First plane: #4 smooth or block?

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Forum topic by jimmy J posted 06-13-2012 03:18 AM 2527 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jimmy J

229 posts in 2374 days

06-13-2012 03:18 AM

about to pick up my first plane. i can imagine myself buying a second or third down the road but i’m not there yet – but can’t justify it just yet. Lots of posts here suggest picking up a block plane as the first, but others say a #4 smoothing plane. Is there a big difference and which is better for being solo in my cupboard? I’m inclined to get a relatively good one.

Block price comparison
LN: $115
Veritas: $139
Woodriver $94

19 replies so far

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 3986 days

#1 posted 06-13-2012 03:26 AM

A good low angle block plane first. I didn’t get a good block plane until after I had a #4 smoother and a #5 jack. I use my block more than any other plane I own. By the way… I have the LN Low Angle.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View ShaneA's profile


6928 posts in 2594 days

#2 posted 06-13-2012 03:30 AM

There are a few guys on here who could set you up with vintage users, tuned and ready to go so that you could buy both at prices beneath those listed above.

So my short answer is buy both, vintage : ) good luck

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15347 posts in 2614 days

#3 posted 06-13-2012 03:31 AM

Smoother. It’ll put you on the path for sure. Ditto the vintage suggestion, too.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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jimmy J

229 posts in 2374 days

#4 posted 06-13-2012 03:33 AM

Shane good idea. I would gladly take both tuned up vintage versions should such jocks visit this post and make an offer.

Chris: low angle vs standard? you think low angle is more versatile?

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2618 days

#5 posted 06-13-2012 03:41 AM

I really don’t know that it matters because if you have enough interest in one you are bound to buy both.

Concerning vintage. It is defiimitely a cheaper way to go but maybe not the best. If you buy vintage as your first plane definitely get from the guys around here who have already have it tuned. I’d hate to see you get discourage because your first experience is largely dependent on your ability to rehab, tune and fettle a hand plane.

My first plane was a Veritas block plane. Within a few weeks a had a Woodriver V3 #4 smoother, which, BTW I wouldn’t mind selling.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2631 days

#6 posted 06-13-2012 03:58 AM

Definitely block plane first. I would steer away from any vintage block planes. Most of the adjustments are finicky and generally pretty crappy. I have the NX60 and it is works absolutely flawlessly. Most of the time you use a block plane, its only for a minute or so, so you don’t want to have to adjust it for a few minutes before use. The vintage bench plane designs haven’t changed much over the years, because the were designed well. Block planes on the other hand have made some great strides recently.

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 3986 days

#7 posted 06-13-2012 04:02 AM


Yes, i was thinking from the point of only having one plane to begin with; all of my planes are vintage with the exception of the low angle adjustable mouth block and the shoulder plane. My two most used are the block and my #5; however I grab my block far more often than any other. Now I must admit I have not owned a normal pitch block in many years so haven’t much to go by as far as comparison. I do know I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.

I have:
Stanley #8
Stanley #5
Stanley #4
Stanley #3

Various much older wooden molding planes

LN Low Angle Adjustable Mouth Block
LN Medium Shoulder

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3481 days

#8 posted 06-13-2012 04:12 AM

(never mind, I missed ShaneA response and Jimmy’s reply above).

I see these kind of posts quite a bit on LJ and other wood sites. There are probably a 1,000 hand planes on ebay at this very moment. Classic, well made Stanley, Miller Falls, Craftsman-when that brand really meant quality. Maybe some dust, or light rust, missing japaning, or a chip on the tote. These planes are top quality and sell for at least half, for a perfect condition, and usually much less than half, say 20% compared to the cost of the current crop of LN, veritas, wood river, etc.

Jimmy, I don’t mean to criticize you at all. Obviously you do not have much, if any experience with hand planes. I’m no expert by any stretch. But I learned you can spend your kid’s college fund on brand new woodworking equipment, especially LN goods, or you can spend some time to learn about the tools and find some real bargains out there. Besides you are gonna need to buy wood. And have you seen the cost of cherry or walnut lately!!!

