Intimidated by Hand Planes

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by LJackson posted 03-02-2015 05:58 PM 1334 views 1 time favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2078 days

03-02-2015 05:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane jointer newbie advice

I have been researching hand planes for a month or two. This will be probably the first tool that I buy that doesn’t consume electricity, unless you count my utility knife. I have some large chunks of wood that are just too large for my power tools, so I think it will be easier to flatten them on a hand plane. That, and also I would like to get the machine marks out of the boards.

To that end, I have been looking at a jointer. The first thing that concerns me is the price. I was about to get a Faithfull number 7, but it is no longer available on Amazon. It was $110 when I last saw it. I do not see many good reviews of the Grizzly 22” smoothing plane, and I don’t want a corrugated sole. The next one up is the Lee-Valley and Woodcraft planes at around $300. Alternatively, I could buy an old jointer. I saw a stanley for $170.

In any case, my biggest concern is taking whatever plane I buy, and doing whatever is necessary to make it work. With all of my electrical tools, they have manuals. With hand planes, I read all these reviews of how you need to do this or that or whatnot, and I have no clue how to do those things or what additional tools I need to do them. I am concerned that I will buy a very expensive tool, start tuning it up, and inadvertently ruin it because I have no idea what I’m doing.

It seems the learning curve is very steep at the beginning. I’m not sure where to start, and I fear this thread may just make my decision making process even harder, what with many differing opinions (I like my tote to be curvy! What does a bag have to do with anything?). But, I’ll ask anyway. What should I do?

22 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8750 posts in 3060 days

#1 posted 03-02-2015 06:04 PM

View jmartel's profile


8558 posts in 2634 days

#2 posted 03-02-2015 06:12 PM

If you want a jointer, you can probably find a Stanley #7 that’s been refurbished for $100ish. Either ebay, on here, or from that site that Waho posted.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 3177 days

#3 posted 03-02-2015 06:12 PM

A trusty Stanley no. 5 won’t let you down, and there are lots on the vintage market for cheap. Don’t buy a cheap modern tool and let it ruin your opinion of hand planes.

For the price of the modern tool, you could get the Super Tune Your Hand Plane DVD from Popular Woodworking and still have coin left for a couple old planes and sharpening gear.

View jmartel's profile


8558 posts in 2634 days

#4 posted 03-02-2015 06:16 PM

Oh, and pop on over into this thread. Any questions you have can be answered in there. I’m sure there’s someone in there that may have a jointer plane they would sell you as well. That’s how I got my #8.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Mosquito's profile


9817 posts in 2776 days

#5 posted 03-02-2015 06:19 PM

There are definitely a LOT of opinions, and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of “The best thing…” answers.

For me, personally, I stick with mostly vintage planes because of the lower initial cost. It does involve more cleaning and tuning than newer high end options, but it’s a trade off between time spent and money saved vs having something ready out of the box. It comes down to how much your time is worth to you.

Advantages to new higher end planes (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, and to an extent WoodRiver), is that you spend very very little time with them before putting them to use. A vintage will usually require some work, unless you buy from someone who’s already taken care of that.

No matter what route you go down, you’ll have to get a method of sharpening that gets things sharp, though. That’s another area where you’ll get a lot of opinions. I started on “Scary Sharp”, sandpaper on a flat surface. Worked fine to get me started at a low buy-in.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View bondogaposis's profile


5522 posts in 2835 days

#6 posted 03-02-2015 07:02 PM

If you haven’t used hand planes before I wouldn’t start w/ a No. 7. I would get a No. 5 jack or a block plane to begin with. You will use them far more often and they are easier to use and learn how to sharpen and adjust.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 2278 days

#7 posted 03-02-2015 07:19 PM

A block plane is a fantastic tool, and I’d highly recommend getting one as a first plane. But it won’t help you flatten a big slab. So a #5 is a much better first choice in your case.

View JayT's profile


6279 posts in 2695 days

#8 posted 03-02-2015 07:22 PM

Skip the inexpensive new planes, either go good quality vintage or premium new. Vintage is definitely less money, but usually a bit more work.

Totally agree with bondo about not starting with a #7—a #4 or #5 is a good place to start. Both are useful and they cost a lot less, so you can learn on a $20-40 plane instead of a $100 one. Tuning/fettling a plane is actually pretty straight forward, just takes some common sense. Parts that mate together need to fit well, sole needs to be relatively flat and the iron needs to be sharp. The last one is where a lot of people miss, but is probably the most important.

