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Hand Planes

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by jongor, Apr 1, 2006.

  1. jongor


    Jan 11, 2003
    Does anyone here use hand planes?

    I have a friend that works at a well known furniture company, and he says with the right plane I could flatten any surface quickly.

    Not with just any plane though, he recommends getting a good one, and they cost up to $300.

    He recommended Record or Stanley/Bailey planes.
  2. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
  3. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
  4. BTBbassist

    BTBbassist join us for mankala hour!

    Apr 20, 2002
    Westlake Village, CA
    www.leevalley.com carries a pretty wide selection of their "Veritas" line, which are very high quality and reasonably priced, as nice planes go.
  5. I still use hand planes mainly and even if I machine something I only go close to what I need and then go to the hand plane to finish, there realy is no better way to work or finish wood.
    I use - No 7 stanley bedrock try plane, No 5 1/2 record jack plane, No 5 stanley jack plane, No 4 acorn smoothing plane, standard angle record block plane, low angle 60 1/2 stanley block plane, a low angle lie nielsen 102 block plane, a record 311 shoulder plane, a veritas 112 scraper plane, a old wooden boat builders plane and a couple of small thumb planes, seems like a lot but you can build anything with those.
    if you looking to flaten wood then try and buy a larger plane nothing under a No 5 1/2 but a No 6- 7 would be better and a toothed blade will help a lot on figured woods, you also join all your boby blanks and tops with a good No 7-8 plane. you could get away with just using a low angle block plane and large jonting plane (6,7,8) to start with then add more planes if and when you need them.
    try and buy older planes if you can as they were made a lot better of if you got the dosh you can buy lie nielsen, veritas or clifton planes these are all top notch. the only thing against large hand planes is it can take a while to master the skills to control one, but once you have it you have it for life.
  6. Well, that depends on how bowed or twisted the board is, because in many cases one plane won't do it. Usually, you could get by with one #5, but a #4, #5, #7 would be better. If the board is in real bad shape, then a #40 scrub to quickly shed some of the twist/bow and thickness it is helpful prior to using the bench planes. So, if you do end up buying only one plane, a #5 would be a good choice as it's an all rounder.

    Do some research before you get into this to make sure that you want to and to gain a better understanding of what you're getting yourself into, as it will help you to be confident in the decisions you make. Also, don't buy a new Stanley/Bailey or Record, you'll be out of pocket and regret it as they are no where near as good as the very old planes (innaccurate and rough casting and parts, unusable for resonable work out of the box, try tuning one these and you'll see what I mean) they made, don't even come close to the new expensive planes and their value on the used tool market is very low. The very early Record planes are not really better than the early Stanley planes, though are equivalent and generally perform the same. The Record planes are one of the many Stanley rip offs. One good thing about the old planes is that they were machined better, even though they still needed some tuning out of the box. Also, the iron is much easier to tune on those. So, just a few things to think about...

    I also use hand planes (metal and wooden) quite a lot for various tasks. The majority of metal planes I have are very old Stanley planes (#4, #4 1/2, #5, #5 1/2, #6, #7, #8, #40 scrub my current thicknesser, #53 spokeshave with adjustable mouth, #65 and #60 1/2 block planes, #92 shoulder and a few others) that I've spent a lot of time tuning in order to get a really nice shave from them. I also use two Veritas planes, the LA spokeshave and the cabinet scraper. In addition, I have some metal scrapers which are really useful for final timber surfacing. The wooden planes I have are some cheap but bloody awesome new Mujingfang planes (jack, smoother, block) that give the expensive planes a run for their money.

    Now, you really don't need all that for guitar building. You can get by with say a #4 smoother and #5 jack. If you want to joint using a hand plane, then a #6, #7 or #8 is what to consider or you can just use the #5 (jack plane, jack of all trades...you know...does some smoothing and jointing...). A spokeshave and some scrapers are handy. Planing takes a lot of practice to get really good results, so if you want instant results chances are you won't get them no matter whether you spend AUD$50 on a very old and workable Stanley #4 or an LN #4 at AUD$489. The thing is that if you spend big and realise that planing is not for you because it's a pain in the backside or you don't have the patience for it or whatever, then that decision cost a great deal of money for nothing. For one LN #4 (that is only really useful for smoothing and some other minor things), I can get around 7 - 10 Stanley planes of different varieties from ebay (some listed above) tune them and be happy with the purchase because I can use the planes for various jobs. Alternatively, I could use the money for some wood, or hardware, or a couple of power tools, or food for the next few weeks.

