Choosing my first plane

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Forum topic by WoodWorker11 posted 05-21-2010 02:08 PM 2844 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 3537 days

05-21-2010 02:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bench plane

Hi All,
I am looking to buy my first plane. I want to start the set with a general purpose plane that can be used for several jobs. So my question is: If you could buy just one plane for under $200, which would you choose? Eventually I will add to the set but don’t want to drop $500+ all at once. It will be used primarily in furniture building.

23 replies so far

View jpwatson's profile


28 posts in 3641 days

#1 posted 05-21-2010 02:38 PM

I have several planes, but the one I use most is an old Stanley #4. Got it on eBay a few years ago, spent a couple of hours cleaning, tuning, and sharpening. Cost all of $30. It makes nice shavings. I use it for smoothing, chamfering, cleaning up edges, trimming ends…

-- Ones' greatest strength is most often their greatest weakness.

View AaronK's profile


1509 posts in 4070 days

#2 posted 05-21-2010 03:05 PM

I would also recommend getting an old stanley first. I’d say a #5 though, since i find it more versatile.

Reasoning: cheap to start, and you’ll have to do a little bit of work to get it going. Tuning it will make you learn what you need to know about handplanes. The old stanleys are good though, and you’ll end up with a great tool.

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4859 days

#3 posted 05-21-2010 03:05 PM

My recommendation would be a low angle jack plane – LV has one for $215, LN is a bit pricier at $245. You could also check out the new Stanley Sweetheart at $179 (Amazon).

When I was getting started, my wife gave me the birthday gift of the LN – to this day, it’s my favorite. It’s easy to use, can work well as a smoother as well as a shortish jointer, and it’s excellent for shooting.

-- To do is to be

View FatScratch's profile


189 posts in 3908 days

#4 posted 05-21-2010 03:07 PM

If you have a budget of $200, then I would get the Veritas Low Angle Smooth plane for $189. I have this plane along with a few old Stanleys (which are great) and a cheap Groz (the first plane I bought, which taught me everything a good plane is not) and the Veritas is worth every penny. It is perfectly machined well made and nearly ready to go out of the box. A quick honing and you are off, no cleaning, grinding, flattening, etc. You can also get different angled blades to perform different tasks as you become more proficient in planing. I think it is one of the most versatile planes.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4367 days

#5 posted 05-21-2010 03:31 PM

I would recommend the #5. Look for a vintage Stanley/Bailey with adjustable frog. The Anant Kamal planes offered by Highland Woodworking ( ) are well made planes for a limited budget. In either case you will need to first flatten the blade and then sharpen it. A sharp blade is what makes the difference in any plane.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3838 days

#6 posted 05-21-2010 03:38 PM

I would be looking for a #4 or a #5. I have the Groz #4 and Groz #5 planes. Yeah they are cheap, and honestly the irons aren’t the best, but they work very well once tuned. However some others here have had very bad luck with them. And my Groz low angle block plane is too squirrely to want to mess with too often… I have heard enough good about the Anant Kamal planes to consider giving those a try when I grab a #7 next…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Newfounlandwood's profile


63 posts in 3641 days

#7 posted 05-21-2010 03:53 PM

You can buy all of the planes you need to flatten and smooth a board for under $200 on ebay, with a little patience and knowledge of course.
I would go with a #5 stanley first. It’s very versatile.


-- My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3887 days

#8 posted 05-21-2010 03:53 PM


To actually accomplish much with hand planes you need a couple of them. For most bench work the two planes that do the majority of tasks are the fore plane and the trying plane. I suggest you get some good old ones to start with and Stanley’s #5 and #7 are probably what you’d find most useful. You’ll probably be amazed at the capability of these two planes when you get them sharpened, tuned and working together.

Don’t forget that these planes are pretty worthless without an efficient sharpening system. Looking at your budget, I can see where getting the planes would be easy but there won’t be enough money left for a sharpening system. I feel there are a lot of popular sharpening traps out there that are best avoided. If you want to discuss sharpening, we can go there.

View AaronK's profile


1509 posts in 4070 days

#9 posted 05-21-2010 03:57 PM

I disagree with barry, since the function of a jack plane depends mostly on how it is set up. The body itself is small enough for smoothing yet long enough to do a passable jointing job. the rest depends on throat adjustment, chip breaker set, and blade camber. A rabbet block plane is a tool I wish to have one day (it can even work as a shoulder plane!), but not so much for a first tool.

