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Intimidated by Hand Planes

by LJackson
posted 03-02-2015 05:58 PM

22 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8771 posts in 3089 days

#1 posted 03-02-2015 06:04 PM

View jmartel's profile


8571 posts in 2663 days

#2 posted 03-02-2015 06:12 PM

If you want a jointer, you can probably find a Stanley #7 that’s been refurbished for $100ish. Either ebay, on here, or from that site that Waho posted.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 3206 days

#3 posted 03-02-2015 06:12 PM

A trusty Stanley no. 5 won’t let you down, and there are lots on the vintage market for cheap. Don’t buy a cheap modern tool and let it ruin your opinion of hand planes.

For the price of the modern tool, you could get the Super Tune Your Hand Plane DVD from Popular Woodworking and still have coin left for a couple old planes and sharpening gear.

View jmartel's profile


8571 posts in 2663 days

#4 posted 03-02-2015 06:16 PM

Oh, and pop on over into this thread. Any questions you have can be answered in there. I’m sure there’s someone in there that may have a jointer plane they would sell you as well. That’s how I got my #8.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Mosquito's profile


9862 posts in 2805 days

#5 posted 03-02-2015 06:19 PM

There are definitely a LOT of opinions, and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of “The best thing…” answers.

For me, personally, I stick with mostly vintage planes because of the lower initial cost. It does involve more cleaning and tuning than newer high end options, but it’s a trade off between time spent and money saved vs having something ready out of the box. It comes down to how much your time is worth to you.

Advantages to new higher end planes (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, and to an extent WoodRiver), is that you spend very very little time with them before putting them to use. A vintage will usually require some work, unless you buy from someone who’s already taken care of that.

No matter what route you go down, you’ll have to get a method of sharpening that gets things sharp, though. That’s another area where you’ll get a lot of opinions. I started on “Scary Sharp”, sandpaper on a flat surface. Worked fine to get me started at a low buy-in.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View bondogaposis's profile


5542 posts in 2864 days

#6 posted 03-02-2015 07:02 PM

If you haven’t used hand planes before I wouldn’t start w/ a No. 7. I would get a No. 5 jack or a block plane to begin with. You will use them far more often and they are easier to use and learn how to sharpen and adjust.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 2307 days

#7 posted 03-02-2015 07:19 PM

A block plane is a fantastic tool, and I’d highly recommend getting one as a first plane. But it won’t help you flatten a big slab. So a #5 is a much better first choice in your case.

View JayT's profile


6296 posts in 2724 days

#8 posted 03-02-2015 07:22 PM

Skip the inexpensive new planes, either go good quality vintage or premium new. Vintage is definitely less money, but usually a bit more work.

Totally agree with bondo about not starting with a #7—a #4 or #5 is a good place to start. Both are useful and they cost a lot less, so you can learn on a $20-40 plane instead of a $100 one. Tuning/fettling a plane is actually pretty straight forward, just takes some common sense. Parts that mate together need to fit well, sole needs to be relatively flat and the iron needs to be sharp. The last one is where a lot of people miss, but is probably the most important.

One suggestion I make is to consider purchasing your first plane completely tuned, sharpened and ready to use from someone that really knows what they are doing. That way, if you go on to acquire more planes, you have a standard in mind to shoot for. I started with a couple and thought I was doing a good job tuning them up, but then traded with another LJ and the plane he sent me was on a whole different level, especially sharpness. After using it a couple of times, it was a lot easier to work over my others until they performed similarly.

Welcome to the slippery slope.

Edit: Another possibility is finding a hand tool user in your area that’s willing to take a little bit of time to get you started on the right foot.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View jdh122's profile


1097 posts in 3330 days

#9 posted 03-02-2015 07:23 PM

I agree with Bondo, Mykos and tsangell. Get a No. 5 instead of a jointer. Personally I’ve had more success with LV and LN new than I have with vintage but that may mostly reflect the poor quality of the flea markets I’ve attended or my poor choices.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1727 days

#10 posted 03-02-2015 07:25 PM

+1 on the no. 5. A no. 7 is a thing of beauty too, but the No. 5 is really the standard, go to, everyday tool. They are everywhere, you can find them cheap and easy.

If you don’t have experience with hand planes flattening a large board can be one of the most infuriating experience of your life. There are about as many ways to go wrong as you can imagine. For such a simple tool it takes quite a bit of knowledge, patience and practice to wield.

Watching a YouTube video is a great way to go about it, but even with that help be prepared to put in some trial and error as well.

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

View oltexasboy1's profile


255 posts in 2217 days

#11 posted 03-02-2015 07:31 PM

I am not a millionaire, or a master craftsman, my opinion is that a #7 is great to finish a surface after you have scrubbed the surface with a shorter plane such as a #5. You can get a good user Stanley plane from Lowe’s for about $60.00. That should be kind of where you should start. I got ( my first) one of the contractor grade Stanley #5s with the plastic handles and it works just as well as a $250.. Lie Nielsen planes.You should learn how to hone it however. Having said that the most used plane I own is a 9 1/2 block plane. Mine is a Stanley sweetheart and I paid twice as much for it as I should have but it is a really nice little plane and good to go out of the box. There is one on sale at Lowe’s right now for $98.00. You won’t understand why it is so important to have a sharp plane iron until you actually have a well tuned, scarey sharp plane to work with. Check with Don W. he has good user planes for a very reasonable price. I bought a few from him that he called “users” because they were not as “pretty” as some of the others. I don’t care,what I want is a good user ,for a good price and that is what I have. I have over the years accumulated from a # 2 – #7 and depending on what I am working on I use all of them. Start in the middle , you can get more later that you need.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View knotscott's profile


8339 posts in 3888 days

#12 posted 03-02-2015 09:14 PM

Buy a good used plane. I’m pretty fond of older Bailey, Bedrock, Record, Millers Falls, Sargent VBM, etc. My Record 07 was under $70.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2107 days

#13 posted 03-02-2015 10:21 PM

Thanks for all of the tips guys. I have put in a bid on a number 7 on Ebay, though I doubt if I’ll get it. I haven’t won anything off of Ebay, ever.

