No 3 plane too small

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Established Member
29 Oct 2020
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Langhe, Piemonte
I kept reading that the No3 was often the favourite smooth plane, I have a No4 but have only recently really started to play with hand tools.
I have a relatively large hand, size 8 or 9 gloves, but I find the No 3 doesn't feel right after the No4.
Yes too small, I think that’s why it isn’t as widely used. Most people use a blockplane for small work, but I have trained myself to us a Nr 4 for everything.
Also never used the long planes either, it’s easy enough to get a joint on long plank edges with a 4.
I had an LV Bronze one for a while, which looked lovely (hence I was beguiled by it) but I agree with Ian is too small. I found I used a Veritas block plane for all small work and chamfering, and a 4 or 5 for practically everything else.
A Record number 3 is the most recent plane I've added to my collection, and I really like it. I set it really fine and use it for finessing small areas. I also have a GTL brass plane which is the same size.

When I'm doing a lot of planing I'll have three or four planes set up. A scrub plane to remove a lot of material, a jack plane or number 6 to get the surface flat, a number 4 to get a really smooth surface, and then have the number 3 for small patches that just need a little extra work with a very fine cut

So I like the number 3, but I wouldn't buy it as my first plane - I'd get a number 5 as my first plane. Also I'd buy a 4 before I bought a 3.

But there is nothing wrong with a number 3. Perfectly good plane. It small size lends itself to light finessing of a surface.

You can also pick them up very cheaply. I think the Record was a steal at £30, and it's not hard to get a good number 3 around that price.
I agree the #3 is handy to have as an additional plane but not essential to have. Since I got one I find it does a lot of the things a block plane would be used for but having a handle its more comfortable to use.

Here Richard Maguire shows how he holds the number 3. Says he prefers it to the 4 for smoothing.
I've always been under the impression that a #3 is just a narrow #4. In view of the comments here, I thought I would check. Here's a couple of pics of my Stanley #3 and Record #4:-


As can be seen there is practically no difference between them other than the width resulting from blade widths of 1¾" & 2"
The weight of the #3 is 1.32Kg and the #4, 1.65Kg
The handles are exactly the same.
I was once informed that the #3 is a lightweight smoothing plane designed for easier carrying in the carpenter's toolbag.
Here's a couple of pics of my Stanley #3 and Record #4:-
The handles are exactly the same

That's a really useful photo Brian, thanks.
I would like to try a #3 properly but the only time I've briefly used one I just couldn't get my hand in it and found it annoying using it with 2 or 3 fingers in the grip and 1 or 2 sticking down the side. I didn't waste any more time on it.

The handle may be the same but the blade sits that bit closer to the top of the handle on the #3 and it does make a real difference.
It would be interesting to try again using Richard Maguire's grip where no fingers are wrapped around the handle at all - essentially holding it like he does a wooden smoother.
It’s funny how we are all different I bought a No3 six years ago from Ray Iles at the old tool store, he had already fettled it beautifully so it was ready to use. I have fairly large hands but it is my smoothing plane of choice & it regularly gets taken on site, I find it a really lovely plane to use.
A few gratuitous photos from the day I bought it.



On some No. 3 (Bailey pattern) sizes, there's not a lot of finger room between the tote and the adjuster. Try leaving your hand open, placing it so the tote nestles in the web between thumb and forefinger, then wrapping your thumb and fingers along the plane iron (both sides, of course: thumb on one side, fingers on the other). This winds up being similar to how you would grip a traditional wooden smoothing plane. It works fine for me, although I have yet to quite figure out what a No. 3 does for my work.
I have the same issue, all the planes I own have too small handles. I realise I could make new handles but I just cary on with them. I use a sort of 3 finger grip like on a saw with my top finger resting on the iron.
Apparently lee nielsen sell bigger handles but I have not tried one yet.

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