Which Planes?

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Forum topic by fyrman904 posted 03-22-2014 11:36 PM 1114 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 1528 days

03-22-2014 11:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi all, I’m finally getting around to setting up my shop, and I want to use more hand tools than I usually do. Which handplanes would you call your necessary planes, the ones you can’t do without? I find restoring hand tools almost as relaxing as using them. I picked up a few at a sale a while back, I’ll post some pics as soon as I figure out our new camera.

12 replies so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3710 days

#1 posted 03-22-2014 11:43 PM

I find my block plane a ‘go to’ tool. I have a jack plane that gets my stock flat. I have a couple of #4s which I just haven’t fettled enough with yet to get them to be reliable. I have a medium shoilder plane which gets far more use than I initally thought it would…I was given a LV mini shoulder plane which I thought was a toy, but I’ve sharpened it and have used it on a bunch of diiferent projects. HTH

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View TechTeacher04's profile


383 posts in 1529 days

#2 posted 03-22-2014 11:46 PM

A low angle jack or smoothing plane with an extra blade will offer alot of utility. The extra blade will allow you to have a high and low angle blade for different woods. Low angle for softwood and high angle for hardwood. A low angle block plane would be nice as a second plane for handier work breaking edges and planing end grain on small parts. I personally like the lie nielsen planes (made in usa) but i know the lee valley planes (made in canada) are also very good aswell. I own the low angle block and jack plane made by lie nielsen. You will want to invest in some plate glass and wet dry sandpaper of some water stones to hone the blades. Good luck. Nothing compares to the sound of a plane taking thin shavings, creating a glassy smooth surface.

View lightcs1776's profile


4200 posts in 1652 days

#3 posted 03-22-2014 11:56 PM

I’ve done a lot of research on planes. The general advice I received is to have a #3 or #4 (I recently acquired a #4 and love it), a #5, and a #6 or #7 (I hope to get a #7 in the neat future). These three planes will do 90% of your work. After that, it’s all icing on the cake.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View JayT's profile


5627 posts in 2209 days

#4 posted 03-23-2014 12:10 AM

A good block and a smoother (#3 or #4 size) I consider to be essentials. After that it comes down to how deep into hand tools you want to go. Making furniture with large panels? You’ll need a jointer plane, like a #7, to straighten edges and flatten the glued up panels. Using rough sawn stock? You’ll want a jack plane (#5) with a cambered iron to flatten any twist or cup and scrub off the outer layers. If you are going to do any joinery, then a router plane (like a Stanley #71) is very useful. I use hand planes for rabbets, dados and grooves, so my #45 is invaluable—a #50 would also do most of the same tasks.

If you can give us a better idea of what type of projects you like to do, it would help to narrow down what planes might be necessary for you.

Just be forewarned that hand plane acquisition and restoring is a very slippery slope. Welcome to the insanity.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#5 posted 03-23-2014 12:47 AM

sounds like you’ve got some good advice.

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

View endgrainy's profile


251 posts in 1886 days

#6 posted 03-23-2014 01:03 AM

Two excellent books I’ve read that cover this subject are “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Christopher Schwarz and “Hybrid Woodworking” by Marc Spagnuolo (The Wood Whisperer).

The suggestions differ based on what you want to do with your tools and how much hand work (and what type) you want to include. Their suggestions may surprise you as well – neither recommends a jointer plane, but both recommend a router plane.

I am new to woodworking, but find hand milling (jointing and thickness planing) to be extremely onerous. I tend to favor the style of machines for milling and cutting and hand tools for finessing and fitting parts.

Personally, my most used hand plane is a low angle block plane. I have a large shoulder plane for finessing tenons and rabbets. I have a jack plane set up for smoothing work that I use for some occasional jointing. I also have a No 4 that I don’t use much. I like my card scrapers and my spokeshave as well (not planes.)

I’m considering a router plane or a low angle jack as my next plane purchase. I found advice given to me by many others most useful: purchase tools as you need them, rather than buying “the compete set” up front.

-- Follow me on Instagram @endgrainy

View fyrman904's profile


2 posts in 1528 days

#7 posted 03-23-2014 02:02 AM

I plan on mostly getting back into furniture making and a few smaller cabinetry projects. There will definitely be some large panels in my future.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2382 days

#8 posted 03-23-2014 02:54 AM

It also depends if you already have a shop of power tools that you will keep using. If you are planning to dimension stock with a jointer and planer, then you don’t really need a jack plane for a whole lot. You’d need a Smoothing plane for taking out planer marks, block plane for end grain…Shoulder plane for tweeking joints.

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

View JayT's profile


5627 posts in 2209 days

#9 posted 03-23-2014 03:00 AM

To do the most with the least, then, here would be my list in order of importance:

  • rabbetting block plane—can be used as a block and also useful to clean up and adjust joints
  • smoother—#4 or equivalent. It will save you a lot of sanding and nothing else allows you to make .001” adjustments. I also use my #4 for bevelling edges and raising panels. A #3 or #4-1/2 would also be fine, just a difference in size and #4’s are much easier to find and less expensive.
  • panel/small jointer plane—a #5-1/2 or 6. Big enough to do any jointing and panel flattening, yet also a nice size to use on a shooting board to square up ends. Could use a low angle jack instead. The LAJ would be better on the shoting board, a 5-1/2 or 6 better for jointing and flattening, but either can do both jobs.
  • router plane—the most useful and versatile of all the joinery planes

I would consider those to be basic for furniture building. Then, if budget and space allow I would add:

  • jack—#5 with a cambered iron for fast stock removal. Can be used to remove twist, scrub rough stock and dimension. Even if you do most rough work with power tools (totally agree with endgrainy on this), a jack is a handy tool. One use that gets overlooked is dimensioning width—a jack can take 1/4” of the edge of a board much faster than hand sawing.
  • combo plane—#45 or 50 for cutting dadoes, grooves, rabbets and some decorative elements
  • shoulder plane—for trimming tenons and other flush cuts on end grain.

To me, that would be an assortment that would do nearly anything you would need. The nice part is that a lot of tasks can be done in a variety of ways, so you can usually find a way with even the most basic assortment. Others may have a different list because of how they work that is just as effective.

Good luck.

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

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#10 posted 03-23-2014 03:43 AM

My two go-to planes are my block plane and my No.4. I used to use a jack a lot before I had my No. 4, but once I got the No. 4, the jack became less prominent in my work. I am a hybrid woodworker so my planes are mostly used for smoothing and fettling with surfaces (which is probably why a No.4 and a block are my favorites). Still do use my jack every once in a while, and when I need it, I am glad I have it. As a hybrid woodworker, I can get along very well with those three.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2091 days

#11 posted 03-23-2014 04:37 AM

I find that I can do almost all the planing I want to do with a block plane. If you have want to surface a wide piece of lumber you may like having the longer bed of a jack plane or a jointer plane.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18713 posts in 2565 days

#12 posted 03-23-2014 12:07 PM

If you like restoring planes then buy any plane you can find that needs restoring and you can get cheap. If then you like using it, its a win win. If its not something you like or you don’t need you can sell it for a profit and buy a few more. Again a win win.

Its a pretty slippery slope though, but oh so much fun.

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

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