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Plane recommendation for beginner

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Robdoc

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I have been tinkering with some basic wood working for a while now and am gradually building up my tool collection. It's time I got a levelling plane (or maybe a jack plane?). At the minute it will be used for levelling and smoothing live edge serving boards and table tops. The choice and price range available is pretty baffling. Does anyone have recommendations for planes under £100? There are a lot of very cheap planes but are they a waste of time? Has anyone experience of the Stanley premium no 4 plane? It seems like it might be a quality tool for the price.
Thanks
 

Phil Pascoe

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A 4 1/2 or 5 1/2. older Record or Stanley from a reputable dealer - or of course use your sense when bidding on evilbay. If you have no other plane a 5 1/2. You will pay a lot of money to get the same quality in new plane. People will tell you No.4s can be used for everything ............. but so can No. 7s.
An old chippie I worked with always maintained that 4s and 5s were for site work where you didn't want to cart too much weight around, and the half sizes were bench planes as the weight was an advantage - seemed sound to me, but it's only opinion.
 

marcros

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eBay is a bit of a lottery unless you know what you are looking for. I would like a 3 or 4, but on eBay I have no idea which are old and which are more modern.
 

Ttrees

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Get yourself an old ebay no.5 1/2
Look for one without cracks in the casting, a good amount of iron left in the cutter, no mad deep scratches/pitting on the sole and as thick of a sole ( the base) that you can find, Look for clear "end view" pictures from both ends of the plane to judge for any discrepancies ...
If you can't see both ends of the sole, and be able to judge the thickness of it, I would avoid buying, unless your request for suitable
pictures of it.
Can't be any more than 50 quid max for a good'un, if you've got say... two weeks to trawl through them to get accustomed to what you
should be looking for, you prob could get a bargain for half that.
Planes are popular on the bay and you will get what your after if you have got a fortnight to wait.
Mid fifties Stanley's would be my preference, these are not the expensive collector types.
I have two of those Stanley 5 1/2's, your better with a wide plane if doing live edge slabs IMO...
You might just be as well having coarse medium and fine planes for that really, so consider that you could get three planes
for the price of one if you are wise, amd patient.
The no 5 1/2 would be the nice one out of the bunch if I had the choice.
Good luck
Tom
 

MikeG.

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Like everyone else, I'll say don't buy new. A Stanley or Record 5-1/2 might be the only plane you ever buy (although a little block plane is handy), and you have to spend a lot of money on a premium plane these days to get anything like the quality those old planes have.
 

woodbloke66

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As others have rightly mentioned, an older Record or Stanley No.5 Jack or even a 5.5 would suite very well, but I'd do some t'interweb searching for a local second hand tool shop (you might get lucky) within striking distance where I could see a selection and pick a few up before handing over the 'folding'. Here in Salisbury, we used to have Penny Farthing Tools, a nice little emporium with a decent selection of planes, but they moved to Wantage some years ago - Rob
 

LancsRick

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edthewood on eBay does excellent reconditioned planes if that's the route you choose to go.
 

marcros

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Or put a wanted ad on here. State what you are looking for, whether you want it ready to go or you don't mind restoring etc. For a common user grade plane, there should be a few sat on shelves up and down the land.
 

thetyreman

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I've seen plenty of tools ruined by dealers, it's up to you but you'll be paying a premium, a no5 1/2 would be where I'd start, stanley, record or woden.
 

thetyreman

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actually taking a look at toolique they seem reasonable prices and you'd be getting something decent that probably wont require much work if anything.
 

shed9

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At that price point it is likely whatever you buy is going to need some work to make it work. As others have said, avoid cheap planes, yes you can buy more for the same money but everyone will be a paperweight and mock you when you look at it. the Stanley premium no 4 looks alright to me but it is almost certainly going to need work to work well.

