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Forum topic by scvwood27 posted 05-11-2014 02:23 PM 1329 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 1914 days

05-11-2014 02:23 PM

If you were going to purchase your first plane, where would you start? What do the numbers after the name mean? For example Stanley #3 or #4 …...

17 replies so far

View Wally331's profile


350 posts in 1988 days

#1 posted 05-11-2014 02:40 PM

I would start with a vintage stanley no.4, its a good size and if you are careful you can do pretty much anything with it. The number on the plane is just a numbering system made popular by stanley correlating to the length of the plane. a no.1 would be the very shortest plane and a no.8 would be the longest. Other joinery planes have specialty numbers but that’s a whole different topic..

The key to good planing is having a very sharp blade. Any pre ~1970 stanley plane will almost for sure be an excellent user. Maker sure you keep some budget for sharpening stuff though.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18684 posts in 2530 days

#2 posted 05-11-2014 02:46 PM

Take a look at

I agree with Wally. Start with a #4 size.

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

View scvwood27's profile


117 posts in 1914 days

#3 posted 05-11-2014 03:50 PM

What does the type # mean? What would be a fair price on ebay? Thx

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4945 posts in 2456 days

#4 posted 05-11-2014 03:54 PM

The “type” is a way of dating the planes. As production went on, things were changed and these changes led to “type”. Details here. I agree with the #4 being a good place to start although my favorite is a #5. Be careful, planes can be quite an obsession.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18684 posts in 2530 days

#5 posted 05-11-2014 04:01 PM

This may help as well

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

View BubbaIBA's profile


387 posts in 2339 days

#6 posted 05-11-2014 04:06 PM

I disagree, if this is your first plane you do not need the added burden of tuning a used plane. Once you have mastered using a plane and know how one should work then if you wish go for a pre-type 13 Stanley in whatever size you need.

A good place to start is with a new #5. A Woodriver #5 will cost about the same and may be slightly cheaper than an old Stanley with a new iron and chip breaker and will more than likely be ready to go out of the box. The Lee Valley #5 is a great plane and is equal to a Lie Nelson #5 but costs a little less. If you are sure using hand planes is what you want to do, go for the LN….there is an old saying that is very true: “A rich man buys once, a poor man many times”. In the long run it is cheaper to buy the best first.

BTW, I like the old Stanleys, they are lighter than the new Bedrock clones and work just as well but it is a high hurdle to clear to learn to use a plane while learning to restore one to usable condition.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4945 posts in 2456 days

#7 posted 05-11-2014 05:04 PM

I would skip e-bay for your first plane. Bubba is correct, if your first one needs tuned, it can quickly get you out of hand planes. A better approach (for the first one) would be to buy one from one of the many guru’s that fix these things up and then sell them on forums such as these. Pick an established/known member and buy from them. Prices vary due to a number of factors, but a good #4 Bailey user should be less (maybe a lot less) than $100 (a Bedrock will be quite a bit higher). There is a fellow named tablesawtom that frequents Woodnet and Family Woodworking that has some very nice planes for sale regularly. He is a machinist and sells his after he grinds the sole flat, and the sides at 90º, he also flattens the back of the iron so all they need is sharpening and you have a first class plane. Be patient and you can get a real deal.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View bandit571's profile


19713 posts in 2646 days

#8 posted 05-11-2014 05:22 PM

You might also check Timetestedtools here on LJ. DonW does a very good job on vintage planes.

( Well, I HAVE been known to do a few myself…..)

But, go check out DonW’s site.

Decent Block plane
Decent 9-10” long #4 Smooth plane, with a 2” wide cutter
Decent 14” long #5 Jack planes, one with the same straight edged cutter as the #4, and an iron that has a curved edge (called Camber)
The #6 (about 18” long) as a smaller jointer, or a 22” long #7 Jointer, Both use a 2-3/8” wide cutter. More for edges, or flattening large panels
Then the BIG guy. #8 is 24” long, with an iron that is 2-5/8” wide. Weighs about 10 pounds or so. Long jointer.

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

View MrRon's profile


4710 posts in 3206 days

#9 posted 05-11-2014 05:43 PM

I think it should be a low angle block plane. Next a jack then smooth. If you are not going to dedicate wood shaping using planes, I would stop with the jack plane. I have a jointer plane I bought at a garage sale and never use it. I prefer a power saw and jointer/planer.

View bandit571's profile


19713 posts in 2646 days

#10 posted 05-11-2014 06:06 PM

Ok, a Jointer Plane i have

24” long. Iron is “only” 2-3/8” wide.

Jack plane #5

This one is a custom rebuilt Bailey #5 smooth sole, about 14” long. Iron is 2” wide.

The #4 smooth plane

Millers falls made some dang good planes too. This one is a #9. Iron is 2’ wide. There is also a narrower plane

Called a #3. iron is usually around 1-3/4 ” wide. usually a bit shorter than the #4s as well.

Block plane?

This is the “standard angle” block plane. This one has an adjustable mouth opening. There were Low Angle planes out there, too

M-F #1455, similar to the Stanley #60, I think.

There are others out there, but this is just the “Basic Line up” of planes…

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

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3244 days

#11 posted 05-11-2014 06:35 PM

Get a block plane, something like a pre-WWII 60 ½, and a good sharpening system. That’s a good start.

Bench planes are a system and one plane won’t get you far. For most hand stock preparation the lion’s share of the work is done with a jack plane or a fore plane followed by a trying plane to true the surface. The goal with these should be to avoid needing a smooth plane to clean up localized problems. The smooth plane, being significantly shorter will introduce irregularities in straightness or flatness. At times these irregularities are necessary to remove a flaw and spread its depth over a bigger area but you should make an effort to avoid this as much as possible. The trying plane will leave the truest surface unless you’re working on something like a long edge where a jointer is usesful.

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

346 posts in 2425 days

#12 posted 05-11-2014 07:43 PM

There is a great article on the Lie Nielsen low angle jack plane in Fine Woodworking magazine, and it talks about how this plane can do just about anything you need… They describe getting a couple of extra irons and getting different bevel angles for different operations.

I bought this plane, it is a dream to use IF you know how to sharpen well, but that goes for any plane of chisel. I think there is a youtube video of someone running it through its paces….

View JAAune's profile


1786 posts in 2279 days

#13 posted 05-11-2014 08:09 PM

I’d get a block plane. Lower cost, handy and fairly simple to tune and use. I use my 4 1/2 more than any other plane but that’s because my block plane isn’t very nice otherwise I’d use the block plane more.

-- See my work at and

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3322 days

#14 posted 05-14-2014 07:21 PM

You can get a well tuned/sharpened Stanley #4 for $50 or less (plus shipping) from any of several people here that sell planes. I’d offer one myself, but my shop is “under construction” right now and I couldn’t get one ready for you. Another option would be to try to find someone local that has some planes and would let you come over and “test drive” some. If you’re near Albany, NY, you’re welcome to come over and try some of mine. As for what plane to start with, it depends very much on what you want to do with it.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View TerryDowning's profile


1076 posts in 2080 days

#15 posted 05-14-2014 07:34 PM

As stated if you’re just starting out a well tuned #4 size plane. It will do just about anything, additional planes in different sizes will just make things easier.

FYI a #4 size is generally 9 inches long the blade is 2” wide making an overall tool width of approximately 2 1/2 inches.

-- - Terry

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