Handplanes #1: What was your first experience with handplanes?

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 02-13-2009 12:31 AM 2954 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Handplanes series Part 2: Cap Iron, and Lever Cap Positioning »

Mine was about 7 years ago, I still wasn’t doing anything woodworking like, and we had moved to a new apartment where the bathroom door wouldn’t close since it was too tall and would hit the jamb (well- actually we mounted one of those over-the-door-hanger thingies which made things that way) so, my wife suggested we get a handplane to fit the door to the (now lower) opening.

I have never worked with a handplane before , and the closest thing I’ve ever held in my hand was a handplane-style rasp which works much differently then a handplane.

we stopped at home depot, and picked the larger of the 2 buck-bros handplanes they had (now that I know better – it’s a no.5 jack plane). we went home, got the thing out of the box, I looked at the illustrations on the included pamplet, made sure that things were in the right place as much as I could figure out how it’s all supposed to go… and started working on the door …. yeah – just like that – out of the box.

yes. it was extremely hard to take off that 1/16” off the top of the door, I was working for at least an hour, and was sweating a couple of pounds off…. by the end of it – the top of the door looked like it was mauled by a stray hound. but it did close – mission accomplished.

this experience just came to mind as I fine tuned that buck-bros jack I still have last week after reading Garrett Hack's Handplanes book. in comparison to my other stanley it is a much lower grade in materials and construction, but after tuning it – it slices wood nice and easy, and produces beautiful shavings.

that door that took me an hour to maul, would have probably taken me 5 minutes today, and it would have ended up with a nice flat and clean edge….

The mild differences a bit of knowledge can do huh?

handplane shavings

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

9 comments so far

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4789 days

#1 posted 02-13-2009 12:43 AM

My first experience was terrible. I had some old planes that I had acquired, and I thought that I should be able to just put the sole to the wood and it was going to work. That plane and I had quite a conversation. It chattered, I groaned, it dug in, I complained. Chips jammed. Gouges. It was terrible.

Then, about three or four years ago, I took a class with Graham Blackburn about hand planes. It really opened my eyes. I went home, took the same plane apart, tuned it and cleaned it. I flattened the nose of the chip breaker. I did some sharpening and flattened the sole. I tore the frog apart, cleaned and tuned it. After some much needed attention, I put it back together again and treated it like a friend. The conversation that the plane and I had that time was much more pleasant, and all it said was, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhpppppp” when it cut a half of a thousandth of a curl off the top of that wood…...

Ah yes, the benefit of just a little knowledge.


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View Cantputjamontoast's profile


416 posts in 4507 days

#2 posted 02-13-2009 12:55 AM

In Feb 1991 I was at the Kuwait Int’l Airport.

Some of saddam’s associates had left their tank in a hanger.

I found 2 #4’s and a 220 block plane in a tool box on the turret. Some Iraqi “gentleman ” must have stole them from some Kuwaiti’s woodshoop. No chance of finding an owner.
Those planes now sit in my toolbox. First planes I ever owned.
Used planes in woodshop in HS but they did not belong to me.

-- "Not skilled enough to wipe jam on toast!"

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

1003 posts in 4468 days

#3 posted 02-13-2009 01:22 AM

My father started doing woodworking when I was a child. I always remember his couple of Record planes and other small stanley (#4), as many other tools…....but I never paid atention to the planes. He passed away when I was 22 (1993). Ten years later, living in California (I’m originaly from Colombia) sudenly felt an irresistible need to find a plane and start woodworking. Ebay was the place where I spend hours and hous for two years trading and learning about all type of planes. I can’t explain my woodworking experience without them.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

541 posts in 4556 days

#4 posted 02-13-2009 01:41 AM

I can’t remember my first experience with a plane. Having grown up in a woodshop it was most likely one of my dad’s block or rabbet planes when I was young. Since then though I’ve used a number of planes and since learning to make a hand plane I’ve learned to tune and sharpen them to get a great cut. It’s a great story and thanks for sharing.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View woodbutcherer's profile


30 posts in 4530 days

#5 posted 02-13-2009 01:53 AM

My dad gave me a box of my grandpa’s old stuff. It had 7 or 8 different planes in it. I did some internet research on sharpening and once I got ‘em all tuned up I fell in love. Now my Dewalt 13” planer just mostly collects dust. I love that SHHHHTTTTLLLLLPPPPP sound of a wood plane.