I'd go with an early Stanley used personally. It's a bit daunting sifting through but it's easy to work out when you know which features to look out for and which questions to ask. Plenty of sites to have a read through, try Hyperkitten and Patrick Leach's Blood and Gore. Blood and Gore in particular is just a good read on it's own if you have an interest in wood working tools anyhow. You can generally get some rough idea of age based on simple visible aspects such as patent dates behind the frog, made in USA text, the type of lever cap, dates on the plane blade, etc. The low knob versions fetch the higher money but you can get some bargains sometimes. These are generally type 11 and earlier (up to 1918). You will get low knobs (indeed most hardware) on different planes sometimes when people have changed them over but this is rare and unlikely to be an issue. Anything pre-WWII should have a decent amount of iron to the casting and made to reasonable quality. The Type 17's (1942-45) are a bit of a sweet spot as the castings are just fantastically thick and they are at the end of that spectrum.

I would say that given your requirement to level and smooth, you will be better served with two planes. The size of the wood you are working with will dictate which size is best. The bigger the surface area the larger the plane effectively. Tabletops will be easier to level with a no 7 or a no 8, although a no 6 would probably do the job but these seem to be fetching higher money these days.
A 5 1/2 would also work in levelling table surfaces, it will just require more work to achieve the same result. In terms of a smoother a no 4 or 4.5 are the more practical, no 3's are lovely and one of my faves but again, higher money. Don't go for the shiny ones all freshly painted, they are often hiding something or have been abused in the process of making them shiny in the first place. There is something to be said for an honestly well used plane. Broken or chipped totes shouldn't be an issue either - easy to fix as long as the metal hardware is all good. Make sure the metal sole is intact with no cracks or fissures. Make sure the mouth is sound with no chips around it and that the width is not too wide (people will sometimes file it larger to remove chips). If you can get a frog with a solid metal face as opposed to the milled version (google it, it will make sense) this is better in my opinion but not a show stopper. Surface rust is easily fixed, chances are you're going to be flattening it at some point anyhow. Avoid however any bad pitting, you just don't need the hassle and there are enough planes about for this to be considered an option.. The Made in USA planes are usually not a bad buy either.

I would plumb for a pre war no 4 and no 5 1/2 combo or a no 4 1/2 and no 7 combo. Either way I would also factor in a block plane when you can as well.

The boutique dealers are a good start and probably the best bet however this will up your budget. They have taken the initial risk, cleaned it up, likely sharpened the blade and adding their rep to the sale. That comes at cost and rightly so. Also factor in sharpening into the equation if you don't already have other edge tools that require that. Plenty of decent diamond plates and water stone combinations around so this shouldn't be a problem. Don't ask a forum the best option to sharpen an edge unless you are well stocked up on popcorn.
 

colinc

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Hi,

I agree with the advice so far and I know that you said you have a budget of £100 but can you stretch it a bit, well quite a bit?

I am not talking Veritas or Lie Nielsen money. I just bought a Quangsheng No. 5-1/2 from Workshop Heaven and it is so much better than my existing Stanley and Marples No. 5s that I am thinking of replacing all my other planes one by one too. I just gave it a quick clean, tightened the screws, honed the bladed and straight away it was outperforming those others that I have spent many hours trying to improve.

The Quangsheng No. 5 costs £149.50, comes with a lifetime warranty and support. It removes all the variables associated with buying used particularly those off ebay. My suggestion is that if your first plane is a known quantity and works out of the box then you have a standard to measure others by.

Before buying it I discussed the choices with people here and the consensus was that Quangsheng from WH were likely to be better than Axminster and Rutland's offerings. Having said that, last time I was in the Axminster store in Nuneaton they were selling a number of their Rider planes at a substantial discount so that may be another option to consider and they were certainly within your budget.

Actually, my original plane was replaced by Workshop Heaven. The first to be delivered had a couple of tiny voids in the casting. Whilst they were tiny and would never affect how it worked, I queried it with the people there and whilst we all agreed it was only a cosmetic issue, without any pressure from me they immediately offered either a discount or replacement - which I took and it arrived the next day. You won't get that level of service everywhere.

Also, do you have the facilities to sharpen it properly, that is at least as important an issue to solve as the plane choice. As Shed9 touched on, there are many opinions on that here, but also some very helpful people and information.

Anyway, all the best, I hope you find a good one.

