking the bank. I’d like something that can do what a jointer and planer do only by hand. Which companies make good introductory level planes, and is there a huge difference in low to mid-line planes? Or should I try to find good, used high-end planes?

Any advice will be much appreciated.


-- Put your waste wood to use -

24 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3038 days

#1 posted 10-12-2010 06:21 PM

I am certainly not an expert on hand planes but I have recently developed a real interest in them and I have been doing a lot of research to learn more.

Based on everything I have read, I believe that used planes is the way to go. There are many on e-bay. I would avoid the real cheap stuff (< $10) and the real expensive stuff (>$50). My strategy was to acquire 2 – 3 lower priced planes ($20 – 25) primarily for the purpose of learning. After some hands on experience I may be satisfied with the planes I have or, if I want to buy better, I will better understand what I want.

I would recommend a jointer plane and a jack plane to get started.

To work effectively with a plane you have to have the ability to sharpen and tune them properly. There is much written on the subject and you should bring yourself “up to speed” on sharpening and tuning a plane before jumping in.

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

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#2 posted 10-12-2010 06:25 PM

Hi Henry. There is a large difference in quality between low end planes and high end. That doesn’t mean high end planes are better though. It just means they might be ready to go out of box compared to low end ones which might need extra flattening or squaring of the sides of the plane to the sole. Hand planes is a huge topic though, I’d recommend reading Christopher Schwarz has an excellent book on planes and there is a ton of info out there.

Personally, I think the blade quality makes more of a difference than the plane. Unless you buy a high end plane, your plane probably comes with a very thin plane iron(blade). I’d recommend replacing it and the chipbreaker immediately to a HOCK blade.

If you search through e-bay like Rich says, you can sometimes find some excellent buys on old handplanes. The really old stanleys are much better built than new ones. I found an antique 1880’s #7 jointer handplane for $50 that was in excellent condition. It still had its original Japanning and very little rust or pits in the sole. New #7’s are in the high 100s for low end ones. If you go the used route though, make sure you are not buying trash. So avoid planes that have pits near the front part of the sole.

I’m sure you will get some very different opinions from other LJ’s though. Good luck.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View HenryD's profile


16 posts in 3070 days

#3 posted 10-12-2010 06:51 PM

Thanks, Guys. This exactly the kind of advice I need. Much appreciated!

-- Put your waste wood to use -

View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3196 days

#4 posted 10-12-2010 07:07 PM

FWIW, I have Groz planes (low end cheapies) fitted with Hock irons and chip breakers. So far a #4 and a #5. I had to spend a little bit of time tightening up fasteners, and flattening soles, but it was time well spent in my shop.

A lot of guys recommend antiques from Stanley, Bailey, Record and such. I have not had any luck finding decent examples in an affordable range.

I am enjoying my Groz planes well enough that I am planning on adding a #6 and #7 to my collection this spring…

I have had bad experiences with modern Stanley, and Buck Bros planes. However I have friends that have the Buck Bros #4 and have tuned them to make a very workable plane for themselves…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View SPHinTampa's profile


567 posts in 3649 days

#5 posted 10-12-2010 07:28 PM

I know that this is not going to be a popular answer but for hand planes, i would save up until I could afford the good stuff. I am not particularly good with handtools, but I do use scapers and planes fairly frequently now because I invested in Lee Valley equipment (I am sure that Lie Nielsen and other are equal good).

I tried using basic Stanley and Grolz gear and did not get good enough results. I tried upgrading the equipment with aftermarket blades and it worked better.

Neither of these options is even close to the results, or more importantly the enjoyment, I get from using the Lee Valley equipment. The planes that I use the most often in priority order are:

1. Veritas #4 smoothing plane (could not live without) – most general planing tasks from roughing stock to cleaning up faces
2. Veritas low angle block plane (could not live without) – quick touch ups and all end grain work
3. Veritas bevel up 22” jointer plane – for very long edge jointer or large faces
4. Veritas bull nose plane – cleaning up joinery

I am sure experts can make any tool work but I think lower end hand tools take out the enjoyment of the work.

-- Shawn, I ask in order to learn

View b2rtch's profile


4851 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 10-12-2010 07:38 PM

Wood River planes at woodcraft have an excellent reputation and their price is moderate.
Also I buy used Stanley in local antique stores that I tune up, not very difficult to do.
Planes are a joy to use.

