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Hand planes

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  • Hand planes

    I’ve been considering purchasing a decent hand plane (LV #4), I don’t own one nor have I ever used one. I was just wondering how many of you use them and to what extent. I know there are dedicated hand tool forums out there but they seem to be occupied by people that are obsessed about their hand tools and I thought I would get more unbiased opinions here.



  • #2
    I'm a newbie to woodworking, but if you would like my thoughts . . .

    A while back, someone was asking about jointers (or is it joiners?) and planers, or which to do first or something like that. One of the responders talked about hand planes, and included a remark like "a good hand plane will leave a finish that a power planer can only dream of." Got me thinking. I only have a RAS and router, and was thinking about jointers and planers next. Got me thinking a lot.

    Began to realize that many posts about planers contain references to "snipe," which apparently is bad. And, they are unable to get completely rid of it. Got me thinking more and more.

    Complaints about the precision, or lack of, with which various brands of jointers are made kept my thinking going on and on. . .

    When I consider the time in setting up a jointer and planer, the amount of wood working I do or will do, the kind of work I want to do, I think that I will actually spend less time working with a set of hand planes than with a jointer and planer. I like the environment in a shop that is less mechanized too.


    • #3
      You have to look at the time you are willing to invest too. A 13" planer will do in minutes what would takes hours and hours by hand with almost as good (and for the average woodworker good as or better than) results.

      I could drill a nice 1-1/4" holes with a brace and bit in a couple minutes, but can do it jaust as well with a drill motor and fostner bit.

      Same for many other operations, just because there is a michine out there to do the work does not always mean it will do the job better, usually that it will be completed faster is certain. Working a wide surface like a table top with hand planes and scrapers will not come to you just by buying the tools, it will take some time to develop the ability to read the wood grain, knowledge of proper shaprening techniques, and many other little bits of wisedom to be able to equal the results of a power planer properly adjusted.

      You can do it, and have 10 times the pride in the finished piece, but there will be additional sweat equity invested on your part.


      • #4
        Amen Bob. When ever I go to a wood show I always find myself starring in awe of the guys selling the really expensive hand built planes. They look like a peice of art onto themselves and they do such a nice job of finishing wide pieces of hardwood. Then reality sets in and i invision the last time I sharpened my block plane and then the kicker .. the last time I emptied my dust collector after planing some rough lumber, can you imagine the effort to create that many chips by hand


        • #5
          The LV#4 is an excellent plane, as is their Low Angle Smooth plane (about my favorite). One thing that you have to consider when buying your first plane is that you also have to buy all of the sharpening gear to go with it...a honing guide, a bevel gauge, a 1000 grit stone, a 4000 grit stone and an 8000 grit stone as well as something to keep your stones flat (I use a 1200x diamond stone). Expect to spend as much (if not more) on the sharpening gear as you will on a good quality plane.

          I learned to dimension lumber with hand planes long before I was ever allowed near the power tools in my dad's shop. He felt that I would learn to read the grain and understand the properties of the wood far better this way and I believe that he was right and that's how I'll teach my son when he's old enough.

          In the hands of a capable user, good plane and a cabinet scraper can make a surface smoother than you can ever get with sandpaper.

          That being said, power tools do almost as nice a job and allow you to get to assembly faster. I only use my planes now for pieces with special meaning, for lumber too big for the thicknes planer, for highly figured wood and for end-grain.

          Personally, I would buy the low angle smooth plane and add the high angle blade (which will in effect give you a #4) before I bought the #4. I find that combination a lot more versatile (and almost all I need).


          • #6
            Good points brought out by all, I envision my use being limited to the occasional trimming assemblies that didn’t quite fit correctly or smoothing out the top of a special project. Time is my most precious commodity and I would not even entertain the thought of dimensionalizing (did I just make that word up) rough-cut lumber with out the use of power tools.

            Dusthead, I contemplated purchasing the low angle plane and including the high angle blade as you suggest but thought that multiple blade angles might be beyond my beginner status, anyway it’s too late I pulled the trigger on the # 4 yesterday morning. You’re scaring me with all this sharpening requirements, (haven’t even told LOML about the plane purchase yet) how often do you need to sharpen blades when used in primarily hard woods? It sounds as though your father is/was a wise man.




            • #7
              Originally posted by dusthead:
              I learned to dimension lumber with hand planes long before I was ever allowed near the power tools in my dad's shop. He felt that I would learn to read the grain and understand the properties of the wood far better this way and I believe that he was right and that's how I'll teach my son when he's old enough.
              Your Dad must have been a wonderful man. He was right, and through you he has convinced me to put aside buying power planer/jointer for now and learn about wood with hand planes.

              What do you guys think about the Lie-Nielsen hand planes? As good as LV, better?


