What is the best Hand Plane for a beginner?

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Forum topic by Obi posted 10-24-2006 05:00 PM 50884 views 5 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2213 posts in 4236 days

10-24-2006 05:00 PM

I’ve only been making furniture for the past couple of months and I know I need at least one hand plane. Even if I don’t need one, I want one. Since i know nothing about hand planes other than the ones I’ve used in the past were dull and hard to work, anyone having any suggestions on whats the best plane to start off with would be appreciated.

38 replies so far

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4244 days

#1 posted 10-26-2006 12:28 AM


I will be attending a seminar on this subject Thursday Oct 26. It’s a one hour class put on by August Home Publishing and the WoodSmith Stote in Des Moines, IA. Probably a little short notice for you to get plane tickets so here is a link to the site. After the seminar the speaker will usually post comments about the seminar, and class participants will sometimes comment post. Even though it’s a two hour drive one way for a one hour, I learn alot for $3 ($8 less $5 instore coupon)
Hand Plane Seminar or Woodworking Seminars

I agree with dull and hard to work; after attending a hand-on workshop at Woodsmith, I learned multiple ways to sharpen the blades. From low budget to high dollar. I enjoy using the few hand planes I have now and then. The website doesn’t have much on the hand planes now but check back later in the week or next week for the comments. They do have some link to hand plane mfg posted. I will post more after the seminar.

-- Joel Tille

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4236 days

#2 posted 10-26-2006 12:48 AM

Surfin the web I found an article off the link you gave me and it told me that I needed a low angle block plane for ends and a jack plane for planing edges
copy and paste if the link isn’t live

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2213 posts in 4236 days

#3 posted 10-26-2006 12:50 AM

you have to copy everything from the http:// to the .pdf to get the article

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4244 days

#4 posted 10-30-2006 04:10 PM

Michael … The seminar was very informative for me. Randy the instructor recommends the following order of planes.

  • First – Block Plane, preferably low angle
  • Second – Bench Plane, possibly low angle but not a must.

Block planes typically the bevel of the blade is up, bench and jointer planes the bevel is typically down. Most everyone probably knows this, but the planes I have purchased were at an auction and the blades were install upside down. I used them like this for a while before I was taught the bevel thing.

Couple of online resources he had on the hand out.
Planes Types and Choices
Using, Sharpening, and Tuning Hand Planes
So…You Want to Try Hand Planes
Point about Planing

During the seminar Randy pass around a few items, one was a piece of white oak. Very smooth surface and sides with no sanding. another was a half lap joint he used a shoulder plane to sneak up to a perfect fit.

Randy uses refrigerator or business card magnets to protect the blades; also he says he does not lay them on their side. Potential damage to the blade from another tool you may be picking up or setting down.

Hope this helps you find the plane you want to start with. Randy also discussed upgrading the blade with heavier ones from Hock Tools or Lie-Nielsen. Good quality planes mentioned were Lee Valley & Veritas.

After the seminar I decide to rejuvinate a hand plane my father had given me a couple years back. I have vivid memories of this plane as a kid. The struglle from using a plane that was really not that sharp, my small stutaur as a child, and probably having the blade to far exposed below the sole.

After the seminar I decide to rejuvenate a hand plane my father had given me a couple years back. I have vivid memories of this plane as a kid; the struggle from using a plane that was really not that sharp, my small stature as a child, and probably having the blade to far expose below the sole. I remember then thinking why anyone would want to use one. I now find occasions when this seems to be a perfect fit. Especially my block plane for that quick chamfer. I am not sure how (or if you can) post a photo in a comment so here a link to my workshop where I posted the Hand Plane .

-- Joel Tille

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4236 days

#5 posted 10-30-2006 05:51 PM

Thanks Joel… this was a great help. I wasn’t asking for anyone other than myself because I didn’t know a thing about bevel direction ar anything else. And if i would have looked at two different planes it would have only added to my confusion.This is a seminar’s worth of use and a weekend worth of study. Again, thanks ever so much for your help.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4097 days

#6 posted 03-21-2007 05:45 AM

I was looking to see what had been posted on hand planes and came across this. The woodsmith seminars are now available on-line as as post casts.

Podcast #3 is Why you need handplanes in your shop

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View gizmodyne's profile


1779 posts in 4089 days

#7 posted 03-21-2007 06:07 AM

I like the Stanley Low Angle Block Plane. It is cheap, you will have to sharpen it, but it does not have a ton of controls. Just push it and it goes. Plus you don’t have to worry about it. If budget is no option buy a veritas or lie-nielsen.

I love my veritas shoulder plane.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4273 days

#8 posted 03-21-2007 06:16 AM


I agree on the Low Angle Block Plane and if you are going to be doing tennons a shoulder plane is a must to fine-tune them if needed. The Jack plane is nice but I don’t need mine that often seeing as I joint most of what I need done with my jointer…. Thats my two cents worth….

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Philip Edwards's profile

Philip Edwards

245 posts in 4439 days

#9 posted 03-21-2007 09:17 AM

Now you’re talking my language! ;)
You’ve had some good advice already – a low angle block plane is a great starting point. I recommend either a Veritas or Lie-Nielsen, both are exceptional tools for the money.
Sharpening is a hand tool neccessity so I would say spend some quality time with the block plane learning its ways and getting to know it well.
A second plane? The Veritas Low Angle Jack. It is a fantastic plane for the money, easy to adjust, rock solid and gives performance matching the best (and most expensive) planes available. You can use this plane to flatten timber, edge joint and it will smooth even the most gnarly grained timbers with a few tweaks.
Hope this helps (and welcome to the Slope!)

