Suggestions for next hand plane

Robert Parker

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Because, who doesn't need another tool?

I've been delving further into hand tools and am about ready for a new(ish) plane. I've got a no. 6, no. 3, and LA block plane that I use pretty routinely. The no. 6 I use to flatten bodies and joint necks, the no. 3 to smooth bodies, and the LA block for stuff like flushing fretboard sides to the neck blank. I've got a cheap (Buck Bros.) no. 4 that a friend gave me, which I plan to make into a scrub plane.

Right now, the no. 6 is the closest thing I have to a jack plane. I really like it. However, it's a bit heavy and bulky for some of the jobs where there may be several dozen passes, while the no. 3 is too small.

So, I'm looking at an in-between option to fill the gap. I'm leaning towards a 4 1/2, but I'd like some input from anyone with experience using something in the range between 4 and 5 (to include 4 1/2, 5, 5 1/4, or 5 1/2).
 

Wallied

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I use by far a 5 1/2 the most. It does guitar-scale jointing just fine, works well as a smoother (though needs some throat adjustment with difficult woods) and is a charm to use with a shooting board. A jack of all trades for sure, but needs adjusting when switching operations.

You're being rather vague about your needs. Between a 3 and 6 in size, but for what would you use it the most? That's what should guide your decision. A no. 6 is a great size for truing stock and shooting, so I wouldn't get a 5 or a 5 1/2 in your shoes, they're too close to what you already have. If you're looking for a bigger smoother than the no. 3, I suggest the 4. It's the most recommended smoothing plane in existence and the usual suggestion for a first plane. I'd take the 4 1/2, personally, but you might be put off by the additional weight since you find the 6 heavy for what it is.

Another thing to consider are the bevel-up planes, which are usually easier to get good results with than the bd versions of same sizes, unless you really know how to use the chipbreaker properly.

Actually, if I were you, I'd get a shoulder plane next. But that may be due to eyeing some myself, currently :naughty: It's something I miss having time to time ever since mine was stolen.

Regards, Will
 

Barnaby

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I am also an adherent of the #5 1/2 school of thought. It's the perfect size (for me) for truing and smoothing. I reach for mine more than any other bench plane in the shop. The only other plane I'd use more is a block plane.

In fact, I collect #5 1/2 planes. Don't ask me how many I have!

However, in your shoes, maybe I'd look at a really good #4 size above everything else. The #4 1/2 is, in my opinion, a little betwixt and between as a tool. I have one in the plane till and don't think I've ever used it except to try it out after it first arrived. As Wallied says above, the #4 is a great choice. A well-tuned #4 is an amazing thing to use. The plane in my avatar is a Stanley #4 Made in England from around 1950 or 1960 which I restored and now has a replacement Hock blade and breaker. It's always good, but sublime when freshly sharpened.

A shoulder plane is also a great choice, although mine is a cheap Japanese one designed for cleaning and widening the grooves for sliding doors that does everything I need from such a tool in guitarmaking (i.e. tenons and stuff). I think it was under ten dollars from a local Tokyo hardware store. A Clifton would be nice ... one day ...

There are a couple of other options to consider, however. One is a low-angle jack plane, which is sufficiently different in style to be useful in your arsenal. It can do things that others find harder, like dealing with end grain. I'd suggest to get one from a proper company, like Lie-Nielsen or Veritas if so. Don't be messing around with Woodriver or, worse, the truly dreadful modern Stanleys.

Another left-field choice is a plane I've seen and held but never owned. The Record T5 Technical Plane. Yes, it's a #5 size, but is very interesting and versatile. It has extended wings and a reinforced casting, plus a handle which can be used to simplify use on a shooting board. I think that one of those, properly tuned, could be really good. They're often on eBay and, even if they don't have the handles, replacements can be purchased. Older Record planes are great tools and easily on par with the older Stanleys (i.e. much better than the modern ones).
 

Robert Parker

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Thanks, Wallied. To clarify a bit, I imagine myself using the next one for two major uses: smoothing large surfaces and thicknessing stock that needs to come down, such as headstock pieces (I like scarf joints, so I need reduce the thickness about 1/4" to 3/8" once it's cut off from the neck blank).
 

Barnaby

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Thanks, Wallied. To clarify a bit, I imagine myself using the next one for two major uses: smoothing large surfaces and thicknessing stock that needs to come down, such as headstock pieces (I like scarf joints, so I need reduce the thickness about 1/4" to 3/8" once it's cut off from the neck blank).
In that case, maybe a #5 is exactly what you need. It's 3 pounds lighter than the #6 according to Patrick Leach.
 

Robert Parker

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Thanks @Barnaby. That Record T5 looks fascinating. Too bad the only one on Ebay right now is in the UK, and shipping to the States is almost as much as the plane. Still, the more I've read over the last few days, the more a no. 5 of some make seems the likely choice.
 

Barnaby

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Well, any older Stanley (or MIller's Falls, Union, Ohio, etc...) #5 can be tuned up to run like a dream. My favourites of the US Stanleys are the type 11s, like this one.

The reason is that I find the lower front knob and handle shape lead to slightly better ergonomics. They also have good steel and a more functional lever cap than the later "kidney-shaped hole" ones. Finally, they have excellent balance. Those small details might seem like nothing, but do add up if you're using the plane for extended periods.
 

akwusmc

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Thanks @Barnaby. That Record T5 looks fascinating.
An option to a handle (I'll admit the T5 is on my bucket list!) for shooting board use is what is known as a 'hot dog' ... a handle that clamps onto the side of a plane for using with a shooting board. They're easily made, whether for universal use or for a specific plane.
 

valvetoneman

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I use a 5 1/2 too does everything I need, I've got a block plane, maybe a no 4 is next for me
 

Robert Parker

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An option to a handle (I'll admit the T5 is on my bucket list!) for shooting board use is what is known as a 'hot dog' ... a handle that clamps onto the side of a plane for using with a shooting board. They're easily made, whether for universal use or for a specific plane.
Yeah, I figure that it's easy enough to drill and tap one side of the body for a bolt, then make your own handle to screw in.
 


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