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Thread: 3 planes for a power tool user suggestions?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    LA & SC neither one is Cali

    3 planes for a power tool user suggestions?

    What three planes would you suggest to cover the most ground in a fully electrified shop? LV and/or LN is the price range.

    My initial thoughts are a LA block, medium shoulder and a LA smoother or similar.


  2. #2
    my input is not worth much, but decide what you want to do with a plane and then decide what to get. I would recommend buying a book on planes (the Hack one is great, and I am sure that Chris S. book is great, too).

    FYI - I really like my LV "apron plane" better than my "full sized" LA block plane. It easily fits in one hand.
    I really like my LV medium shoulder plane. I also like my LV router plane for trimming.

    I would strongly recommend a #3 or #4 plane jane smoothing plane. Learn to sharpen it. Use it for a final finish on a surface rather than sanding and you will never look back.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Red face

    I think we should have macro button that automatically enters the text "it depends".

    Guys around here love their bevel up jacks (I assume that's what you meant by low angle smoother?). I couldn't afford a "premium" smoother, I can't see that being a bad choice. Shoulder planes are nice. Mine is a woodie, better described as a rabbet plane, but it does the job...I'd like a 92 though. I don't know that all newer models convert into chisel planes, or if that's even a feature shoulder plane users even value. I'd be interested to know that myself.

    That LN apron plane feels tiny. I felt like will smith in MIB when they gave him "the mighty cricket" gun. I held it between my thumb and forefinger like it was a dirty sock. People love them though. I'm just being silly, I'm sure it is awesome.
    Last edited by john brenton; 02-01-2011 at 12:39 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Pleasant Grove, UT
    Quote Originally Posted by Van Huskey View Post
    What three planes would you suggest to cover the most ground in a fully electrified shop? LV and/or LN is the price range.

    My initial thoughts are a LA block, medium shoulder and a LA smoother or similar.

    You're on the right track. Block, Smoother, Shoulder... pretty soon you'll be accelerating down the slippery slope... I'd suggest you just bite the bullet and go with premium planes. Costs more, but less hassle. YMMV.
    It came to pass...
    "Curiosity is the ultimate power tool." - Roy Underhill
    The road IS the destination.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Livermore, CA
    3 planes is limiting. With only 3, I'd ask what you want to do with hand planes? Do you want to do surface prep so that you won't be sanding? Or do you want to fit joinery?

    In general, you use very different planes for those tasks.

    on the neverending quest for wood.....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    LA & SC neither one is Cali
    So for the smoother what would be the most versatile? The Veritas LA jack or BU smoother?

    Does everyone agree the med shoulder and LA block make the most sense for the other two?

  7. #7
    I don't own any shoulder planes. I find it far easier to simply cut right to my line in the first place. Especially if you're mostly a power tool user, I don't really see how much use you'll get out of a shoulder plane as you should be able to make your cuts precisely.

    I wish I knew what kind of work you did. I always thought the three most useful for power tool users were a block plane, a jack and a smoother. I happen to have a Veritas low angle block and BU smoother. I also have a LN No.6 (which is in Fore Plane territory but I use it as a jack). I like having something like that around because it lets me knock off the really bad spots when rough wood comes into my shop. That makes initial face jointing much simpler.

    The Low Angle Smoother can be used on a shooting board. The Bevel Up smoother can't (it doesn't have flat sides). I use my #6 on the shooting board anyway so that doesn't bother me. The BU smoother is a tank. I really enjoy using it. If you were going to get the shoulder plane anyway, I would lean towards the LAS as it's a little more versatile.

    Another plane I really LOVE is my LN Model Maker's place. I can trim a little here and there very precisely. I wouldn't give that one up for anything.
    Last edited by John Coloccia; 02-01-2011 at 6:15 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Here's my vote (although I agree, that three is limiting):

    1. LN 5 1/2 jack plane, tuned as a cambered bevel smoother like David Charlesworth describes. I use this all the time for fine tuning wood pieces along their length before cutting the jointery. This is for really doing precision work.
    2. LV Bevel Up Low angle jack plane, for use with a shooting board for fine tuning the ends of boards.
    3. LN standard angle block plane - for chamfers and doing smaller work

    A #4 smoother might be a good substitute for the LN 5 1/2 if you just need to swipe your boards to get rid of table saw/planer marks... but since hand cut boards tend to need more fiddling to get them dimensioned, I think the 5 1/2 gives more versitility... and leaves the boards smooth enough for most work.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Marlborough, Massachusetts
    Blog Entries
    I would recommend the LN 60 1/2 R N. Its a Rabbit Block Plane. You can cut shoulders with it like a shoulder plane because the iron extends to the edge of the sole, but it's set up like a block plane and tackles block plane tasks very well. I use this plane all the time (see avatar). I would also be lost without my smoother (4 1/2) and my jointer (8).
    My blog:

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
    I second the Rabbet block (although I don't own one). But for someone who is cutting most joints with power tools, that would be very good for tuning joints (e.g. cheeks and shoulders) and for low angle block plane tasks.

    For a second plane, get anything in the #4 - 6 range depending on what you want to do. If you want to clean up long edge joints go larger. Otherwise, I'm sure any premium smoother or jack would be good. A low angle jack (either LN or LV) would be the most versatile.

    If you don't already have a sharpening method skip the 3rd plane and get yourself some stones and a honing guide if you need one.

