Trying to decide on first (maybe only) handplane

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Forum topic by Billy E posted 08-05-2014 05:19 PM 1647 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Billy E

162 posts in 2077 days

08-05-2014 05:19 PM

I’m trying to decide between a jack plane (15”) and a jointer plane (22”). I do not have another hand plane and I do not have an electric jointer. The immediate need I have is that I need to flatten and smooth a 15×60” slab and my thickness planer maxes at 12.5”. Plus, I also know a thickness planer isn’t good at correcting bow or twist. From everything I read, a bevel-up jack plane is the best all-around handplane, but I think a bevel up jointer plane would do everything I want, and would be more accurate for longer boards. Aside from weight, is there a good reason for me to go with a jack plane over a jointer? I am considering the Veritas planes. Thanks for any help.

-- Billy, Florence SC

31 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4929 posts in 3957 days

#1 posted 08-05-2014 05:26 PM

Jack and jointer have different uses.
Jack to rough, and jointer to flatten. In addition a smoother is needed to finish the job the others have started.
A jack (of all trades) can have multiple purposes depending on the grind on the blades. Heavily cambered for roughing, square ground for jointing, and a slight corner camber for smoothing.
Just my thoughts.


View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3361 days

#2 posted 08-05-2014 05:28 PM

I usually find myself reaching for a fore plane (#6 – 18”) before I would go for a jointer. Once the slab is looking ok, I switch to the jack (#5) and then the smoother (#4). If you have a router, there are plenty of jigs here on LJ used to flatten slabs for live edge work.

View 7Footer's profile


2569 posts in 1945 days

#3 posted 08-05-2014 05:31 PM

For this particular task the jointer makes more sense. If you weren’t getting it for this application alone I’d say it’s best to start out with the jack, you’ll find more uses for it in the long run.


View JKMDETAIL's profile


211 posts in 1652 days

#4 posted 08-05-2014 05:32 PM

If you are not into the whole hand plane thing, you can build a jig for your router to make passes back and forth to level a slab. Not to sidetrack the post but it is an option.

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Billy E

162 posts in 2077 days

#5 posted 08-05-2014 05:33 PM

Thanks Bill,
I understand the concept and why people choose to have two or three different planes. I am hoping to get what I need done with one high-quality plane, then maybe buy a second on down the road. It might not be the plane you’d design for it, but couldn’t a jointer do all these things too? The same blades are interchangeable on the Veritas that I mentioned. The only real design difference I see is that the jointer does not have a smooth side, for a shooting board. Aside from that (which would be significant to some, but not me right now) I don’t see a drawback to using the jointer.

-- Billy, Florence SC

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Billy E

162 posts in 2077 days

#6 posted 08-05-2014 05:35 PM

Thank you everyone for your input. I’ll look into the 18” option as well as possibly just using the router.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View CharlesA's profile


3320 posts in 1794 days

#7 posted 08-05-2014 05:37 PM

I use a jointer, Fore, and smoother regularly. I love my jointer plane . . . but . . . As a really big plane, it really is good at one thing and one thing only. If your board is rough, warped, bowed, etc., the length makes it hard to use to get some of those high spots out of the way. That is, the more uneven the board is initially, the less useful the jointer is. It may be your best choice for this kind of work, but it will still be limited.

I’d rather get 2-3 good used stanley’s than one new Veritas in your situation.

-- "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 Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2077 days

#8 posted 08-05-2014 05:45 PM

Ok let me ask the question this way… Do you think I can effectively straighten and smooth a 15×60” slab using a 15” jack plane, or would I need to go to a longer plane for this? Disregard effort and time for the most part. I might do this once a year. Thanks.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View CharlesA's profile


3320 posts in 1794 days

#9 posted 08-05-2014 05:47 PM

Okay, so if you are going to do that size piece once a year, and that’s why your buying a plane, I guess I’d do jointer, knowing that the initial high spot flattening will take a little longer, but the ultimate flattening will be easier.

-- "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 Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15349 posts in 2615 days

#10 posted 08-05-2014 06:14 PM

Sorry to be contrary, but I’d suggest a jack plane. Method will get you reasonably smooth, and a jointer is simply too much iron to heft around to rough in a 15” x 60” slab. A jointer is also that much further away from being a smoother than a jack…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1648 days

#11 posted 08-05-2014 06:16 PM

It sounds like you don’t really want a hand plane. I’d either use a router jig, or find someone with big equipment to help you flatten the slabs.

