Hand Planes - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 11-07-2019, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Hand Planes

Trying to get into hand woodworking and would like to know what would compile a full set of hand planes or what tools should I ask for Christmas.....
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-07-2019, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Christopher Sturgill View Post
Trying to get into hand woodworking and would like to know what would compile a full set of hand planes or what tools should I ask for Christmas.....
Welcome, Christopher!

Look into "minimalist" classic woodworking. There are a few articles and videos that explain what tools you need to start out with. Paul Sellers has a good Youtube video that explains.

Here are a few tools I rely on every time I'm in the shop.
- My favorite #4 plane. It's a good general purpose size. I occasionally use my #7 to straighten long boards.
- My 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" and 1" chisels. Hardly ever do I need anything else.
- My dovetail saw.
- My basic handsaw (rip cut). Used for resawing/resizing boards. It's not a backsaw, so it can make very deep cuts. Hint: You can use a rip saw for crosscut. It may not be quite as smooth as a crosscut saw, but it gets the job done well enough.
- My marking gauge.
- My combo square. This needs to be a good one that keeps a 90deg angle. Anything else will actually make your work harder.
- My marking knife.
- My pencil.
- My tape measure.

You'll also need some sort of sharpening system (of your choice) to keep your planes and chisels tuned. This is a must early on, as dull tools can make for a bad experience.

As you get more involved, you'll probably get more tools. Don't be afraid of this, or think you're wasting your money. It was not my first tools that became my favorites. I have a cabinet full of "backup" tools, and tools I don't use commonly.

I didn't mention brands for anything. I think it's important that you do some research, and find tools you think will work for you. You can start out with low cost tools for just about everything in my list, and upgrade as your experience increases. My first hand plane was the Veritas #4, which cost me more than $200. It isn't my favorite, and is stored away. My favorite #4 is a 1908 vintage that I paid $35 for and restored myself.
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post #3 of 9 Old 11-09-2019, 09:58 PM
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Welcome Christopher. I agree totally with Awesome. My go to planes are my #5 and #4 for almost everything. I do use my #7 to joint edges and a block plane occasionally for end grain and relieving sharp edges. My chisels have grown over time but the ones used most frequently are the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1". I just purchased a set of 4 mortising chisels which I have not used yet, but I do prefer cutting mortises and tenons by hand, used my bevel edged chisels and they do Ok, you just have to be a little careful not to flex them too much when chopping mortises. For saws I have a 26" rip and cross-cut, but in reality you could use the rip for cross cutting just as well I have a dovetail saw and a couple of no-name back saws. I intend to upgrade my back saws hopefully for Christmas. I second the Paul Sellers recommendation, he has good stuff out there on a range of options. You can also find some good stuff here as well. Good luck, for me it is about the journey as much as the destination.

Last edited by surrywood; 11-09-2019 at 10:00 PM. Reason: added and deleted content for clarity
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-10-2019, 09:09 AM
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Here's something else I would suggest that would be terribly helpful and give you a total working knowledge of every aspect of a hand plane. Find you an old used Craftsman or other off brand,(a Stanley would make this to easy) and completely recondition and tune it. There are many you tube videos on this process. I too would lean on Paul Sellers for this. These can be found at local antique stores for 10 bucks.
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post #5 of 9 Old 11-10-2019, 10:54 AM
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I have a number of old hand planes in various stages of restoration. I am not a hand tool expert, but would like to improve my hand tool skills. All of the posts above have great recommendations.

I like the idea of picking up hand planes for cheap and restoring them to use. I have friends who collect hand planes like coins and stamps. They are my friends, but their hobby is not mine. I want to use the planes I restore, and I want to build a small set of hand planes that work. I will get rid of the lesser duplicates and the ones that can't be restored.

Allow me to recommend my favorite hand plane:

-> Add a block plane early to your list. I strongly recommend a #60 1/2 low angle block plane. They are small, hand-size, and fit in your shop apron. They are oh-so-handy and useful for small cleanups, fixes and many other uses. Some woodworkers store them permanently in their shop aprons.

