General purpose plane

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cpmczak

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Novice woodworker here, just in the process of building my tool collection. Can anyone recommend a decent all-purpose plane at a reasonable price? Initially, the plane will mainly be used for smoothing table tops after they've been edge-jointed.

I'm aware Lie-Nielsen are high quality, top end planes with a hefty price tag. I'd like something a little cheaper but still want decent quality. What I don't want to do is buy cheap for the sake of it - I've done it a lot in the past and nearly always regret it. Trying to move away from that mindset. Just want a good quality plane at a reasonable price.

Any advice would be appreciated.
 

--Tom--

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Vintage Stanley / record can be made to work well, if you have a bit of time to tune. Otherwise the Workshop heaven bedrocks are nice and will work straight away without needing you to try and get something to perform well, without knowing what performing well feels like.
 

thetyreman

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at the moment you won't be able to get hold of lie neilsen because of issues with suppliers, I would start with a no 5 1/2 jack plane, it's my all round favourite plane for most tasks, and the one I use the most, imo LN are definitely worth every penny if you can get hold of one, I have had two tools of theirs and both were flawless out of the box and needed no work at all on either the blades or sole, this was a no85 scraper and a 102 low angle block plane, you're paying for the extra quality control and something that's made in the USA not china, I regret selling both of them but needed the dosh at the time, that's life.
 

Nigel Burden

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I would second a no. 5 or 51/2 as an all round plane. I have a Record no. 051/2, (same as the Stanley 5 1/2), It can get a bit heavy if you're doing a lot of planing but, it will double as a jack or a smoother, (read some of the tips about setting up the cap iron on the forum). I bought mine off ebay about three years ago for £35 ready to go. I was fortunate, and I would imagine that you would be paying a bit more than that now. Make sure that the blade has some life left in it, although you can buy replacement blades no problem, I have seen examples on ebay where the seller is basically selling scrap where the blade is worn down to the slot.

Look out for cracks in the casting as they're not always easy to see from a photograph, or if the plane is rusty. I picked up a rather rusty Stanely no. 4 at a car boot sale for £2. When I got it home and cleaned it up it was apparent that the casting was cracked on both sides of the mouth. This wasn't a problem because I use it as a scrub plane to remove a lot of wood but not to smooth. In fact the previous owner probably used it for that purpose by the way the blade was cambered. A cracked handle can maybe repaired, or you can make a new one.

I'll just add that I started out like you about three or four years ago, and none of my tools are new or remotely near to high end, being mostly car boot or ebay purchases which with the exception of one or two I've had to sharpen and fettle. I like doing that though.

Nigel.
 

gog64

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Not sure if you’re asking about decent brands or a type of plane? If “brand” then I’ll second Quangsheng. Chinese made with good QC and decent steel (I have 3). Vintage Stanley or Record are also a good call IMO. My 30 yo Record 4.5 is fine, but needs sharpening more often. If you’re asking about size/type, then a 5.5 jack (i.e. jack of all trades) plane might suit. Lots of info on tinternet about what the different types are suitable for.
 

CaptainBudget

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A good option I've found is to pick up a vintage plane from Tooltique (Vintage Old Tools - Antique & Used Second Hand Tools UK)

These are vintage Stanley/Record planes that have had all the restoration work done for you. In my experience they flatten the soles and blade backs better than a lot of the "new" planes out the box, and they're about 1/3rd the price...

I would agree with all the above, a Number 5 in any decent brand is the way to go, maybe a 5.1/2 if you're predominantly making big things. Only thing I will say with getting one from Tooltique is stock is an issue and they can't do them fast enough. I got my Stanley no.5 from them by checking the site daily and jumping on it as soon as it was available.
 

Bm101

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I've got a fettled, set and working Record 5 waiting for me to get round to selling it for a fair price to both. If you are interested PM me. Feel free to check my post history. If you are after a new plane you cant beat the price point of the Quang Shen just make sure you buy it from Workshop Heaven for the quality control.
 

shed9

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Totally agree with the idea of buying the best you can. This is more relevant when new to a skillset, nothing more miserable than using low quality tools when learning something new.

I would contact Workshop Heaven and Peter Sefton who do the Quangsheng and Wood River planes respectively.
Rutlands do the Qiangsheng variant on the QS planes which to my mind is a little less refined than the Workshop Heaven ones but then sometime the price reflects this. Also have a look at Dictum in Germany, they have their own versions of the Lie Nielsen / QS / Wood River bedrock planes. They do a half decent starter set in a Systainer for around £370 which includes a smoother, a low angle jack and a rabbet block plane.
Dieter Schmid Fine Tools are also a good source for decent planes, they do the Juuma range which again is in line with the same type and price range.

Of course the suggestions up there ^ about fettling an old plane are valid but bear in that this is a skeet shoot when buying 2nd hand, admittedly its low risk but it is a risk. It's likely, especially given the current circumstances, that this would be an internet purchase which for a first plane is not the best way forward in my opinion. It's not just a case of buying any particular branded plane and then cleaning it up. The two main contenders in this field, Record and Stanley have their share of lemons in their line ups and I would say that if you are asking for recommendations for a decent plane for decent money at this stage in your progression I would save the potential heartache and go with a known supplier.

