Recommend a good "all around" plane????

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Forum topic by msinc posted 04-11-2018 01:16 AM 1755 views 2 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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567 posts in 1278 days

04-11-2018 01:16 AM

If there is such thing….I would like to acquire a hand plane. Looking for a decent quality nice working plane. Not really looking to go on a hunt for an old antique one and then have to “restore” it unless for specific or obvious reasons that really is the best way to go. I just would like to get a good plane that I can use for example to flatten out the occasional smaller live edge board that is too big for the planer, but too small to make setting up a router sled for.
Thanks in advance for any info, as always it is greatly appreciated. I see the Lie-Nielson hand planes in the Highland catalog and they appear to be god planes, but there are so many and I really don’t want to have to go back to school to buy the closest to correct plane for what I want to do.

28 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4422 days

#1 posted 04-11-2018 01:35 AM

I’d start with a no.5 Bailey or similar plane. LN
is terrific quality but an old plane with a broken
tote horn found on ebay can do fine for a lot
of work.

There’s a lot of stuff out there about how hard
it is to tune a plane, and it’s a little tricky if
you want to make the most flawless smoothing
cuts in boards with varying grain, but planes
are mechanically simple to figure out if you’re
willing to put in some time fussing with them.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3177 posts in 2269 days

#2 posted 04-11-2018 01:37 AM

Lots of opinions on this one. Only New planes?

Best value planes are WoodRiver v3 planes? from Woodcraft. If you only want one, get either: #5 1/2 for typical work (width of 5 1/2 works larger planks faster than regular #5 jack plane), or #62 low angle jack if you intended to work more burl/wild curl grain woods.
Neither will disappoint from a cost .vs. performance after some minor tuning.

If want almost zero tuning, then spend more money for “Veritas Starter plane set (jack, smoother, and block planes) with PM11 blades. Lie Nelson is also a good choice, but I prefer the new PM11 blades over LN A2 blades when cost is near same.

Can not recommend new Stanley Sweet Hart planes, they are difficult to tune, and seem to have higher mfg tolerances, so they don’t stayed tuned as well as those above.

If you have access to Record or Clifton planes sold in UK for less money than Wood River planes, they offer similar performance after being tuned (assuming same A2 blade steel).

While I do not own every plane mentioned above, I do have at least one new plane from each mfg mentioned, and have demo’d other sizes/types mentioned.

YMMV – (Your Mileage May Vary)

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Rich's profile


5619 posts in 1364 days

#3 posted 04-11-2018 01:41 AM

I doubt if you are going to get much response to this post. Folks around here don’t seem to have strong opinions about hand planes. OK, that’s ridiculous. Just kidding.

Seriously though, I have the standard jointer/smoother pair (#7 and #4 1/2). However if I were buying a single plane today, I’d go for the low angle jack plane. The reason is that you can get extra blades and sharpen them at different angles to deal with various types of grain. You can also grind one blunt (I think they sell one already blunt) and use it as a scraping plane.

I think it’s overdoing it to call it a universal plane, but I’d argue that it’s about the most versatile single plane.

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

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4536 days

#4 posted 04-11-2018 01:44 AM

Years ago I was in your position. I didn’t know much about hand planes, but I knew that one would be very helpful in my woodworking.

I chose to purchase a new Clifton #5 which cost $300, but was advertised to be be working ready out of the box, and it was.

Next I attended a handplane class at Highland Woodworking in Atlanta. While there I purchased an inexpensive Anant #4 plane that helped me gain a lot of knowledge about sharpening and the relationship of all the parts. After a fair amount of tuning it too became a good working handplane.

Now, I mostly re-furb older planes, which has made it possible to have a nice selection of planes from the #7 jointer down to the #3. Christopher Schwarz, Lost Art Press, has a very helpful publication, “Handplane Essentials”.

A #5 is a great start. It is my “go-to” handplane to remove cup and twist from a board prior to going thru the planer. If you don’t have the budget or room for a large power jointer, this procedure does the job nicely.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View bandit571's profile (online now)


25905 posts in 3458 days

#5 posted 04-11-2018 01:49 AM

Just pick up a #5 Jack plane…doesn’t matter WHO it…..a simple bevel down Jack will get a lot of jobs done, fast. That is what they were designed to do….depending on HOW the edge of the iron is shaped…it can be a rough cut, a try plane, a short jointer, and even a long smoother. Might look up what Chris Schwarz says about them.