One suggestion I make is to consider purchasing your first plane completely tuned, sharpened and ready to use from someone that really knows what they are doing. That way, if you go on to acquire more planes, you have a standard in mind to shoot for. I started with a couple and thought I was doing a good job tuning them up, but then traded with another LJ and the plane he sent me was on a whole different level, especially sharpness. After using it a couple of times, it was a lot easier to work over my others until they performed similarly.

Welcome to the slippery slope.

Edit: Another possibility is finding a hand tool user in your area that’s willing to take a little bit of time to get you started on the right foot.

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

View jdh122's profile


1094 posts in 3301 days

#9 posted 03-02-2015 07:23 PM

I agree with Bondo, Mykos and tsangell. Get a No. 5 instead of a jointer. Personally I’ve had more success with LV and LN new than I have with vintage but that may mostly reflect the poor quality of the flea markets I’ve attended or my poor choices.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1698 days

#10 posted 03-02-2015 07:25 PM

+1 on the no. 5. A no. 7 is a thing of beauty too, but the No. 5 is really the standard, go to, everyday tool. They are everywhere, you can find them cheap and easy.

If you don’t have experience with hand planes flattening a large board can be one of the most infuriating experience of your life. There are about as many ways to go wrong as you can imagine. For such a simple tool it takes quite a bit of knowledge, patience and practice to wield.

Watching a YouTube video is a great way to go about it, but even with that help be prepared to put in some trial and error as well.

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

View oltexasboy1's profile


255 posts in 2188 days

#11 posted 03-02-2015 07:31 PM

I am not a millionaire, or a master craftsman, my opinion is that a #7 is great to finish a surface after you have scrubbed the surface with a shorter plane such as a #5. You can get a good user Stanley plane from Lowe’s for about $60.00. That should be kind of where you should start. I got ( my first) one of the contractor grade Stanley #5s with the plastic handles and it works just as well as a $250.. Lie Nielsen planes.You should learn how to hone it however. Having said that the most used plane I own is a 9 1/2 block plane. Mine is a Stanley sweetheart and I paid twice as much for it as I should have but it is a really nice little plane and good to go out of the box. There is one on sale at Lowe’s right now for $98.00. You won’t understand why it is so important to have a sharp plane iron until you actually have a well tuned, scarey sharp plane to work with. Check with Don W. he has good user planes for a very reasonable price. I bought a few from him that he called “users” because they were not as “pretty” as some of the others. I don’t care,what I want is a good user ,for a good price and that is what I have. I have over the years accumulated from a # 2 – #7 and depending on what I am working on I use all of them. Start in the middle , you can get more later that you need.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View knotscott's profile


8329 posts in 3859 days

#12 posted 03-02-2015 09:14 PM

Buy a good used plane. I’m pretty fond of older Bailey, Bedrock, Record, Millers Falls, Sargent VBM, etc. My Record 07 was under $70.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2078 days

#13 posted 03-02-2015 10:21 PM

Thanks for all of the tips guys. I have put in a bid on a number 7 on Ebay, though I doubt if I’ll get it. I haven’t won anything off of Ebay, ever.

My thought was that a longer plane would make it easier to flatten. Having a long sole on the wood would cause it to ride on any ridges, and the blade would then cut them off level. Much like it is good to have a long bed on a jointer if you want to create a flat edge.

One of the things is that I’m not very coordinated, so if I can get a tool and get it set up to do the task properly with minimal assistance on my part, then I am more confident that I can make the cut or dimension the lumber properly. This is one reason I have shied away from hand tools for so long. I can see how riding a piece of wood along the table saw fence will allow it to cut a nice, straight edge, and I can see what can go wrong with that.

Anyway, I may go with a number five, if I do not win this jointer. I would like to get this bed finished, but it will be delayed as I learn new tools and techniques. I suppose there’s no rush. I’ve got all my life left to learn.

View JayT's profile


6279 posts in 2695 days

#14 posted 03-02-2015 10:35 PM

You are correct that a longer plane gives a flatter surface, our point is that a #7 is not the best plane to learn on. A #5 can get you a pretty flat surface and is much cheaper and easier to handle to start out. You will want to practice on some scrap before moving on to lumber you actually want to keep looking good. After you know that you can tune and use a hand plane well, and like it, then you can move on to some other sizes.

After all that, if you really want a larger plane to start with, look at #6’s. They generally go for half the price of #7’s and are just as good for almost any task. My #7 size rarely leaves the till, I do most jointing and panel flattening with a #6 size.

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

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 2387 days

#15 posted 03-02-2015 10:44 PM

Well, once you buy one, the others seem to follow. I would grab a good #7,if you come across a good one.

showing 1 through 15 of 22 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics