What to buy for first hand plane?

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Forum topic by Cory posted 08-11-2015 05:26 AM 1412 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 1808 days

08-11-2015 05:26 AM

Hey folks.

Only been doing woodworking for a little while now and have no experience with hand tools. I’m building a workbench and want to get a hand plane to help flatten the top.

What’s your recommendations for a good hand plane? Money is not a big constraint within reason.

Thanks everyone.

11 replies so far

View KerwinLumpkins's profile


12 posts in 1584 days

#1 posted 08-11-2015 05:47 AM

I just built a workbench and had the same problem: how to flatten the top. I knew I’d need hand planes and I’ve been meaning to jump into hand planes for years. So it was a good excuse. I took a class at local Woodcraft store in planes and learned how to set up some that I had bought. I do recommend taking a class or getting some instruction from someone knowledgeable. I love working with my planes, but I needed that class to be able to love them. If you don’t sharpen and set them up properly, it’s just frustrating.

I have a Wood River #6, a Wood River #4-1/2, a Lie-Nielson Scrub plane, a Wood River block plane and Lie-Nielson small block plane. I did my workbench mainly using first the scrub plane and then working with my number 6. I use the number 6 the most often. A Jack Plane would be the next thing I pick up. You could also get by with a Jack Plane and skip the scrub plane, but I loved the distinctive look that the scrub plane makes, and I plan to use that in future projects. I did not use the #4-1/2 on the bench as I wanted a bench top that my work would not slide off of, but the smoother is next most often used.

I built a Roubo bench, using the Stumpy Nubs Old Timey Workshop design. he has a video on youtube about flattening the top that I used to plan my bench and how to flatten it.

View Tugboater78's profile


2788 posts in 2755 days

#2 posted 08-11-2015 06:12 AM

A vintage #5 sized plane would be my first choice. Though you would probably have to clean it up and tune it. In my opinion you need to learn that anyway.
Maybe come by an extra 2” blade that you can put a camber on for scrub work.

On the other hand investing in a new plane is also good, if money isn’t an issue. WoodRiver planes are a good bang for your buck( chinese made) LN (american made) or Lee Valley (canadian?) planes are excellent.

That decision would be yours, but a #5 jack plane is best starter in my opinion, regardless of where you get it. Jack of all trades. Maybe a jointer #7-8 next followed by a smoother #3-4.5. Block and specialty planes gathered as needed. Most of my work gets done with my vintage #5s. If i buy a new plane it will be a LN bronze #4 just cause i want one, which will cost more than my solid user planes combined.

#6 is not a bad number either, just wear you out quicker.

Im sure many others will chime in later, but one of my favorite phrases is ” opinions are like a-holes, everybody has one, and they all stink, to some degree”

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View knotscott's profile


8346 posts in 3938 days

#3 posted 08-11-2015 09:29 AM

I’d suggest two planes also….a jack plane and a block plane. Depending on your size and preference, a 5-1/2 jack is very capable of a lot of things, but so is a regular #5. It’s tough to beat the better oldies for bang for the buck….Bailey, Bedrock, Millers Falls, Record, Sargant VBM, etc., but with ample budget there’s no reason not to get into LN, Veritas, etc.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

19385 posts in 3130 days

#4 posted 08-11-2015 10:15 AM

I don’t know what “within reason” means. Lei Nielsen makes some very fine planes if you want new, but finding and restoring vintage can be a lot of fun.

As to what you need to flatten a Benchtop, you’ll need a jack, a smoother, and a jointer. Something like a #4,5 and 7.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View whope's profile


158 posts in 3008 days

#5 posted 08-11-2015 10:20 AM

The only hand plane I have at the moment is a Woodriver #6. I don’t do a lot of planing. Picked it up to fix a mauled window sill and I seemed like a good first plane. This video goes over the various sizes. You can skip to about the 3 minute mark.

-- Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with chalk, cut it with an axe.

View todd4390's profile


136 posts in 2031 days

#6 posted 08-11-2015 10:20 AM

Woodriver #6 was my first and I don’t regret it one bit. For no more than I use hand tools I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on my first hand plane. I think this was a good compromise on cost and quality.

View bondogaposis's profile


5570 posts in 2914 days

#7 posted 08-11-2015 11:50 AM

I think a #5 jack is essential in flattening a bench top, it would be my first choice. They are very common on the second hand market and you can pick up a user at a reasonable price.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Jerry's profile


3281 posts in 2211 days

#8 posted 08-11-2015 02:42 PM

Scrub plane or a jack plane for leveling out the high spots. Use winding sticks to make sure you’re level and have eliminated any twist. If you are lucky enough to have a No. 8 jointer plane, that would be the ideal plane to finish with; a No. 7 would also work. Alternately, you could use the wood whisperer's power router on rails method for the final flattening.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View waho6o9's profile


8801 posts in 3140 days

#9 posted 08-11-2015 03:13 PM

The No. 6, also called a “fore” hand plane is good for jointing edges and flattening and smoothing large surfaces, such as table tops, panels and workbench tops, where you might not want or need the length or weight of a larger plane. The extra length and width of the sole enables it to shave bumps and bridge valleys 7/8” wide better than a shorter plane. Weighing in at a stout 7-3/4 lbs, this plane’s additional heft makes it easier for you to shave difficult stock without breaking a sweat.

V3: Like our previous WoodRiver® Bench Hand Planes, our version 3 is based on the reliable Bedrock design and feature heavy, stress-relieved ductile iron castings, fully machined adjustable frogs and high carbon blades but we took the opportunity between manufacturing runs to do a critical review and make a few improvements. We’ve changed the shape of the rear tote and increased the diameter of the blade adjustment wheel to make advancing the blade a bit easier. We improved the lateral adjustment lever and added a traditional style bearing for better control of the blade. We’ve made numerous changes to the castings that result in better “feedback” and a solid feel to the user. Working closely with our own manufacturer, we’ve continued to make improvements in machining, finish and functionality which we feel have yielded hand planes that are meant to be used and offer an extraordinary value.
2-7/8” W x 17-3/4”L with 2-3/8”W blade
- See more at:

View waho6o9's profile


8801 posts in 3140 days

#10 posted 08-11-2015 03:15 PM

A couple of hundred will get you the #6 Wood river plane and I might suggest

DMT diamond plates and a leather strop to keep your blade sharp.


View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16260 posts in 3181 days

#11 posted 08-11-2015 03:24 PM

I’d suggest a #5 jack plane will do most of the work exceptionally well. Follow it with a 7, then a 4, and you’re golden. But, like I said, you may just as well work the five through the whole task and have a very serviceable (and flat) benchtop.

A #6 would wear me out, working an entire benchtop. Too much heft for such grunt work. YMMV.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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