What are the "Essential" hand planes to own?

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Forum topic by KenBry posted 02-26-2012 09:08 PM 8067 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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484 posts in 2474 days

02-26-2012 09:08 PM

As I am buying Hand planes and increasing my hand tool items. I am wondering what you guys think should be the items I should get to fill in the gaps.

I own a LN 60 1/2 block plane and a LN 164 Smoothing Plane, I know there are other planes to get and I want to make sure I get the correct ones to make my grouping correct.

My thoughts are the following: Scrub plane, A jack plane #62 type, then a #7 Jointer. Any others I should be considering before these?

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

14 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2978 days

#1 posted 02-26-2012 09:16 PM

Answer = all of them?

Ken I think you’re on the right track, although I would add a standard Bailey style Jack and Smoother in addition to your bevel up planes.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3780 days

#2 posted 02-26-2012 09:18 PM

Hello Ken, I am new to hand planesmyself, but I am starting out with the #4, #5 & #7. I am going with the older Stanley’s. I am going to order a new Veritas Shoulder & low angle block. I might get a old scrub later on.

I’m sure some of the old timers on here can give you a better idea.

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3024 days

#3 posted 02-26-2012 09:31 PM

A skewed rabbet plane.
A shoulder plane.

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

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2604 days

#4 posted 02-26-2012 09:37 PM

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3675 days

#5 posted 02-26-2012 09:38 PM

#4, #5 and a good heavy shoulder plane.

Get a scrub if you want to get all strong and cardio-fit with
your woodworking.

imo the low-angle jack is over-rated – I have one and seldom
use it.

For many cuts I usually pick up an #4 and use it one-handed
instead of a block plane. Still a block plane is nice to have
for the apron pocket sometimes. A Stanley 9 1/2 works

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2595 days

#6 posted 02-26-2012 09:57 PM

I tend to be an opportunist buyer. I try to find everything I can like you found the #164.

I agree with Brandon (including his “all of them” statement) but from a user perspective I’d look at the #4 size (I like the 604) and the #5. Again, the bedrocks are nice. I like to have 2 – #5’s, one set up as a jack, and one for smoothing. I agree the smoothing isn’t necessarily if you have a good tuned #4 size, but they can be found really cheap.

A #7 or #8 jointer

for sure a shoulder plane. I bought a small veritas and love it.

I want a skewed rabbit. I don’t have one yet but its on my list.

I love my LN #62, but since you have the #164, I’d tend to lower the priority for the #62 unless you find one like you found the #164.

I have a #40. Its really fun to use, but unless you plan to really size a lot of stock, or re-purpose a lot of lumber, you’ll not get a lot of use out of it. Wait to find one reasonable in the wild.

The other one you may want is a scraper plane. They can be nice taming the really wild grain. Cabinet scrapers will do if you only do smaller projects though.

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

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2475 days

#7 posted 02-26-2012 10:08 PM

Go to the link Waho6o9 posted above and read my response there. That is what I would recommend to you also.

I will give you the short version here: Veritas Low-Angle Jack plane with 25, 38 and 50 degree blades, as well as a toothed blade and a second 38 degree blade sharpened to an 8” radius.

I think the Veritas Low-Angle block plane is a better option than the L-N, simply because of the blade options and the optional knob and tote which will transform it into a low-angle smoother similar in size to a #3.

Now, to my other suggestions:

Since you have that covered, a Veritas Skew block plane would be a good choice, as it will work as a rabbiting plane and includes a fence to cut rabbits to an accurate width. A pair would obviously be ideal, but going with whichever will suit the direction you normally plane in will be OK, ie: right if you are right handed, or vice-versa.

Another good plane to have is a true rabbit plane, as they are key to tuning in tenon shoulders. A really great version is the E.C.Emmerich 710. It is a traditional wooden plane, but it has a depth adjuster and adjustable mouth, making it a very nice working plane able to be tuned in to a much higher degree than many others.

