New To A Hand Plane

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Beams37 posted 03-16-2015 02:47 PM 1078 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Beams37's profile


163 posts in 607 days

03-16-2015 02:47 PM

Hey guys,

I’m a short time lurker, but long time fan of wood working. I have done some stuff in the past, but it seemed to fall to the back burner when work called. Now, I am back at it and trying to learn new skills and tools.

Over all, I can handle a power tool. However, hand tools are another beast. I thought I should try hand planing. So, I read the forums and figured the best choice would be a Stanley #4. I got mine at the local wood working store and came home to try her out. I bout some nice soft pine and cleaned up a board real nice. However, today I busted out a plank of maple and things aren’t the same. It looks like crap! It has “ridges” or as I have affectionately named them “speed bumps”.

So here are my thoughts:

1. It’s probably not set up right. I’m really just winging it when it come to set up. Any ideas would be welcome.

2. The blade is dull. However, I tried sharpening the shit out of the thing. Again, any ideas would be appreciated.

So, I know there is a lot of knowledge out there … Lay it on me !!



-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

38 replies so far

View Tim's profile


3029 posts in 1378 days

#1 posted 03-16-2015 02:54 PM

Sharpening is one of the most challenging things to get right and the one thing that will solve almost every problem. Keep at it as you will keep getting better and better and keep getting a new idea of what sharp really means. There’s lots of sharpening systems, which on you choose doesn’t matter nearly as much as sticking with it and practicing. I like Paul Sellers system and use those diamond stones, here’s his youtube video.

It’s also possible something on the plane needs to be tuned up. Try all the stuff in this article by LJ DonW:

Oh and welcome to LJ. Have fun planing. Maple is just a bit harder to plane than pine, so keep at it and you’ll get there.

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 631 days

#2 posted 03-16-2015 03:02 PM

Handplane setup is crucial to getting good results. I go with the Paul Sellers method (he has videos on Youtube).

Essentially you need a flat sole, a surgical sharp iron, a flat “chipbreaker” making excellent contact with the iron across the entire iron, a square frog, a medium-small or small mouth, a tight(ish) cam lock and tight tote. I also wax my sole. To make it work the way it is designed you need to balance the blade left and right. That means withdrawing the blade until you are barely making a cut and then alternating passes on the left side of the blade and the right and tweaking the balance until you are taking even shavings. Are you sharpening with a back bevel and a camber?

Most likely if you are having trouble with your handplane your iron isn’t sharp enough. I good sharp iron will make up for a lot of other shortfalls, but no amount of tweaking will overcome a dull blade.

There are dozens of ways to sharpen, there are hand methods and machine methods and hundreds of tips and techniques. To find one that works for you it has to be 1. Easy! or at least not difficult, you want to be able to do it quickly and often, lengthy setups and hardwork are likely to dissuade you, something you can leave setup and just walk up to when needed would be perfect. 2. Fun! hell yes sharpening should be fun or you won’t do it enough. 3. Accurate! if you don’t repeat your angle well it’s like starting all over everytime.

Try handsharpening in a logical order, start out with rough stones/sandpaper until the blade is perfectly flat and 90 degrees, stay with it until those things are true and beyond dispute. Next move quickly through finer grits until you get to your finest 2 grits. This a good time to add your back or microbevel and camber. Finish with the finest grit, strop or hone to a mirror shine, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Next time, skip all the steps jump right to the finest grits, and just touch up your blades. You will be able to touch up the blade for a while (4-5 sharpenngs) before you need to go back to step one.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View Ocelot's profile


1458 posts in 2055 days

#3 posted 03-16-2015 03:09 PM

Of course, you know you have to plane in the right direction. It’s like petting the cat.


View Beams37's profile


163 posts in 607 days

#4 posted 03-17-2015 02:27 AM

Hey guys,

Thanks for the input. I haven’t watched the Sellars video, but will I did watch the Lie-Nielsen video and I think that is the problem.

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

View Beams37's profile


163 posts in 607 days

#5 posted 03-17-2015 02:29 AM


Believe me when I say, I know hown to pet it !!!!

