Which hand plane?

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Forum topic by bues0022 posted 02-07-2011 05:04 AM 1371 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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250 posts in 3400 days

02-07-2011 05:04 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plane

I know next to nothing about hand-planes. I want to use a hand plane to joint the edges of some boards before gluing them. There are a lot of different planes, but I’m not really sure which one is a) best for my application, or b) which one would not only work for this, but also for other applications. I don’t want to break the bank on this tool purchase either. Any advise on where to lookup some good info or tips on what to get would be appreciated.

-- Ryan -- Bristow, VA

13 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3888 days

#1 posted 02-07-2011 05:11 AM

Get a #5 – you can joint with it adequately and do lots of other stuff too. It’s
light enough to use with one hand for chamfering and stuff like that too.

I use a #4 a lot too, and often with one hand like most guys would use a
block plane, but the #4 is no good for jointing edges.

View DrewM's profile


176 posts in 3239 days

#2 posted 02-07-2011 05:22 AM

I agree with loren, a good #5 will do just about anything you need. For now…haha

-- Drew, Delaware

View knotscott's profile


8180 posts in 3616 days

#3 posted 02-07-2011 05:33 AM

A good #5 is kind of the general purpose hand plane….if you’re only going to have one or two, a #5 (or 5-1/2) is a good choice. A block plane is really handy to have too.

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

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 3494 days

#4 posted 02-07-2011 05:46 AM

The WoodRiver planes are nice planes for a reasonable cost. I have the #4 smoother and once I got it tuned, it makes a real nice cut. But a scrub plane is good to have around. I would recommend starting with a block plane. Learn how to sharpen, tune and use that first. They’re relatively inexpensive and very handy to have around and it doesn’t break the bank if you really screw it up. lol


-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View bues0022's profile


250 posts in 3400 days

#5 posted 02-07-2011 05:48 AM

So it seems like #5 might be the best first plane to get then? Thanks for the help! Now that I have a starting point I can read up a bit more on the #5, watch some youtube videos, and compare other future planes to this one.

As a side note, what does the numbering represent? Larger number= smaller=

Edit: looks like I may have jumped the gun. I think I might be able to get a grasp on a number system, but how does a block plane fit into this? And the angle? low angle vs. standard? I think I need to do some reading, is there a website that breaks down which ones are used for what purpose, and why?

-- Ryan -- Bristow, VA

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 3494 days

#6 posted 02-07-2011 05:58 AM

Sorry, I missed typed. I meant to say “But a fore plane is good to have around.” A scrub plane is an entirely different monster.

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View FreshPants's profile


10 posts in 3332 days

#7 posted 02-07-2011 07:57 AM

a) What length of board are you trying to joint?
b) A #5 would be a good plane for multiple uses (hence the nick name “jack plane”), but if you’re regularly trying to plane the edges of fairly long boards (i.e. 48”+) than it may not be the right plane for the job.

The numbering system overall doesn’t make a ton of sense, but as far as the typical bench planes the numbering system is sequential (mostly) by size. 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 1/2, 5, 5 1/4, 5 1/2, 6, 7, 8 were all bench plane numbers from the tiny little #1 to the aircraft carrier of planes, the #8 jointer. Many, but not all, of the older manufacturers numbered their planes following Stanley’s planes.

Go here for more information than you ever needed (or maybe wanted) to know about the Stanley plane numbering system.

Patrick Leach has a ton of information on Stanley hand planes, and a good sense of humour too.

View bues0022's profile


250 posts in 3400 days

#8 posted 02-07-2011 04:06 PM

The boards I’m trying to joint right now are relatively short – between 8-24 inches.There is a possibility that I’ll have some longer ones ~45 inches coming up too. I agree that on longer boards, a different plane may be a better option, but for my current plans and knowledge base a more “standard” plane would be better for me and my wallet. I’ll do some more digging around, and thanks for the link!

-- Ryan -- Bristow, VA

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3017 days

#9 posted 02-07-2011 04:18 PM

When jointing, there are a few things that you want to watch – grain direction, overall width, and squareness of the boards. It is more than than just making a good fit – edge to edge. If the board’s edge is at an angle to the piece, it could give it an odd look, unless it is desired.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3315 days

#10 posted 02-07-2011 04:34 PM

A # 5 is called a Jack plane and, allegedly, the derivation of the name is “Jack of all trades” (i.e. the all purpose plane).

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

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4001 days

#11 posted 02-07-2011 04:43 PM

The book “Handplane Essentials” by Chris Schwarz (the editor of “Popular Woodworking”) would be a good investment.

That said, a plane will normally joint the edge of a board that is approximately three times the length of the plane’s sole. A #5, with a sole length of 14 inches will thus joint an edge up to about 42 inches long.

You can find a great many used Stanley/Bailey #5’s at antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, ect. at reasonable cost. Bying a used plane will likely require some clean-up and sharpening, but this is an excellent way to become familiar with how a hand plane works.

Again, the above book will shorten your learning curve considerably.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2933 days

#12 posted 02-07-2011 04:47 PM

Put my vote in for the #7. It’s a great jointer and I actually find myself using it more often for jack-type work over the #5. The length & heft helps me with flattening obliquely relative to the grain. I wouldn’t rush out & buy a #8 yet and the #5’s a more than reasonable starting point. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4494 days

#13 posted 02-07-2011 06:35 PM

My vote would be for a No 62 low angle jack. It’s a good, general purpose plane, and might be easier to start out with than a bevel down (traditional bench) plane.

-- To do is to be

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