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Thread: 3 planes for a power tool user suggestions?

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Pleasant Grove, UT
    Posts
    780
    As noted, exactly what sort of work you're doing plays a big role in plane selection. That said, I think I should explain the thinking behind my suggestion of the shoulder plane.

    Several responses have noted that if you just "cut to the line", you won't need a shoulder plane. This is true. So, how often do you manage to cut precisely to the line for all pieces? Just as importantly, how long does it take you to set up the cuts to that precision? (Remember, he's a power tool shop looking to add hand tools to his repetoire, he's not {currently} going Full Galoot.) One of the most illuminating articles I read once was an interview with a well regarded custom furniture maker. He had a fully equipped shop with large machines. His go to planes? Block, smoother, and shoulder. The block and smoother elicited no notice, being pretty much standard in that respect, but the interviewer asked him about the shoulder plane. His answer? It allowed him to save time. He didn't have to spend nearly as much time dialing in the precision on the machines for tenons. Cut, test, cut, test, etc. He simply set his machine up to make the tenon a bit oversized, and then a few swipes with the shoulder plane and the fit was perfect.

    Consider the aggravation savings for the hobbyist. I'm pretty sure that the maker in my example could go through the cut/test routine a lot faster than I could, and he'd probably be a bit more sanguine about screwing up a piece by taking too much off, since he probably has both more stock, and quite possibly some additional blanks already milled. Me, I'd prefer to avoid the aggravation.

    So, if you do a lot of mortise and tenon joinery, then the shoulder plane deserves serious consideration. If you don't, then it can be picked up further down the slope.

    In truth, you could do 95% of your "bench plane" work with the aformentioned rabbet block plane. Yes, you can flatten a conference table top with it. It will simply take a LOT longer (and more skill) than doing so with a large jointer. Heck, you could do it with a 1/2" chisel. (Basically what a CNC router would do.) The jointer makes the job simpler and/or better and/or quicker. And that's all we're asking our tools to do for us. So what sort of work will you be doing? If you work a lot of large panels and the like, then look at a jointer (#6,7 or 8). If most of your work is small dovetailed jewelry boxes, then a LA block plane and a #3 or #4 smoother are the order of the day, along with a router plane for hinge mortises and such. If you use Dominos, pocket screws, dovetails, or dowels rather than traditional M&T joints, then skip the shoulder plane, but if you do a lot of M&T work, the shoulder plane could become your bestest plane buddy. If you work extensively with plywood, making lots of rabbets and dados and such, then maybe a block plane, rabbet plane and side rabbet or plow plane are your best options. If you get all your wood rough and gnarly, and you build large panels but only have a 6" jointer, then maybe a scrub plane is called for. Each plane has a set of tasks it makes simpler, better or quicker, and there's a lot of overlap between planes. What are the challenges that have arisen that you want to use handplanes to address? Dial in the answer to that question, and you'll dial in the answer to your question.

    I was recently re-reading an issue of American Woodworker (a powertool biased magazine), and they covered precisely the question you've asked. Two planes, they suggested a block plane and jack plane. For three planes, they suggest block, smoother and jointer. FWW had an article on the "8 Must Have hand tools" (I think it was eight, coulda been more). Block, smoother, jointer, shoulder were the planes in the list.

    Good luck, and don't forget to show pics of your new beasties when you get them.
    It came to pass...
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    The road IS the destination.

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    9,807
    Van,

    After reading all of this my question was going to be about what power tools will you be complimenting, what types of stock you use and what do you plan to build.

    It seems John and others have gotten to the same questions in different ways.

    My opinion is that it is difficult to have many "wrong" planes. My shop is home to something like 60 and though there is some redundancy, in most cases, each one has its own best purpose.

    Then there is also the matter of how each plane feels in your hands. For the "standard" smoother, the choice in most cases is between the #3, 4 & 4-1/2 size. They all do good work, but if one is doing a lot of different things, the #4 may be the safe choice. If one is mostly working large areas, the the #4-1/2 may be the best choice. If one's work is almost exclusively small jewelry boxes and such then the #3 may be better for the job.

    This is a very common question that doesn't have a "one size fits all" answer.

    One thing that does come to mind is the LA block plane. It seems a far stretch to suggest there is a wood shop on this planet that can not find a use for one of these. It then gets down to which one fits your hands or needs best. My shop has 5 in 2 sizes. They are mostly set to different cut depths. They get used for end grain shooting, edge breaking, edge shaping, small area touch up and many other uses. So many choices, so little wallet.

    If you get an opportunity to feel these in your hand before buying, take it.

    A shoulder plane is a good choice for cleaning up mortise and tenon work. They also come in handy with lap joints and rabbets. It is a specialty plane that may not get a lot of use if you are not doing a lot of joinery that can benefit from one.

    Beyond commenting on the use and value of different planes, it is really next to impossible to make a good suggestion on what would be best for your needs without actually knowing what your needs might be. A little touch up after power tool work does not make a lot of sense to a guy like me since there isn't much power tool use in my shop. My band saw is a real wimp and doesn't really count for much.