    If you're set up for sharpening, than your third plane could be a a number of things. Perhaps a dedicated shoulder plane, or an adjustable mouth block plane (the rabbet block mouth is not adjustable) or a router plane, which is very handy for any recess work (hinges, etc...)

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Marietta GA
    If you have the budget for 3 LN/LV planes, I would suggest you leverage it a little differently.

    You need a jack plane to initially prepare stock. Buy a Steve Knight razee jack. It will do the job brilliantly and save you bucks for other planes. Initial jack plane work is usually taking 4 ~ 6 thou shavings so the plane doing the work doesn't have to have a perfect sole etc. It works better with a extremely flat sole but it's not a requirement to do good work. The Knight jack has a ipe sole and will make the initial stock prep a lot more enjoyable than a heavier metal plane.

    Next I'd buy a #7 or #8 LN. LV is also good but choice is either a #6 or a bevel up jointer. The LN #7 is $150 more than the LV bevel up jointer but IMO is a perfect jointer. Either will do the job, the LN #7 is best IMO.

    I'd also recommend a LN 60 1/2 low angle block plane. This is a perfect plane for end grain, edge softening, and all kinds of stock adjustments that make it a handy item for sure.

    Last I recommend either the LN 4 1/2, the LN Bronze #4, or the LV 4 1/2 smoother's. The LV is the cheapest of the three and does an excellent job with a lower center of gravity which is a very nice advantage in tougher hardwoods. Very good adjuster too. If you are feeling a bit adventuresome, a Japanese kanna in the $250 price range will give you excellent results and a superior blade IMO. Has a bit of a learning curve but really can handle any knarly wood you throw it on. The N T Gordon Ebony smoother is also a very good choice with a brass supported mouth and will take extremely fine shavings and about half the price of the LN choices. It's also can be quickly blade reversed for a fairly decent scraper setup.

    Last I'd recommend some card scrapers. Invaluable in final surface prep and will cut your sandpaper expenses to almost zero.

    Enjoy the shavings.

  12. #12
    LN # 102 low angle or standard angle for fine work - end grain or just adjusting/refining a surface. Small plane that punches way above it's weight. My favourite plane.
    LN # 4, York pitch frog - the surface smoother! You could go 4 1/2 as well, more money, more work to push.

    The third plane is a tough one to recommend. A shoulder plane for joinery? The all 'round block rabbet which does may things well and could replace the 102 but just isn't as sweet to use? Even with machines the #7 is great to have to really get tight edge joints for glue ups and panel flattening.

    The 4 can be used on a shooting board no problem. You'll appreciate what a shooting board can do for you.


    Why not just get the two planes I recommend and hold off on the third until you have some handplane experience and then make the right buy on the third. You will be spending money on sharpening remember!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Annapolis, MD
    A low-angle jack plane can give you a taste of the wide range of jobs a bench plane is good for. A couple of irons sharpened with different secondary bevels would give you a general purpose smoother and a high-angle smoother for use on highly figured woods. It'll shoot end grain. It'll clean up tear-out from your jointer and planer without introducing big hollows in the board. A toothing iron or cambered plain iron will let you roughly flatten a board face too wide for your jointer -- flat enough to take it to the planer without danger. The Lie-Nielsen is gorgeous, the Veritas is a bit more utilitarian in appearance. I prefer the adjustment mechanism on the Veritas, but that's largely a personal preference. The Veritas' tote is more upright -- designed to be used with a higher (power-tool oriented) workbench.

    A good sharpening kit is absolutely essential. A couple of good waterstones (1000 grit and 8000 grit would be a good place to start) and a method to keep them flat (a DMT coarse/extra-coarse diamond plate works beautifully for me) will help make your first plane experience a good one. I'm using Naniwa "Superstones" with great results -- the big advantage is that they don't need to be soaked prior to use. Just a spritz of water and you're ready to hone. Shaptons are very well regarded, too. A sharpening jig makes the learning curve a bit less steep, especially for an occasional sharpener. Plus, if you're going the bevel-up route a jig makes keeping a consistent secondary bevel easy as can be. I like the Veritas MkII with the camber roller. The inexpensive Eclipse-style does a nice job, too.

    I'd think about plane 2 and 3 after you've got this setup singing for you. You'll have a clearer idea of what's involved, and what you want your next planes to do for you. Once the hook is set, there are plenty of tool pushers around here to reel you in...
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers --
    joined in the serious business of keeping our food,
    shelter, clothing and loved ones from combining
    with oxygen.
    -- Kurt Vonnegut

  14. #14
    The trinity of bench planes was traditionally the long or try plane, jack or fore plane, and the smooth plane. That's where I would start as they afford you the greatest range of possibilities/opportunities. But these are surface planes. I think it's interesting that so many would suggest what I would call "fitting" planes (planes for joint making). I would think these planes produce joints that are fairly easily produce on machines.

    So I think I change my answer. If you want to get involved with hand planed boards for the esthetics of it, I recommend the traditional planes I suggested above. And i woudln't recommend the low angle planes, despite the fact that people love them.

    If you are looking for a few planes to tinker with, planes to assist your machines, look to a shoulder plane, a skew rabbet, and I think a #8 say. Some honking big jointer. Some guys clamp these in their bench vises and push small bits over them almost like a power jointer.


  15. #15
    Myself I am not a big block plane fan and would put my money into a small bench plane or sharpening tools..
    Getting into hand tools is a slippery slope as you need a whole array or sharpening tools to go alone with the bench tools
    aka rarebear - Hand Planes 101 - RexMill - The Resource

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