Why so many planes and which should I buy?

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Forum topic by Jon1094 posted 12-05-2012 04:44 AM 1521 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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41 posts in 2206 days

12-05-2012 04:44 AM

So I have a couple of hand planes, keep them very sharp, and enjoy using them for my projects but I don’t understand the need for so many of them. Following is a link to Keith Mathewson’s shop.

Following the link, at the bottom of the screen there is a video. I see that he has behind him about a hundred planes, most of them shoulder? planes. Could someone explain the need for so many? And what planes should I concentrate on collecting for my building? I make, and intend to make, small projects (i.e. chess boards etc.) and furniture. I don’t intend to become a professional just build for my family and friends in my spare time. I wouldn’t mind building my own from a kit if there are any that are worth the effort.

The following is a list of the planes I currently own:

704 – ECE Primus Smoothing Plane
649 – ECE Adjustable Block Plane
Wood River #5 Bench plane
unknown brand (cheap) metal block plane
A cheap jointer plane that I gave up trying to tune up because it was so far off. I have a good stand-up Delta power jointer.

9 replies so far

View JohnChung's profile


408 posts in 2075 days

#1 posted 12-05-2012 05:54 AM

Here is a good book on handplanes:

You would need to determine your project interest and budget before buying more handplanes. As for your chess boards you have a right collection there which is a block,smoother and jack plane. The jointer is needed for long planks of wood.

What is your current interest and projects? I can narrow down it from there.

View Jon1094's profile


41 posts in 2206 days

#2 posted 12-05-2012 06:22 AM

Thank you for the link. I made a chess board that is shown in my projects here at lumberjocks. I also am finishing an ogee foot bookcase right now and have plans for a coffee table and round kitchen table in the future.

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408 posts in 2075 days

#3 posted 12-05-2012 06:41 AM

Ogee foot? If it is handtools you would need chisels,spokeshave, bowsaw(tenon saw is possible but not ideal).

Back to your coffee table. A hand router is important. It can clean up tenons well and level it quickly. For the round kitchen table your jointer needs to be tuned well and a spokeshave WILL help immensely.

In short with the two projects you have mentioned here are the tools you may want to get:
A hand router

Check for Derek Cohen web-site. Tons of information on hand tools.
What I have mentioned is not all the tools you need but it WILL give you a very good start with handtools.

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446 posts in 2174 days

#4 posted 12-05-2012 10:04 AM

“I see that he has behind him about a hundred planes, most of them shoulder? planes. Could someone explain the need for so many?”

The section of wooden planes that look like shoulder planes, are molding planes.

You only need to be able to do basic chamfer and/or round over edges, to prevent chipping and splintering. With practice you can use can use any combination of smoothing plane, block plane, file and sanding to do the edges. If you want (not necessarily needed) you can use dedicated planes. He used a ‘hollow’ round plane in the video to round over the edge. I use a low angle block plane with a chamfer guide to chamfer edges.

Sometime in the future you may want to do fancier edges, there are several ways to do them. You can use power tools like a router with bits or a table saw with molding cutters. For hand tooling you can use scratch stock, profiled molding planes, or a collection of hollows and rounds with snipe bill and rebate planes. He appears to have a full collection of hollows and rounds, and several molding profiles.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2953 days

#5 posted 12-05-2012 10:10 AM

The link that you gave is one of a professional. He does have a lot of planes because woodworking is his bread and butter. Lots of routers on hand to accommodate different depths/uses during one or simultaneous projects. He has a lot of molding planes to handle a large amount of tasks from making custom molding to replicating molding.

Most hobbyists (MOST), do not have that many planes. Some do for the same reasons or they like to collect them. Your collection sounds just about right for a beginner. As you use them more, you will figure out what to change, what to add, etc.

Good Luck

-- Mike

View Don W's profile

Don W

18718 posts in 2568 days

#6 posted 12-05-2012 01:56 PM

I like what paratrooper34 wrote. He’s right on the money.

I have a couple hundred handplanes, most I use, but some I’ve just picked up because they needed some love and they are valuable (to some degree). I like to restore them, its another hobby along with woodworking.

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

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915 posts in 2953 days

#7 posted 12-05-2012 11:40 PM

And it is a good hobby, Don. I have resisted the temptation so far. I have restored several now and I enjoy it, fun and rewarding.

-- Mike

View MikeInNOVA's profile


13 posts in 2303 days

#8 posted 12-12-2012 07:16 AM

Several people have responded with good answers to your ““I see that he has behind him about a hundred planes, most of them shoulder? planes. Could someone explain the need for so many?”

I would add that of the three wide shelves of wooden planes he has, even an advanced amateur really only needs half of the bottom shelf. As has been pointed out, most of the planes (the second and third shelves) are moulding planes – the functional equivalent to router bits in that each plane will create one specific profile. The bottom shelf contains a full set of 36 hollows and rounds, plus what I assume are a pair of snipe bills, a pair of side rounds and probably a couple of side beads. I have a half set of hollows and rounds along with the snipe bills, side rounds and a couple of sizes of side beads. With them I can make virtually any moulding in just a very short time. The pros, who may use some profiles repeatedly will certainly find it easier to have a plane that cuts it all at once and certainly more efficient. For the rest of us, making a profile by using two or three planes is no big deal. I can certainly make the moulding for a decent size piece a lot faster than I can drive to the store and get the right bit (or bits) to do it with a router.

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2094 days

#9 posted 12-15-2012 04:15 AM

A lot of people collect planes so he may be a plane collector that doesn’t use all of the planes. I think each type of plane is useful. I’d like to have a lot more planes than I do.

But the others are right, you don’t need 3 shelves of hand planes. Can you imagine having to sharpen and maintain all of those planes?

A should plane is handy for trimming tenons and planing in close quarters. I’d like to get one. But I think a good block plane and a good bench plane will take care of most of your needs.

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