I would suggest you look on ebay and buy a clean, gently used, er I mean vintage ;>) Stanley 60 1/2 block plane and a #4 smoother, both together much less than a new LN, or woodriver block plane for that matter. Learn to sharpen the iron, play around with them. Go ahead a buy a solid #6 or #7 for shooting. Even with all of those planes, you will still have money in your pocket compared to a LN low angle bench plane. You may need to flatten the bottoms a bit, or dress the frog face on a piece of flat sand paper, or round the edge of the chip breaker, or sharpen the iron, but you will probably need to do some work on new planes, also. Maybe not on the LN, they are typically perfect out of the box. And really, who wants to flatten the bottom of a shiny new plane.

I just went on ebay for one minute and found the #60 1/2 and #4 links below. I’m not saying they are just for you or make a bid, they show up every day. Wait for the one you want. $25 give or take a couple plus shipping, it’s yours. I’m just saying. That #4 is one bid at $25 with about 10 minutes left. Pretty clean really. Good luck on your walk down the slippery slope. Watch out below!

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View gawthrrw's profile


207 posts in 2442 days

#9 posted 06-13-2012 04:20 AM

I agree with davidroberts. buy a good ol stanley block plane on ebay and learn to sharpen it up. Its easy to get plane crazy but at least this way you learn how they work and see if its actually worth you spending big $ on a fancy one on the future. all my planes are old stanley that i got on ebay and thats all i ever use. Good planes once you get them cleaned up.

-- Rob, Dallas TX

View Rxmpo's profile


268 posts in 3741 days

#10 posted 06-13-2012 05:49 AM

Davidroberts nailed it. I bought a Veritas low angle jack as my first plane and it is an excellent tool, but I bought a Stanley low angle block, a 5 1/2 Bailey, 6 Bailey, & 7 Bailey for less than the Veritas. All needed some love to bring back to life, but not rocket science, just sand paper, Naval Jelly and a sharpie.

The newer number 4’s from Veritas, Wood River etc. seem to be much heavier, but a #4 isn’t designed to flatten a dinning room tabletop. (Although it could) I would follow David’s advice and get a once loved plane and make it new again. The great thing about these old planes is the steel is solid and polishes up nice! Save your money for a good sharpening system (stones, grinder, worksharp, diamonds(my favorite) what ever) and with a flat bottom and sharp blade you can make sweet shavings!

Good luck. Don’t forget to watch Craig’s list for some gems!

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2473 days

#11 posted 06-13-2012 06:30 AM

if budjet is your main concern then the guys are right buy high quality used but what was said about old block planes is true to a point the New Stanley low angle block plane is my favorite it is under 100 dollars and has an adjustable throat. I also suggest staying away from Baileys if you can afford to I love flat top bedrocks they are just superior in design. They are much easier to adjust and a reason they are copied but don’t think vintage bedrocks are cheep they often sell for as much as a new plane quality and serviceability count . yes you can get into baileys for a dime but you do get what you pay for.

-- Please check out my new stores and

View jimmy J's profile

jimmy J

229 posts in 2374 days

#12 posted 06-13-2012 06:49 AM

That’s all v good advice. i will look into the ebay route to see what i can find. i’m a hobbyist and don’t get much shop time so hoping not to get bogged down in the tune up process right away which is why i was thinking new. but if someone with a ton of posts on this site wants to sell me a tuned block and #4 that sounds like the best option. i will have to come back to the art of sharpening after i make a few more knicknacks.

View thedude50's profile


3603 posts in 2473 days

#13 posted 06-13-2012 07:06 AM

i may have a nice bailey no 4 pm me and ill call you tomorrow with a price on the block planes i dont have any fort sale but i am sure one of these guys has one or chech the hand plane thread and ask in there

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2563 days

#14 posted 06-13-2012 11:26 AM

Hi Jimmy
I find and restore vintage plane. Take a look.

If you can only get one right now, go with the block. If you can, a decent smoother will be handy as well.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2563 days

#15 posted 06-13-2012 11:42 AM

Someone probably should have mention as well, no matter what you choose, the second thing you’ll need is a way to sharpen them. You’ll need to decide what type of equipment to buy and learn how to use it. It’s actually a more importanty step than deciding which plane to by first. No matter what plane it is, if its dull, its worthless.

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

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