What should be my very first hand plane ?

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Forum topic by David Grimes posted 06-05-2011 12:23 PM 4148 views 0 times favorited 121 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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David Grimes

2078 posts in 2666 days

06-05-2011 12:23 PM

What new, inexpensive hand plane should be my first ?

Please don’t tell me to get an old Stanley and restore it. Even if I have to sharpen and flatten the new plane to get it to work, that’s fine. Even if I someday give it away because my future experience tells me it is not worthy to be in my collection.

I just want to know what of the readily available planes (new Stanley or other) that cost $100 or less I should start with and what I can reasonably expect to want to use it for instead of using my power tools.

As always, I do appreciate the advisement and learning I get from responses.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

121 replies so far

View saddletramp's profile


1180 posts in 2665 days

#1 posted 06-05-2011 12:47 PM

A block plane. They have a myriad of uses and are fairly easy to employ. Lie-Nielsen makes several in the $100.00 range and Stanleys are less.

-- ♫♪♪♫♫ Saddletramp, saddletramp, I'm as free as the breeze and I ride where I please, saddletramp ♪♪♪♫♪ ...... Bob W....NW Michigan (Traverse City area)

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David Grimes

2078 posts in 2666 days

#2 posted 06-05-2011 01:40 PM

If Stanley, the 9 1/2 or the 60 1/2 low angle ? I can get both for under $100. Or should I get one or the other of the new “Sweetheart” versions ? What’s the difference in regular versus sweetheart ?

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View knotscott's profile


8057 posts in 3402 days

#3 posted 06-05-2011 01:42 PM

Definitely a block plane. It’s hard to beat the quality of a Lie Nielsen or Veritas if you don’t mind spending the full $100 budget. I wouldn’t shell out the money for a new era Stanley or Woodriver made in China. There are a lot of good used or NOS block planes available that don’t need to be restored….

I picked up this NOS Record 60-1/2 for ~ $30.

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

View mainwoodworks's profile


112 posts in 2675 days

#4 posted 06-05-2011 01:51 PM

With out a doubt, the block plane is the most often used plane in my shop.

-- Measure twice, cut once, and hope for the best.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2594 days

#5 posted 06-05-2011 01:55 PM

I agree with everything said so far, but also you can find the older planes either already restored or are still in good condition. You may save a few bucks that way.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2659 days

#6 posted 06-05-2011 02:04 PM

I think a good block plane and jack plane can get a lot of work done.
The newer Woodriver planes from woodcraft seem to get pretty good press. I think the block planes are around $100.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4245 days

#7 posted 06-05-2011 03:57 PM

I agree with all the advice above.

I’m curious, though, about your not wanting to consider older planes. If you should decide to get anything larger than a block plane, you can save an awful lot of money. Don’t be put off by the restoration process. All the stuff you read about electrolysis and other complicated processes is not really necessary. With a $30 investment in an old plane, a wire brush, sandpaper, and a couple hours of elbow grease, you can have yourself a #4 Stanley that is equal to or better than a new Sweetheart that would run you $179.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3024 days

#8 posted 06-05-2011 04:35 PM

Remember, a plane is just a jig for holding a piece of steel. There is nothing magical about them.

You might take the plunge and try a wooden plane. They can be had for not too much money and are a pleasure to use. The adjustment is not hard and they feel really nice to use. You can pick up one for $45.

One other option, that I would really say is the better, is to make one. The kit that Ron Hock sells is about $100 and is dead simple to put together. Think of it as a class in plane building. Once you have put one together, making more is cheap and simple. You can make whatever size and configuration you want. Watch his video that shows the assembly:

You can use more of his really nice irons or you can pick up others cheaply. I bought a hand full of irons from Lee Valley that are replacements for the wooden planes that they sell for $8-$12 each and can make new planes whenever I feel like it. If you don’t count the time for glue drying, it takes about 30 minutes. I have made several and it is addictive.

I would add that having an adjustable mouth low angle block plane is a must have tool for general use. Nothing wrong with the the $35 modern Stanley ones.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4124 days

#9 posted 06-05-2011 06:43 PM

As others said, an adjustable mouth low-angle block plane. I own and can recommend the LN below. I also have a bunch of referbished older block planes. If you buy from ebay you have to make sure the plane is complete and not damaged. A big item to consider when adding edge tools to your shop is sharpening. You will need a method of sharpening your tools if you do not already have something in place. Cheapest way to start is using sand paper on a flat surface. This is know as scary sharp. You can google “scary sharp” or search this site. Also you could get a sharpening machine such as a Worksharp 3000.

Lee Valley – $145,41182,48942

Lie-Nielson – $165

Wood River – 89.95


-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4124 days

#10 posted 06-05-2011 06:47 PM

Oh and in response to David’s post about making your own plane, I highly recommend this book

It not only covers how to make planes, but there are great instructions for setting up and using a block plane.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3612 days

#11 posted 06-05-2011 07:51 PM

Charlie I have seen and then done it myself when restoring a hand plane using a a standard flat chisel or plane blade oil stone used to run repeatedly over the sole to flatten and remove rust it works ghreat and can be used on the sides too.messy but worth it as the plane comes up like new you should all try it you too charlie let me know what your feelings are when you try it. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3185 days

#12 posted 06-05-2011 08:16 PM

Yep, a block plane. It’s beyond your budget, but I’d consider getting one that also does rabbets. I have, and love, the Lie-Nielsen Rabbeting Block plane. It stays in my shop apron…that’s how much it’s used.

But regardless of the brand or style of block plane, even if it’s a cheap Stanley from Lowes, it can be tuned up to work very well. I think once you get used to the utility of block planes, you’ll feel totally naked without one.

-- jay,

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3010 days

#13 posted 06-05-2011 08:34 PM

I have to echo the block plane as well. Sometimes you can find where they sell block planes and jack planes in a set which would be nice to start out with.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4245 days

#14 posted 06-05-2011 09:44 PM

Alistair: Sounds like a good idea… I’ll have to try it on my next one!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3385 days

#15 posted 06-05-2011 09:52 PM

For less than $100 you can get a 9 1/2/60 1/2 and a GOOD #5 or #4. Yes, they will be older, but they would be ready to use when you get them. There are several of us that sell older, reconditioned planes.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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