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

View rwe2156's profile


2110 posts in 898 days

#6 posted 03-17-2015 12:44 PM

First of all, your not dealing with a fine woodworking too, here, OK? Stanley’s started their downgrade after the 60’s and what they are making now are basically pieces of junk. I wouldn’t recommend ANY one wanting to learn handtools start out with one of these. They are simply not a quality tool. You can check out the sources. One good one is Basically, what you’ve got is something for planing a door edge or throwing in the tool box, which is not what you’re trying to do.

My recommendation is you start out with either an older Stanley (WWII era, but not too early they don’t have adjustable frogs). Just be aware you’ll probably be getting into some restoration/refurbishing, which I would discourage.

I think you’re best best is a Wood River #4. Yes, its probably 4 times the cost of that Stanley, but I promise you, the experience will be totally different.

There are many important aspects to handplaning other than technique. Understanding and reading grain direction, understanding how planes actually work, how to adjust them, and most of all, learning to hone a blade to perfection.

I want to encourage you into the world of hand tool work. I just don’t want to see you make the mistake I made and start out with junky tools and get frustrated.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View lateralus819's profile


2236 posts in 1307 days

#7 posted 03-17-2015 01:51 PM

There are some members here who restore planes well. Maybe pick up a restored smoother for a low cost so you know what to expect out of a plane and work from there.

I started with a cheap $20 stanley and just couldn’t get it to work. finally bought a couple restored and learned as i went. The first step was to learn to sharpen properly.

View rwe2156's profile


2110 posts in 898 days

#8 posted 03-17-2015 02:23 PM

There are some members here who restore planes well. Maybe pick up a restored smoother for a low cost so you know what to expect out of a plane and work from there.

You’re making my point, friend!

You forget this guy is a newbie and wants to go to work, not spend 1/2 a day restoring a plane.

Let’s say you don’t want to get into refurbishing and pick up a “restored” plane cheap (have you checked Ebay lately??) and then you check the sole flatness….oops. Now you might have a lot of work to do getting it flat (been there done that have the T shirt). What you often end up with is plane that even tuned up as best you can, will simply not perform like one of the newer planes.

I get accused of being a snob when I say this and I know it offends a lot of the Stanley guys, but I am convinced it is the truth. I’m not saying a Stanley can’t be refurbished and tuned up to work very sweet, but you won’t do it with the Stanley’s on the shelf in 2015. That’s because Stanley pooped their pants as far as planes starting about 50 years ago. Once they started producing for the mass market, not furniture makers, they went down the drain. I believe its colloquially known as the “Stanley downgrade”.

I started with a cheap $20 stanley and just couldn t get it to work. finally bought a couple restored and learned as i went. The first step was to learn to sharpen properly.

- lateralus819

Next time the opportunity presents, get your hands on WoodRiver plane either at a Woodcraft store or a WW show. Better yet, a Lie Nielsen or Veritas. Then you’ll see what I’m talking about.

My only WR plane is a #6 and the difference between it and the old Stanley #7 I had is hands down no comparison. I got the WR for $150 on sale and paid $80 for the Stanley.

Going a step further, the first Lie Nielsen plane I laid my hands on made me want to literally throw every old Stanley in the garbage can. Instead, I sold them on Ebay and made enough to buy a LN 4 1/2 smoother. I recently got a LN bevel up jack.

It all boils down to your philosophy about hand tools, your level of skill, what you expect from a hand tool and how much you use one. I use one or more of my planes on virtually everything I do, even something as simple as making a zero clearance insert seems to demand a block plane.

I see power tool guys not break a sweat to spend hundreds on tools, yet chince out on hand tools. Can’t figure that out.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View rwe2156's profile


2110 posts in 898 days

#9 posted 03-17-2015 11:14 PM

Just a demonstration of how finely you can dial in a well tuned plane.
And this plane isn’t “supertuned”, just a 2 min touch up on the blade and a closed mouth.
Its soft wood so the shaving won’t hold till you get to about a thou and a half.

As you can see, this is not a Lie Nielsen, just a #6 WoodRiver out of the box.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View unbob's profile


692 posts in 1320 days

#10 posted 03-18-2015 12:07 AM

In all fairness, the old Bailey “Stanley” planes can do an outstanding job also.
I was able to use a LN #7 for a few days and was very impressed. I think its a great way to go-if you can do it.
The Bailey plane is a complicated subject, and really requires research and effort, but, one can get a set of really good planes at low cash going out cost.

