Help w/ first plane

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Forum topic by Rearviewmirror posted 03-09-2020 03:28 AM 1000 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 697 days

03-09-2020 03:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane

New member here, and just getting into woodworking.
I’m in the process of building my bench, and right now it’s really just a table without a top. I need a hand plane to go any further. eBay is just overpriced when shipping is included, on top of not knowing exactly what you’re getting.

That alone is pushing me to buy a new plane. It looks like a low angle jack plane is the most recommended because of the ease of switching out blades, but it also seems like a lot of people love them at first and then as they advance in skill they stop using them. $265 for something I might not use in a year seems like a waste.

I do have a Woodcraft near me, but that’s really the only store locally (Tampa). If you could guide me in the right direction I would be thrilled.

Thank you

31 replies so far

View Rich's profile


7756 posts in 1931 days

#1 posted 03-09-2020 05:11 AM

A low angle jack plane isn’t something you’ll grow out of. The big advantage is that the blade is bedded bevel-up, so by having blades ground at different angles you can vary it from a true low-angle, to a 45º and all the way up to a scraper.

Check out Woodcraft. Their WoodRiver planes are good and you can talk to them about getting help setting it up and tips on using it. If they just want to sell you a plane and send you home then get a Lie Nielsen. Their #62 is only $5 more and will be ready to use out of the box.

I can’t speak for the Tampa store, but our local Tucson Woodcraft’s owner is an awesome guy who makes sure customers get what they want and the help they need to use it. I’d imagine the Tampa store is the same though. Those guys want to help you grow and learn so you’ll keep coming back.

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

View bandit571's profile (online now)


30515 posts in 4025 days

#2 posted 03-09-2020 07:38 AM

Buy the WR #5…..

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

View tvrgeek's profile


2304 posts in 2991 days

#3 posted 03-09-2020 11:09 AM

All of my planes are yard-sale or flea market. Stanley/Bailey or Handyman. They all have HOCK irons in them. The iron does the work, so that is where I spent my money.

You need to read about all the different sizes and what they are used for. The most common is a jack plane. Then learn how to use one and that includes how to sharpen the iron. I use mostly power tools so I only have four. Low angle block, jack, jointer and planer.

A quick bit over in the Stumpy videos shows how good the $10 Horrible Freight plane is. I think I’ll get one to make a scrub plane. Yea, there are some beautiful planes that will make you smile when you pick them up, but if well tuned up, it may be decades of use before you can tell the difference Between a Buck from the local big box store and a Veritas or gasp, Bridge City. Check Goodwill or pawn shops and local Craigs List.

My new WorkSharp did a better gjb on my irons that I ever did by hand in 40 years. Buy the $40 plane and a $200 WorkSharp instead of a $240 plane to start with.

I also have a WEN electric plane. Cost $50 on the WEB. Amazingly good for rough work. No “zen” but sure can cut some wood.

View John Jardin's profile

John Jardin

103 posts in 982 days

#4 posted 03-09-2020 11:36 AM

I too am in the Tampa area.
I can help you with a plane, and advise with local WW guilds where you can meet people with the same interests.
My 1200 sf workshop where I build furniture awaits your visit.
John J

View cmacnaughton's profile


222 posts in 986 days

#5 posted 03-09-2020 01:47 PM

I’d visit junk shops and flea markets. Look for Stanley, Record, Millers Falls or Sargent planes. Don’t spend more than $40 on any single plane. Make sure there are no cracks and all parts are present. I’ve seen “antique shops” trying to sell incomplete planes missing blades and cap irons for ridiculous prices. Go to and read up on cleaning, restoring, etc. It might seem counterintuitive to start with old rusty planes, but taking them apart and restoring them is a great way to learn about them and how they work. Paul Sellers has a few wonderful videos available on using hand planes and plane iron sharpening. Chris Schwarz also has a very good book on planes.

When you’re new to this, unless the planes are marked “No. 3” etc. it’s confusing to know what you’re looking at. A No. 4 or equivalent will be a little over 9” long and about 2” wide. This is good for smoothing. A No. 5 or equivalent will be about 14” long and 2” wide. This is good for flattening and smoothing. Both are bench planes. I would start with one of these. The tendency sometimes is to start with a little block plane because they’re so inexpensive, but in my experience there is a steeper learning curve with these and they are just not as useful as a bench plane.

Learn to sharpen the iron. If you don’t, you’ll quickly get discouraged. Once you have a sharp iron, practice. Getting the hang of hand planing is much like learning to ride a bike. It might take some time and frustration, but then everything will just CLICK, and you’ll be all set. Be patient and it’ll come.

-- –Chuck M. Nutmegger by choice

View tvrgeek's profile


2304 posts in 2991 days

#6 posted 03-09-2020 02:40 PM

A good place to start. With any plane, I look to be sure I can get a really good iron. Not cheap, but as you get into it, you will want to upgrade. The iron does the cutting. The plane just holds it for you.

This is how you can get and keep it sharp without years of practice. I find it is cheaper than my box full of diamond plates, natural, ceramic and water stones, all my other jigs. It can do the 2 inch directly. For a wider iron, just use a cheap “eclipse” style guide as a clamp to use the top of the wheel. Sure a Tormek T8 with all the accesories is nice, but $1800? Not on Social Security!

Woodworking is not cheap, but it does not need to be crazy either. My $12 machinist square is just as accurate as my Bridge City that cost an arm and a leg.

