Beginner, should I get hand planes?

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Forum topic by DrHorrible posted 12-30-2013 04:11 PM 2173 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1664 days

12-30-2013 04:11 PM

I am very, very early into woodworking. I just built myself a workbench (free plan off fine woodworking), and I have stocked up on some power tools thanks to my birthday and Christmas (I got some of the main things, except a jointer).

I periodically search Craigslist to see if there are any deals, and I found a stanley bedrock #607 for about half the price they are on ebay. I think this is a jointer planer. It requires sharpening, which means I not only have to spend money and master the plane itself, but I have to buy the equipment to sharpen, and learn how to do that properly (which I hear is not necessarily easy, despite the steps being laid out in multiple books I have). On top of that, I hear if I want to joint a board, I’ll need more than just a jointer planer anyway.

Should I get a little more experience at woodworking under my belt before I start throwing even more money toward hand planes and grinders, sharpening stones, etc.?

Another reason I was looking at hand planes is because I went to a lumber yard recently and it costs more to get a squared edge (versus them just planing edges parellel or ripping a straight edge) on rough lumber. I wanted to make a cutting board as one of my first projects, but one of my first roadblocks was whether I can try and make a jointer jig for my table saw, or just pay some more money up front for them to square up a few edges for me to work off of.

Appreciate your feedback and advice!

21 replies so far

View JohnChung's profile


410 posts in 2101 days

#1 posted 12-30-2013 04:45 PM

If you are getting into planes and your primary purpose is squared stock then I would suggest a jointer. You can start with Stanley but most likely you need to tune it up. If you don’t mind then start with a premium plane. No tuning required.

The LV Bevel up jointer would be a good choice.

As for sharpening, you need a good set of equipment. You can use the scary sharp method which is sandpaper with a glass bottom. Once you are tired with changing sand paper you can go with the stones.

I don’t generally use power tools. Hand tools can be as fast if used correctly. I square stock with hand tools and it is fast if the stock is in a moderate condition.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3675 days

#2 posted 12-30-2013 04:54 PM

If the Bedrock is under a hundred bucks it’s probably a
good buy and you can resell it at no loss if it doesn’t
suit you.

Jointer planes are versatile. If you’re willing to both acquire
the equipment for sharpening and learn to do it, I
don’t think you’ll regret getting into using hand planes.

Ian Kirby wrote a lot of articles for woodworking magazines
and some books too. His methods relied a lot of the
jointer plane for almost everything. It gets a little
heavy to use it for everything maybe, but the tool
can make accurate squaring and straightening cuts
in all grain types.

View CharlesA's profile


3329 posts in 1824 days

#3 posted 12-30-2013 04:56 PM

Here’s my not expert opinion—take it for what it is worth:

The most helpful single thing I’ve read in woodworking is Christopher Schwarz’s Coarse, Medium, Fine. He is very helpful in pointing out that the best way to proceed is the best tool to do the job—sometimes that is power, sometimes that is hand. After reading his piece, I spent time finding a Fore Plane and Jointer plane on Craigslist (both used Stanleys and about $60 each). I have found them, along with the block and smoothing plane I already had, to make my woodworking so much easier and better. I use my jointer plane to square up stock all the time. With the Fore and Jointer planes, I can know by rough stock straight from the sawmill—I do use a thickness planer as well, though.

I’ve never used a Lie-Nielson plane, so I don’t know what I am missing, and I’d like to get a better smoothing plane at some point, but don’t feel like it is $400 planes or nothing. Older, made in USA Stanley’s are all over eBay and Craigslist. You’ll have to tune them up, probably (flattening the sole, etc.), but that’s all part of the learning.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View mnguy's profile


193 posts in 3425 days

#4 posted 12-30-2013 05:07 PM

Regardless of what power equipment you have or what type of projects you build, IMO, a quality block plane is a must-have. I have a Veritas standard angle, and I love it.

As for sharpening, the equipment and skills transfer across so many different tools (plane irons, chisels, etc.), that some good basic sharpening tools and skills will make your woodworking much more enjoyable.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3675 days

#5 posted 12-30-2013 05:08 PM

I agree that there’s no need to invest in premium planes,
especially when starting out. The need for flattening
plane soles is, I believe, overemphasized. They don’t
have to be dead flat to work well.

View CharlesA's profile


3329 posts in 1824 days

#6 posted 12-30-2013 05:13 PM

My sharpening equipment costs way more than my planes, but I think that makes sense. I can take an old plane and make that blade quite sharp. I went Veritas Mk II with Japanese water stones. If I had to do it over again, I might go with diamond stones, but I’m not replacing them now.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View JayT's profile


5679 posts in 2238 days

#7 posted 12-30-2013 05:15 PM

Sharpening is a fact of woodworking. Whether you decide to use hand planes or not, I have to assume you will be using chisels. The only difference in sharpening supplies between those two is making sure to have materials wide enough to do a plane iron. Sharpening is really not that difficult to learn, but does take some time. Abrasives (either stones or sandpaper) a flat reference surface and an inexpensive Eclipse style jig will get you a long way.

