The question that’s often asked is “How many hand planes do you need”, and we’d like to suggest three planes that will handle most woodworking tasks and are also a cheap and easy to find, and they are:
The #5 Jack Plane
The #4 Smoothing Plane
The Block Plane
Below we will discuss them in detail and why they are the fitting for you to have as your first three hand planes.
The No. 5 Jack Plane
I’m sure you heard No. 5 being the “jack of all trades.” Like most stereotypes, this is essentially accurate. If just one hand plane is available, No. 5 is an excellent option. It is also the #1 Best Hand Plane type in the market, read below to figure out why.
It is light enough to be used for extended durations yet the sole is long enough to provide you with a suitable surface for various straightening and flattening chores on your bank.
I keep two No. 5s handy, really. One of them is a “forward plane,” which means it has a cambered iron, a broad mouth, and may be cut heavily.
This hand plane is comparable to the “scrub plane,” which you may have read about. Whether you want a foretaste or a scrub is essentially down to training and personal choice.
My other No. 5 has much less iron camber and a slimmer mouth. I use it for bench work when I require a longer sole. I use it. This plane often enters the front plane and I use it to flatten and to attach short boards.
You may have a No. 5 which fills these two responsibilities. There are just two iron; one is cambered and one is fairly straight. If you have a separate chip breaker for each of these irons, it is quick and simple to change them in and out of the plane.
You may need to open the mouth of your 5 to be a front plane, but you can easily do that with a file. And with the more harsh work you perform with the 5, even if the straight blade is fitted, the larger mouth will not really matter.
One no. 5 and a pair of iron may be used to flatten, remove cups and twists, thicken the stock and attach short edges. This is a true workhorse.
The No. 4 Smoothing Plane
Many woodworkers choose No. 4 as their primary hand plane, like the Venerable Paul Sellers. Paul even advises purchasing a No. 4 for any additional hand plane you purchase.
This suggestion puzzled me for a long time. The No. 4 makes a good smoothing plane and the popular, lightweight bailey design No. 4 works with little hassle in most smoothing jobs. But the four of them are tiny and have a short sole. How can your primary woodworking plane be? Shouldn’t No. 5 play this job more heavily and longer?
I adore my No. 5 and without it I don’t want to be. But the longer I do woodwork hand tools, the more I must confess that No. 4 is more versatile, definitely.
Your shorter sole will offer you less of a flattening surface on your edges and faces but that’s an excellent argument for winding rods, a straight edge and your eyesight. When you flatten a big area, you are removing the high points one by one.
If you know where the high points are, you can’t take them down with almost any hand plane.
Since No. 4 is shorter, more jobs may be performed than bigger planes. It can be smoothed in tiny areas, and its lightweight makes it simple to operate for extended hours; four won’t tire you as larger planes do.
No. 4 will also be responsible for more specialized duties. It’s nice to have a block plane, but the four tackles finish grain very well. It will also chamfer, bevel and remove the sharp edges of the boards effortlessly. If you have an plane that can perform all these tasks, why this is your sole bench plane is simple to see.
The Block Plane
I used to believe block plane were important, and I was on a quest to locate the ideal one. So I finally owned 10 or 15 of the stupid things.
I came to the opinion that block plans are great to have, but you actually don’t need one at all. For almost all the same operations, you can use a tiny smoothing plane.
At the same time, the block plane might be the only one you can use all day. Models are tiny enough to fit inside your pocket, making them handy. And Stanley has developed and manufactured about one million distinct types of block plane with his rivals. They are ubiquitous and inexpensive, so you might have one beneath your bench.
Unfortunately, on the secondhand market, there are so many different types of block flat that it is difficult to figure out which one you should buy. Let me make a few of short ideas.
Step off ultra-basic models such as the Stanley 110. This plane has a fixed mouth and no mechanical adjustment, therefore the hammer taps must adjust the plane. If you want to change your plane anyhow, simply use a wooden plane because it’s lighter and it’s easier to glide into the wood regardless. There are too many block plans to mess this tiny creature around.
Stanley 220 is an excellent (and usually inexpensive) option. This plane has its mouth fixed and no lateral adjustment, but its depth adjuster is very accurate and convenient to operate. The large nob at the rear makes the precise rib you want to remove simple to dial. Since the 220s are abundant and affordable, they are an excellent alternative to more basic block planes like the 110.
In my opinion, either Stanley 9 1⁄2 or No. 18 can’t go wrong. These two levels are completely adjustable, meaning that both the depth of the cut as well as the lateral adjustment have mechanical adjustments. Both of them have adjustable jaws, which is a valuable feature in a block plane, which may be used to cut extremely fine woods.
There are also a lot of iron bedded block designs at a low angle. This is another highly desired characteristic, and I’m more likely to achieve low-angle block designs. But when you start going into all the models and have a block plane, things spiral very fast out of hand.
As long as you get a hand plane from a large brand like as Stanley, Sargent, or Union, you will be glad with your purchase, looking for the three main characteristics (depth adjustment, lateral adjustment, and mouth adjustment).
Add the block plane to the 4 and 5 you already possess, and virtually any planning job is ready for you. Of course, these three models will probably never end your requirements, but they will get you started.
Jonathan is a veteran tree surgeon and arborist. He talks about the things he loved about this profession and how it is one of the best professions out there.
Professional tree surgeons are constantly on call, always ready to risk their lives for the sake of a client’s property or business. The job has its definite risks, but with that comes amazing rewards. Here he shares his knowledge to anything related to woodworking!