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What hand plane for smoothing a workbench top?

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Forum topic by kdeboy posted 12-03-2021 07:00 AM 1204 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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kdeboy

21 posts in 2155 days


12-03-2021 07:00 AM

Brand new to actually building something but long time reader. I’d like to build a workbench using laminated 2×4’s for the top like the $30 workbench by Rex Krueger. To smooth the top, he uses a cheap (~$30) Stanley plane with one iron modified for the rough work and the stock iron for final smoothing. After reading a lot (really a lot) about planes, it seems like the cheap planes are good for rough stuff like this but maybe not so useful for “better” finishing unless they’re tuned buy someone who really knows what they’re doing. I’d kind of like to get something that would kind of grow with me as my wood working skills improve.

I like to buy quality when I can, so I’ve been looking at Veritas (Lee Valley) and Lie-Nielson. No way I can justify around $170 for a scrub plane and another $275-325 for a separate smoothing plane. Do either of these companies make a single plane that would handle both tasks (even if it required swapping blades)? Are there options that are better quality than the $30 Stanley but cheaper than the Veritas or L-N?

Thanks

-- Ken Deboy, http://www.deboy.org


44 replies so far

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Sylvain

1507 posts in 3830 days


#1 posted 12-03-2021 08:02 AM

I have flatten my workbench (and another one for the son) with a single #4.
Just changing the set of the blade.
And, for smoothing, having a really sharp iron and very fine setting.

I am following Paul Sellers blog and sites:
https://commonwoodworking.com/
https://woodworkingmasterclasses.com/

no non-sense and no advertising.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

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controlfreak

3192 posts in 932 days


#2 posted 12-03-2021 10:57 AM

I had a Stanley No. 5 to flatten my bench that I bought for $25. Later I turned my fathers old Craftsman plane into a scrub plane. Don’t over think it, you can do it with one plane if that is all you have but you need to get it deadly sharp first.

Now that the bench is done I have found that I prefer hand tools and have about 30 planes but only one is a veritas LAJ that is use primarily for shooting.

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Lazyman

8755 posts in 2718 days


#3 posted 12-03-2021 12:16 PM

One problem with converting and using the same body with 2 blades is that a scrub usually works better with a wider mouth opening so that the thicker shavings exit without clogging while a narrower mouth is better for finish work.

As mentioned above, you can use any plane like a scrub (angled across the grain), it will just go a little slower than one whose blade has a significant radius on it. If you still want a dedicated scrub, just look for a relatively cheap and possibly even rusty old plane and look for Paul Seller’s video on converting it into a scrub plane.

One thing to note is that unless your bench glue up is really badly cupped or twisted, a scrub plane may actually add more work than it saves because the radius on the iron will leave pretty deep gouges in the surface that then have to be flattened with the grain with with a jack or smoothing plane (#5 or #4). You may also sacrifice more thickness than necessary in the process.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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DevinT

2356 posts in 297 days


#4 posted 12-03-2021 12:54 PM

Anything with a movable frog or throat will allow you to use one plane for both scrubbing and smoothing.

To scrub: move the chip breaker back from the blade edge and open the mouth (or adjust the frog to move the blade back, thus opening the fixed mouth).

A Lee Vally Veritas No 4 smoother is nice because you can adjust the frog without removing the blade. The holes in the lever cap, chip breaker, and blade, all align over a single screw holding the frog in place. Loosen that screw with a long flathead screwdriver and then loosen the thumb screw behind the frog, and then spin a knurled captive wheel to advance and retract the whole frog/blade/breaker/cap assembly.

To smooth: close up the gap on both the chip breaker and mouth.

I have done this at times when I was too lazy to pull out another plane and sharpen it because the Veritas was the only one sharp enough at the time. Also, if you have a PM-V11 blade in the Veritas, I find it smooths fine after scrubbing (while working Teak).

Takes me about 30 seconds to flip a Veritas from smoothing to scrubbing or vice-versa.

Now, the “Custom” line of Veritas bench planes have an adjustable mouth. I’ve never used one of those. Theoretically one could switch faster, but I would still pull the blade out and pull the chip breaker back for scrubbing. So the adjustable mouth may not buy you much in the long run if you know whereabouts you need the gaps. I know how big of a gap I need for various actions in various woods, so adjusting the mouth versus frog is not really trial/error for me. I set it where I need it and go to work. With time you will become accustom to this and an adjustable mouth is not really that much of a time saver.

-- Devin, SF, CA

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Kudzupatch

356 posts in 2539 days


#5 posted 12-03-2021 01:02 PM

Longer is better when your looking for a truly flat surface. So I cleaned up the rough spots with …. I don’t remember, probably a #3 or #4. Then I finished with a #7.

I picked these up used off EBay or from someone. Old Stanly are good quality. You don’t have to buy new but since you seem to be new, I would suggest you buy your first one from someone that will have it sharp, adjusted and ready to use. Then you have something to gauge against. You will know how it should work.

I had 2 or 3 and honestly did not like them. I bought one from someone that prepped them before selling and the difference was night and day. I learned what a plane should work like and that I didn’t have my blades anywhere near really sharp.

SECONDLY. Do not kid yourself. Hand planning a bench top is a real workout! Probably a lot more work than you realize!

-- Jeff Horton * Kudzu Craft skin boats* www.kudzucraft.com

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jonah

2273 posts in 4629 days


#6 posted 12-03-2021 01:11 PM

I’m not sure what tools you have, but I don’t recommend making a bench out of 2×4s. You’re much better off starting with 2×8s or 2×10s and cutting around defects to get two pieces of the top from each board.

