View Full Version : Plane and Simple Advice?

Dave Richards
09-12-2003, 8:30 AM

I'm finally going to do what I should have done years ago and get myself a couple of hand planes. Unfortunately, I am at sea when it comes to selecting them. I figure the best thing to do is ask the experts. So here I am.

I understand it is the rare plane that doesn't need any tuning when it comes out of the box. Still, I'm hoping to make my first couple of planes ones that need little in the way of tuning to ready them for use.

So, what do you say to these?

Veritas #4-1/2 for general smoothing.
Veritas Low-Angle Block Plane.

I see a shoulder plane of some sort in the near future as well.

I would use these in general furniture and cabinetry as well as some boat building.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.


Matt Woodworth
09-12-2003, 8:54 AM
I'm not as experienced in the ways of the Neanderthal as many on this forum so you might want to take my advice with a grain of salt. Having said that, I'd probably get a L-N low angle block plane and a Veritas #4 or #5. The L-N FAQ says this:

The single most useful tool is a low angle block plane. We have several, and any of them would be used every day in the shop. Next, I would consider our Low Angle Jack Plane. It is a very versatile tool, and in many peoples hands it can double as a smoothing plane. I t is also a unique tool with no other equivalent. With those two tools you can do a lot of work. Third, I might like a dedicated Smoothing Plane.

So they are pretty much in alignment with me except that my second choice is their third. We'll see what the other people on the board have to say.

Tom Scott
09-12-2003, 9:05 AM
Those are good first choices. My first plane was a #4, and it's amazing what you can do if that's all you have. For a general smoothing plane, though, the #4 1/2 is my favorite. A good block plane is also a must. I have the L-N #102 LA block, and it is always on my bench. I love that little plane.
Of course, getting these will only bring you to the edge of that slippery slope. You will soon be wanting to add a shoulder plane and a larger (#6, #7, or #8) for jointing and finishing large panels.

I'm sure some others will chime in with their recommendations.

Enjoy the slide...

Marc Hills
09-12-2003, 9:48 AM

Those two sound like excellent choices. Even if you quickly decide that a particular project requires a third plane, the #4-1/2 and L-A block are considered almost mandatory for general woodworking. You won't regret having purchased them. Make sure you invest in a good sharpening system, if you haven't done so already.

If you work with marine grade plywood, the L-A block plane in particular will be indispensible for trimming, scarfing and beveling. What sort of boatbuilding do you [plan to] do?

Maybe it's my inexperience, but I don't understand Lie-Nelson's recommendation of a low angle jack plane as a second plane choice after a low angle block, and ahead of a regular pitch smoothing plane. Seems like with the low angle jack as your only smoother, you would be at a real disadvantage working with tight and tricky grained woods that are subject to tear out. While the L-A jack is an ideal shooting plane, I've heard that the Veritas (and the Lie-Nelson) L-A block are massive enough to trim end grain effectively with a shooting board.

Jim Becker
09-12-2003, 9:48 AM
Even those of us who have lots of power cords lying about can appreciate the L-N low angle block plane. I rarely ever used a hand plane prior to picking this beauty up at a show two years ago and now it's one of my favorite tools...and it gets used. I highly recommend this tool! My other planes are mediocre (a Record #4 and an old Stanley #26 that I found at a flea market) but even those work acceptably since I learned how to tune them up a bit and actually sharpen the iron. (Garrett Hack's book was quite helpful to me on that)

The Veritas planes look like nice tools for a reasonable cost. I'm sure that the pros will have a better idea about them than I, but when I've handled them at shows I found them to be solid and well made. Lee Valley is also trying to do some innovation in their planes it appears, so I'll be watching to see how well they get accepted by woodworkers who know planes. Not everybody can afford a L-N or one of those custom jobbies that folks post about here in this forum!

Dave Anderson NH
09-12-2003, 10:48 AM
This is one of the biggest questions for someone just starting on the hand tool side of woodworking. There are unfortunately as many opinions as there are woodworkers. And depending on intended use and perspective, almost all of them are pretty valid. For general woodworking use, I think you have made very good choices. Lee Valley/Veritas has, to my way of thinking, the best cost to performance ratio of all of the hand tool makers. That is not to say that there aren't equal or better quality tools, there are. As a for instance, I own several Stanley Bailey #3 and #4 smothers, a L-N #4 1/2 with both the regular and the York Pitch frog, a beater Craftsman of somewhat dubious vintage (my first smoother), a Clark & Williams wooden coffin smoother with a 55 degree iron, and I'm currently building a Shepherd Tool Spiers style infill smoother kit. With the exception of the dubious Craftsman, all perform well and have some area in which they excell over the others. I believe that the LV 4 1/2 will give you a great start and with its easily adjustable frog will allow you to do both initial and final smoothing on most normal wood. The LV low angle block plane is also a very fine choice and in my case is the most heavily used of my 3 block planes. I can quibble about it being less pretty than the L-N, but it performs equally well and is a whole lot less expensive.

