Which Plane Do You Use and When

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Forum topic by Beeguy posted 11-30-2010 08:38 PM 2358 views 1 time favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3875 days

11-30-2010 08:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane question

I have been reading the archives and a lot of other sites. Planes were discussed here a lot about 3 years ago but most of the names on those posts are not active in the community any longer.

I have developed some interest in planes, but honestly am not sure what is what. It seems to me that three to five planes may be all that you would need to supplement power tools in woodworking. I am not sure why there are so many out there other than the same reason there are so many different automobiles. When you see photos of woodworkers in magazines you see a shelf full of planes. If you are not strickly a hand tool only person, then are they all used or there as a collection that looks pretty neat?

So with that said, what do you think are the most versatile planes to have? And when do you reach for them? Is there a real “user” advantage in having a large number of what is out there? It seems to me you could end up investing a small fortune in buying and maintaining these tools. There are some things you do for nostalgia, and because it is fun, but if you really just want to use the plane because doing so is the better choice, then what planes are the best to choose from and when do you make that choice? (Not to knock the new high end planes, but I think they could be somewhat cost prohibitive to a lot of us. I am really thinking about the more affordable older models out there for this discussion.)

I hope this is not too broad of a topic, but I think there are more than a few LJs who could benefit from this information and also a few LJs who have this knowledge to share.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

39 replies so far

View DrewM's profile


176 posts in 3238 days

#1 posted 11-30-2010 09:23 PM

I do just fine with numbers 4,5,7 and a block plane (60 1/2 in my case). There are MANY schools of thought on what planes a woodworker should have in their toolbox. My advice is go out and get a new number 5 just to see how one should work and get a feel for the anatomy of your typical bench plane. Then when you feel the need to add to your collection find some pre-ww2 stanleys and tune them up into great users. There is a wealth of information on the internet about tuning an older plane and in my opinion its the way to go and is more affordable then buying brand new planes. Good luck.

-- Drew, Delaware

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3313 days

#2 posted 11-30-2010 10:02 PM

I essentially agree with Drew. However, for me, I see no need for a jointer plane (7) but I do like a shoulder plane to help clean up tenons. So, for me, it is 4, 5, block and shoulder.

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

View TheDane's profile


5575 posts in 3901 days

#3 posted 11-30-2010 10:20 PM

Depends on the stock and whether I mill it on the (power) jointer and planer first.

I have built a few Stickley reproductions, and done them entirely with hand tools. I have two Stanley #5’s … one of them has a cambered iron, so I use it is a scrub plane to do the rough work.

Next is the #7 jointer to flatten the stock, followed by a #4 smoother, followed with a card scraper. On some pieces, I have followed the #4 with a #3 smoother, then the scraper.

The first time I ran through this, I didn’t believe I could get a finish-ready workpiece without sanding. Now I am a believer!

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

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4366 days

#4 posted 11-30-2010 10:36 PM

To complicate your discussion, I mainly use traditional and modernized Japanese hand-planes.
They are wooden bodied and designed to cut with a pull stroke, although they can also be used by pushing.

I also collect, restore and use vintage Western planes – Too Numerous To Count.

I just acquired a vintage Stanley #71 Router Plane complete with a set of four different cutters – it was a gift.
It’s a Type 7 that was made up until 1908.
I’ll put it to use cutting mortises for butterfly keys.

-- 温故知新

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3886 days

#5 posted 11-30-2010 10:50 PM

I use a #4 and a #5 the most. I’ll grab a #4 and use it with one
hand like a block plane, or flip it around and pull it like a Japanese
plane. It’s a myth that you need a block plane to cut end grain -
a sharp iron in a standard bench plane will work fine for end grain
if the plane is tuned-up right.

A jointer plane is nice to have too. You can do some of the work
with a #5 and a straight edge, but a longer-soled plane is nice
to have too.

View TheDane's profile


5575 posts in 3901 days

#6 posted 11-30-2010 11:03 PM

@Loren—My #7 is a beast. It was a junker that I picked up cheap and completely rehabbed (electrolysis, new Japanning, ground the sole flat, new knob and tote, etc.).

I installed a Hock blade and chip breaker, and that combined with the heft of the plane itself makes it pretty much glide through the stock I am jointing.