-- Bert

View chrisstef's profile


17305 posts in 2970 days

#7 posted 10-12-2010 07:56 PM

For me i have been hitting the local tag sales in the area. I have picked up a Stanley Bailey #4, Stanley Bailey #5, and Groz #5 (which i plan on converting into a scrub plane) for a grand total of about $30. Another $20 for a gallon of Evapo-Rust and $20 in sandpaper and a week or so refurbishing and tuning.

I feel like this was the best way for me to get into handplanes without breaking the bank on the high end planes. and by dismantling, cleaning and tuning them i have a much better idea as to how and why they work.

Next up is Garrett Hack’s book on Handplanes.

Grand total about $100 out the door to get me started into handplanes.

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

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2830 days

#8 posted 10-12-2010 08:07 PM

I would buy some good usable older Stanley planes. You can find these on Ebay, Craig’s List, yard sales, and antique stores, among other places.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View HenryD's profile


16 posts in 3070 days

#9 posted 10-12-2010 08:27 PM

Not that this is what I’m looking for, but would something like this on craigslist be a good plane to have?

Record Plane

-- Put your waste wood to use -

View mstenner's profile


57 posts in 3118 days

#10 posted 10-12-2010 08:35 PM

Here’s the deal. If you know how a plane is supposed to work, how to tell what the problems are, and how to tune them, then most any plane can be made to work well. I have a total POS Craftsman #4 (first plane and I didn’t know any better) that I have tuned up (better blade, flattened sole, etc) and working really well. Unfortunately, I only really figured out how to do that 3 years later when I got my hands on a nice veritas plane and had a forehead-slapping moment: “Oh wow, so THIS is how it’s supposed to go”.

Bottom line, I’d recommend that your first plane be a good one, ready to go right out of the box. Once you get comfy with their operation and maintenance, THEN you can look for those great deals and fix-er-up-ers.

If you have a buddy who can bootstrap you (by teaching you to tune a plane or loaning you a nicely tuned one), then that could work too. Books and blogs are great, but there’s no substitute for getting your hands on one.

-- -Michael

View HenryD's profile


16 posts in 3070 days

#11 posted 10-12-2010 08:40 PM

I hear you, mstenner. I’m new to this area and don’t know any professional woodworkers who could show me a few things about planes. Is there anyone on the forum from the Denver area who might want to help me out?

-- Put your waste wood to use -

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3339 days

#12 posted 10-12-2010 08:44 PM

I enjoy buying and using high quality older planes vs buying the lower end imports. Lie Nielsen and Veritas planes are excellent if you can afford them.

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

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3612 days

#13 posted 10-12-2010 08:48 PM

Hendry -the link to CL you posted is actually EXACTLY what you are looking for – they range from 70-100+ depending on condition and it looks brand new.

a #7 will allow you to joint a board and plane a board/panel flat. mind you the smaller #4 will not be able to do that – they will only be good for finishing and smoothing the boards -but they will not make them flat.

I’d take that Record plane if I was in your neighborhood myself!

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

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2844 days

#14 posted 10-12-2010 09:15 PM

I recently became a very big fan of using hand planes. I bought two old hand planes for less then 10 dollars total. I got a old craftsman bench plane and a Shelton Jack plane. I never had any intention of using these much. I just wanted to have some planes on hand in case I should need to use. With no clue on how to use them, tune them or sharpen a blade I decided to use them to flatten a small board. After hours of work and tons of chipping, tear out and no fine shavings I still didn’t have a flat board. I was so upset with myself because I did not expect it to be that hard to use and figure out. However this poor attempt to plane a board only motivated me to start learning. So my first bit of advice is to just start reading and take it all in.

I also gained a lot of knowledge by completely taking the planes apart, cleaning them up and seeing how they were built. This really helped me understand them. Even if you buy a new plane I suggest taking apart and studying the parts.

As for the plane quality. Well I am in no way an experienced plane user and I am still working on “getting it” but IMO the most important factor is that you have a sharp blade. My planes are considered junk planes by many but once I got the blades sharp and planes tuned up they started producing very fine shavings. I would never call them junk. They may not be considered good quality by many but I use them and am able to make them work just fine for what I do. I am looking for that great deal on a great quality used plane but until I find the right one I will continue to use my “cheap” ones.

Don’t feel you need to go out and buy the best and most expensive. My advice is to get a cheaper plane, learn how it works, get it sharp and see if it does the job for you. If you like it and use often enough then consider spending more on a quality plane.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3159 days

#15 posted 10-12-2010 11:15 PM

Like Purplev said, GET THAT PLANE. It’s a steal and exactly what you are looking for.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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