In summary, you have made good choices and won't be disappointed. Most likely you will be soon adding a shoulder plane, a fore or jointer plane, and a low angle smoother to your arsenal. Remember, there's no rule saying you can't have multiple brands and variations of a particular type of plane and most likely you will. Welcome to the slippery slope, mind your footing now.

Robert Waddell
09-12-2003, 10:53 AM
The LA block, and a block are two of the first ones you will want. I would tend to lean more toward a #5 Jack if I had to just pick one other. The #5 can be used as a smoother or a joiner and is considered to be the most versatile hand plane.

Dave Richards
09-12-2003, 12:21 PM

Thank you so much for your opinions and suggestions. I truly appreciate your replies. Thank you also for being encouraging. Even for encouraging me to step over the edge and on to that "slippery slope." I had a pretty good idea that these two planes are only the beginning.

Marc, I just finished up this
I want to do some more traditionally built boats but it looks the next one will be a wee little pram as a cradle for the baby I just found out we're having.

Dave Richards
09-12-2003, 12:30 PM
By the way, Veritas L-A Block plane with adjustable mouth for $99.00 (Lee Valley) or the Lie-Nielsen 102 at $95.00?

Marc Hills
09-12-2003, 1:04 PM
Unless I'm mistaken, that's the Julie K aka the Submarine. And that must make you DaveR1 from Woodnet. I'm still sorting through the personalities from my favorite forums. Where did you get the plans?

Congratulations on the your new little apprentice. A scaled down Nutshell pram would make a nifty little cradle.

Tom Scott
09-12-2003, 1:14 PM
Nice little boat you got there. Did you build it from scratch, or was it a renovation? It's hard to tell what type of rigging you have from the picture...sloop or cat-rigged?
I have always wanted to build a wooden sail boat. I can't think of a better way to combine my two favorite hobbies. Unfortunately, that is waaaay down on my list right now.
Congrats on the new addition on the way. When we had (sniff...sob) our 26 footer, my kids loved going on it.


Matthew Springer
09-12-2003, 1:17 PM
I went trough this up at the top of the slippery slope with my LV LA Block plane. Lots of money later I've still not sighted bottom.

Get a LN low angle adjustable mouth block plane. I've got the Lee Valley one and it's very nice too, but you'll end up buying LN planes later, you may as well get em all to match. I use my block plane all the time, so get the best you can.

As far as bench planes, I find I only need to do two things with planes. Make things straight and make things smooth.

So if you can only get two real planes, get a LN #7 jointer and a 4-1/5 High angle smoother. If you can only get one big plane, get the 5-1/2 jack plane instead.

I got the 5-1/2 and the 4-1/2 HA, but I'm about to go buy the #7 after which, I don't expect 'll use the 5-1/2 much.

Seeing as how you and SWMBO are expecting, you may just want to stick to a block plane and a 5-1/2, but I am defiantely coveting a #7 for my birthday.


Dave Richards
09-12-2003, 1:51 PM
Marc, you are correct. That would be Julie K aka "The Submarine". And I would be Dave R1 over there. the plans came fromStevenson Projects (http://www.stevproj.com/) in California.

Thank you re the apprentice. I have Ian Oughtred's Feather Pram plans that I was thinking of scaling down but a friend of mine who has been making cradle prams for awhile just did a new design that looks pretty shapr. He's sending me drawings for it and I'll probably build his design.

Tom, she was built from scratch. She's a gaff rigged sloop called a Weekender. She's supposed to be a boat that two could spend the weekend in sort of camping. My brother says it wouldn't be a weekend but rather a couple of bad days. :p

Well, I guess I'll go spend some money. Thanks guys.

Ed Falis
09-12-2003, 2:29 PM

The boat's beautiful, and congrats on the new family member.

I have the LV low angle block and love it. The LN at the same price is (I think) the one without the adjustable throat. The one with it runs (again, I think) around $135.

- Ed

Alan Turner
09-12-2003, 5:38 PM
I am a bit further down the slippery slope than you, and so will offer my thoughts, but there are far more experienced planers out there, I know. I have not used the LV, but do have the LN LA Adjustable mouth. A couple of years ago I thought I would get into the use of a shooting board, and found that the sides of the LN 60 1/2 were not quite square. So, I called LN, and then sent it to them, they ground it dead on square, and sent it back to me, quickly, at no charge. With those good thoughts in mind, I didn't get serious about shooting, till recently. I was invited to teach and adult educ. night school course in wood, and was afraid of not being able to teach proper safety on power tools. A bad injury would have lived with me for a long time, not to mention the fingerless student, so I opted for "Furn. joinery with hand tools." Then I had to get to work to polish/learn a bit, since I use many power tools. So, I built a small cross grain shooting board per the David Charlesworth article. I have used the board a bunch, and have never gotten such square ends on stock. What a pleasure. Absolutely perfect, both ways, with a starrett sq. Can't wait to cut the next drawer sides and trim them up. So the LN LA Adj. mouth would be my first choice without doubt.
For a second, there is room for debate in my mind. I have my Dad's Stanley No. 5 Bailey, from the 50's. It is a fair workhorse, but I am not a true neandrathal, so it does not get as much use as one might think. I do appreciate the feel of a hand planed surface, and for that I have the HNT Gordon Smoother. With it I can smooth curly maple, with no tear out. Pretty amazing tool.
Another possible choice for a second is some kind of a plane that has the iron through to the side. Here I have a LN Rabbet block, and I love it for fitting tenons. (The slope story: I just got the LV Shoulder, but haven't used it enough to comment yet.) I have other planes as well, of course.
One final comment on the slope, just in case you don't appreciate how slippery wet ice really is. My teaching fee (I didn't agree to teach for the money) was just spent on the LN Iron Miter. Shooting with a plane is just awesome. Only had it a few days, so no comment yet, but it is a beauty.
have a good slide.
[This is my first post here, so I hope I have done this correctly.]

