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Forum topic by GrizzlyJake posted 07-06-2017 08:20 PM 2482 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 1890 days

07-06-2017 08:20 PM

Hi everyone. First let me say that I love this forum. Im a younger guy (33) that in the last two or so years has really gotten into wood working, or at least trying. Started off with some power tools and learned the basics and just finished my first dining room table for a wedding gift for a buddy that turned out okay. Recently I picked up an old Stanley plane at a garage sale and cleaned it up and realized I really prefer hand tools over the power tools I have in my little shop right now. My question is if you could only have 3 or 4 planes in the arsenal, which ones would the experts say you absolutely must have? I have a an older gentlemen in the neighborhood who is liquidating his rather impressive collection collection of hand tools and he said I can have first pick before he puts them on craigslist.

Thanks, to all for any response.

In addition does anyone know of any woodworking clubs in North Pittsburgh? Was thinking about maybe trying to start one?


12 replies so far

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 2055 days

#1 posted 07-06-2017 08:31 PM

I am/was in a very similar position to you about 1 years ago, so here is my recommendation:

-Smoother (4 or 4 1/2)
-Jointer (7)
-Block plance
-Plow plane
-Shoulder plane
-Router plane

Those, and a set of saws and chisels can get you going pretty well. I also invested in a good miter box (nobex champion 180) that really helps speed things up.

Of course you will want to add to this, but those will be able to handle most vanilla situations. Get good at sharpening and setting up your planes.

P.S. If you can get your hands on a real scrub plane (haters are gonna hate and say to use a fore plane, but they are just jelly), it can speed things up bigtime too.

P.P.S. Buy as many of his clamps as you can afford, if he’s selling them for a reasonable price.

View JayT's profile


6438 posts in 3491 days

#2 posted 07-06-2017 08:36 PM

Welcome to the dark side. Once you get the hand plane bug, there is no turning back.

What kind of work are you going to be doing? That will determine answers to the plane question. Here are some general ideas as you think that over.

A smoothing plane is needed by almost anyone. #4’s are the most common smoothers but some people prefer a #3 or #4-1/2.

If you are going to be rough dimensioning lumber than a jack plane, such as a #5 is really good to have.

If you plan to build more large pieces of furniture like that dining table, then you’ll want a jointer to flatten large surfaces and true up edges. The #7 is the most common jointer plane size, though anything from a 5-1/2 up to an 8 can work. I prefer and use a #6 for jointing and flattening large panels.

Those three are considered the basics for bench planes. Past them, a router plane is very useful for a lot of joinery work and is very versatile. A shoulder plane is good if you are doing much mortise and tenon joinery. I also use a Stanley #78 rabbeting plane and a #45 combo plane quite a bit.

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

View Rich's profile


7550 posts in 1869 days

#3 posted 07-06-2017 09:01 PM

+1 on the block plane. It’s truly essential. I like the LN rabbeting block plane since it can do double duty as a block plane and shoulder plane. Also, the LN 102 is a joy to use and fits in a pocket so it’s always close at hand.

The LN 4 1/2 smoother is a nice choice, since it shares the same frog as the 5 1/2, 6 and 7, so if you got it and two of the others, you could get each in different frog angles and be able to swap them around to suit the work you were doing.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 3241 days

#4 posted 07-06-2017 09:31 PM

If only 3 then smoother, block plane, and jointer take the top spots. The next plane you add depends on what you do. A jack is pretty versatile and like others said, almost needed if you’re dimensioning stock. I agree a router plane is pretty useful for joinery though there are other ways to do everything it does. A shoulder plane is nice, but not required. Of course you’ll get lots of different opinions and it depends on what kind of work you plan to do. Also might depend on what the guy has in decent shape or for a good deal.

View OleGrump's profile


581 posts in 1624 days

#5 posted 07-06-2017 10:13 PM

First, welcome to the wonderful world of hand tools. Be forewarned that once entered, there is no going back…...But it’s an addiction most people, including me, enjoy. While I agree heartily with the previous posts, I would like to suggest that you consider adding a combination plane, (such as the Stanley #45 or similar) to your roster. There are a good variety of combination planes out there made by various companies, and a decent user quality plane won’t “break the bank”. A combination plane with it’s set of blades will allow you to plow, dado, rabbet, cut mullions (useful for installing glass in cabinet pieces) and slit thin stock. Some even have blades which allow you to cut hollow and round moldings. These were developed in the late 1800s as multi purpose tools, and they really help the hand tool aficionado do a lot. How useful is a combination plane? Stanley was still making a version of the #45 in England in 2000. (with blades identical to the originals) They may even still be making them. BTW, I’ll second the urging to buy ALL the clamps you can from your neighbor. It’s impossible to have too many!

