Choosing a hand plane, aka. another one of these questions

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Forum topic by Kimchi4u posted 12-27-2012 04:23 AM 1651 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kimchi4u's profile


18 posts in 2171 days

12-27-2012 04:23 AM

Topic tags/keywords: plane question

I know this question has probably been asked time and time again on other threads in this forum, but I thought I’d be a little more specific in my choices and circumstances. So here goes beating the dead horse:

I own one plane. It’s an inexpensive block plane I bought a while ago from home depot (I believe the brand name is Footprints). I’ve used it twice and the experience is unpleasant at best. I’m hoping that I can find the receipt and take it back. Anyways, I’ve been given about $250 (Canadian) for Christmas towards getting some tools for my wood working adventures and I’m hoping to buy a plane.

Before I get into which ones I’ve been eyeing, here are a few things to note about my woodworking habits:

1) Most of the projects I’ve been working on so far are fairly small in size. I’ve made some toy cars, a couple of tealight holders, and a cribbage board, as well as a few picture frames. I do plan on making some bigger projects such as a simple work bench, a small bookshelf and eventually some smaller pieces of furniture (my home is lacking nice end tables). Mostly I want to explore different wood working skills and build things that suit my fancy.

2) My father is a carpenter, I work for him, and I have access to a variety of hand tools and power tools. I’ve been slowly getting my own set of tools because I will often spend more time looking for a company owned tools than using them. I do have access to a veritas standard angle block plane, but it’s never handily available. More often than not, it’s a 10 minute drive away for where I work and I end up spending 15 minutes looking for it in the back of the company van.

3) Spending the whole $250 on a plane is something that I wouldn’t necessarily want to do. I’ve also been eyeing up some Japanese detail saws as well. However, those could wait if the majority of people suggested I should spend a bit more to get something good. We have some older handsaws in our shop that I could use. Again, sometimes they aren’t handily available.

Planes that I could easily get my hands on are the Stanley Block Plane and Bench Plane, or any of the Planes from Lee Valley. Anything vintage is not easily available where I am and I’m not really sure what I’d be looking for anyways.

Sorry for the long post, any help is much appreciated.

-- Project Coordinator at Nord Alta Construction

15 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3127 days

#1 posted 12-27-2012 05:47 AM

I would shoot for a Veritas plane, whether a block plane, or a bench plane. THeir low-angle jack plane would be most of your budget, but from what I’ve heard from those who use them, they’re definitely worth it.

The Footprint planes are awful. I had one but the milling on that thing was so bad, I took it back. Normally I’d recommend buying vintage Stanley planes from ebay, but if you’re not comfortable with that, Veritas is the way to go.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2706 days

#2 posted 12-27-2012 08:06 AM

Your first two planes should be a block and a smoother, and probably in that order. Although some will argue that a low angle jack could replace a smoother. You definitely want to go with a good quality plane, and if you’re looking at something that is ready to go out of the box (apart from maybe honing the blade), you won’t go wrong with any from the Lee Valley/Veritas or Lie-Nielsen lineups. There are other good plane makers, too, and you should find plenty of info on this site.

BTW, Lie-Nielsen ships to Canada pretty cheaply – $8 per tool – so don’t discount their offerings.

Fine Woodworking had a review of block planes in issue 229 (Sept/Oct 2012), if you have access to it. They picked the LV and LN block planes, but they also thought well of Woodcraft’s Wood River V3 and the Stanley Sweet Heart 60 1/2. Not so much of the regular Stanley 60 1/2.

Plane style – many (including myself) will recommend using bevel-up (aka low-angle) planes, whether they be blocks, smoothers or jacks, due to the versatility of varying the effective cutting angle by changing the iron’s bevel angle (or, preferably, using multiple irons with different bevel angles). Nothing wrong with using a standard angle, bevel-down plan – a good plane, anyway – it is just that the bevel-ups have some flexibility if you choose to use it.

Sharpening – you don’t mention how you are set up for sharpening, but it is critical in the equation. No use having the best plane in the world unless you can keep the iron sharp. If you don’t have sharpening equipment, you’ll need to factor that into your budget. Threads galore on sharpening methods – it is one of the primary religious questions for woodworkers. All the methods do work. You need to judge the relative advantages and disadvantages for yourself, pick a sharpening method and get good at it.

One more thing – have you considered building your own wooden planes? It might take a couple of tries, but you can build a wooden plane that will perform as well as anything you can buy. The only real cost involved is a the iron, as the amount of wood involved can generally be found in your offcut bin. Figure on a day’s worth of work and maybe $50 for a good iron (Hock or Lee Valley). Having used Lee Valley, Lie-Nielsen and Stanley planes, I much prefer using my own wooden planes. No performance difference, I just prefer the feel.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View 2bigfeet's profile


65 posts in 2855 days

#3 posted 12-27-2012 01:32 PM

For your budget and scale of work, I’d look at the Woodriver #3 smoother and the Lie-Nielsen low angle adjustable mouthed block plane. I own a dozen Lie-Nielsen planes and couple by Woodriver. You can’t beat he #3 smoother for the money. I grab it as much as any of my LN’s.

As mentioned, all are worthless unless razor sharp. I’d go with the $7 roller guide Lie-Nielsen recommends and a Norton 1000/8000 water stone.

I have nothing to do with LN, I’m just including the links for reference on sharpening.

Good luck and happy shopping!