Nate Heffter
09-15-2003, 11:29 AM
By the way, Veritas L-A Block plane with adjustable mouth for $99.00 (Lee Valley) or the Lie-Nielsen 102 at $95.00?

Excuse me for jumping in on this post, but I'm saving up for this same purchase, so I thought I'd throw it out there. A veritas LA is $99, but the LN is $145 for the adjustable mouth, or $95 for the fixed mouth. Is this worth the extra 50 bucks? When would you open that mouth up on a LA, considering its endgrain applications this seems not too useful, or maybe I'm missing something.

Jim Becker
09-15-2003, 11:37 AM
Excuse me for jumping in on this post, but I'm saving up for this same purchase, so I thought I'd throw it out there. A veritas LA is $99, but the LN is $145 for the adjustable mouth, or $95 for the fixed mouth. Is this worth the extra 50 bucks? When would you open that mouth up on a LA, considering its endgrain applications this seems not too useful, or maybe I'm missing something.

I paid $135 for my L-N low angle adjustable mouth at a show. It only looks small...it feels big and has a lot of mass to it. I find it to be "slinky" and very comfortable in the hand. As an only occasional "Neander", that's a good thing for me! I've not used the Lee Valley tool, but I'm sure it's a very nice piece...they don't mess around and also stand by their products.

Dave Richards
09-15-2003, 12:55 PM
Well guys, thanks for all the help and advice. I have taken the first step over the edge. I feel a bit like Wile E. Coyote a split second after he shoots over the edge of a cliff and is just hanging there waiting to fall. :D

I ordered the Veritas #4-1/2 and the LN LA Block plane without the adjustable mouth (hope that wasn't a mistake). Since it's only the beginning, I think it was a good start.

Dhanks again.


Sean Evoy
09-15-2003, 4:21 PM
I have the LV low-angle block plane, but I had a chance to try out my instructor's L-N at the Rosewood Studio. The L-N is a beautiful plane, no doubt about it. However, in terms of mass (which is important) and ease of adjustment (both the mouth opening and the depth/lateral control), the LV is comparable to the L-N, despite being less expensive. I'm glad I saved a bit of cash without comproomising functionality, if for no other reason than to finance a few new purchases.

Greg Quenneville
09-16-2003, 10:47 AM
Dave...You won't regret the LN purchase. I have a friend who ended up with both it and the adjustable mouth and uses them both. He also has the LV 4 1/2 which I pointed out to him when he was just starting out. The wood here in Australia can be tough on blades, and his LV crumbles easily. They don't seem too anxious to replace his blade, but your woods ARE more edge-tool friendly. (It does seem a nice tool otherwise)Since then he's purchased a six or seven LN planes- smoother, too. (He married a surgeon.) I barely qualify here, having only fifty or sixty hand planes myself, but wanted to weigh in with the suggestion that flea market or antique dealer planes (or eBay) might also meet your needs. Most of my bench planes are old Stanleys, some with upgraded bladed/chipbreakers which work very well. You can tune them as little or as much as you want and your work demands. One question I didn't see asked is "what kind of wood?". With softwoods, the standard angle planes work well, as they were designed to. Once you start getting into wilder grain you'll need higher (and sometimes, perversely, lower angle) planes. The planes you've bought are a great start, but it is a slippery slope (I started out with one). Enjoy, and let your experiences and reading take you as far as you want to go. Next thing you know you'll be sanding less and smilling more.

Dave Richards
09-16-2003, 1:44 PM
Just thought I'd share something that Ron Hock wrote in an e-mail reply to a message I sent earlier today.

"As for the slippery slope: donít worry, some of us have been busy
greasing it for you so you wonít get any friction burns on The Slide to

Mommy! :eek: :D

Eric Sanford
09-16-2003, 3:56 PM
Hi Dave, just sent you an email.....if you want to come up to the cities you can test drive any of my planes to see if that helps your decision-making process. I can also show you the water stone sharpening set up so you can compare that to Scary Sharp.

Congrats to you and Kari on the wonderful news.....of course, now you need to build that bigger boat to handle three plus the dog! :D


Dave Richards
09-16-2003, 4:10 PM
Thank you Eric, I'll probably take you up on that offer.

Next boat will be about 46" long? After that, 46 feet! In my dreams.