Personally, I think every woodworker should own and know how to use a block plane and a smoothing plane, such as a #4 size, at the minimum. A jointer plane is one of the next two or three planes I would recommend, depending on what you plan to build. If you are doing furniture and large panel glue-ups it would be used a lot. It wouldn’t be necessary if you are building small boxes. Even if you have a bunch of machinery, a good jointer plane is useful for both straightening edges and flattening pieces too large for a power planer.

I also agree with the great pieces of advice above about the value of the jointer plane even if you decide to re-sell it and reading Coarse, Medium, Fine.

Do you have to use hand planes? No, but they have a lot of uses, even for a machinery based shop and in some instances are the best tool for the job. Will you enjoy using them? I dunno, but it is a slippery slope once you figure out how they are supposed to work—they can be very addictive.

Disclaimer: I am a hand plane addict. I do not own a powered jointer or planer and dimension all boards with a table saw and hand planes at the present time. This hasn’t hurt my woodworking, it has improved it. In the end, this is just another non-expert opinion.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View ColonelTravis's profile


1802 posts in 1921 days

#8 posted 12-30-2013 05:39 PM

I didn’t know nothin about nothin in woodworking and I jumped into hand planes immediately because of two, big fat, primary reasons: cash and space. I could have spent $2,000+ on a jointer and planer, but I don’t have enough room for them, plus I don’t want to spend that kind of money for those things when you can do things by hand for cheaper.

Those two big fat primary reasons made me like planes. But other reasons made me love them. You become more personally involved in the work, vs. a machine doing all your work. Also – no sawdust, no noise, they’re cool looking, they’re kinda therapeutic.

As for sharpening, there are so many methods it’s ridiculous. Pick a way and see if you like it. If you don’t, pick another one. There is no single correct way. You can combine methods, which is what I do. Down the road I might switch. Part of the fun is experimenting.

As some people will tell you, once you get into this world, there is no escape. I just ordered a Kitayama 8000 and can’t believe how giddy I am waiting for this fake rock to arrive.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2594 days

#9 posted 12-31-2013 08:45 PM

A lot of the approach would depend on your desires. You can never go wrong learning to use hand planes, even if you decide not to use them.

So far I’ve found 2 kinds of woodworkers, those that have never learned to use hand planes, and those that use them. You find very very few woodworkers that learned to use them, then decided it wasn’t worth continuing.

And that’s not to say they stopped using power tools, I use both a lot. It really depends on the job.

I also collect hand planes which is another whole sickness.

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

View lateralus819's profile


2241 posts in 1916 days

#10 posted 12-31-2013 09:31 PM

DonW got me hooked. They’re very useful, sometimes a lot faster then a power tool. I bought a sharpening guide for $15, and a water stone for $35. $40 isn’t a lot for sharpening.

After 1 year of using planes, i have approximately 25. Do i need that many? No, they’re just beautiful tools to stare at lol. Talk about a sickness!

View DrHorrible's profile


8 posts in 1664 days

#11 posted 01-02-2014 12:16 AM

I just bought a $50 Stanley No 5 off eBay! It looks like it’s in pretty decent condition, but I might try the “scary sharp” method with sandpaper for the first few times before I go the waterstone route.

I was reading a book and it said that there are two steps to sharpening – hollowing out the bevel and honing. I assume with both the waterstones and sandpaper methods you aren’t doing the first part. It seemed to me based on the pictures that you need a grinder to hollow it out. Is this a necessary step?

Can someone explain to me the process of lapping the sole of the handplane when I get it? I understand using sandpaper on the iron but I’m a little less versed on flattening the sole. Thanks again guys!

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3308 days

#12 posted 01-02-2014 12:57 AM

I think grinding is a gateway skill necessary for hand tool work.

Here’s what’s pretty much traditional honing when using a grinder to maintain a small honed bevel:

View bondogaposis's profile


4767 posts in 2378 days

#13 posted 01-02-2014 01:11 AM

You may as well jump right in. If you are going to to make anything you are going to have to learn how to sharpen chisels and planes. Rebuilding an old Stanley plane is great experience because it will give you an understanding about how planes work. You will need to learn how to sharpen. Sharp tools are a joy to use and dull tools are nearly worthless. Sharpening is a skill that must be mastered or your work can only go so far. If you can get the Stanley at a good price, get it and learn to tune it and sharpen it and you will be well on your way.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2604 days

#14 posted 01-02-2014 01:13 AM

A belated welcome to Lumber Jocks Dr.Horrible.

You’re at the right place listening to the right people, enjoy the journey!

View Bloodwood's profile


1 post in 1633 days

#15 posted 01-02-2014 01:20 AM

I just joined and I can’t believe the immense support. Planes are always a good idea. If you are using “Hand” tools and learned on “Hand” tools then when it’s time to use power tools you have a much deeper appreciation for your passion.

-- Your Supply Partner ,

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