Personally if you are looking for an initial general purpose plane I would go for a low angle jack plane and if you can stretch the budget also get a block plane. One word of warning - this is slippery slope and chances are you will be adding more to the collection fairly soon.
 

Jacob

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....Initially, the plane will mainly be used for smoothing table tops after they've been edge-jointed.
....
In that case you want a smoother i.e. No 4.
Smoothing table tops with a plane is not an easy job especially for a novice - so be prepared with back up; Stanley 80 scraper is good.
Belt or ROS sander is good too, believe me!
Just spotted this at £22! Magnusson No. 4 Smoothing Plane 2
I wonder if it's any good. My experience of cheapo stuff (Faithful etc) is that the blades are usually OK but everything else can be problematic
 
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Andy Kev.

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I'd recommend the Veritas Low Angle Jack as a first plane. (It was my first plane and is still my chief work horse. Were I to break or lose it, I wouldn't hesitate to replace it instantly.) The reasons are: the quality is tip top and LA planes are structurally simpler than the traditional bailey design and therefore easier for the beginner to get to grips with. You will of course end up with some bailey planes (a No 4 1/2 smoother is a useful thing) but to get you going, I can't think of anything better and more all round useful than an LAJ.
 

Jameshow

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In that case you want a smoother i.e. No 4.
Smoothing table tops with a plane is not an easy job especially for a novice - so be prepared with back up; Stanley 80 scraper is good.
Belt or ROS sander is good too, believe me!
Just spotted this at £22! Magnusson No. 4 Smoothing Plane 2
I wonder if it's any good. My experience of cheapo stuff (Faithful etc) is that the blades are usually OK but everything else can be problematic
I'll eat my hat if that plane isn't made by soba of India along side faithfull, spear and Jackson , record, Axi rider etc.

My faithfull 3+4 and S&J 5 are just as nice to use as the bailey 4 and 4 1/2 I have.....

Not saying the bailey couldn't be better if my sharpening techniques weren't better.

Cheers James
 

Cabinetman

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I agree with Dave and Jacob for a novice a number four is the way to go, A jack plane in my opinion is not a tool for a novice, quite likely to put him off for life. Ian
 

Ollie78

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I second the ebay/ car boot sale ( if these are ever allowed again ) plan.
I got a record number 5 (ex military 1974) for £15 spent a bit of time cleaning it up and sorting it out, pretty sure it cuts as well as a brand new quiangsheng at a tenth of the price.
Even if you need a replacement blade you could get a new Ray Iles for £25 which will be superb or go mad and get a Hock.
Try to find earlier models of the Stanleys or Record with wooden handles, quality control went down as time went on.
A low angle block plane is my most used plane of all.

Ollie
 
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shed9

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Try to find earlier models of the Stanleys or Record with wooden handles, quality control went down as time went on.

This is where the issue lies in buying old tools - just how early is early? Taking Stanleys as an example, type 17's are war era (1942-1945) and there is little quality consistency within that period and subjectively since. Plastic handles actually appeared on Stanleys in the late 60's (although more so in the 80's) so finding that sweet spot of viable tool worth the effort narrows further. Type 11's or earlier are likely better candidates but then you need to know what you are looking for and the right questions to ask.

The original request was for a general purpose plane similar to but not as expensive as a Lie Nielsen and buying a used old tool with an intent to restore it is far from that remit. By all means, tread that path later but I'm not sure that time is now. As for types of plane, a low angle jack will suffice as a smoother for tables and still be good for other uses whereas a smoother is less flexible.
 

Jacob

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This is where the issue lies in buying old tools - just how early is early? Taking Stanleys as an example, type 17's are war era (1942-1945) and there is little quality consistency within that period and subjectively since. Plastic handles actually appeared on Stanleys in the late 60's (although more so in the 80's) so finding that sweet spot of viable tool worth the effort narrows further. Type 11's or earlier are likely better candidates but then you need to know what you are looking for and the right questions to ask.

The original request was for a general purpose plane similar to but not as expensive as a Lie Nielsen and buying a used old tool with an intent to restore it is far from that remit. By all means, tread that path later but I'm not sure that time is now. As for types of plane, a low angle jack will suffice as a smoother for tables and still be good for other uses whereas a smoother is less flexible.
It'd be interesting to know what the production figures were, but I guess pre war, metal planes were relatively uncommon compared to woodies. So most available nowadays probably relatively recent with very little pre war. I've had plastic handled ones and they were nicely made and perfectly OK - plastic was the new wonder material, not second quality by any means.
Old planes don't necessarily have to be "restored" - more often just cleaned up a bit, sharpened and adjusted, all good practice.
PS one here with plastic handles, looks well finished with no compromises Stanley Bailey No 4 plane with Plastic handles good length blade in box | eBay
In fact there seem to be dozens there in good condition, prices around £40 and up. Buy 10 of these for the price of one Lie Nielsen!
 
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cpmczak

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Hi guys, just checked back in. Thanks for all the replies - more information here than I could ever have wished for, much appreciated.

I am loathe to go down the second hand route simply because I don't know what I should be looking for and I'd need to learn more skills just to get the plane up to a usable standard. Not saying that's something I won't do in the future but I'm keen to crack on with developing my woodworking skills first!

Sounds like a low-angle jack or a smoother is the way to go. I'll have a look through some of the recommendations posted. Thanks again all.
 
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