Plane(s) for the new guy?

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Forum topic by Michael Wilson posted 10-27-2011 05:10 PM 2063 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3540 days

10-27-2011 05:10 PM

Ok, it’s been a few months now. I’ve bought… nevermind. It’s insane what I’ve bought. Most of it has gone to pretty good use, a box or two here, a cubby-dresser system for clothes, a 2” thick end-grain maple board, etc.

I need a plane. If I judged by the few books I’ve read so far, I need eleventy planes of all manner of shapes and sizes.

Now, for most things I’m in the “buy the crappy one, use it until you know why it’s the crappy one, then you’ll have some idea what to look for in a reasonable one.” And that’s worked out for me really well. Lots of the “crappy one” tools I have turned out not to be quite so crappy.

But what I can NOT seem to find is a plane that doesn’t require I actually create the edge on the iron. I don’t mean sharpen it. I mean create it. It’s crazy. As much as I’m a budding total noob machinist as well as woodworker I really would love a plane that wasn’t a project. Maybe sharpening, honing.

I came here and followed the links to planes from various posts and almost had a heart attack at the prices.

So what’s the solution to this? I’m just looking for a plane, something I can use with a shooting board.

bangs head on desk

23 replies so far

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4090 days

#1 posted 10-27-2011 05:17 PM

Find a flea market/garage sale/estate sale/junk store, buy a stanley 5, use some sandpaper & elbow grease, & PRESTO, you have a decent plane!!!

Shouldn’t cost more than about $20 + your time

Or you could always shell out $100 & go buy a new One !!!

Or Make your own, some great posts on here about how to do just that.

Good Luck !!!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4698 days

#2 posted 10-27-2011 05:23 PM

whats the big deal about setting a bevel? that would be the easiest step in resetting a plane… a plane is a rather simple tool, as a (as you stated) noob machinist you should be very comfortable working on one. 2-4 hours tops (depending on your setup and schedule) should get you a refurbished plane ready for work.

even the worst case planes I worked on weren’t really that bad. go get some kool aid and get to work! ;)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 3613 days

#3 posted 10-27-2011 05:25 PM

I am in a similar place as you and am wanting to venture into hand planes. I have one from HF that I took out of the box and never got to work right. I have absolutely no idea about what needs to be done to a new plane (or chisel for that matter) to make it work properly and as much as I would like something to buy and just use, I am not sure thats possible. I’ve been hearing about something recently called the super sharp method (something with glass and sandpaper) but haven’t the foggiest on that either. I just found in my father in laws estate a Sargent (Smooth I think) plane. There is nothing printed on the box whatsoever. The tool has a bit, but not much rust and I desperately want to get it working again.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5349 posts in 5010 days

#4 posted 10-27-2011 05:37 PM

You guys are stepping into a big hole. Planes are like drugs. Get one good one, and ya gotta have another, and another, and the beat goes on.
Plane rehab/tuning is not difficult, but it is time consuming.
Get to a good hand tools forum and read up.

-- [email protected]

View chrisstef's profile


18129 posts in 4056 days

#5 posted 10-27-2011 05:51 PM

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3540 days

#6 posted 10-27-2011 05:54 PM

The problem on the machining side is I’m brand spanking new. To get a reasonably accurate angle on a bevel I’m sure I could clamp the thing to a sine plate and hit it with a fly cutter.

But that requires having a sine plate and a fly cutter.

The super-sharp thing looks to me like it’s easier than it looks (and if that made any sense I congratulate you.) I’ll try to remember where I read about it. Someplace had a solid thorough treatment.

I did exactly the same thing. The first couple were HFs and while I didn’t actually throw them… I was sorely tempted.

Is there something conspicuously wrong with this Stanley #4? It seems suspiciously cheap for new.

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4698 days

#7 posted 10-27-2011 06:08 PM

are you thinking of setting the bevel angle with a mill? thats a big of an overkill – just use a grinder. you SHOULD setup some sort of fixture with ways to measure angles and hold your blades at proper angles to the grinder to get consistent bevels – don’t freehand that step.

Another option that just takes longer and requires much more elbow grease is to set the bevel on sand paper (scary sharp) – I have done that before, and it is doable. but WILL require a good amount of time to re-establish the bevel at a different angle.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3648 days

#8 posted 10-27-2011 06:08 PM

I think it is scary sharp. May help the search. I suggest readind some of the blogs. Wayne c has an extensive amount of info available. Just look at his listings. I was where you are not long ago. You can easily buy an older bailey #5 on ebay for about $30 delivered. Tune it, put an edge on it, and then you have a new tool addiction. Just that simple. There are tons of peoole on here who can/will help. You have been warned, addictive!!!

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 4047 days

#9 posted 10-27-2011 06:22 PM

There is nothing inherently wrong with that plane. It is just not a high quality plane. The difference being the quality of machining and the adjustment system.

Relax. Take a deep breath.

First of all, the angle is not that critical. The wood won’t know the difference between a 21 degree bevel and a 30 degree bevel. The issue is a finer angle is sharper and a larger angle is more robust and lasts longer.