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3354 days

#7 posted 11-30-2010 11:23 PM

here is more to be confused over
if you take a smother then most use one with an iron seting in a 45 degree angle
but some has it on a 37 degree and then again other planes is at 50 , 55 , 60 all used depending
on how difficult the grainpattern on the wood is to smooth but the most comon to use is 45 degree

but overall to your question then I wuold say a scrubplane , a jack , a smoother and a lowangle block
maybee to compleet the benchplanes a jointer about 24 inch then ther is shoulderplanes , rabbetplanes , etc
why the scrub ,jack and jointer becourse if you have a board thats wider than your jointer and planer
and don´t want to cut it to sizes were your powertools can handle it and glue it together again
then you use the handtools indstead , I know its a little exesice but it don´t take that long
and you wont have to pay money for a workout in the local gym. ....LOL

hope this help to confuse you the next week or more…LOL

good luck and take care

View chrisstef's profile


17800 posts in 3245 days

#8 posted 11-30-2010 11:26 PM

I just got started with hand planes by picking a few old stanley baileys up at flea markets and tag sales (its nice being in CT where Stanley’s are manufactured). I find that the block plane is useful for end grains and touch ups ( I have a Stanley #9 1/2 i think). Then i have 2 #4’s one of which i like to use as a beater for cleaning glue ups and the other for smoothing out small boards. The i also have 2 #5’s one stanley and one cheaper Groz. I cambered the iron on the Groz and use it much like a scrub plane, and the other #5 i use for just about everything else from cleaning up milling marks to flattening rough boards.

Im in the market for a jointer and im still kicking myself for not grabbing a SB #8 last year at a tag sale, i didnt think id need a beast like that but come to find out id love to have one.

Like just about everyone else grab an old stanley , clean and tune it, it helped me understand the mechanics behind it and what it takes to get those nice whipsy shavings.

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

View TheDane's profile


5575 posts in 3901 days

#9 posted 11-30-2010 11:31 PM

@Dennis—I have learned that you can’t have too many planes!

I keep adding to my collection … in addition to the #3, #4, two #5’s, and the #7, it now includes a Stanley #92 shoulder plane, Stanly #60 1/2 block plane, a Veritas apron plane (handy little devil!), a Sargent filletster plane, a couple of slick planes for roundovers and champfers, and most recently a Stanley #45 plough/combination plane.

They are fun to use, make mountains of shavings, and they are QUIET (wife likes that best!). My biggest worry now is that when I die, she will sell them for what I told her I paid for them!


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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3354 days

#10 posted 12-01-2010 01:00 AM

Dane : all those numbers I allways get confused on them….aaagh gives me headeche to ceep track of them

well I know you nearly can´t have too many…LOL if you are a collecter
but I gess you are a user unless you are like canadienchips that uses all his
300 and something transisionplanes :-)
and just for the record it was just the little starting set I talked about …the others seems to pop into
the shop all by them selfs ….LOL

take care

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3354 days

#11 posted 12-01-2010 01:01 AM

Dane : it seems to me you have the perfect excuse to by the tools oou want …LOL

View Beeguy's profile


179 posts in 3875 days

#12 posted 12-01-2010 02:22 AM

Dennis, good point about the work out and the wider boards.

I knew if I asked these questions some of the plane die hards would respond, which I think is great and hope to get a few more comments. Everything so far has been really helpful.

As I said, my first goal is to get what I need to compliment the power tools. I like being able to add the finish without a ton of sanding. I have a good use for woodshavings too. I worked a long time without all these planes so I want to add them to my system. By what I read here and elsewhere other woodworkers share that thought. I want to buy what I really need first and then expand later if necessary.

-- Ron, Kutztown, PA "The reward is in the journey."

View RalphBarker's profile


80 posts in 3008 days

#13 posted 12-01-2010 02:59 AM

Just go to the Lie Nielsen site and buy one of each, Ron. It’s only money, and the economy needs your help. ;-)

Like many of the others, I use a #4, #5, #7, and a couple of different block planes. I could do without the #7, but it’s certainly nice to have. Having extra irons sharpened at different bevels and cambers can also extend the utility of a single plane – either a #4 or a #5, for example.

The Veritas Mark II honing guide is a worthwhile purchase, as well. Then, whether to use oil stones, water stones, or other methods is a function of which pew you choose to sit in at The Church of The Sharp Edge. ;-)

View Lochlainn1066's profile


138 posts in 3016 days

#14 posted 12-01-2010 03:11 AM

It all depends on your style of work. For most general casework/trim/furniture, the most versatile is a #5. It’s a long smoother or a short jointer.

If you add a second plane, then a #4, or a #3 if the parts are usually narrow.

A third, #6,7, or 8. Depending on how big your usual work is.

If you mostly cut joints by hand and size things by machiine, a shoulder plane, moving fillister, or plow will be higher up.

And a block plane is handy for everybody. There’s probably nobody out there who DOESN’T find use for a block plane.

-- Nate,

View canadianchips's profile


2616 posts in 3235 days

#15 posted 12-01-2010 03:37 AM

I worked most of my years with only #5 and a block plane (I survived) The # 5 was a no name handed down from my Grandfather, the block plane I bought new when I finished cabinet school. Now I have many planes and still learning which ones I like most. Today the ones on the shelf are still the block plane, a #4, a scrub plane and a 39 1/2 dado. The rest all have a home in the shelf or drawers or storage boxes (Like I said, I still have hundreds that I have not used yet)
OH. I do use a 151 spokeshave quite alot to. (To some those are not really planes)
IF WE ALL GET TO VOTE : I would vote “Block plane as a must”

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

showing 1 through 15 of 39 replies

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