Gawd…if my wife had any idea what I have spengt on ebay for old planes…I would prob’ly call her the ex-wife.

-- POST NUBILA SOL - After clouds sunshine

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4575 days

#6 posted 02-13-2009 02:09 AM

I was about 10 years old it was a dull number 4 and it chattered across the wood and made my teeth hurt but I kept going, then ,I was told there was a machine to do that kind of work (ie: planer).but I was hooked and now that I know how to sharpen one… well let’s just say I do not own a planer.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View Davesfunwoodworking's profile


278 posts in 4950 days

#7 posted 02-13-2009 08:58 AM

My first plane was a stanley bench plane. My dad gave it to me. he showed me how to use it. Okay he used it I didn’t learn much. He handed it to me and said here you go have fun. I put the plane on the wood and pushed and pushed some more. I couldn’t understand why anyone in the world would use one of these crapy things. It messed my wood all up and I was tierd after pushing for hours. I told my dad to put it back I never wanted it again. I was about 10 years old. Now almost 40 and over 50 hand planes and some 10 I have made, I still push and push. Only tierd because of my age. I can say now that I understand how to use and sharpen hand planes.I now,some times just go out to my shop and put some wood in the vise and do nothing but plane. I don’t need to make anything.
I think for any one just starting out with a plane you read everything on hand planes you can. Take them apart and put them back together again set the blade and play with it all the time. I try to do this every time I go out to the shop. I grab one and play with it for about 10 minutes or so. Even if I don’t use it on a project. Any way enough of that. see ya all.

-- Davesfunwoodworking

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 4517 days

#8 posted 02-13-2009 09:59 AM

my first experience was a revelation for me. After 15 years in factories with every toy at my disposal I was asked to make a custom piece for a customer here in the philippines which required a curved bench back and I was stumpted. I had no easy way to do it without creating jigs which was a waste of time and money for a one off peice, so what to do. In the back of the toolroom was a rusty number 3 stanley, The only handplane in a factory full of moulders, spindles, and cnc,s and the only answer that made sense, So I cleaned the rust off the sole with a bit of 220 grit and put the iron across a grinder and set to work, Unbeleviably long shavings began to pour out the mouth of this rusted junk of a plane and within minutes I had the curve I wanted. I did not even know what each component of this strange contraption was called let alone how to use it . I soon figured out how to adjust all the bits and the tearout I had in places soon disapeared . After all those years on the machines that one day changed my woodworking life. The filipino workers were standing around starring in wonder at the shavings I had made and how fast I had created the peice “sir we have never seen anything done like that” I felt like a Guru, I didn,t have the heart to tell them I was as amazed as they were!
My career in woodworking is the richer for it thanks to that day and a rusted number 3 stanley.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View RichClark's profile


157 posts in 4505 days

#9 posted 02-14-2009 04:08 AM

I was like you.. But I was drolling at a Lee Neilson and could only afford a GroltZ #4 Smoother that chattered my teeth when I pushed it around. And Like you I read a great deal and “Frettled” it for en entire weekend.. Flattened its Sole, The Blade was beyond hope and I broke down and bought a “hock” blade and chip breaker for it.. I had to file the mouth square, the Frog and its mount points. But like you when I was done.. a bit of wax on the soul and Shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuffffffffffffffffftttttttt. was all I heard.. Its so easy to size a drawer this way.. and the finish is ready to go on.

-- Duct Tape is the Force! It has a light side and a dark side and it Binds the Universe together!

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