My thought was that a longer plane would make it easier to flatten. Having a long sole on the wood would cause it to ride on any ridges, and the blade would then cut them off level. Much like it is good to have a long bed on a jointer if you want to create a flat edge.

One of the things is that I’m not very coordinated, so if I can get a tool and get it set up to do the task properly with minimal assistance on my part, then I am more confident that I can make the cut or dimension the lumber properly. This is one reason I have shied away from hand tools for so long. I can see how riding a piece of wood along the table saw fence will allow it to cut a nice, straight edge, and I can see what can go wrong with that.

Anyway, I may go with a number five, if I do not win this jointer. I would like to get this bed finished, but it will be delayed as I learn new tools and techniques. I suppose there’s no rush. I’ve got all my life left to learn.

View JayT's profile


6296 posts in 2724 days

#14 posted 03-02-2015 10:35 PM

You are correct that a longer plane gives a flatter surface, our point is that a #7 is not the best plane to learn on. A #5 can get you a pretty flat surface and is much cheaper and easier to handle to start out. You will want to practice on some scrap before moving on to lumber you actually want to keep looking good. After you know that you can tune and use a hand plane well, and like it, then you can move on to some other sizes.

After all that, if you really want a larger plane to start with, look at #6’s. They generally go for half the price of #7’s and are just as good for almost any task. My #7 size rarely leaves the till, I do most jointing and panel flattening with a #6 size.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2416 days

#15 posted 03-02-2015 10:44 PM

Well, once you buy one, the others seem to follow. I would grab a good #7,if you come across a good one.

View jmartel's profile


8571 posts in 2663 days

#16 posted 03-02-2015 10:49 PM

I started out with a #6, myself. Closest I have to a #5 is a 5 1/4. I think I paid like $45 shipped for my #6, and it would do a better job for flattening longer boards than the #5. I’m rehabbing a #8 right now though, for tabletops.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View JohnChung's profile


420 posts in 2587 days

#17 posted 03-03-2015 03:49 AM

Get in touch with DocBailey. He should have something for you.

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2107 days

#18 posted 03-03-2015 04:10 PM

Okay, now this is starting to sound a little shady. Does Doc have some kind of an “in” with the hand planes dealers? What’s the word on the street? Is it safe to deal hand planes from the back of a minivan?

View JohnChung's profile


420 posts in 2587 days

#19 posted 03-03-2015 04:13 PM

DocBailey is a member of this forum. He restores handplanes. You can check his profile.

Another member is Don W: his web-site

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3872 days

#20 posted 03-03-2015 04:50 PM

What are you trying to do with this plane? If you are going to be removing a fairly large amount of wood, I would agree that a 5 would be your best bet. If the would is already fairly flat and you’re looking to take out minor high/low spots over a fairly long surface, I would suggest that the 7 would be better. As me toned earlier, you can get a well tuned 7 for around $100 and maybe less if you’re not too particular about how pretty it is. It’s no easier to set up a 5 than it is a 7.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View Robert's profile


3539 posts in 1993 days

#21 posted 03-03-2015 05:02 PM

Couple points from experience:

1. You don’t need a # 7 to flatten, just to joint an edge. A 6 will work fine for flattening a face.
I agree with the other posters that a 7 is not the first plane you should buy, I would suggest would be a 4, 4 1/2 or 5 or 6.

If you get into used planes its buyer beware. I’ve gotten my share of planes off Ebay only to be disappointed at worn out levers and warped soles (especially important in the longer planes). You’re usually dealing with old planes somebody found in grandpas workbox not used in 40 years. My experience on Ebay is you will end up in the $60-100 range for a used Stanley/Bailey/Record. A Bedrock will probably be higher. Unless its restored you won’t get a working plane and will need to to some work to get it usable. I’ve probably bought close to 15 planes off Ebay and I’ve gotten rid of all but one (a sweet #4 Bailey with Veritas blade upgrade).

With this in mind I would recommend you take a look at the Wood River #4 or 4 1/2 as a starter. You will get a plane ready to use out of the box and for a few bucks more and alot less work, you can get to planing instead of tuning.

2. Sharpening skills and stones. This is a whooooole nother area addressed other places I’m sure. Just keep in mind no matter what you buy you’ll have to hone the blade first so you need to decide how you will sharpen (free hand vs. guide) and what kind of stones (diamond, water, oil, combos). Be prepared to spend as much time learning to sharpen as you do practicing with the plane.

Good luck and check out the WoodRiver.

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

View sepeck's profile


402 posts in 2654 days

#22 posted 03-03-2015 06:04 PM

Paul Sellers has a whole bunch of videos on and about planes on his YouTube channel

A lot of his videos are about how he just uses a number 4 for most things. I am just starting out in this plane thing and picked up a number 4 to start with myself. Still learning a lot so cannot suggest anything else for you. I bought new (Stanley Sweetheart) since It was on sale and had good enough reviews and have been happy with it but fully agree that for someone new, without local support, a tuned refurbished plane would be awesome too. The difference between my efforts on my cheapy Buck Brothers place and the Stanley were vast. However, once I got to ‘feel’ the difference I was able to sand paper and sharpen the cheap one to a more usable state.

The others advice in this thread far more experienced then mine so listen to them.

Oh, hey, he’s starting a series on making one too.

-- -Steven Peck,

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