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1006 posts in 992 days

#11 posted 03-18-2015 01:28 AM

When you say speed bumps,do you mean tear out or bumps?if you mean bumps then how big of a board are yu planing?a long board needs a larger plane than a #4some thing like a #6-7 or higher.If you mean tear out check your grain direction you should go to the right if your grain goes this way ///// or the other way if the grain does you can see the direction most times by looking at the side of the board.
And then there are some woods you just can’t plane well.
Also make sure your blade is tight to the frog so you don’t get chatter.

View Beams37's profile


163 posts in 607 days

#12 posted 03-18-2015 03:08 AM


This have given me a lot to look at.

I’m going to work on my sharpening skills first and foremost. Then, I’m going to reevaluate my gear. Maybe I will trade in the Stanley for a quality plane.

Thanks for the advice

-- FNG ... On a quest for knowledge.

View BurlyBob's profile


3450 posts in 1683 days

#13 posted 03-18-2015 04:28 AM

Josh, Maybe you need another plane, heck maybe several others. I started out thinking I only needed a Stanley #4, a year and a half later I’ve got 19 working on 2 dozen. You’ve got to expand your horizons. Trust me you’ll love doing so.

View lateralus819's profile


2236 posts in 1307 days

#14 posted 03-18-2015 04:42 AM

I as well as NUMEROUS others have restored PLENTY of old stanley planes and to be honest I haven’t come across one that i restored that didn’t work great. Yes it takes effort, but i started with one restored plane from DonW and went off on my own and learned how to do it myself. It didn’t take much time at all.

Take the de-rust/re-paint and wood “refreshing” out. All you’re left with is flattening the sole.Which on a smoother takes almost no time depending on the severity. Not to mention the quest isn’t to get the sole completely flat. Just before/aft the mouth and the heel and toe.

I own numerous LN planes and i know what a good plane should do. My stanley bedrock #607 performs equally as well as my LN #8.

Beams- Check on ebay for a #4 or the like for under $20 to try your hand at restoring it. You will find it is quite easy. There is a wealth of knowledge on this board as well as the web itself. Don’t be discouraged and run out and buy premium planes. I’ve done multitudes of restores and realized i just like the looks and feel of a premium plane.

Personally i have saved hundreds if not thousands (Yes I’ve bought/restored a lot of tools) on buying planes cheap and restoring them. Just takes some know how on what a plane will need and how to get it accomplished. If he can learn it he can pick planes up on the cheap and restore them and still be well under the cost of a premium planes.

Usually this only (in my opinion) makes sense on the large planes. Things like rabbet block planes/shoulder planes etc are better off buying knew as the vintage market still demands a premium.

Foor for thought!

View rwe2156's profile


2110 posts in 898 days

#15 posted 03-18-2015 12:03 PM

Lateralus – hope I didn’t get you too sideways (:-P

Told you I’d make some people mad, so please don’t take offense, but I notice the only plane you mention comparable to a LN is the Bedrock.

I just sold my last Stanley on Ebay yesterday for $50—a type 20 that Stanley should have been ashamed to make. The only $20 planes I ever see on Ebay are either in pieces or one big mass of rust.

I agree with you re: shoulder/rabbet planes. They bring crazy money because of collectors, but so do the Stanley bench planes, IMO. I can’t help but wonder how many of them just end up on someone’s shelf collecting dust. Anyway, I’ve definitely learned my lesson about Ebay.

The only guys I see picking them up for 10, 15, 20 bucks is at yard/garage sales. I’ve seen them—grandpa’s old plane from the 40’s with all the parts—heck, I would snatch one up myself for 15 bucks.

If you have the time for it great, but for a lot of us, we just want a plane we know will work right out of the box.

After using several different Stanley’s (all tuned up as well as I could) seemed more often than not I still had all the fiddling to keep it right and I’m betting that’s the biggest beef everyone has with them.

I’m still convinced that someone starting out need to focus on learning how to sharpen and how to plane, not how to troubleshoot a plane to tune it up. After they learn what a plane can/cannot do they have a reference point and THEN they can go looking for the $20 planes if they want. I think the best route for a newbie is a WoodRiver #4.

The bottom line for me is I want to be confident I have a quality tool in my hand that gives consistent results and I don’t mind spending some coin to get it.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

showing 1 through 15 of 38 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics