Musings on smoothings/re-discovering hand tools

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
14 Oct 2007
Reaction score
Maybe I've spent too much time working this weekend (gardening, cleaning etc) and not enough time playing (anything in the garage) that my mind has turned to the evolution of tool usage throughout life, well, mine at least, all 25 years of it...

So it begins over twenty years ago and the first things you play with are tools, totally blunted, I think that saw still exists in my parent's house, it was probably an old dovetail saw, pistol griped, maybe I should find it and renovate it. The rest of the toolbox is tacks, offcuts of ply and a hammer and that's pretty much it, still it's fun and probably cheaper than a teenage mutant hero tellytubbie or whatever garbage kids are abused with these days, and we wonder why they are getting more stupid?

Forward on a few years to when you get to play with sharp(er) tools, like a drill and a saw that also still exists in that house, and still needs sharpening. This is when you start to see the power tool, it cuts, sands, drills and that's about it in the late 80's. The light blue Elu lathe sits in the corner, unused, not any more, it's now in my garage and does get used, but I digress...

By the time we get to teenage years the power tools have evolved a bit and their use is regular at the weekends and the way forwards is obvious, naff old hand tools are obsolete, to do a decent job you need decent tools, with AC leads!

When you first get some money it's time to get some decent power tools, a Black and Decker drill and sander, Trend router and so on, the work progresses, gets a little better and certainly a lot quicker, especially as you don't have to keep nicking your Dad's stuff, so this is it, next stop machinery, the pinnacle of power tools.

Hmm, somewhere in the interim period things have gone astray, and what makes me think this, is what I did this evening. Despite possibly having more tools than my Dad and most definitely better ones (LN chisels instead of his old Marples) a table saw, dust extractor, variable speed router, planer/thicknesser... I still borrowed his Stanley No50 combination plane. I need to do some fluting and I don't want to buy a router cutter for a small job. After a quick clean and a lot of sharpening, a few beads and a wonder round the garden inspecting yesterday's work it was decided, the tool I most need is... not a machine, but a multi-plane.

The thing is, as one gets better at these things, becomes more critical and verging on the obssesive, a machined finish is not good enough, 14 degree dovetails are bordering on the offensive and don't get me started on the radiused internal corner left by profiling rails and stiles after they are assembled! What do we do with a machined finish? Plane it by hand, it's just what you do. Like the quirked edges to a rail, the routed profile just isn't as pleasing as the smooth, uninterrupted scraped finish provided by the plane.

So we've come full circle, power tools do not hold all the answers, the quiet few minutes without the screaming of a brushed motor provides a cheaper and better profile than £50 worth of router cutters, without the set-up time, risk to fingers of trialing the cut on small off-cuts and leaves one feeling rather calmed and thoughtful.

So, which combination plane? LN don't make one, grrrrr. Clifton? I have a wedding to pay for. The new Veritas is just for rabbets it seems. There are loads of Stanley and Record on e-bay but they are old, dirty and often missing bits. Does Philly have this as an impending project? I'm not hugely keen on wooden planes but some of the metal ones are more like space-ships than tools.

Those are my thoughs as the heat eases on this sunny day and we woodworkers emerge from our dens to return to the family burrows, I wonder what other hand tools my Dad would not notice the disappearance of?

That old Chippendale fella knew a thing or two :wink:

Such heresies will see you burned at the next stake over from me if you're not careful. :) You should have seen the kicking I got when I said something like you just have in public :)

As to which combination plane I have a record 405, I looked for about a year before I bought it on the bay. Looking for a good condition, all cutters present etc example. In the end it was mint condition, still in factory grease, cutters still wrapped in paper cost £102 iirc, a cost which Mike Hancock said recently that he thought was reasonable.

Cheers Mike
Hells teeth - that was deep and meaningful :lol:

Can't help with your choice of plane,but know what you mean about going full-circle - a workmate asked me this week which saw I used most;I now have a benchtop table saw,a large contractors table saw,a mitre saw,a sliding compound mitre saw....and the one I use most of the time is the Stanley Jetcut hand saw :wink:

Tonight I dimensioned a worktop for a bench to final size.

I started by cutting along one length. I laid down a rail and made the cut with a circular saw. I then pushed this edge against a fence that I know is perpendicular to another rail. I then cut one side giving me a square corner. Flipping the board I measued and made one mark then cut the other side. Finally, I made two marks and using a rail I cut the remaining side. 57 1/16th diagonals.

I am sure there are many other methods to do this but I know the rails are straight and square. It is too heavy to run through the table saw and I'm sure I would get frustrated by hand sawing and then planing.

Another operation I need to perform is to chamfer the edges of the legs, arms and feet of the workbench.

As I see it I could setup the router table, make a test cut, check and then run all pieces through.

Alternatively I could use my LV block plane with or without a chamfer guide (which I don't own).

I think this brings us to the crux of the matter, just use the best tool for the job.

Having the best tool and knowing how to use it is another matter of course.


Like Mike, I would go for the Record #405 or Stanley #45 - they are very nice to use and easy to set up. If you want more versatility in the range of cutters you can use, you would need to go for a Stanley #55 like this


However, they are more fiddly to set up because one of the skates moves up and down as well as sideways (which is why you can use a wider range of cutters). They are also more expensive.