You’re going to need to joint each board at least. Is this a purely hand tools project?

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BlasterStumps

2197 posts in 1770 days


#7 posted 12-03-2021 01:23 PM

When you assemble the boards for glue up, spend as much time as needed to determine the grain orientation of each board and keep them all the same direction. Having one or two boards running opposite the rest can make more work for you when using a hand plane.

When gluing up, keep it all flat best you can on the side you wish to use for the top side.

Depending on the style of bench, the top only needs to be about half the depth of the overall bench top. Doesn’t have to be a 24” or 30” + top. I think mine is 17” with a 10” tool well.

i would recommend starting out with a good No 4 or 5 plane and see what it can do. If you get going on building the bench, remember, we likes to see pictures of new benches or bench construction going on. : )

-- "I build for function first, looks second. Most times I never get around to looks." MIke in CO

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HokieKen

20614 posts in 2469 days


#8 posted 12-03-2021 01:38 PM

I recommend skipping the scrub plane and just getting a #5 jack. You can use the same iron and just adjust the depth of cut as appropriate for scrubbing/jointing/smoothing. The Veritas low-angle jack is a good choice for an all-around user if you only have a single plane.

That being said though, be aware that flattening a work bench made from tubafors as your first foray into hand planing is going to be an exercise in frustration. If possible try to get a fair bit of practice in on smaller boards first.

Also, as a better top but still affordable, you might consider buying SYP or DF 2×12s instead of 2×4s and then ripping them down into 3 or 4 inch widths and eliminating the pith centers. It’s a bit more work but you’ll have a more stable top and it will most likely require significantly less flattening. Just food for thought ;-)

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

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Robert

4827 posts in 2811 days


#9 posted 12-03-2021 02:02 PM

You can do it with a #4, but a 6 or 7 is better. If you want to buy new, WoodRiver will do the job.

You could consider a router sled.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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Aj2

4216 posts in 3128 days


#10 posted 12-03-2021 03:58 PM

For smoothing a bench top any size jack will work. If you want to make a flat surface on a new bench or keep it nice and flat I recommend you start with a foreplane.
That what I do every year start with my longest plane first and work down to my smoother. A rough surface on my bench is better then a shiny one. Good Luck

-- Aj

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BurlyBob

9508 posts in 3596 days


#11 posted 12-03-2021 05:39 PM

The only thing I can add is make certain that the grain on your boards are all aligned in the same direction!

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controlfreak

3192 posts in 932 days


#12 posted 12-03-2021 05:56 PM

I didn’t know about grain direction at the time but I did use 2×10 or 2×12 with the center ripped out out of shear dumb luck. I didn’t have much tear out but I did do the heavy planning at a 45 degree angle. Who ever said it is a lot of work wasn’t lying, man what a workout. I would start with jointing or ripping the rounded corners on the edges off and ripping them to all the same size. You won’t be able to stop them from moving around a bit but if you use cauls you can keep it to a minimum. Tape or wax paper on the bar clamps is a must and a dead blow hammer to persuade errant boards into submission helps. If you have any knots make sure they all face what will be the bottom. When I did mine a No. 5 was the only plane I used. Also be warned, You need to get the bottom flat first too so you have a firm foundation to address the top. I see winding sticks in your future. Have fun!

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SMP

5049 posts in 1236 days


#13 posted 12-03-2021 07:31 PM


I recommend skipping the scrub plane and just getting a #5 jack. You can use the same iron and just adjust the depth of cut as appropriate for scrubbing/jointing/smoothing. The Veritas low-angle jack is a good choice for an all-around user if you only have a single plane.

That being said though, be aware that flattening a work bench made from tubafors as your first foray into hand planing is going to be an exercise in frustration. If possible try to get a fair bit of practice in on smaller boards first.

Also, as a better top but still affordable, you might consider buying SYP or DF 2×12s instead of 2×4s and then ripping them down into 3 or 4 inch widths and eliminating the pith centers. It s a bit more work but you ll have a more stable top and it will most likely require significantly less flattening. Just food for thought ;-)

- HokieKen

Yeah if I had to do one plane, i would get a #5. If you have money to burn an LN or Veritas are nice, but a tuned Stanley will do just as well. Preferably 2 irons, one straight and one with a Chris Schwarz style camber. ( My jack plane can take off 1:16” shavings,). BUT, this does require some changes between hogging off thick shavings and smoothing. If you went one iron with a light camber you can still smooth and can take decent shavings off if needed just by readjusting the chipbreaker. The key with flattening a benchtop with a jack plane is to go diagonally across. Don’t try to flatten it lengthwise at first.

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Sylvain

1507 posts in 3830 days


#14 posted 12-05-2021 01:56 PM

I have flattened two workbench tops in NOS (not otherwise specified) pine.
I don’t remember it being such a workout.

Start by planning the bottom to hone your skill.
Use winding sticks.
A 1m rule used as a straight edge will help you find any high spots (use it in long, in traverse and diagonally)
It will “helicopter” on any high spot).

It is important that the bottom is out of wind (at least where it sits on the base) otherwise it could twist the base which will then rock.

Anyway you probably will have to re-flatten the top after one year and in the mean time you will have honed your planning skills.

no non-sense workbench build:
start here
https://paulsellers.com/2012/06/how-to-build-a-workbench-video-with-paul-sellers-part-1/

or his more recent serie:
https://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-workbench-plans/

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

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Sylvain

1507 posts in 3830 days


#15 posted 12-05-2021 02:02 PM

to answer the question:
https://paulsellers.com/2021/06/prepping-wood-vii/

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

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