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

  3. #18
    Knowing how much bandsaw work you do, I think a good #4 smoother is in order. I like my bevel up Veritas smoother.

    I also think a block plane is a great thing to have. You might consider the rabbet block plane from LN. It'll let you do most things a regular LA block and some things a shoulder plane will do. Two birds with one stone...

    The third would depend on what you do. If you want to flatten stock, a #7 or even #5. If you want to clean up yr joinery, then perhaps a router plane.

  4. #19
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    445
    If only three here's what I would buy:

    LN 60 1/2 RN (block / shoulder)
    LN 5 1/2 (large smoother / jack / shooter)
    LN 8 (flattener / shooter)

    Now if you are doing smaller work (boxes, etc.) drop the 8 and get a LN 4 (or 4 1/2).
    With skill and tool we put our trust and when that won't do then power we must.

  5. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    LA & SC neither one is Cali
    Posts
    7,133
    Thanks for all the suggestions, clear as mud now.

    As far as the power tools I am using it is a pretty complete hobby shop:

    Table saw
    3 band saws
    12" jointer
    15" planer
    37" drum sander
    OCS edge sander
    OSS
    Shaper
    3 router tables
    mortiser
    RAS
    etc

    As for sharpening I have about 40 Sorby and Pfiel chisels so sharpening's importance is understood and covered.

    Budget was not the limiting factor in choosing the number 3 nor actually limited to LN/LV money, if there are more expensive planes that are as user friendly and more of a Swiss army knife I am all ears. The number was based on seeing what I could get the most use out of, if the slop is slippery enough I can see myself going nuts like I have with chisels. Saws will come later, I only have 2...

    I don't see me using a big jointer I have the capability to joint and plane boards SIGNIFICANTLY wider than I ever encounter, even slabs. So I will be using planes for final finish work, and cleaning up joinery and end grain. I do have and use a plethora of card scrapers and more than once considered a scraper plane.

    Thanks for all the insight!

    PS my work is general cabinet work from boxes to highboys in scale and a cross section of joinery from M&T to floating tenons, box joints to dove tails.

  6. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    9,807
    Quote Originally Posted by Van Huskey View Post
    Thanks for all the suggestions, clear as mud now.

    As far as the power tools I am using it is a pretty complete hobby shop:

    ...

    As for sharpening I have about 40 Sorby and Pfiel chisels so sharpening's importance is understood and covered.

    Budget was not the limiting factor in choosing the number 3 nor actually limited to LN/LV money, if there are more expensive planes that are as user friendly and more of a Swiss army knife I am all ears. The number was based on seeing what I could get the most use out of, if the slop is slippery enough I can see myself going nuts like I have with chisels. Saws will come later, I only have 2...

    I don't see me using a big jointer I have the capability to joint and plane boards SIGNIFICANTLY wider than I ever encounter, even slabs. So I will be using planes for final finish work, and cleaning up joinery and end grain. I do have and use a plethora of card scrapers and more than once considered a scraper plane.

    Thanks for all the insight!

    PS my work is general cabinet work from boxes to highboys in scale and a cross section of joinery from M&T to floating tenons, box joints to dove tails.
    This helps a lot toward helping you. For end grain a low angle block is a good choice for simple jobs. For a lot of end grain work a low angle jack may be a much better choice. I love mine (LN #62) for trimming end grain and even long grain on a shooting board.

    For tenon work a shoulder plane or other rabbet plane would be good.

    For cleaning up joints along a glue line you may want to consider a small bench plane like a #3 unless you have real large hands, then a #4. The reason for my suggestion here is often a glue line has one side proud. A wider plane here may be a real hassle to get it to just take down a narrow area. A scraper may be the best tool to remove the glue and then a plane to bring the edge of the joint true.

    Dry glue can be hard on a blade.

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

  7. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Albuquerque NM
    Posts
    404
    My 2 cents

    Get a LA block, but if you do not mind tuning it up you can go cheap here. Also a shoulder plane is a good idea for adjusting fit and finish. For versatility I would grab a BU Jack plane. By buying a couple of extra blades you can effectively have on plane body that provides multi plane function. Last month FWW had an article to this effect I think. A #7 would be the next one on my list. It is my "most used" plane, but the other 3 listed I think are more needed. What I mean is that my #7 (which replaced my power jointer) is my goto plane for most flattening & straightening operations, but I could get by with the #5. The #7 is not a great smoother (but the #5 will work) and it cannot replace a block or shoulder plane. When I need the smaller planes, which is admittedly less often, nothing else will work
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  8. #23
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Victoria, BC
    Posts
    1,476
    Low angle block, low angle jack, low angle smoother. I use them all, and would be kinda lost without any of them.

    Apron plane is a good alternative to the LA block.
    Paul

  9. #24
    Get 2 for now:

    a block and a smoother. Then go from there.

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