What hand to plane to buy first?

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Forum topic by BerBer5985 posted 10-11-2011 03:23 AM 14152 views 1 time favorited 49 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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445 posts in 2656 days

10-11-2011 03:23 AM

I’m interested in purchasing my first hand plane for some jointing work and surface smoothing. I’d love to have the large veritas jointing planer, but it’s $275. What would be a god general purpose plane to get my feet wet that will do a multitude of jobs and not cost a million dollars. I’d like something higher quality though.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

49 replies so far

View Chelios's profile


568 posts in 3302 days

#1 posted 10-11-2011 03:30 AM

Buy a restored/sharpened/fettled #5 or #6 vintage Stanley off e-bay. You will spend about $40. This will give you a flavor for a good handplane without spending all the money. If money is no object then go for Lie Nielsen or veritas.

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568 posts in 3302 days

#2 posted 10-11-2011 03:34 AM

Here is the text for a 5 1/2 that is selling on ebay

A beautiful Stanley/Bailey 5 1/2 corrugated plane with a rust and pit free base and finish baked on. The base has been lapped flat using diamond plate and different grits of sand paper on plate glass. The base has three patent dates; the last being APR/19/10. The rosewood knob & rosewood tote have been refinished and have very nice gain and color. The full-length “Stanley Sweetheart” logo blade and chip breaker have no rust and the blade has been sharpened scary sharp using diamond plate and Japanese wet stones at 25 degrees. The frog has the small brass depth adjusting wheel. The Stanley key hole lever cap is smooth to the touch and has no edge problems. Overall, this plane is tuned and shop ready.

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3884 days

#3 posted 10-11-2011 03:36 AM

a #5 is the jack of all trades, its small and light enough and can be set to smooth surfaces and it is long enough to kinda to jointing and flattening of surfaces (although compared to a #7 you would have to do more manual work and check surfaces for flat more often). older stanleys are good candidates as they are not too expensive.

mind you, LN LV Stanley or anything else – you will also have to develop sharpening skills or hand planing will seem very unfriendly and can become a hassle real fast. with a good setup and sharp tool it’s a pleasure to work though.

With that said – I would suggest getting a dedicated smoother #4 and a dedicated jointer #7 so that you’ll spend less time fiddling with changing the setting on a #5 and just have 1 plane setup properly and ready to work. initial cost will be higher but you’ll get to work WITH the planes more than work ON them that way.

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

View knotscott's profile


8174 posts in 3611 days

#4 posted 10-11-2011 04:16 AM

A good used #5 or 5-1/2 would do nicely. To improve your chances of finding a good one, I’d expand the short list to include Record, Millers Falls (#14), Sargent VBM, Union, Winchester, and Keen Kutter.

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

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4039 days

#5 posted 10-11-2011 05:01 AM

If you have to do everything with one plane, it is basically impossible to beat the Low Angle Jacks.



With the alternative blades, you can do almost everything. The vintage approach is good too, and would be a great way to start to build out more focused tools. I personally prefer and purchased the Veritas on every measure except aesthetic – I have come dang close to buying the L-N just because I want one so badly.

View rimfire7891's profile


123 posts in 3138 days

#6 posted 10-11-2011 05:19 AM

If there was only one choice. The block plane we be my first pick.
Really depends what you are doing, however the block plane is the work horse in my shop.
Don’t have spend much to get something that works. The LN bronzes are pocket ready and easy to keep sharp.
Get a replacement iron for a Stanley ( Hock) and bit of a tune-up and you are ready to go.

Thanks jb

-- Playing with wood and metal for the last 50 years, driving and building Land Cruisers for the last 40. Experience is what you get when you don't know what you are doing.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3187 days

#7 posted 10-11-2011 01:07 PM

I agree with the other posters, a #5 type plane can do a lot. You can joint with it, but I would not use it for longish boards. It can smooth if you tune it for that. It excels at fast stock removal when dimensioning lumber. I use a #5 type on my shooting board, perfect balance for size and weight.

Since the $275 for a Veritas plane keeps you from buying it, yet you want quality, I suggest any of the planes suggested above. I would also suggest buying a blade for each operation you want to perform with the plane as a smooth plane blade is done up differently than a jointer plane blade and one you would use for rapid stock removal.

But, if you want to get into using handplanes, you MUST have a method to sharpen the blades. You will have a horrible experience if you try to use a handplane with a dull blade. They also require some tuning, even the high end LNs and such require tuning when you get them from the manufacturer. Take the time to read up and understand how to tune, sharpen, and use handplanes which will result in a positive experience for you.