The other adjustment for the angle is to go with a steeper angle with funky grain to keep it from tearing out. This is also controlled by the chip breaker and the width of the mouth. The mouth keeps the wood pressed down so it can’t splinter up when cutting.

If you are going to go really cheap, this is a better quality plane than the one you linked to and it is cheaper:

For use in a shooting board is not that critical for length. You want one that has a blade wide enough to trim the whole edge.

Another idea is just to get a fair quality low angle block plane. It does have a bit narrow blade for a shooting board but with thin stock, not an issue.

Main thing to remember is that a plane is just a jig to hold a chisel. It is not that critical.

As far as creating the bevel on the iron. Here is the quick way. Use coarse grit (whatever floats your boat as to the grit carrier being a stone or sandpaper or diamonds or whatever) to get the initial bevel. Then work down through progressively finer grit until you get a nice polish on the edge. The finer it gets, the sharper it gets.

Get one sharp and taking shavings, then we can discuss the finer points of tuning.

BTW, the Scarey Sharp™ originally came from Steve LaMantia who was a character known for his eloquent postings on rec.woodworking. The original post is a fun read.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4020 days

#10 posted 10-27-2011 06:51 PM

I have three of the Groz planes; a #5, #6 and a low angle block. They work pretty well after a lot of work to tune them up. In fact, I use the LA block just about every day. It’s a great little plane. The tote (rear handle) on the #5 and #6 is too small for my hands and needs replacement IMHO. Please note that these planes seem to be on sale right now. Big time sale, like 78% off retail. I don’t know what that is about, but I suspect they won’t be around much longer. Could be a buying opportunity for someone who wants to do a lot of work and wind up with a good set of planes for minimum $. Check Woodcraft. They seem to have the biggest selection.

Back to the OP, a really good plane that just needs minimum work and is not like buying a car is the Veritas by Lee Valley Tools. They are made in Canada by a company that strives to make the very best quality plane they can at a competetive price in my honest opinion. They are not cheap, $100 to $300, but they are just as good as some other brands selling for close to $500 and on up. If you want to have a tool you just take out of the box and start using it, this is the least expensive way I have found to do that with a new tool. The Veritas bevel up jack would be the one I would start with. I would buy it with an extra iron (blade) of higher angle bevel to use for soft or difficult wood. They will be glad to discuss this with you and make recommendations.

For sharpening, look up “scary sharp” on Google. My dad taught me how to do this 50 years ago. It was a trick used by trim carpenters he worked with back in the 1930s and 40s. Must be pretty good method to have been around that long.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4090 days

#11 posted 10-27-2011 06:57 PM

Go here & Ask Away, you will get answers, these guys are crazy though

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

19958 posts in 3617 days

#12 posted 10-27-2011 07:13 PM

First, listen 2 daddyz.

Do you actually have a plane you can’t sharpen? I’ll sharpen it for you the first time. After that, it should be easier.

Do NOT, buy that $19 plane.

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

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3648 days

#13 posted 10-27-2011 07:18 PM

DaddyZ and Don W are correct, lots of info there. But beware, its is a slippery slope. I wondered in there one day, I had one plane at the time. Now I have over dozen. That was a short time ago, scary.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3540 days

#14 posted 10-27-2011 07:31 PM

“You mean you are getting irons in such bad shape that you gotta put a whole new bevel on ‘em?
AND you are a machinist?”

Heh. I see what’s happened. My mistake. I’m a machinist like I’m a woodworker. i.e. I have a bunch of tools and I’m fumbling along in the dark trying to teach myself how to use them the way I’ve taught myself everything, through lots of stubbed toes, buying of libraries (and consuming them) and generally wasting a lot of material trying to figure out “the things that are so obvious people don’t bother mentioning/writing them down.” All in all I’m progressing at a pace with which I’m pretty happy.

I love that someone mentioned the idea of making one, as that kind of thing is right up my alley. But I’m on a jag with a particular project (a simple one requiring somethign other than the butt joints I’ve been getting by with) and would like to avoid yak shaving as much as reasonable.

10 minutes later

Ok, took a peek on fleabay for Stanley #5s and yeah they’re all in the $20-$30 range (aside from silly looking ones.) So I hit one that looked reasonably complete. Rust I can manage.

Looks like I’ve got to go learn myself what’s involved plane “tuning” since it seems to come down to that no matter which direction I turn. I’m guessing even if I spent more than I’m going to spend on something, that it’s going to have to be a part of my skillset no matter what.

On to figuring that out.

Thanks everyone. As always, I’m up for all kinds of weird advice about this and other tangental subjects. I’ve got nobody to learn from but the internet, books and some stubbed toes.

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 3540 days

#15 posted 10-27-2011 07:36 PM

Don W: Why not? (I’m not being snarky, just trying to figure out what the critical failure would be.)

As for ye olde unsharpenable iron:

Picture a sharpened blade. Now cut the front off, half way down the bevel, perpendicular to the straight edge.

That’s what I’ve got….x3. It seems like it was a stock-length production error, as though they were stamped from a plate that was sinched a bit shy of the edge.

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