What do you consider the 'essential' hand planes? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 05-11-2017, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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What do you consider the 'essential' hand planes?

I've tried to read more about some hand planes and what the essential planes are, and to be honest it's overwhelming and I often see conflicting information or opinions. And while this is to be expected I would like to know what you would consider to be the bare minimum planes to have.

I'm not really interested in $300+ planes (I am, but way out of my budget to even consider) but I would like to have 2-5 planes that should cover 99% of the situations, at least to some degree.

I don't mind a higher price tag for quality and long life but lets set the bar at 200 or less per plane. And if you can get a quality plane without breaking the bank I'm in favor of that since I doubt I'll have many uses for them initially.

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post #2 of 19 Old 05-11-2017, 11:16 PM
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Paul Sellers swears that all you will ever need is a Stanley #4, and he is probably right. That being said a block plane is a must have for chamfering corners and small touch up jobs. Furthermore, I sure do love using a number 7 to flatten large stock. I got mine for under $100 but they go for more than that on ebay. You can find a large wooden plane at almost any antique store though if you couldn't get your hands on a #7. Just make sure the blade is decent and flatten the sole when you get home and you have yourself a great plane! I just recently got into hand planing myslef so I am no expert, but I fell in love with them. I am currently building hardwood stairs which are wider than my jointer, so I have been hand planing one side before they go through the power planner. With two staircases worth of treads and risers I sure have learned a lot about technique.
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post #3 of 19 Old 05-11-2017, 11:38 PM
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Let's get some controversy started:
After more than 40 years of woodworking, I say a good plane is like a good watch.
A cheap watch will keep the time and an expensive watch is prettier (but shows the same time).
Same with hand planes!
A good Craftsman or Stanley plane will do the same job, but I know they're not as pretty.
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post #4 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 01:14 AM
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the equivalent of the #4 will do you good. Or a jack plane.

I have but just a few and its really all I need.
The planes I use are are my Stanley #4, my Sargent 3420 Fore Plane and an old unnamed 36 inch long wooden jointer plane and a small block plane I made myself.
Oh I also have a plow plane but its rarely used and I have router plane but I don't consider it among the others as its sort of its on beast.

Measure 6 times, cut 3. Plane it down wrong and go buy a second board.
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post #5 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 05:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
Let's get some controversy started:
After more than 40 years of woodworking, I say a good plane is like a good watch.
A cheap watch will keep the time and an expensive watch is prettier (but shows the same time).
Same with hand planes!
A good Craftsman or Stanley plane will do the same job, but I know they're not as pretty.
Yes and no. Tuned up properly, they'll both cut just fine. I ran a basic stanley block plane for years until I finally ordered a Veritas low angle. It does lock down better than the stanley to minimize the need for constant adjustments. There are some days I'll be hand planing 6-7 hours a day fitting parts on vessels and not having to keep re-adjusting the blade because it lost its setup is worth having for me.

That being said, when we get new guys in at the shop that don't have any planes, I recommend they start with the stanley. I'll help them true it up.
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post #6 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 06:35 AM
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It really depends on what you want to do with the planes. Start with a smoother and a block plane. As for quality, you can find good quality tools for very little money if you have and want to take the time to look.
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post #7 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toolman50 View Post
Let's get some controversy started:
After more than 40 years of woodworking, I say a good plane is like a good watch.
A cheap watch will keep the time and an expensive watch is prettier (but shows the same time).
Same with hand planes!
A good Craftsman or Stanley plane will do the same job, but I know they're not as pretty.
I agree with this. My reading of the original post is that the poster is asking about planes for the average hobbist, not someone who is going to do projects with only hand tools.

For the last much longer than 40 years, the only plane I have had is a Sears(not even Craftsman) little red plane about 6 or 7 inches long. It has easily accomplished any of the small jobs I have asked it to do. I have no idea of what "type" of plane it is.

George
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post #8 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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I was looking for a Stanley No. 4 on Amazon, and to be honest I didn't expect 4-8 options at a very wide range of price points. Anyone care to point out which No. 4 they are referring to?

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-12-...ey+No.+4+plane

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-12-...ey+No.+4+plane

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-12-...ey+No.+4+plane

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-Swe...ey+No.+4+plane

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-No-...ey+No.+4+plane

https://smile.amazon.com/Stanley-4-S...ey+No.+4+plane

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post #9 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 02:52 PM
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I think most every wood shop should have a low angle block plane, and a rabbet plane (for tenons & shoulders) minimum. Otherwise I don't hand plane anything.
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post #10 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 02:52 PM
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Stanley No. 4 refers to the standard size smoothing plane originally built by Stanley. It is 9-3/4" long and has iron about 2" wide. Other manufacturers have copied the original Stanley-Bailey style, thus there are many more options available as you see.
(Not all "Stanley" planes you see listed on Amazon are actually built by Stanley.)
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Last edited by Jig_saw; 05-12-2017 at 02:55 PM.
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post #11 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jig_saw View Post
Stanley No. 4 refers to the standard size smoothing plane originally built by Stanley. It is 9-3/4" long and has iron about 2" wide. Other manufacturers have copied the original Stanley-Bailey style, thus there are many more options available as you see.
(Not all "Stanley" planes you see listed on Amazon are actually built by Stanley.)
Every link I provided says Stanley on the product themselves, I think its safe to assume they are all made by Stanley. Hence the reason I asked to which Stanley No 4. plane everyone was referring to.

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post #12 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Techsniffer View Post
Every link I provided says Stanley on the product themselves, I think its safe to assume they are all made by Stanley. Hence the reason I asked to which Stanley No 4. plane everyone was referring to.
Stanley is not making any hand planes right now, only selling foreign made planes under Stanley brand. If you see the source description in each of the links, you will find them saying China, Mexico, etc. I don't think Stanley has plants in these countries. They are just outsourced foreign made tools.