    One of the biggest issues when comparing cheap (Stanley, Record, whatever) and expensive (LN, Veritas, Clifton) hand planes, apart from rust (considering the old used planes), is performance. On soft woods, it's no real issue because all you need is to ensure that your plane is tuned (should go without say) and the blade is extremely sharp. Since people use different types of hard wood for building (some laminated), you'll hit an issue right there with all sorts of problems, if you use an old untuned plane, such as tear out and chatter. Tear out can be minimised by planing with the grain, but sometimes the grain is all over the place so possibly trying to sharpen the blade to a different angle or even adding say a 2 degree back bevel would minimise and even prevent it. So, what I'm saying is that an old plane can be made to perform very close to or just as good as an extremely overpriced new plane - this has been proven many times. If you can get your hands on a cheap but sound Stanley Bedrock #5 you're laughing. Just buy a Hock or LN chip breaker (make sure you get the correct one to fit an old Stanley plane if you get that brand) and give it a tune to further minimise chatter. Now, to some one who is new at this, tuning will take some time and frustration to get it all happening because you need to know a few things: tuning a plane (sole, sides, frog, frog receiver, possibly the mouth if needed, chipbreaker, tote base if loose and so on); sharpening the blade, method of sharpening that suits the user (need to do this anyway); rust removal and prevention; practise, trial and error in application. There is plenty of material online that covers all this stuff. The results will be great if done well, but time and did I mention a lot of time is consumed in learning how and doing this.

    So, now with the new state of the art, very expensive hand planes. Well, they are, what can I say, fantastic straight out of the box. Thick casting, blades and chipbreakers. Great frog and frog receiver design and perform extremely well. The issue you have with the cheapies are almost non-existant with these planes, though you'll still have to resharpen and hone the blade. You don't have to worry about how to tune it, because you won't need to - well not yet anyway, further down the track you probably will. You just need to learn about sharpening and planing technique. Something to note, is that the LN bench plane is a direct rip off of the Stanley Bedrock design but better. So, as I said previously, don't discount the Bedrocks. Veritas also make great planes, but their designs are different, more cutting edge. These expensive planes will save you lost time and headaches that can arise from tuning old planes.

    Personally, I have no need for the expensive planes. But there are good reasons to consider them, each to their own. The main thing is to know what and why you're buying.
  7. It's very important that you learn to use handplanes. There is a considerable learning curve here. Unless you buy a clifton, lie-nielsen, veritas or one of the top line ones, you'll also have to learn how to tune it up. Sharpening the blades is another task you'll need to become proficient at. Take your time to learn. Also techniques for planning figured stock are not the same as straight grain stock.

    In summary, learn how to use the tool. It'll take you time, but there are little woodworking tasks that are more fun than hand planning wood. Good luck.
  8. jongor


    Jan 11, 2003
    Hey guys, thanks for the input! Good stuff....

    I do plan to get used to using a plane before expecting good results. My friend said he'd help me learn how to use it.

    So after reading the posts it looks like once I get into it I might need to have more than one type to get a finished product. For now would a #4 or 5 and a #7 or 8 work?

    I'll need to edge body pieces and neck laminate pieces.

    If any of you see a decent one for sale anywhere please let me know. Or maybe you have one you don't use.....?

    Rather than buy one of the good models new, I'll probably look around the net for a used one.

    Bill H - what kind of plane is in the picture?

  9. jongor, one thing to keep in mind is that hand planes are infectuous. I thought I only wanted one or two and ended up with a bunch - all of them useful.

    The planes I use for jointing are the #7 or #8. These jointers are also used when flattening boards before smoothing with a #4. So, for jointing the body edges for glue up and flattening long neck laminate pieces is the type of work they were designed for.

    The plane in the pic looks like a Stanley #7C, but Bill can confirm that. There is all this talk about what corrigation provides, but using an uncorrigated plane for heavy work has posed no issues for many woodworkers.

