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Thread: Do you need more than a basic bench plane set?

  1. #1
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    Do you need more than a basic bench plane set?

    Hi everyone,

    I've been building up my hand tool kit to focus on old school craftsmanship and have been following the thread about Veritas's next tool. Many seem to want a no 3.

    Reading The Practical Woodworker had led me to believe that 3 bench planes should be in the basic hand tool set. I was thinking scrub plane for my next acquisition.

    Having grown up in a block plane tradition, do I want one or more of the smaller bench planes? Are there jobs for which a block plane is unsuitable and a no 4 is too bulky?

    For reference, I have a Miller's Falls no 9, Stanley 605C, Griffiths 22" try plane, and several block planes.

    Going into new territory by choosing to try Neanderthal mode, any advice is appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Kory
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  2. #2
    I have been doing historic woodworking since 1970 and am a full time professional. I have never owned a power tool.

    The historic bench plane kit is jack plane, trying plane, jointer plane, smoother plane and maybe a strike block plane. There are occasional extra planes like a long plane (short jointer) or a foreplane that is slightly different from a jack. When we see an old shop inventory with planes, we usually divide by four or five to figure how many men worked there. Historic drawings often have four planes on the shelf under the bench.

    I use these bench planes:
    1. wooden jack plane 43 degrees
    2. wooden trying plane 43 degrees
    3. #7 jointer 45 degrees
    4. #3 smoother 45 degrees
    5. #4 smoother altered to 42 degrees and used on end grain.

    This list is unchanged since 1983. I stopped using block planes in 1976.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    I have been doing historic woodworking since 1970 and am a full time professional. I have never owned a power tool.

    The historic bench plane kit is jack plane, trying plane, jointer plane, smoother plane and maybe a strike block plane. There are occasional extra planes like a long plane (short jointer) or a foreplane that is slightly different from a jack. When we see an old shop inventory with planes, we usually divide by four or five to figure how many men worked there. Historic drawings often have four planes on the shelf under the bench.

    I use these bench planes:
    1. wooden jack plane 43 degrees
    2. wooden trying plane 43 degrees
    3. #7 jointer 45 degrees
    4. #3 smoother 45 degrees
    5. #4 smoother altered to 42 degrees and used on end grain.

    This list is unchanged since 1983. I stopped using block planes in 1976.
    Hi Warren, curious what other planes you use such as rabbet (or fillester?), plow, etc.? Also, what is a basic chisel set? I am quite sure that you have crafted some beautiful projects over many years with fewer tools than most or all of us.

    Thanks for your contributions here and help.

    Kevin

  4. #4
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    Thanks Warren,

    I can see how a real, dedicated hand work bench could get me away from the block planes, I'm working on it.

    Are there any particular reasons to choose a no 3 for a main smoother? Could I get away with two no 4s?
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  5. #5
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    Careful....these things do get very addicting..
    IMG_7008 (640x480).jpg

    I tend to size the plane to the work I am doing...and yes, I still use the block planes.

    Then there is the matter of doing moldings....

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the reminder Steven. LOL.
    Note to self: Finish the work bench, drywall the shop, and then figure out how many more plane restorations I simply have to do.
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kory Cassel View Post
    Thanks for the reminder Steven. LOL.
    Note to self: Finish the work bench, drywall the shop, and then figure out how many more plane restorations I simply have to do.
    If you can find them inexpensively, why not pick them up when you see them?

    My #3s get used as often as my #4s.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #8
    I have the Veritas scrub and think it's great for working things like hard maple and yellow birch. For softer woods, it's probably overkill.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kory Cassel View Post
    Are there any particular reasons to choose a no 3 for a main smoother? Could I get away with two no 4s?
    you only need one main smoother, where it be a 3 or a 4.
    Mark Maleski

  10. #10
    In theory, you only need a jack knife and you could, in theory, build everything with that. Need is a funny word. What one person needs, is to another a frivolous waste. I think I need the dozen or so bench planes I have (plus a bunch of block planes and other specialty planes). I could get by with fewer, but it would irritate me, which defeats the propose of a hobby. It is really what you want, and what you need to do what you want. Enough epistemology for now though.

    To answer your actual question, if I had to reduce to a bare minimum (like if I had to go live in the woods), I would give a list similar to Warren's. For me I would want a smoothing plane (#3 or #4) a jack plane (#5) and a jointer plane (#7). Those lengths and sizes give you what you need to flatten, square, and finish things: the jack plane to do roughing and flattening, the jointer to edge joint, and the smoother for finishing. You can adjust angles and sets and stuff to do nearly all of what you need with those 3 bench planes (and a block plane).

    What tends to happen is that you get tired of frequently adjusting angles and sets and decide,"It would be handy to get a xxxxx, or have another xxxxx" And then you start ending up with more smoothing planes, or a #6, or whatever. Probably the handiest to have seconds of is a smoother, because it allows you to go twice as long between stopping to sharpen (it take about as long to touch up two planes as one). As far as #3s vs #4s. I like having both. You find that you start consistently reaching for one or the other for certain tasks. Having a second jack plane can be handy also, to keep one with an aggressive cut and camber, and another with less. The nice thing about #3s, #4s, and #5s is that they are very common (because they were and are the most useful and used bench planes) and if you go vintage, you can often pick them up for not much money.

    At some point if you are really into hand tool woodworking you end up down that slippery slope and have a collection that looks like Steven's or mine

    IMG_4711.jpgIMG_4713.jpg
    Last edited by Andrew Seemann; 12-09-2018 at 5:17 PM.

  11. #11
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    I also get by with just a few bench planes. I also like small block planes .
    I guess if you have a big collection of plane itís better then a book shelf filled with copyís of the same book.
    Ive been woodworking since 8 oíclock this morning.
    Aj

  12. #12
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    My most used are 4, 5 and 7. But I will say, equally used is a dedicated shooting plane. You can certainly use a standard bench plane (and I did for years), but after getting the shooting plane, Iíd never go back. Maybe itís not technically considered a bench plane, but when thinking about trueing up stock, itís now a ďneedĒ in my book.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    If you can find them inexpensively, why not pick them up when you see them?

    My #3s get used as often as my #4s.

    jtk
    Thanks Jim,

    Right now it's a matter of space. My shop remains unfinished, without climate control and I am loathe to store my 'good' tools in there.
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    I have the Veritas scrub and think it's great for working things like hard maple and yellow birch. For softer woods, it's probably overkill.
    Yeah Tyler,

    I was leaning towards a scrub plane because I've already wanted one roughing down riven stock I got from a neighbor's felled tree.
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    What tends to happen is that you get tired of frequently adjusting angles and sets and decide,"It would be handy to get a xxxxx, or have another xxxxx" And then you start ending up with more

    At some point if you are really into hand tool woodworking you end up down that slippery slope and have a collection that looks like Steven's or mine
    Thanks Andrew,

    Very interesting our concept of need when you think of some Native American traditions. Making houses and fabulous dugout canoes with a tool sort of like the short half of a broken drawknife.

    I see what you mean about having more planes set to task. I'm seriously considering making a York pitch smoother in a Krenov style. I have a 2.25" laminated Ward and Payne blade that needs a home.
    Dojo Kun, 1: Be humble and polite.

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