If you just want to do grooves, beads and flutes, go for the Record #405/Stanley #45.

Cheers :wink:

Paul Chapman":1cbqpyql said:
Some of the Anant planes are rubbish, so I'd want to see it before buying

Yep, they look like they are made in China, YUK! Probably do a decent enough job though. You can buy Record multi-planes in B&Q last time I looked, which was a long time ago.

Just one question, what's the difference between a duplex, multi, combination, universal and plough plane? They all seem remarkably similar with varying degrees of complexity.

One primary use is a 'drawer slip' cutter to make the round over and slot all in one pass to keep them consistent and make them faster, I'll post the project somewhen and you will see what I want it for.

TheTiddles":1hhtbv2g said:
You can buy Record multi-planes in B&Q last time I looked

Doubtful - Record stopped making their Multi Plane long before B&Q existed.

Ploughs have straight cutters and plough grooves.

Combination planes have straight and beading cutters.

Multi planes are similar to combination planes but can also be used with fluting cutters and also offered different bases for rounds and hollows. The way they hold the cutter also enables the moveable skate to slide under the cutter, which makes it more versatile.

Universal planes, like the Stanley #55, can use a wide range of moulding cutters. They can use these because of the variable height skate.

Duplex planes are for cutting rebates.

Cheers :wink:

Clifton makes a #45 copy ... TIPLANE.XX

but for that price you could bid about ten "old, dirty and often missing bits"-planes from ebay and get a decent one. And if you care to follow the bids for 2-3 weeks you'll definitely find a new(ish) Record with all the bits and pieces.

I have used both #45 and #55 quite much and I'd definitely go for a #45.

There are some things a #55 does fairly well, many that it does poorly and many that it doesn't do at all. In addition to that it does nothing exceptionally well, so the only advantage of having one is versatility.

I have been restoring old houses and funiture and thought a #55 to be the answer to my dreams, finally I could grind a cutter for every missing molding or replacement. And after all I have moved to a #45 or my woodies every time I have to stick a piece of molding.

Still, it's a nice monster for showing off neighbours and power tool friends. All it lacks is a priming can and a crank handle :D

Aidan, watch out these multiplanes become an obsession. At the begining of the year I had my trusty Record 044 which I've had for years and use lots. Now at the last count I have 5, I think. They are not all complete, and one will probably be canabilised for parts but I use them all. I've paid relatively little for these. Whatever you do don't rush out and buy the first thing you can find (i.e. for lots of money), you would be amazed what still turns up for very little money at car boot sales and even pukka antique fairs. I feel the Record planes are better than Stanleys (can o'worms?) but I'm still on the look out for a nice 55.

The point I was trying to make above is that as you are buying to use rather than collect, completeness although desirable is not the be-all and end-all. This gives you a slight advantage. Oh yes, the cutters are easy to make if you are happy with heat treating steel.
TheTiddles":1z87fz36 said:
The rest of the toolbox is tacks, offcuts of ply and a hammer and that's pretty much it, still it's fun and probably cheaper than a teenage mutant hero tellytubbie or whatever garbage kids are abused with these days, and we wonder why they are getting more stupid?


Well Aidan,
How strange that I said something similar about your generation, as my father said about mine. :D

The toys were different I guess, but the appraisal of youth never changes. Now I'll digest your post.
I am with you on sentiment Aidan, but also agree, it's the right tool for the job.
With provisios:

Do I know the right tool?
If not, do I know another way of doing a job? Probably not in my case!

As for the Stanley #55, I regret leaving a perfectly sound example in a wooden box, under an antique dealer's stall. I doubt I would get that plane for £40.00 and a haggle these days.

Still, the more modern one I bought is ok, as I collect older cutters for it.

John :)
Well, odly enough I was just walking down Pennyfathing Street in Salisbury today and I happened on this...


Lots of cleaning to do and the box needs burning but beyond that it should do.

I ask LN if they are planning to make plough planes and they are but they are a long way off, this will fill the gap till then


Woodworm I presume? If there's no dust, the worms have long gone.

Soak off the label and keep it to one side.
Dunk the box in a bucket of Rentokil with a housebrick to keep it submerged. Let it dry. Then rub some cold setting fibre glass resin into the holes

Clean of the excess and let it dry.
Put the label back on the lid.
Should be fine.

Benchwayze":55eqf1mm said:
Woodworm I presume?

Nah, it's just ugly!

I've started attacking the plane with a rotating abrasive/polishing wheel which has ok results, but the internal radii are going to be a problem, maybe a Karcher pressure washer will take off the congealed oil, shellac and sawdust that are clinging to every inch of it? The rosewood handle is a bit naff too, maybe I'll change that for some hornbeam along with the fence runner. It does not have to be perfect, just good enough to do till I find something that is, just for your reference, this is what Lie-Nielsen had to say...

"We do have plans to make several types of multi plane. We will be making a plow plane in the style of the #45 or #55. We will also be making a shoulder plane with a removable toe at some point as well. It will probably be several years before either one is available."

So there we go, maybe their rep will have something more to say at this months event?


Latest posts