I have tried other block planes that I picked up at the swap meet over the years for $5-10 apiece, but they did not work out. They weren't #60 1/2, and were not worth the time or money. I remember the #118 as particularly bad. I still wonder what I was thinking when I bought it. Actually, I know - I really wanted a block plane, and it was the first one I found.

In the end, I overpaid for a Lie-Nielsen 60 1/2 at our annual club auction; the extra money went to a good cause. It is a great hand plane. The current Stanley Sweetheart #60 1/2 looks very solid. Compare the thickness of the sole and sidewalls with other #60 1/2 hand planes in the store.

I like the great ideas above and would recommend the following: a #4 and a #60 1/2 to start, then add a #7 and #5. After that, you will know what you want or need.

I also like @AwsomeOpossum74's list of other hand tools. These days, I try to force myself to look at the hand tool solution first, before firing up a power tool. I still use power tools, but have been making a lot more cuts with hand saws in particular.

IMPORTANT: SHARPENING!

Another thing that nobody has mentioned is sharpening. If you are serious about hand planes and other hand tools, get yourself a nice set of diamond stones and a GOOD honing guide. Diamond stones are not cheap, but last almost forever. I like the Veritas Mk.II Deluxe Honing Guide Set.

I do NOT recommend the common $15 honing guides, no matter the source. I gave mine away - to people I don't like much. They are too difficult to set accurately in a 100% repeatable and reliable way. Even if you get the bevel angle (blade length) set accurately, the jaws may grip the blade in a slightly cocked position with compound angles.

If you decide to buy used hand planes and restore them, here are a few hints:

* Find a large piece of scrap granite from a granite slab yard or kitchen counter supplier. Granite is flat; a perfect base for flattening hand plane soles with sandpaper. Glass is not as reliably flat or as good to use. The kitchen counter retail shops are not helpful; I recommend going to the yards where the granite slabs are processed. You are doing them a favor by taking some of their waste, the issue is the annoyance and time it takes to help you. Be very appreciative. One yard gave me a roughly rectangular 9 x 30 inch piece. It is good enough to do any plane up to a #7.

* Learn what to look for when buying used hand planes. Bring a short straightedge with you:
+ Skip the ones with obvious cracks, warps, and other damage.
+ Skip the ones with thin metal. They made cheap, crummy hand planes 100 years ago, too.
+ Skip the ones that show too much wear, especially if it is worn around the mouth. I have seen hand planes that were used up and done. Honestly, worn out hand planes are uncommon. Damaged, broken planes are common.
+ Skip the ones with thin irons that need too much love. By the time you flatten them, they may be too thin and chatter. DAMHIK.
+ Skip the ones with chips in the cap iron or lever cap. I skip all hand planes with any chips, period.
+ Be picky. A better one will come along.

* When restoring, you will switch sandpaper a lot. A new sheet of sandpaper will wear out very quickly. You will spend as much time switching sandpaper as you will sanding.

* Be prepared to give up. Sometimes a plane just can't be restored, and no amount of work seems to fix it. I have hours invested in a plane iron, and it still has a hollow near the cutting edge. By the time I flatten it, it will be too then and chatter. I am ready to give up on that one, despite the time investment.

I hope this helps.
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-10-2019, 10:16 PM
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The old school thinking is that you should start with larger rather than smaller hand planes if you are going to use just hand tools. You need a #6 or longer to hand shoot a good glue joint edge, and a #5 or longer works best to hand flatten a surface. A small plane like a #4 is certainly more nimble if it has to dance around on wild grain for final smoothing; but a larger plane can do that if it has to while a small finishing plane just won't do those big stock prep jobs well at all. The late Alan Peters famously used a Record #7 for just about everything. This is not easy advice to give a beginner as it forces you to a degree of accuracy that takes some time to master. You will also need from the start a way to keep them very sharp. There are several schools of thought on how to do this: water stones, diamond plates, fine sandpaper glued to a flat surface plate, or old fashioned oilstones.