And..IF you can find one made by Millers Falls…..some are even better than Stanleys…..called the No. 14.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2769 days

#6 posted 04-11-2018 02:43 AM

Shell out for the LN no 62 or the veritas Low angle Jack. The veritas is larger and wider, sort of like a 5 1/2 version of the bevel up design. Both are close enough in price that they are a much better value than the Wood river. Though generally the WR stuff seems pretty good to me.

Get a decent sharpening system to go with it.

By buying a premium brand plane first, you won’t have to worry about tuning anything, and you can just hone and go.

After that, if you decide hand plane work is for you, you can tackle some refurb jobs on cheaper stuff.

The low angle jacks are nice because they are very simple ,less moving parts, and they have an adjustable mouth. (Catch the irony there?) This makes it better for smoothing tough boards by closing up the mouth. But you can also open it up for rough tasks that want a thicker shaving. I use mine a ton. I have one blade set up for general work, and a second at a low angle for shooting end grain. With a toothed blade you can really hog some stuff off. I don’t have one of those yet. They really are very versatile.

If you were mainly looking at smaller tasks, I’d give you the same advice I got – and took- start with a No. 4. But for larger slabs and flattening the Jack sized planes are going to be better, unless you are Paul Sellers Jr…then it doesn’t matter. :)


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

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8909 posts in 3351 days

#7 posted 04-11-2018 02:48 AM

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16703 posts in 3393 days

#8 posted 04-11-2018 02:56 AM

No. 5.

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

View BigYin's profile


421 posts in 3191 days

#9 posted 04-11-2018 07:56 AM

Stanley or Record #4 or #5 UK/USA find a pre 1960s model
make certain it is complete as screws/bolts can have near unobtainable threads
new baldes are easy to find as are rear handle and front knob
learn to restore and set up your new plane as these are the skills you will need to use it.
How to buy a saeond hand plane and what to look out for has been covered in detail on this site

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

View JohnDi's profile


81 posts in 2208 days

#10 posted 04-11-2018 09:29 AM

Check out the review right here on LJ for the WoodRiber 5 1/2.
Sound like it might be what you’re looking for.

View msinc's profile


567 posts in 1278 days

#11 posted 04-11-2018 11:59 AM

Thanks for all the replies fellas… is greatly appreciated. The more I look at planes the more complicated things appear to be getting. I do see one “trend” for lack of a better way to say it, many of the planes recommended are “out of stock”...which makes sense. I am going over all this good info, but it is going to take a while. i will say that it is a little hard to swallow that a $300.00 plus hand plane needs to first be stripped down and sharpened BEFORE you can use it!!!!
I have to ask also, what makes a “Clifton #5” worth $767.00?????

View OSU55's profile


2647 posts in 2764 days

#12 posted 04-11-2018 12:10 PM

Planes are like Lays potato chips, you cant do with just one. As others said a #5 would be the choice to flatten an intermediate sized surface like you describe. Most folks that start as you have described, with new, end up with at least a few rehabbed planes eventually. It tends to be irrisistable. If you insist on a new one with little tuning reqd, Woodriver is probably it. You could get 3 or more use Stanley Baileys for the same $. All of them require a little tuning to perform best, and require sharpening and honing. Its not difficult to tune one. Heres how to tune them.. Heres my take on selecting planes

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2736 days

#13 posted 04-11-2018 12:43 PM

A #5 is pretty much designed to do what you want. I’m sure a bevel up place offers some advantage, but for your use I just don’t see the need. See if DonW has one refurbished and ready to go. If he doesn’t have one buying a vintage plane from another LJ member is a great way to go. You’ll pay way less and get something ready to go and of good quality.

View Sawdust2012's profile


220 posts in 2487 days

#14 posted 04-11-2018 01:47 PM

I wasn’t looking for an all purpose plane, but a Stanley Sweetheart 5 1/4 from the late 20’s has filled that role perfectly. You can find them on auction sites for not a lot if you are willing to put time and effort into them.

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 2260 days

#15 posted 04-11-2018 01:56 PM

I have a couple clean, tuned and ready for use if interested. 2- #5s and 1- #4.

I have a boatload of LNs myself but I do not suggest going all out from the beginning.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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