View Full Version : beginning w/ planes on the cheap

David Arcoleo
03-17-2003, 4:34 PM
While I have aggressively aquired a large collection of power tools in the last year, my hand tool collection is pathetic. I have two very cheap stanley planes that I can't seem to get right.

My question is this - I have temporarily limited funds, so should I buy the set of taiwanese planes from leevalley or a single veritas plane? It will be about six months before I have $$ for another plane, but I really want to learn them. Has anyone ever seen the wooden ones leevalley sells? Are they worth buying?


Jim DeLaney
03-17-2003, 5:26 PM
Don't go cheap! You'll end up being sorry, and buying again to replace them.

First, for your existing Stanleys, go to woodcentral.com, and find the "Badger Pond Articles" section. Download the article "Nineteen Steps..." by R.J. Whelen. It's the best tutorial I've seen for tuning up old planes.

I'm not familiar with Lee Valleys cheaper planes, but I do have three of the Veritas planes, and they're probably the best value for your dollar that's out there. Lie Neilson planes are excellent, but a bit pricier than LV.

Swap meets, flea markets, and even Ebay are good sources for used planes. Look for older Stanleys (WWII or earlier). There are loads of them out there in pretty good shape. Start with a #3, #4, and a #5. For block planes, I like the 60, and the (harder to find) 65 "knuckle cap."

Believe me when I say that getting into planes can be a very 'slippery slope.' I started with a #3 and a #5. I think I have around eighty of them now... all types and sizes, several different brands...

David Arcoleo
03-17-2003, 5:36 PM
My problem is that the power tool hobby is also slippery. In under a year, I went from a craftsman circular saw to a nice cabinet saw, alot of the dewalt tools, a nice 8" jointer, a bandsaw, etc.

I was hoping the neaderthal way was a rougher slope. Besides Knight planes, what sort of wood planes do people buy? What's the average price?


Alan Hamilton
03-17-2003, 6:58 PM

Before I made any big decisions on how to spend limited resources (I'm in the same boat) I'd do a careful evaluation of what work I wanted to do with planes. The work you want to do with them will dictate which planes you should be looking for, and to some extent, the quality of the plane you need. (Re, the quality: I just got a scrub plane. Because I rarely need to use a scrub plane I did not buy the best I could get. I got one plenty good enough, but I didn't spend nearly as much as I would have if I used one all the time.)

So, what work are you planning to do with your planes?

I agree not to buy cheap. You'll only wind up buying the same tool twice.


Joe Tonich
03-17-2003, 7:19 PM
a L/N rabbet block plane for $150. (See post on PT forum)Looked at the Stanley #92 shoulder plane also for $94. For the price difference the L/N would do more for me than the #92. Also, I didn't want to be in the "I wish I would have gotten the ...." syndrome, if you know what I mean! Also, it was set to go right out of the box. I posted in the PT forum as that was where I posted for help for tennons and it was their advice (and the two from this one) that brought me to buy a plane. Get a good one and you won't be sorry.


Tom Scott
03-17-2003, 7:21 PM
To further what the others have said...don't buy cheap, and know what you want/need before you buy.
My recommendation is to do as Jim suggested and follow RJ's steps to tune up the planes that you have. Even the cheap-o planes can be made to be somewhat serviceable. It will be harder to get them there, but it can be done. So, take what you have, tune them the absolute best you can, and use them. Try them on different woods, different applications. Try jointing, smoothing, etc. to see what they can do.
You may find that you absolutely hate that sweet swiiiiish of a micro-thin piece of wood being sliced off, or you may fall in love with it. If the former, no loss. You have a serviceable plane for that odd occation you need it. if you like it, try to figure how you plan to use them...final smoothing, flattening of large panels, edge decorations, jointing (I'm guessing probably not this one), trimming joints, whatever. Then find and buy the best you can. Don't limit yourself to new planes only. With your experience in tuning, you can get a nice old Stanley (while on Wood Central, check out the Stanley plane dating flow chart) off e-bay and have a great user.
Good luck, and let us know how it progresses.
This slope is not necessarily a cheap one (although it can be), but it is definitely easier to hide the evidence.

BTW, I hope you have good sharpening skills.

Andrew Fairbank
03-21-2003, 5:39 AM
Hi Dave,

Other than Knight, Clark & Williams make good wooden planes in the US. As well, Continental Europe still uses wooden planes so there are a lot of good manufacturers in Germany, try ECE or Ulmia as a starter.