View AaronK's profile


1509 posts in 4070 days

#10 posted 05-21-2010 04:07 PM

I will definitely agree with barry (and lwllms) about his last comments though. to work well, or even at all, you need to be able to sharpen the blade (enough to be able to shave with), and hold the work steady. The bench doesnt need to be quite the monster you might sometimes see, but it does need to stay put when you put hand-tool forces on it.

View bench_dogg's profile


63 posts in 3743 days

#11 posted 05-21-2010 04:23 PM

I’d go with a small block plane, I have a LN 103 that I use all the time and Barry makes some good points about the rabbet plane—If I could only have 1 plane, that would be it. These planes are really handy even if you use mostly power tools.

The bench planes are good but I found them somewhat limited until I got a good bench that is setup for hand tool work (dog holes, etc).

Don’t forget to get a good sharpening setup – any plane is pretty much useless if you can’t sharpen it.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3604 days

#12 posted 05-21-2010 04:45 PM

I will second the block plane. A pair actually. A nice adjustable mouth low angle and regular block plane will do 90% of your planing. If I only were to get one and going to spend in that range, I would get either the Lie-Nielsen or the Veritas Skew angle block planes. Pretty much a little swiss army knife approach to planes. Cool stuff.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View SouthpawCA's profile


273 posts in 3839 days

#13 posted 05-21-2010 05:31 PM

I agree with AaronK. I was in your place just a few months ago. I also wanted a GOOD plane that would last for years and be my workhorse. I emailed Lee Valley/Veritas and told them almost exactly what you asked. I would suggest you do the same – they are nice folks. What they recommended for me was a low angle jack plane. The multiple plane blades available make it very versatile. I’ve used my jack plane successfully for a number of different operations in addition to making a shooting board and using it successfully. I would then get the block plane, also a recommendation by LV, which I did just a few weeks ago. Whatever you get—- you get what you pay for! Search the reviews on here to get an idea of what is good enough for you.

I also agree with bench_dogg and others who mentioned that you will need to sharpen your blades. I didn’t immediately get anything to do any type of sharpening. It didn’t take long for me to get back on the LV website and order a few wet stones. However, you could also just head off to the local auto supply and get some 600/800/1000/2000 grit wet-dry paper.

Once you start using planes your quality of work will increase. The down side – you will want more planes. Check out for additional information and other hand plane websites including You Tube.

-- Don

View Bud's profile


45 posts in 3891 days

#14 posted 05-21-2010 06:16 PM

For a little over $200 ($215) you could get the veritas bevel-up jack plane. Bevel up planes are very versatile for a number of reasons. They have fewer parts than standard planes and adjustable mouths. Due to the low angle of the iron, they excel at cutting end grain (shooting operations). Unlike standard planes, with a bevel-up plane all you have to do to alter the effective cutting angle of the tool is alter the bevel angle of the iron. Veritas offers a few different plane irons with pre-ground bevels for different grain types. The Veritas bevel-up trio of planes all share the same size blade making them a very versatile set. I believe it’s been said already – a jack plane is a good place to start because it works for smoothing, jointing, and shooting.

Old planes are cheap but you’ll never go back once you buy well made new plane.


View bobdurnell's profile


317 posts in 4503 days

#15 posted 05-21-2010 06:27 PM

Hi Rivyrs- you pose a good LJ question. I usually don’t add to much about planes because everyone has their opinion. Way back in the 60’s when most schools offered industrial arts either as an elective or a requirement the wood shop teacher began the wide world of wood in my case it was a no.5 jack plane. Each student was given his own iron and the planes hung on the side of the bench. I bacame a wood shop teacher in the 70’s and things began to change. I found with my students that the use of a plane as the first wood working tool was going to be short because of the cost of wood and the difficulty in keeping the plane sharp. I guess I helped to the lack of hand tools use in the jr. high. Anyway enough with my rambling I reccomend the no.5 jack from Wood River. Sharpen it and you’ll have some left over cash from that $200.

-- bobdurnell, Santa Ana California.

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