Can I get away with just a smoothing plane?

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Forum topic by jasonpaul posted 10-30-2014 04:17 PM 1711 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1758 days

10-30-2014 04:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: handplane plane hand tools walnut live edge table help question router jointer finishing joining


I am looking to do a live edge slab coffee table and was wondering if i could get away with just using a router and sled assembly to flatten the board and then finish off with a smoothing plane. I should note I do not have a plane at the moment but have used them before. Good planes are expensive and id like to spread out my purchases. So is the router and smoothing plane combo acceptable or is a jointer plane a better option ? The table will most likely be walnut or maple if that helps.

Thanks guys!


10 replies so far

View JayT's profile


6242 posts in 2665 days

#1 posted 10-30-2014 04:40 PM

If you have a good router and sled set-up, then following up with a sharp smoothing plane should be fine. Basically you are substituting the router sled for the jointer plane. Goal there being to have an overall flat surface when you are done and then the smoother to get a finish ready surface.

I will disagree about good planes being expensive. Good new planes are expensive. Good vintage planes can be found relatively cheap. I’ve purchased excellent quality ones frequently for less than $20 and several for less than $10, they just needed a little clean-up and tune-up to get back to working order.

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

View MikeUT's profile


195 posts in 1813 days

#2 posted 10-30-2014 04:47 PM

You’ll definitely get more experienced advice than mine but if I had to have one plane to do the work you are talking about I would get a good old jack plane. I have a Stanley 5 (1890’s) and Sargent (1930’s) I purchased rusty and have tuned up to take shavings of a few thousandths with both of them. With a little adjustment you can use it like a smoothing plane or a jack. You can’t necessarily do the same easily with a number 3 or 4.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19295 posts in 3021 days

#3 posted 10-30-2014 04:56 PM

I’ll second what JayT wrote for both the smoother will work AND good planes can be found very reasonable.

Of course for just a little more you could get a #4 and a #5, not have the mess, the dust, and the noise the router will make.

Keep in mind though, you’ll need a way to sharpen the plane(s), but if you start with the scary sharp system, it is minimal expense.

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

View jasonpaul's profile


6 posts in 1758 days

#4 posted 10-30-2014 05:12 PM

Thanks guys that really helps. I already have a router so i think ill grab myself a smoother, but this is a project for next spring/ summer because my workshop aka garage is not insulated for the winter.

One more thing. When starting off with the router option on rough slab where neither side is flat do you just, do your best at leveling the piece, route the top side and then use that top side as reference to flatten the other side?


no such thing as to sharp.

View bigblockyeti's profile


5840 posts in 2175 days

#5 posted 10-30-2014 05:28 PM

I have a Veritas #4 smoother that’s my go to plane every time. The only exception being when only a small block plane is needed to clean up something small. The #4 smoother is a very versatile plane.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 2348 days

#6 posted 10-30-2014 06:18 PM

Check out a long video series from a guy named Rob Bois making a walnut live edge table. He’s been around here some but not in a while. Although I’m not using all the same techniques or wood, I’m working on one myself now and it’s been helpful. He used a mix of hand tools and power tools. For me it’s hand tools all the way. One thing – the aspect ratio in his series is screwed up, so I downloaded them all and corrected that in my player.

If you’re not going to start until next year, that gives you plenty of time to look for vintage planes. They are like potato chips, can’t stop at just one.

View OSU55's profile


2381 posts in 2443 days

#7 posted 10-30-2014 09:02 PM

Something not mentioned is tear out. More than likely your slab will have some reversing or crotch type grain than Stanley Bailey style bench planes can’t deal with w/o some tear out. Two cheap possibilities – Stanley #80 cabinet scraper or card scrapers. Two other solutions (more $’s) – scraping plane or a bevel up smoother where any angle can be used for the bevel.

Whether a #7 jointer would help is a function of how well your routing goes – if the surface is flat but you just need to smooth up cut lines, a #4 or #4-1/2 (my preference for large surfaces) is all you need. You can use the hand plane to help level out the “down” side of the slab. I have plane tuning and sharpening methods in my blog here on LJs.

View jasonpaul's profile


6 posts in 1758 days

#8 posted 10-30-2014 10:17 PM

So I was looking at a new veritas amoothe. If I get a smoother with a 45 degree from and keep the blade razor sharp do u think there will still be a lot of tearout? Or is a bevel up the best choice because of its vertsatility ?

View Don W's profile

Don W

19295 posts in 3021 days

#9 posted 10-30-2014 10:24 PM

the reason the 45 degree bed is the most common plane in history because its the best overall. That certainly doesn’t mean it works everywhere. An extra cutter with a back bevel can help. Unfortunately there is no one plane that will do it all.

For tearout on very difficult grain, the higher the bed, the better, but the harder it is to push. Most infill’s are bedded at 50 or 55 degrees.

I’d suggest a normal 45 degree bed for your first plane.

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

View OSU55's profile


2381 posts in 2443 days

#10 posted 10-31-2014 02:46 PM

I agree with Don, no one plane will do it all. You can get a Stanley Bailey #4 for $15-$50 on ebay depending on condition etc. Ebay can be a gamble, most have been good but a couple had problems and then I had to go rounds with the seller. Some of the folks on here may have one for sale. There is always an opportunity to use a #4 in some way. Paul Sellers uses them for almost everything – in short you can’t go wrong with a #4, and since you are watching your $’s closely, a Stanley fits the bill vs. LN, Veritas, Woodriver, as long as you have the time and tools to tune them. A #80 will handle any tearout you might have. Properly tuned Stanley Bailey’s are very good planes and not expensive – you do not need thick blades and chip breakers like the previously mentioned brands. You may get a little frustrated with the amount of backlash in the depth adjuster, but with time and experience it’s not a big deal. Since you have time, get a #4 & an #80 and learn, practice, and enjoy. I discuss the 1st hand plane purchase here

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