I'm a machine tool wood worker, but I also find hand planes indispensable for working to close tolerances.
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-11-2019, 09:52 AM
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I like hand tools and power tools. I restored a #4 plane made around 1942 and two block planes. All of them were bought on Ebay. As far as keeping them sharp I use diamond plates and I am not switching again. In the past, I have used oil stones, water stones, and have spent a fortune on sharpening products. By far the diamond stone are the best IMO.

Don in Murfreesboro, TN.
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-11-2019, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Christopher Sturgill View Post
Trying to get into hand woodworking and would like to know what would compile a full set of hand planes or what tools should I ask for Christmas.....
Lots of good suggestions.
I am a hybrid ww'er so although I don't have an exhaustive collection of hand tools, I have about every one I think I'll ever need.


I strongly recommend buying buy the best quality tools you can, right from the start. I made the same mistake many do starting out: I bought cheap tools for a couple reasons, I wasn't sure of my dedication, I thought it would be a good way to get my feet wet (BIG mistake!!) and in some way I didn't feel "worthy" using tools that maybe a master would use.


Second, don't buy a tool because you "think" you need it. Get a basic set and go from there. I've tried to follow this and proud to say the only tool I have I never use a side rabbet plane.


What using cheap tools resulted in was frustration and me doubting my skills. Here are a few suggestions and brands that I have experience with and recommend:

I agree the planes to start out with are a #4 and a low angle block plane. WoodRiver is a good value. Lie Nielsen is the best.


For chisels, a good starter set are the blue handle Irwin Marples. They are a bit on the heavy side so not the best for dovetails, but they sharpen up well and are a good value. Be prepared to do some work flattening the backs. The Narex premium set is a good joinery chisel. Not the best edge retention, but a good value. Again, Lie Nielsen is the gold standard.

I good cross cut and rip back saw. Veritas/LN

Measuring/marking. Lee Valley has a good selection of quality tools.

Sharpening supplies - a whole 'nother thread, but you will have to decide between sandpaper, water stones and diamond stones.


Here a some of mine, I've since updated but you get the idea. Good luck!!
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-11-2019, 12:46 PM
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Lots of good suggestions.
I am a hybrid ww'er so although I don't have an exhaustive collection of hand tools, I have about every one I think I'll ever need.


I strongly recommend buying buy the best quality tools you can, right from the start. I made the same mistake many do starting out: I bought cheap tools for a couple reasons, I wasn't sure of my dedication, I thought it would be a good way to get my feet wet (BIG mistake!!) and in some way I didn't feel "worthy" using tools that maybe a master would use.


Second, don't buy a tool because you "think" you need it. Get a basic set and go from there. I've tried to follow this and proud to say the only tool I have I never use a side rabbet plane.


What using cheap tools resulted in was frustration and me doubting my skills. Here are a few suggestions and brands that I have experience with and recommend:

I agree the planes to start out with are a #4 and a low angle block plane. WoodRiver is a good value. Lie Nielsen is the best.


For chisels, a good starter set are the blue handle Irwin Marples. They are a bit on the heavy side so not the best for dovetails, but they sharpen up well and are a good value. Be prepared to do some work flattening the backs. The Narex premium set is a good joinery chisel. Not the best edge retention, but a good value. Again, Lie Nielsen is the gold standard.

I good cross cut and rip back saw. Veritas/LN

Measuring/marking. Lee Valley has a good selection of quality tools.

Sharpening supplies - a whole 'nother thread, but you will have to decide between sandpaper, water stones and diamond stones.


Here a some of mine, I've since updated but you get the idea. Good luck!!

Doctor, I love your cabinet and how you have a place for everything. I am sorry to say I am not as organized as you.

Don in Murfreesboro, TN.
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