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3160 days

#4 posted 12-27-2012 01:40 PM

for 250, I would get the veritas low angle block with the optional handles (thus allowing it to work like a small smoother as well). Then, if need be, you should have a little to get set up with the scary sharp system (Lee valley carries the stuff fairly inexpensively) and have a little left over.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#5 posted 12-27-2012 02:04 PM

I would purchase a good vintage block plane and a #4. Tune them up and use them. You should be able to get into them for about $50-$60 and a few hours to fiddle with them. There is plenty of guys ready to help with the task here on LJ’s.

I do like the LN and Veritas planes. I had my wife buy me the Veritas skewed blocks for xmas when the seconds went on sale, so its not a knock against either. If you have that kind of disposable income, they are really fine planes. I bought the newer skewed because the vintage never had a fence, and that’s what I wanted the most.

There are 2 reasons i suggest vintage. First there were many built with high quality and can be made to work just as well as anything. 2, tuning them forces you to learn how they work, which makes YOU a better planer.

I won’t ship to Canada and I haven’t seen someone on LJ who restores and resells to Canada, so I can’t help you there, but I will help virtually however I can.

With the money you save you can start to look for a nice jointer. A #7 or #8.

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

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3534 days

#6 posted 12-27-2012 04:07 PM

I agree with Don. The vintage planes (IMO) can be made to work as well as a LV or LN for a LOT less money. The only difference I would suggest is getting 2 block planes, one low angle and one standard. The standard is fine for the bulk of the work and you could dedicate the low angle to and grain or gnarly woods. That means less sharpening. Like Don, I also sell vintage planes. If you’re interested in getting some vintage planes, PM me and we’ll take it from there. Shipping to Canada is more expensive than shipping to CONUS. I’m also happy to help with “educating” you on rehabbing planes. If you decide to buy new, I’d recommend the Lee Valley bevel up smoother.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View Kimchi4u's profile


18 posts in 2171 days

#7 posted 12-28-2012 12:47 AM

Thanks everyone for the advice. I think that I might try my hand at restoring an older hand plane. Now for the next set of questions…

What should I be looking for on ebay in terms of vintageness? What should I avoid? How much is too much to be spending on a plane? Are there any brands that I should be avoiding?

-- Project Coordinator at Nord Alta Construction

View Don W's profile

Don W

18990 posts in 2743 days

#8 posted 12-28-2012 01:12 AM

So finish your profile and I won’t ask where your from, but in the mean time, are there not any antique shops, flea markets or second hand stores you could check out? There is nothing like holding them in your hands before buying.

Then search LJ for terms like ” planes on eBay”. You’ll find lots on the subject.

Try to avoid anything with a broken body, and plastic anything.

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

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3823 days

#9 posted 12-28-2012 01:25 AM

I use a vintage Bailey #5 for most fitting tasks. I use
a Lie Nielson #4 for smoothing. The #5 is a bit large
to use with one hand, but I frequently use the #4 with
one hand and also turn it around and pull it. I have
other #4 planes too, but the L-N has more mass
and the iron is stiffer so adjusting it as I work is
simplified because it does not chatter easily.

I seldom use a block plane for anything but rough
shaping cuts.


Gyokucho ryoba saws with the rattan handles are
a great value if you can find one. The saws with
the plastic handles typically have flimsier blades
to balance the weight of the handle. With the
heavier wood handle, Gyokucho has a thicker
blade that is easier to work with, imo.

They stay sharp for a long time if you don’t cut
plywood with them.

View Kimchi4u's profile


18 posts in 2171 days

#10 posted 12-28-2012 02:50 AM

Heh. Thanks Don. I’ve been meaning to fill out my profile but I’ve been too busy researching on how to spend that Christmas money. I’ll get it done when the kiddies are in bed.

I’ve never really checked out the flea markets here so maybe I’d have some luck there. Edmonton, Canada doesn’t really strike me as an antique shop kind of town, but then again, I’ve never looked. My first thoughts were to search the online classifieds but I only found a couple of hand planes for sale, and they were asking more than ebay prices with the shipping.

I’ll check out the forums and if I have any other questions, I’ll continue my post here. Thank you once again for your help.

-- Project Coordinator at Nord Alta Construction

View bandit571's profile


21538 posts in 2859 days

#11 posted 12-28-2012 03:56 AM

Here is a basic set I have…

The one laying on it’s side is from Harbour Freight. The rest were from Ebay. Well, that Union #4 was a $5 antigue Store find, been refurbbed twice. The brass knobbed block plane was another from the same store, maybe $5. The two big planes were off of ebay. I do have a few others, sitting around…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View hhhopks's profile


654 posts in 2553 days

#12 posted 12-28-2012 04:01 AM

Where is that store? I need to paid them a visit.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2473 days

#13 posted 12-28-2012 05:12 AM

you can get good planes at flea markets and such but if I were to start over I would 1st get a good block plane proly a veritas with the rear heavy tote or the skew rabbit 2 planes in one and then get the bevel up jack plane two good planes with alot of versatility

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View bandit571's profile


21538 posts in 2859 days

#14 posted 12-28-2012 05:27 AM

That store is in Anna, Ohio. Right off I-75. Last time I was in there, a Stanley #4 was acting as a doorstop. They had a bunch of the wood bodied planes as well.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2560 days

#15 posted 12-28-2012 05:02 PM

Instead of the Vertitas lo angle block plane with handle attachement, I would just get the Veritats SMALL Bevel up smoother. IT is $179, and would leave you a little money left over to get 1-2 other items. It would work for general planing of small parts, and even would be useful for small end-tables.

If saws are hard to come by, then that smoother would leave you $70 left over to get a Veritas dovetail saw.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

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