Good Luck and welcome to the world of handplanes!!!

-- Mike

View pariswoodworking's profile


389 posts in 2720 days

#8 posted 10-11-2011 03:47 PM

I would go (and did go) with a good old Stanley No. 5 for your first general use plane. If your wanting a jointing plane, a Stanley No. 7 is pretty good too.

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View cellophane's profile


42 posts in 2744 days

#9 posted 10-11-2011 04:41 PM

A good used #5 or 5-1/2 would do nicely. To improve your chances of finding a good one, I’d expand the short list to include Record, Millers Falls (#14), Sargent VBM, Union, Winchester, and Keen Kutter.

I have a MF 14 that I like a little more than my Stanley #5. I find the handle to be more comfortable. It also cost a lot less ($12 shipped vs $30 shipped.) If you look at Keen Kutter – the K models are based on the Bedrock planes, the KK are based on the Bailey. The Winchester planes were made by either Stanley or Sargent depending on model. I have a transitional jack and I’m not too keen on it – but I know it needs some adjusting.

Otherwise I agree with the general statements above. The low-angle jack from LV is a phenomenal plane and very high on my aquisition list. That is if I can stop buying planes on eBay for a week so I can afford it =p

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 2656 days

#10 posted 10-11-2011 06:13 PM

I was leaning towards a jointer plane like a #6-7 and there’s a nice Record plane on ebay right now for $65 buy it now. Looks like new. I also found an older stanley 220 block plane that my dad had left which seemed to work ok as I was tinkering with for fun last night. I’d love to have a #5 jack plane, a jointer plane, and a smoothing plane. I don’t mind spending $75-$100 for a decent one because I feel like quality handtools is money well spent, but I have to warm up to the $275 Veritas. I’m sure it’s nice, but I’m gonna get a feel for liking planes before I splurge on that.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 2656 days

#11 posted 10-11-2011 06:17 PM

And what about something like this:

Found while just browsing.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3116 days

#12 posted 10-11-2011 06:23 PM

#5’s are all over ebay and you can get them for cheaper then most of the other size bench planes.

The manufacture of the plane is not as important as the users ability to properly sharpen and tune the plane. If I was starting over I would pick up a #4, #5, #7 and a block plane and then spend some money on sharpening tools/supplies.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2890 days

#13 posted 10-11-2011 06:31 PM

Wood River makes a solid user plane at a good price. The number 6 handles a really fair amount of work for your first “real” plane. If you can, grab a second blade that you can grind a camber into so you can hog material off with it. Sold at woodcraft. Keep in mind the kind of work you would like to do though since that will affect the size plane you would need. if your tend towards smaller work go with a 5 instead.

Also don’t forget sharpening gear.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Furnitude's profile


380 posts in 3743 days

#14 posted 10-11-2011 06:35 PM

Just remember that learning to use planes and learning to restore planes are two different things. Your main focus seems to be learning to use planes, so perhaps you should buy something either new or something used but modern. Planes do very specific things. That’s why there are so many different kinds. Each one has a different job, though some overlap. Deciding which plane to buy entirely depends on what you want to do with it. My go-to plane is a Lie-Nielsen low-angle jack plane. It is long enough to do most jointing work and it has a fine-enough mouth to do smoothing work.

If you can save up for a new (or gently used) Lie-Nielsen or Veritas plane, I think you would have a better first experience and that might keep you going. If it is a question of not wanting to pay for an expensive plane (which I can totally relate to) and buying a cheaper plane is the only way to get you into planing, then buy a cheaper one.

As fun as this kind of conversation is, I would also recommend that you buy a plane and get to work. No matter what plane you buy, you’ll always be thinking about which one to buy next.

-- Mitch, Also blog at

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 2656 days

#15 posted 10-11-2011 06:47 PM

I have a feeling I’ll get addicted to it. I think my primary focus that I’m interested in is making boxes. I know everyone and their mother makes boxes, but it’s something useful that you can get creative with. So edge jointing is important to mix different species of woods together for visual effect so a jointer would would be nice but also a smoothing plane to get everything smooth. I have a thickness planer, but no jointer so I do most edge jointing on the table saw or router with straight edge, but the setup takes a little time. It’d be nice to throw a piece in a vice, grab the jointer plane and be done with it in the time it would take to set up a router and straight edge.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

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