If you end up getting a metal bodied plane, Lee-Nielsen, Clifton or Veritas/Lee Valley are all good and work well out of the box (usually) I like to set them up flatter than they are supplied, but they work just fine. To tune a hand plane, there is a good link that I posted on the 'tuning hand planes' thread below.

Follows the '19 steps' but adds pictures.

If your sharpening skills are up to scratch, you should be able to take a clean shaving off the end grain of a piece of softwood such as pine with the blade. This is the test that tradies use to determine sharpness.



Ernie Miller Topeka
03-21-2003, 2:47 PM
Take up going to one or two garage sales every weekend check the paper and go to ones in the old part of town. stop only at ones that mention tools or moving to retirement. Get some old ones cheep and then decide what you realy need. I keep a box of #3-5's in the basement hoping they will breed.

Lee Schierer
03-21-2003, 4:41 PM
I see lots of planes at the antique show we go to in Burton Ohio every spring. Some are pretty high priced, but you can find some that need a little love for a lot less. I take them apart and wire brush them with a wire wheel chucked up in my drill press and running at it's highest rpm. It will remove the rust in no time. I scary sharp the blade and wax all the wood parts with Johnson Paste wax. I check the sole to see how flat it is and lap it if necessary before assembling the whole thing.

PS. Nice to se your post Ernie!!!

David Arcoleo
03-22-2003, 4:02 AM
Well, I decided to cancel my order for my 75" jointer and instead bought the LV low-angle block and the 4 1/2. I also bought about $400 of other accessories from LV. Everything I could think of from fixtures to glues to books, many hand saws, vices (to make a bench) etc.

Currently, as I mentioned I own a $10 stanley block plane and a $40 #4. I also own a $12 miter saw and $1 bow saw. This is the extent of my hand tools. As of next week I'll have half a dozen nice (not exotic) saws, two good planes, and everything I need to make a good bench. I'm very excited. It just recently hit me that I am a rather slow worker so I don't need tools that do things super fast and I'm getting tired of too many large power tools. I may as well get more enjoyment out of this and be able to put most of my expensive tools in suitcase. I realize that I use my drill press (large, floor-standing) less than once a week, I used my mortiser once (to test it), the chizels (cheap, $100) also once. The only powertools I actually use a lot are my tablesaw and sanders (I have scrapers on order to take care of the sander). I have two routers and a shaper that I got really cheap ($350 for the jet) so it will come in good use.

Funny how once you start to convert, what once looked like attractive large power-tools now looks rediculous. It seems to me the only power tool I want to buy now is a good bandsaw. I suppose I should be thankful for my lunchbox planer though. Should I sell my drill press for two more planes? :)

Anyway, what do most neanders value most? I know planes get talked about a lot, but say, what sort of saws do you use, what do you do in place of a router? How do you get the accuracy of a cabinet saw w/o one? Do you use plywoods? How do you deal with such delicate veneer?


Alan Hamilton
03-23-2003, 6:35 PM

I think the tool I use more than any other is my #7 jointer (believe it or not). I use it to flatten panels as well as to joint edges. It's a Record I picked up brand new and dirt cheap at a widow's sale a decade or so ago. I added a Clifton iron and two piece cap iron which turbo-charged it. It's a pleasure to use.

Saws: I have a bow saw with a rip blade, and I made a frame for it for more accurate long cuts. I have a Stanley tool chest saw (IIRC) with some very aggresive cross-cut teeth; it speeds right through most stock, almost as fast as a power jig saw, but it leaves a very rough edge. I also have six back saws. I have three "dovetail" saws, two of which came with cross-cut teeth; I refiled one of them with rip teeth; the other dovetail saw is a Lie-Nielsen (another tool that's a pleasure to use). I have three "tenon" saws: two came with cross-cut teeth. The other tenon saw was the Garrett-Wade "western style" with Japanese style teeth; it was useless set up like that, so I re-toothed it with rip teeth, as I did one of the other tenon saws. That's all the saws I have thus far needed.

I have been very wary around routers ever since one spit out a bit at me some twenty-five years ago. I know I still own one, but I haven't used it for many years, and I'm not sure where it is. I have a multi-plane, which in combination with a LN beading tool and home-made scratch stocks, do everything I used to do with a router.

Accuracy is a matter of practice with the tools I have--and accuracy is still a long way off. I carefully mark my cut lines, but I don't try to split my lines with a saw except on small, fine work like dovetails and tenons. On cross cuts I rely on a shooting board to split the lines; on rip cuts I drag out the jointer plane.

If I was better with my saws I would save myself some time. But I enjoy wood working, and I enjoy it much more since I began using hand tools. So why do something that shortens the time I spend doing it?