Almost all are copies of the original Bailey/Stanley design. Some try real hard to be different, but does not really help. The alternatives of course are the German wood body planes and the Japanese “pull” planes. The wood are said to be smoother and Japanese are a lot harder to use and sharpening is a real art requiring hammering the soft iron back to expose the hard edge. I have tried all three and stick with the traditional Iron English planes.

View UpstateNYdude's profile


966 posts in 3325 days

#7 posted 03-09-2020 03:09 PM

I’m of the same philosophy as Chris Schwarz, if you’re going to pick one plane to start, find a Stanley No. 5 (preferably a pre-WW2 but any one in decent shape will do) you don’t need a fancy iron, but a couple irons for different jobs of smoothing, roughing and jointing should take care of all your needs. They can be had at flea market/ garage sales for anywhere from $2-20 I wouldn’t pay more than $40 unless its in ready to go condition or has a couple irons with full length left. As others of have said check the body for breaks and cracks especially near the mouth or sides and if the tote or knob is busted up bad or cracked in more than one place I’d probably move along as well.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View Rearviewmirror's profile


9 posts in 697 days

#8 posted 03-09-2020 03:10 PM

Thank you guys for all the great responses. I’ve got the set of 3 DMT stones that Paul Sellers recommended, a giant block of green compound and an Eclipse style sharpening guide so my sharpening setup is pretty good…and technique is getting better. Already flattened and sharpened a new chisel set. Made the mistake of not using sandpaper to flatten them.

I’m a huge believer in buying the best you can afford, and that most expensive isn’t always the best. Resole-able shoes, Q-tip brand q-tips…but store brand frozen vegetables.

JohnJ, i’ll definitely be taking you up on your offer.

View shampeon's profile


2167 posts in 3526 days

#9 posted 03-09-2020 05:22 PM

I think Paul Sellers idea of using a No. 4 for everything is more useful than Schwartz’s No. 5 recommendation for a first plane. For most pieces an average woodworker makes, a well-tuned smoothing plane can make everything flat and square and with a nice finish. I really only use a jack plane now for, well, jack plane work: smoothing out a board after roughing with my scrub plane. It’s too big for final smoothing, and it’s heavier.

Unless you work almost exclusively with highly figured woods, I wouldn’t recommend a low-angle jack plane as the only plane.

The advantage of buying a Lie Nielsen or Veritas is it’s super high quality and needs very little work out of the box. From what I understand, the new Stanleys and Wood River planes are more hit and miss.

A sharp iron in a well-tuned quality vintage plane cuts just as nicely as anything new. Just depends on your wallet and time.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View SMP's profile


5087 posts in 1248 days

#10 posted 03-09-2020 06:22 PM

I wouldn’t say as people get more experienced they stop using that plane. Its just that as you gain more experience you most likely will have more planes and use the right one for the job, like a smaller smoother for smoothing, a jointer for longer pieces, a block plane for certain things etc. That doesn’t mean that the BU jack is useless by any means.

View bandit571's profile (online now)


30515 posts in 4025 days

#11 posted 03-09-2020 06:49 PM

Good for edge jointing plywood…

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

View fivecodys's profile


1767 posts in 2978 days

#12 posted 03-09-2020 11:17 PM

Welcome to the rabbit hole. You buy one used plane and get it in working order, the next thing you know you’ll have 10 of them. I have found them all over the place. From yard sales to flea markets to Goodwill.
I use my #4 and my block plane the most. I’m not a real big hand tool guy but these two planes come in real handy in my shop.

-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View OSU55's profile


2947 posts in 3332 days

#13 posted 03-11-2020 03:53 PM

I agree that a #4 is a better place to start vs #5 – I still use a 4 a lot, even in place of a block at times, the 5 doesnt see much use. I find oem irons and breakers work fine for all my Stanley Bailey planes, just need to be properly prepped. If $ is a concern, usually is, recommend used Bailey or Millers Falls and the right sergeant and record planes, but you have to learn what to look for. Any cast iron cracks, repaired or not, forget it. Cast vs stamped 2 pc yoke. Multipiece skew vs stamped, but not a deal breaker. Cracked handles dont bother me I make my own replacements for all of them. Many believe pre wwll are better, that has not been my experience. I have many from the 50’s to 60’s that are very good. A new stanley 12-960 is a great LA block once tuned. If you want premium Veritas gets my vote but all my std bench planes are refurbs. I have a set of Veritas BU an apron, and some specialty planes.

Here and here is some reading that may be helpful.

View Wintergreen78's profile


96 posts in 1081 days

#14 posted 03-11-2020 08:36 PM

Another option in the middle is Jim Bode or some other re-seller. They usually have #4 and #5 planes that are in really good shape for around $100. That is an option if you don’t want to spend a bunch of time picking through junk to find a good plane or spend a bunch of time tuning up an old plane that is in rough shape. Less expensive than a really nice new plane, a little bit more than a swap meet find.

I don’t have any bevel up planes. I’ve kind of settled on a #5 as my most-used plane, but some people prefer a #4. Either way will work.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20294 posts in 3910 days

#15 posted 03-11-2020 11:51 PM

So it’s up to you to figure out what’ll work for you. Think about what you’ll use the plane the most for. And if you’re ok with changing the blades and adjusting everything for each new task.

Almost anything you buy will work. It’s not that complicated. If you a quality plane, it doesn’t matter old, new or in between, you can either love it and keep it and use it or sell it and buy something different.

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

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