-- OleGrump

View OleGrump's profile


581 posts in 1624 days

#6 posted 07-07-2017 12:28 PM

Since you are developing a heathy interest in using hand tools, thus bolstering our number of “cordless” woodworkers, may I also share the following suggestion? There are several good videos on the subject available for viewing on YouTube. (and at everyone’s favorite price: “FREE-ninety-nine…..”) Along with the venerable Roy Underhill, there are very good videos by several other hand tool devotees. (Stumpy Nubb’s “Ole timey Woodworking” series among them.) Look under “Traditional Woodworking”, “Old Time woodworking”, “Hand Planes” and similar searches. You will pick up a lot of good information and techniques.while enjoying these videos. The most important “power tool” in any shop is one’s head. “Knowledge IS power !
An 80% powerless, Barry

-- OleGrump

View HokieKen's profile


19797 posts in 2418 days

#7 posted 07-07-2017 12:35 PM

Like JT said, it really depends on what work you want to do.

If I could only have 4 planes? #4 smoother set up as a scrub, #4-1/2 for smoothing, #5 or #6 for flattening and jointing and a skewed rabbet block plane.

In addition to the work you want to do, it also depends on whether you want to go hand-tool only or still plan to use power tools as well. Router planes and shoulder planes would be pretty necessary if you plan to abandon power all together.

Welcome to the site and enjoy your journey!

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17571 posts in 3898 days

#8 posted 07-07-2017 12:59 PM

For smoothing most anything, a #4 is essential. Go with a #4 1/2 if things like table tops are in your future. But smoothing is the smallest part of hand plane woodworking. The workhorse is the jack plane, or #5. It’s essential, and is the plane you’ll use the most. If working long edges (jointing) is in your future with planes as well, get a #8 and not mess around with a #6 or #7.

The fourth and final I’d consider to be essential is a shoulder plane, like the Stanley #93. That said, a low angle block plane is also pretty key. But blocks are pretty easy to come by so there’s an opportunity to pick up a shoulder plane from your neighbor, that’d be the time to do so.

After those, if he has a #50 and wants to part with it, a lot of windows will be opened to you as well. Easier to master than the #45, and quite versatile.

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

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5377 days

#9 posted 07-07-2017 02:35 PM

Along the lines of the 50, the Record 043 and 044 are nice simple grooving planes. I would also add another vote for a router plane (271, 71, 71 1/2) that was mentioned in the first response. I agree with the bench plane and shoulder plane recommendations.

Specific block plane recommendations would be any of the Stanley adjustable mouth block planes (9 1/2, 18, 19 Standard angle or 60 1/2, 65 Low Angle block planes or 140 skew block) or equivalents from other manufactures/brands (Sargent, Ohio, Union, Millers Falls, Craftsman, Keen Kutter, etc. ) Non Adjustable mouth recommendation would be a 220.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Don W's profile

Don W

20240 posts in 3847 days

#10 posted 07-10-2017 11:39 AM

The problem with the question is we all work a little different. But not to worry. Buying good hand tools is a good investment. Start with a #4 and a good block plane.

You’ll find good uses for almost any good Vintage hand tool you buy. And should you buy one you just don’t like or just don’t use, you can always sell it and get your money back.

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

View GrizzlyJake's profile


11 posts in 1890 days

#11 posted 07-10-2017 12:14 PM

thanks for the great advice and well thought out comments. I got really lucky and he wanted to get rid of about everything so picked up a 4, 5 ,7 a couple blocks planes, a spokeshave, a bunch of chisels, and a 45. Again thanks to everyone and have a great week. And its true it seriously is addicting. My 6 year old daughter and I polished and de rusted old planes and practiced in the shop all weekend and she really thought it was cool. Hopefully the next generation. Have a great week all.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17571 posts in 3898 days

#12 posted 07-10-2017 12:28 PM

Jake, all we ask for in return are some pictures of your new toys(!) Don’t hold back!

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

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