If you MUST get a handplane, I’d go with the jointer if this is the only thing you’ll use the plane for, or a jack if you think you might find other uses for the hand plane.

FYI, if you’re not familiar with hand planes, I find that the bevel up is much harder to learn to tune/use than the standard planes. YMMV.

-- -Dan

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1677 days

#12 posted 08-05-2014 06:24 PM

For 15” by 60” a Jack plane would probably be my suggestion as well. A jointer is a great plane but a Jack is something you can use for a lot more than flattening boards. So yea while I would probably reach for my cambered number 6 and straight blade number 7 for a job like this myself if I could only have one plane it would be a low angle jack as it can do everything from flattening to smoothing with a couple different irons.

I know nothing about it but I saw a newish Woodriver (Woodcrafts house brand) low angle jack that at least on first look seemed like a pretty nice tool. Again I haven’t used it so don’t take this as a endorsement more a suggestion of someplace you could look. I love my Lie-Neilson low angle jack but I’m not sure I would suggest that to someone who wasn’t sure how much use they where going to get out of it. Low angle jacks on the used market are insane expensive so not worth the trouble to me.

View Loren's profile


10384 posts in 3645 days

#13 posted 08-05-2014 06:30 PM

I recommend you buy a used or refurbished vintage
Bailey type jack plane. You can get them on ebay
or from a couple of users here who fix them up.
They work very adequately when tuned.

Jointers are pretty heavy and you’ll get tired quicker
if you have to do all your stock removal with a
jointer. Furthermore the long sole actually interferes
with smoothing surfaces so if you want the
benefit of what planes can do to both flatten
and reduce sanding time, you’re going to need
a jack and/or a smoother.

For most flattening the jointer plane is not necessary
and in my opinion is not only tiring but slower
than using a jack.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3068 days

#14 posted 08-05-2014 06:56 PM

I wouldn’t drop $300 on a jointer plane unless I knew I’d use it a lot for flattening large boards, and even then a power tool solution sounds a lot more appealing. I’m not sure I’d spend that much on a tool I only use once a year, but I don’t run a production shop.

I picked up a set of planes, including a Stanley #7, for about $50 from the pawn shop earlier this year. It was a super lucky find, I admit…but you can find #7 planes in decent condition on eBay for $50-$100.

Some other guys mentioned this already but do you have a router? If not, you can buy a router, straight bit, and materials for a flattening sled for less than the price of the Veritas bevel-up jointer plane.

Also I know this won’t help you on this particular board, but there are a lot of articles on how to use a planer sled and shims to correct twisted, warped, and cupped boards. You just need to shim the high spots so the planer’s pressure rollers can’t flex the board flat. If it’s cupped, put the cup facing down (so the outside edges are touching the sled and the middle is not).

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Loren's profile


10384 posts in 3645 days

#15 posted 08-05-2014 07:50 PM


I have a bevel-up jack and I do not agree that it is
the best all-round plane. The low angle makes
for more hassle with sharpening. The bevel down
planes have a wider range of side to side adjustment
where bevel up planes have to be sharpened almost
dead-square. Additionally a camber on a bevel up
plane must be more pronounced to produce the
same cut as a camber in a bevel down plane and
the more pronounced the camber, the more hassle
it is to maintain.

Lacking a chipbreaker a bevel up plane can only
be adjusted for uncooperative grain by switching
out the iron or closing the mouth, while a standard
bench plane can, with nuanced manipulation of
the chipbreaker, emulate a plane pitched at
10 or more degrees higher than the 45 degree
pitch. Chipbreakers were a revolution in hand
plane design because they allowed craftsmen to
jettison the smoothers bedded at various pitches
and get more or less the same work done with
one plane.

It took me a long time to really appreciate the
chipbreaker. It cannot solve every problem but
it can help solve a lot of them.

I also think that a low angle is of minor benefit in
planing end grain. The bevel-up planes have more
depth-adjustment sensitivity and combined with
very keen sharpening this can make working end
grain seem easier. I will tell you though, that for
hardwoods in general a keenly adjusted bevel-down
plane can perform very well on end grain. If working
woods like pine and cedar on the end where the
fibers are inclined to collapse into their neighbors
rather than shear off, low bevel angles can help
encourage shearing. Such soft woods are difficult
to work to fine levels of detail and I don’t really
recommend them for fine furniture… with durability,
structural strength and tendency to get bruised
other concerns. In short, firmer woods are easier
to work with and can be worked very well and
with a lot of adaptability with bevel down planes.

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