Colin
 

worn thumbs

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I may be a contrarian here but I would take a No 5 over a 5 1/2 any day.The extra weight of the wider plane might be considered useful for a bench plane but i have yet to see anybody able to take off half a dozen full width shavings with one.Then when the day eventually dawns when you have to use the plane on a vertical surface less weight will seem like a good idea.I would be looking on ebay for a used one and I would want to see a good photograph of the sole and the iron.If a good enough bargain can be found,I would go for a decent block plane with an adjustable mouth too.
 

Ttrees

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I was a bit perplexed at that full width shavings comment, surely you've gotta be joking?
 

heimlaga

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The 5 1/2 is an intermediate between the more common and a lot cheaper sized 5 and 6.
In my oppinion a basic set of bench planes for a person of average size and strenght would be sizes 4 and 5 and 7 and a scrub plane.
A very small woman or a very big and strong man or a partially disabled person may needd other sizes to best make use of the body but I think those three common sizes and the scrub cover all the bench plane needs for at least 90% of us.

Myself I am fairly good at scrounging and have many more bench plane sizes but strictly speaking they come in handy now and then but I don't need them.

I would not buy a new Stanley plane nor a new Record nor a Kunz. It is way easier to clean away the rust and repair 100 years of wear and some damage on a well made plane than it is to make something out of a carelessly made chunk of rubbish.

There are many makes of planes worth looking for on thesecondhand market for instance:
-Record
-Woden
- Stanley
-Hellstedts
-Nooitgedagt
-Millers Falls
-Sargent
-Siegley
-Voskov. The mark looks like <B>. Their scrub planes were good despite being made in the Soviet union.
-Anchor (a brand of Järnbolaget)
-Rapier normally requires some significant filing and fitting to become good so they aren't suitable for beginners.
-Union Toolworks
 

gmgmgm

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I think it depends upon how ready you are to fettle a plane? And how well do you know how a good plane feels?

I *could* fettle a 100-year-old Stanley and make it work beautifully- but for me, it was worth spending on a new Quangsheng which I knew would be ready to go out of the box* and would make my woodworking fun immediately.

I'd save the "vintage plane experience" for your second plane... when you know what a good/ok one feels like.

* ok, so there are often a few niggles to sort out, but generally you can be planing within a minute of opening the box and it's good enough for 90% of people.
 

woodbloke66

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gmgmgm":114hkwh3 said:
I think it depends upon how ready you are to fettle a plane? And how well do you know how a good plane feels?

I *could* fettle a 100-year-old Stanley and make it work beautifully- but for me, it was worth spending on a new Quangsheng which I knew would be ready to go out of the box* and would make my woodworking fun immediately.

I'd save the "vintage plane experience" for your second plane... when you know what a good/ok one feels like.

* ok, so there are often a few niggles to sort out, but generally you can be planing within a minute of opening the box and it's good enough for 90% of people.
I'd tend to agree. Fettling an old plane to make it work acceptably can be a long, drawn out, wearisome process with no guarantee at the end that you've got a gud'n. If you could raid the piggy bank and go for a QS from Workshop Heaven, you'd have a runner almost straight out of the box; the only thing you'd need to do is to hone and set the blade, then start making shavings - Rob
 

custard

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woodbloke66":220un3au said:
I'd tend to agree. Fettling an old plane to make it work acceptably can be a long, drawn out, wearisome process with no guarantee at the end that you've got a gud'n.
+1

There's a lot of love on this forum for old Record or Stanley planes. And once sorted out that's entirely justified, they're excellent tools and were all that outstanding craftsmen like Alan Peters ever needed.

However, there's another fact which needs to be recognised. Often both the plane and the iron/cap iron will need quite a lot of work before you'll get acceptable results. Where as something like a Quangsheng or a Wood River will give excellent results straight from the box.

It's your money and your time so it's your choice, just bear in mind that fettling an old Record or Stanley so that shavings don't continually jam between the iron and the cap iron may actually take several hours of hard work!
 

MikeG.

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gmgmgm":2vsgzjmu said:
.........generally you can be planing within a minute of opening the box and it's good enough for 90% of people.
Unless you've learned to sharpen and adjust, though, an hour later the thing can be sitting at the back of the bench as a useless paperweight. And if you can sharpen and adjust, you can make an old Stanley or Record work beautifully. So what you are paying the extra £100/ £120 for is for an hour of planing. I'm not seeing that as any sort of bargain.
 
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