    Check out Patrick's Blood and Gore for an excellent description of the early Stanley bench planes. He provides info on the different designs and what to look out for


    and here to get dating information to have an idea of the type


    The most desirable types are 10 - 15, which are the pre WWII planes. However, those leading up to 1950 (type 19) are still ok.
  10. Some of these bids are finished, which I noticed during writing this, but here are some comments anyway to serve as hints in what to look for when considering old and new (don't, you've been warned and will be again below... :) ) Stanley style planes.

    This #5 is a later model, looks like a type 19 made around the 1950's. It's ok, though the pre WWII planes are better. However, at this price it is worth the money and it looks like the condition is good.

    This #4 is what you're after, it's a pre WWII plane (looks like a type 12, maybe type 11, better plane than the #5 above). However, the seller has not provided a picture of the sole which will show it's state (eg. pitting, deep gashes) and the condition of the mouth. Another thing, there is a clear picture of the metal casting on one side of the plane, but only less than half of the other side (the pic that shows the chip on the knob). The seller also states that there a no cracks or splits in the wood, but neglects to comment on the casting. See my comments below on some issues to look for. I suggest you confirm it with the seller that there are no issues. This is also an excellent price.

    I can't comment on this #7. because I don't know the brand. Just know that most planes look good when new, but it's not the look that is important. Parts must be machined to fit accurately and the sole and sides should be straight. The frog design plays a big part as does the blade and chipbreaker. At USD$48, it's not too expensive, but you can get your hands on an old #7 for around that price or more that is more tunable. Generally, I wouldn't consider this unless I had enough info to confirm the quality of the plane.

    Again, I can't comment on this #8 for the same reasons as the #7 above. The general comment about these planes is to avoid them. If you had more experience, then you could determine the quality only by seeing it and taking it apart in person to make a general estimate. At USD$90, it's way too expensive.

    Further comments on the jointers above (#7 and #8). Don't worry too about these yet, since you can get your hands on a #4 and #5 quite easily at good prices as you have already noticed. You can use the #5 as a jointer till you find a good #7 or #8.

    Generally, make sure

    - there are no cracks anywhere in the casting, this is important
    - there is no rust pitting. Can get away with very minimal pitting, but better not to have any till you know how to deal with it
    - that all parts original to the plane. Some sellers, owners and even manufacturers mixed plane parts. One problem to look out for with buying a used plane is to ensure that the frog is not from a different period because it may not line up right. Now, this is not a frequent occurrance, so don't be too worried, but something to look out for
    - that the screw threads are ok, especially those in the casting. Stanley planes don't use standard threads, so it's difficult to match them. I don't know if they even make a tap/die with those thread sizes
    - the mouth hasn't been modified (eg. enlarged) or has hairline cracks
    - there are no welds anywhere, especially on the body

    One problem with the newer Stanley planes and other brands of this style, is that the iron is a lot tougher. Personally, I think that trying to tune one of these, which definitely on the cards because they are not sold ready to use as are the LN, Veritas and Clifton planes, is very difficult and not worth the trouble. I've read of a couple of people who have tried recently on the woodwork forums and have wasted copious amounts of time, energy and money with no results.
  11. Here are some cheap jointers on ebay. I've deliberately limited the price range to less than USD$60 not including postage.

    #7's all pre WWII

    A nice #7C, looks like a type 11. 18min to go on this one

    Another nice one, a #7 type 15

    Another #7C, looks like a type 15. Very rusty and the front side casting looks like the rust has deteriorated some of it. Also, the mouth isn't visible due to the picture angle and darkness. Maybe don't consider this one, but good to look at it anyway

    A #7, can't tell the type as the pic doesn't provide much info

    Some #8's all pre WWII

    #8C, looks like a Type 13. Very rusty, blade is chipped but no problem as it can be resharpened or replaced with a thicker blade (eg. Hock) for better performance (though with #8's even the original blade if very sharp will give excellent performance)

    Fully restored #8C. The seller states that this is a type 7 (they are not always right, it could be a type 6). This doesn't have the frog adjustment nut behind the frog (not really needed), but a very nice plane indeed and you don't have to worry about rust removal with this

    type 11 #8, doesn't look too bad. The lateral ajustment lever pin is loose but you can punch that back in

    Anyway, you get the idea.
  12. jongor


    Jan 11, 2003
    MK - thanks for your help!

    I've emailed the one seller of the #4 Bailey, I'll let you know what happens.
  13. low angle block plane will be a must, plus a No 7 or 8 jointer and a No 4 smoother would be nice.

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