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post #13 of 19 Old 05-12-2017, 11:39 PM
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The vintage Stanleys are nice. The newer ones ... not so much.

The #4 is without a doubt my first choice for most jobs. A #7 is good for larger flattening, and a low angle block plane is good for end grain. IMO, that is pretty much all you need.

For the money you are willing to spend, I am sure you can find some good reconditioned vintage Stanley planes for a good price.

Even if you buy a brand new plane with a new iron, blade will probably not be as sharp as it can be, and you should ensure the bottom is smooth and flat.

Of course if you buy a premium plane, or one that has been reconditioned, it will already be ready for use.

So you should research sharpening techniques. A hand plane is a worthless if the iron is dull.

Last edited by Chris Curl; 05-12-2017 at 11:46 PM.
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post #14 of 19 Old 05-13-2017, 08:08 AM
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A block plane and a #5 jack plane are what I consider the essential planes. Those two will cover a lot of needs.
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post #15 of 19 Old 05-13-2017, 04:12 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by notskot View Post
A block plane and a #5 jack plane are what I consider the essential planes. Those two will cover a lot of needs.
I read your guide "Good Quality Hand Planes On a Budget" on Lumberjocks and while it was very helpful, I was hoping you could provide a bit more insight on how to try and identify old/vintage planes that you find on CL and Ebay, with the generally limited information the seller or images might provide. I would hate to spend $50-$150 for what I think is a better quality plane, only to end up with plane no better than the cheaper and inferior quality ones you find so many places now.

I tried using the information you provided and I feel it helped me to weed out a few but there are so many that simply lack the information you spoke to I was hoping you could tell me how you would approach the situation.

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post #16 of 19 Old 05-13-2017, 04:38 PM
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post #17 of 19 Old 05-13-2017, 11:49 PM
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For around $30 you can grab a decent #4 on ebay, but at that price you will probably have to do some work getting it back into shape, but not a lot.
I'd definitely stay away from the newer Stanley planes unless you only want to make it into a cheapo scrub plane. I have 2 of those I seldom use.
I have a #4 , #7 a wooden block plane and even 3 of those small brass thumb planes from HF for little jobs and one small no name plane fine for chamfering..
I usually find a good deal on other planes just as soon as I can't really afford to buy them so I don't. The price always seems to jump up exponentially the moment I have any money to spend. No idea how that works, but it happens to me every month..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #18 of 19 Old 06-10-2017, 05:26 PM
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I use three planes for almost all my woodworking; a Stanley No4,a 9 1/2 and a 90.Very occasionally I reach for a No 79 edge cutting rebate plane.
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post #19 of 19 Old 06-19-2017, 02:49 PM
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My views on this are non-conventional, and reflect my own personal experience rather than anything else. Here's my advice, on the assumption that you have few or no power tools. If you own a powered jointer (or are comfortable jointing on your table saw or router table), skip the first step.

1) Start with a jointer. Jointing is (relatively) easy to learn if you have a long plane. You might find it helps to clamp something to the plane to use as a fence. Why start here? Because learning to tune a smoothing plane sucks, and if you don't know what it's supposed to feel like you'll just wind up frustrated and with a lot of nasty plane tracks. A jointer is used for making longish boards have one straight edge, which you'll need to do sooner or later. Start out using sandpaper to get things smooth.

2) Add a jack (Stanley #5 or equivalent). Removing lots of wood from a board is much easier if you have a jack, and again, they're not as fiddly to set up as a smoothing plane is. But you can use it to get a pretty smooth surface if you work at it a little bit.

3) Get a rebate plane. A Stanley #78 or equivalent is a reasonable place to start, since it simplifies the process somewhat. Cutting rabbets is annoying without one, and trivial with. Just don't ever trust the depth stop, and learn the quirks of the fence on yours. I've used three, and each of them had a different inaccuracy in the fence.

4) Get a smoothing plane, or possibly a plow plane.
5) Get a plow plane, or maybe a smoothing plane.

Smoothing planes are nice, and do some things a lot better than sandpaper. They're also fiddly to tune, and can be horribly frustrating. This is the first (and probably only) place I'm going to tell you to be really careful about what you buy. Look for a smooth sole, reasonably small mouth, and a lack of slop in the depth and lateral adjusters. Also, make sure you know how to sharpen. My favorite is a Stanley #3 that belonged to my grandfather, and I use it for most of the things people recommend a block plane for. That might just be because I don't have a good block plane, though.

A decent plow plane will change your life. All of a sudden, frame and panel doors are trivial, and you'll start looking for ways to work them into everything you make. That chair? Frame and panels for the back and seat! Building a box? Frame and panel for everything! The cheap one made my Mujingfang is sort of useable, or you can buy one of the millions of Stanley #45/55 planes or copies. Or you can find a grooving plane (the opposite of a tongue cutting plane, which is also really nice to have), and accept that your grooves will all be the same distance from the face of the wood. I'm moving in that direction, because mis-adjustable fences are starting to get on my nerves.

6) Finally, get a medium router plane from Veritas. It will do most of the things you want a router plane for, and it uses the same cutters as the large Veritas router plane. That'll save you some money when you inevitably buy the big one. (That should also go on the list, but it's getting longer than I want.)

In a machine-heavy shop, I'd start with a rabbet/rebate plane, then a plow plane. Then I'd go for a smoothing plane, to reduce the amount of sanding you have to do. Cutting rabbets (especially in small pieces) and cleaning up mortises or grooves can be a nuisance with machines, and is easy with hand tools. After the rabbet, plow, and smoothing plane, I'd go start looking for moulding planes, because they're fun, and you may never have a need for a jointing plane.
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