View Woodwayze's profile


63 posts in 4085 days

#10 posted 03-21-2007 12:41 PM

Hi Obi,

Which plane to buy?

Much depends on the depth of your pocket of course.
If you have some cash to spare, then where quality is concerned, today there are more choices of hand-plane than there were 55 years ago. However, a range of planes was always available and I have always believed that for hand-tool work, having just one plane is limiting.

For edging a long board, a short smoothing-plane is almost useless. Even if the plane is a Nielsen. You would get a great finish, but would you have a true edge? No, you would need a jack or fore-plane at least.

If you are cleaning up a finished job, you would find a long-sole a little clumsy.

So, all round, I believe you need at least:

A jack-plane, a smoothing-plane and a block-plane. The latter for end-grain and final polishing.

A jointer-plane would be a luxury, but you would have more use for it than you might think. For the ultimate finish use a properly sharpened scraper, or a low-angle Nielsen reserved for ‘polishing’.

Up to a point, I agree with Krenov here. I don’t make wooden bodied planes, (except for rounded or hollowed soles.) and I think, length for length, the Nielsen is as good as even Krenov’s creations. I also believe a properly fettled, pre-WW2 steel plane is as good as a Nielsen, and often less expensive. (Heresy?)

The most dangerous thing in a workshop is glass-paper and I like to feel the almost imperceptible undulations on a piece of furniture that has been finished with a properly set and sharpened plane.

If you really can afford only one plane, then a standard, jack-plane would be my advice. You have only to consider its name. It’s a jack-of-all-trades! Properly fettled, it will see you through most situations.
But do try to get a cheap, older plane, that you can use for roughing sawn boards across the grain, and removing larger amounts of material.

Maybe it’s just me?

John (UK)

-- Working fast helps you to arrive at your mistakes in spectacular fashion. (Me 2009!)

View Woodwayze's profile


63 posts in 4085 days

#11 posted 03-21-2007 12:54 PM


My friend, if you need to know more about ’non-dull’ planes, I am sure the folks here can help.
I like to fettle planes myself, so I can safely say, that within obvious limitations, any plane can be made to perform to its best. (Of course, if a plane is rubbish, it is rubbish. End of story.)

How well the plane will function, depends on the plane and the fettler…
A plane’s performance doesn’t depend on sharpness alone. The sole also needs to be truly flat, (Corrugated soles are easiest to true-up.)

So, how much work do you want to put in? Like the proverbial wood-cutter. Do you want a bright, sharp ax or just a sharp ax?

I am sure you’ll get good advice here so,
Good luck and take care

John (UK)

-- Working fast helps you to arrive at your mistakes in spectacular fashion. (Me 2009!)

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4236 days

#12 posted 03-21-2007 02:52 PM

Joel gave me some great help 4 1/2 months ago, but until just the past couple of days I was struggling to figure things out. Planes are probably the most difficult tool in the shop. I bought 2 block planes (both of them still dull) and was just trying not to ruin any wood trying them out. I’ve sharpened my chisels several times since i bought the planes, they ( the planes) have just never made it to the sharpener… they will eventually and I’m sure they are as much garbage as I thought they were.

Thanks for all the input,

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 4085 days

#13 posted 03-21-2007 02:57 PM

I’d second the opinion on the LV Low Angle Jack. I started with some old planes, and I found I didn’t really know how they were supposed to work. I bought the LV LA Jack (yeah, it’s about $200), but it needed about a minute of sharpening and then I was ready to go. Now, I have a good understanding how planes are supposed to work, and I can mess around with my old woodies, the 78 I found, the MF sitting under my bench, etc.

If you get a plane, then at the exact same time, if not before, you should also invest in some sharpening equipment. I use paper on glass, it’s cheap and works well. Water stones are good too, but you’ll need to keep them flat. If you haven’t sharpened before, I would certainly look for a local class, or someone nearby willing to give a quick lesson. It’s not hard once you learn it, but it absolutely necessary.

If you get something like the LA Jack, investing about a half hour to make a servicable bench hook and shooting board is also a must. It makes a plane like the LA Jack much more versatile. I do use mine for edge jointing (practice required, though), smoothing, shooting, heck even some rough work (with the mouth open wide).

I hope that wasn’t too confusing. Oh, and if you really do like to play with planes, then by all means go find an old Stanley. If all the parts are there and it’s not a rusty mess, you can usually fix them all up. Again, a method of sharpening in a must.

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4173 days

#14 posted 03-21-2007 09:54 PM

And if the parts are there and it IS all rusted up, then… you can always scavange it for parts! ;)

That’s how I got the rosewood knob for my #220 Block plane. It was a slightly later version that came with the American Hardwood handle dyed burgundy. I picked up a rusted #220 with a broken lever cap for $9, but it had the rosewood knob and a good depth adjuster, which I needed to replace, as well, because it is cracked.

-- Ethan,

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4096 days

#15 posted 03-21-2007 11:32 PM

First, what angle makes a plane a low angle plane?

Second, it seems to me that $200 for a hand plane is ridiculous (They probably make you pay for shipping too). I can buy a nice motorized planer for the cost of two or more hand planes. I’m interested in hand planes but I think I’ll go the Stanley route or with some other reasonably priced hand tool.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

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