A router plane is also a good investment, and again I like the ECE version. I actually have a shop-made copy that I made myself, and if you are handy with tool making, this is an option I highly recommend. There truly is nothing like using a finely tuned plane you made yourself.

And just an FYI. is a great place to buy ECE planes.

If you plan to flatten large panels, a jointer plane will be in order. Myself, I like the Stanley Transitional jointers, as they are truly massive and are easy to tune via the Bailey style adjustment system. The soles are also easily upgraded or replaced, so making an exceptional plane from a not-so-good example is actually quite easy.
I have seen several that have had the sole replaced with gorgeous exotic woods and even some very nice domestic species. These make for a great working and very gorgeous plane that marries the adjustability of the metal plane with the smooth sliding of a wooden plane. Not for everyone, but a truly great plane nonetheless.

If that’s not your style, an ECE 701 is an incredible plane, especially with the Lignum-Vitae sole.
Or, you could opt for a vintage Stanley, or even a WoodRiver or Veritas #6 and be well off.
And there are the truly great specimens from L-N that are just incredible. Their Low-Angle Jointer is truly an incredible piece I would highly recommend if you wanted the absolute best in metal jointer planes. (though the bevel-down does have advantages as well)

I could continue on endlessly expounding on the virtues of nearly every design ever made. But these are the basics.

Good Luck

-- Kenny

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2475 days

#8 posted 02-26-2012 10:15 PM

And one thing I really should have mentioned: Do not bother with a scrub plane, they are simply unnecessary.

A better alternative that can take it’s place for $20 on Ebay, is a pre-WW2 Stanley #5 with the blade ground to an 8” radius. It will be easier to use than a scrub plane, as it’s wider and thus easier to keep the stock flat without unintentionally creating lows.

You could, in all reality, make do with just a #5 Stanley for all your jack-plane chores by simply cutting the factory iron to the 8” radius and buying an aftermarket improved iron and cap-iron and honing it with only a very, very slight bevel on the edges (to reduce “plane tracks”).

However, I would suggest the Veritas Low-Angle Jack with the multiple blades for general use, and the Stanley in place of the scrub plane. This would be the ideal set-up if finances were available. And adding the second iron to the Stanley would be nice as well.

-- Kenny

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3780 days

#9 posted 02-26-2012 10:54 PM

Thanks for the tip Kenny with the #5 blade alteration.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2710 days

#10 posted 02-27-2012 11:50 PM

The “essential” hand planes to own? For me, it’s every plane that I don’t have.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View MikeInNOVA's profile


13 posts in 2329 days

#11 posted 02-27-2012 11:57 PM

Kenny is right about the router plane – once you have one you’ll be surprised how many things you can do with it. I really like the Veritas version – LN makes two nice router planes, one open mouth and one closed. With the Veritas you just turn the blade 180°.

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3309 days

#12 posted 02-28-2012 12:45 AM

Kenny replied, ”...Do not bother with a scrub plane, they are simply unnecessary…” and then goes on to explain how to set up a jack plane to work as a jack plane. He is right though, a jack or fore plane is a lot more efficient and was traditionally used exactly as Kenny explains.

Here’s my list of planes and it was written by Richard Neve in 1736 in his Builder’s Dictionary. All the tasks are the same, the wood is the same and the planes he mentions evolved over centuries on woodworkers’ benches.

View Farkled's profile


28 posts in 2343 days

#13 posted 02-28-2012 03:09 AM

Essential Planes: 4,5,7 and low angle block

Highly Desirable: Large router, Skew rabbet, small plow, medium or large shoulder plane

Desirable: all others

View All10fingers's profile


17 posts in 1932 days

#14 posted 03-11-2013 04:34 AM

Are you doing joinery work? If so, then you might want to consider a shoulder/rabbit plane. If you are wanting to avoid power tools for this or it’s just not manageable with a power tool, the shoulder plane is indispensable.

-- "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you" Carl Jung

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