              • #8
                how often do you need to sharpen blades when used in primarily hard woods?
                A lot of factors weigh in here, and you'll probably get a different perspective from everybody. The biggest factor in frequency is the hardness of the blade (which is why I prefer the LV planes). The harder the steel, the longer your edge will last.

                When you first get a new plane blade, you need to polish the backside to make it flat (it's usually close, but never bang-on). I start with my 1200x diamond stone (or you can use a 1000x water stone) then proceed to 4000x then 8000x for final polishing (you only need to polish about the last 1/4" of the blade). Then I grind the cutting bevel to 25 degrees (or whatever angle it needs to be) using the 1200x stone. Finally you need to grind the secondary bevel...back the blade about 1/8" up the sharpening guide and start with the 1200/1000x stone, then advance to the 4000x stone and then 8000x. You will be left with a mirror finish on the 2 cutting edges (front and back) that can cut you faster than a disposable razor blade. The whole process takes about 1/2 an hour and usually only has to be done once every couple of years.

                Then, after about every 5-8 hours of use you will usually have to re-hone the secondary bevel. The primary bevel will have to be ground back after about 5 touch-ups to the secondary (or when you hit a nail or drop the plane), but these touch-ups are much quicker than the original sharpening (usually about 10 minutes). You'll get to a point where you know when it needs to be done, and anything less than a perfect blade will p___ you off.

                LV also sells a product called Waxilit (or something like that) that works great for keeping the rust off the body and blade. I recommend applying it after every sharpening to prevent the water from the sharpening process from doing any damage. It also makes the plane slide along the wood a bit better and doesn't affect finishing materials at all.

                What do you guys think about the Lie-Nielsen hand planes? As good as LV, better?
                I would say as good as. I like the adjustment/feed mechanism of the Veritas better, but the Lie-Neilsen's are available in bronze which feels smoother in use. That said, I sold the only Lie-Neilsen that I owned and replaced it this year with a Veritas, so I guess I prefer the LV.


                • #9
                  I own several handplanes and couldn't imagine doing much work with hardwoods without them. I have a LN low angle jack plane and a LN low angle block plane, along with several other LN joinery planes. I also have the Lee Valley #4.5 smooth plane. The LV and LN are of comparable quality. Both come pretty much ready to use out of the box, LN recommends a 1-2 degree micro-bevel before using and although I can't remember I suspect LV does too.
                  If you're considering only one plane, personally I would go with the low angle LV smooth plane. The low angle will give you the a better option on end grain. If you buy the option "York" pitched blade, you'll also have a nice plane for smoothing long grain.
                  By the way, I don't use my Delta 6" jointer anymore because I've found I get do things about a fast with a jointer plane. I bought a Stanley Bed Rock #8 from an antique dealer and turned it up. It took about 3-4 hours of work but I have a great plane now. The Stanley Bed Rock series (man. from about 1890-1930s) is the Stanley series that the LN planes are modeled after. I got the plane for around $90 but it would have cost upwards of $200 on ebay today. Edge jointing with a #7 or #8 is not that diffcult. Face jointing across an entire board or panel takes some practice, especially when thicknessing. I use my Ridgid 13 planer for thicknessing. I use my scrub and/or jack plane to get one face either flat or hollowed in the middle before using going to the planer. The key is to get a flat reference surface before using the planer. A key advantage of this over the power jointer is that I'm not limited to 6" boards and don't have to rip things down.
                  Whether it makes sense or not to use handplanes for milling really depends several factors but one of the most important is time. It does take a little longer to do things by hand and you have to have a suitable workbench and sharpening gear. Both of these things should be given careful consideration. There are many routes to take on each. On sharpening, don't go out a spend a fortune on sharpening equipment. You can sharpen a plane or chisel blade razor sharp with sandpaper and do it very quickly with a belt sander. At the other extreme you can spend a fortune on a Tormek sharpening system and get great results also. There are a lot of things in between too.


                  • #10
                    Even if you buy an expensive new plane....and Lie Nielsen and the Shepard planes are as good as planes ever were...L/V's being a good are gonna have to learn how to flatten and tune it after you put a few years wear on it.

                    Why not learn now by picking up some older Stanley models from Ebay....look up the "Blood and Gore" site to learn how to ID can buy an entire set of Stanley Type 11-Type 16's (the best they made) for the price of one L/N.

                    Go look at the General Woodworking forum tomorrow and I'll post two articles there on rehabbing them. And you'll need more than one, even as supplements to power tools to hand fit your joints. Your basic set is a smoother, jack, jointer, and shoulder plane for trimming tenons....maybe a rabbet plane, too.

                    [ 04-07-2004, 08:40 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]