It doesn’t matter if you’re new to woodworking or a seasoned woodworker, at some point you’ll find that hand planes serve a valuable purpose. In many instances they provide a cleaner and smoother cut than a mechanical jointer. The question is “how many types and sizes do you need to start woodworking”?
The short answer is 3. The ones that are explained in this article can accomplish most tasks that you’ll encounter and are beginner friendly.
beginner woodworking hand planes
The block plane is the most common and popular among beginners. They’re easy to find at yard sales and possibly even at flea markets. If by chance you can’t find these where you live, you can buy these at a local hardware store and they don’t cost an arm and a leg.
They’re very useful for woodworkers who mainly use power tools. Block planes can be used to trim plugs flush to a surface. Block planes are also useful to chamfer edges on a workpiece where there’s end grain. This helps to prevent tear out when planing over the end grain.
The block plane also is easy to use, easy to set up and provides a nice smooth surface to a workpiece.
There are many sizes of block planes and 2 types of them. To start, find the ones that fit comfortably in your hand. That’s the most important thing to keep in mind, if it doesn’t feel good, you won’t use it.
I would get 1 standard and 1 low angled version. But if you absolutely had to choose between the two, go with the low angled version. They can do anything that the standard one can do and they work well if you plane end grain regularly.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to buy one probably at a hardware store or order one from amazon since they aren’t normally found at flea markets or garage sales.
No. 5 jack planes are the next one you want to focus on getting. They’re called jack planes because they’re capable of doing various jobs. I like these a lot because you can change out one angled blade for a different angled blade.
Jack planes are a nice hand plane to have because you can set it up for aggressive stock removal. You can go the opposite of stock removal and set it up for smoothing out boards.
Jack planes can also be used to plan down edges of boards so they can be glued up for wide panels. They also excel at removing high spots, twists and cupping from boards before being fed through a power planer.
If by chance you have some short pieces of wood that need flattening but can’t be safely fed through a power planer, then the number 5 jack plane is the one to use.
The standard jack plane can typically be found at garage sales and flea markets and is fairly inexpensive.
The low angle jack plane however is expensive but is worth the money. Stanley makes a No. 62 low angle jack plane that’s very versatile. They work well on all sorts of wood and end grain. An added advantage of thel low angle jack plane is it’s easily transformed from a rough scrubber to a fine smoother by changing out the blades.
The smoothing plane is the third and final hand plane you should look into getting. Even though you can smooth edges and faces of boards with a block plane and a jack plane. A dedicated smoothing plane with a sharpened blade and set to a nice fine cut can save you a lot of time sanding.
Plus the surface of the material looks nice after you’ve planed it down with a smoothing plane. They keep all the edges smooth and crisp without all the noise and dust from using a sander.
A No. 3 &4 smoothing planes are the most common that you’ll find and for the most part fairly cheap just like the block plane. Like the block plane, comfort is very important. Try out some that fits nicely in the hand. If you were blessed with large hands then consider looking at 4.5 smoothing planes, they do cost a little more but in the end, if it feels right then this is what I recommend.
Jointer Plane- How Much Will You Use It?
The jointer hand plane, believe it or not does have a place in your workshop. There’s a few reasons why this hand plane comes in handy. The first being is if your board is too wide to feed through your power planer. You can use a jointer plane to plane down the face of a board instead of cutting it to fit the power planer.
The jointer plane does a great job at removing milling marks that are left behind from a power planer or a power jointer. It doesn’t take very long to remove mill marks and it leaves a nice surface for a smoothing plane to be used next.
Just because you feed lumber through a power jointer or planer doesn’t mean that the edges and faces of the board will be flat, they won’t be.
They work extremely well to true up edges of boards to give you a straight and flat surface before gluing up. This process ensures that a good bond is made when wood clamps are applied to the glued pieces or panels.
How flat does a jointer plane need to be?
It doesn’t have to be perfect besides there’s no such thing. But it does have to be, you know, pretty flat to give the desired result. As long as the sole of the jointer plane isn’t too far out of whack, it should be fine to use.
The tolerance is 1/32” of an inch or less. Yes it is possible to resurface the sole of the plane to true it up but that could take a lot of time. If it’s that far out, then it’s time to buy a new one. If it’s new and you notice that it’s off then send it back. If you think about it 1/32” of an inch is a lot of wiggle room for a hand plane.
Don’t over think the flatness of the jointer or any other hand plane for that matter. The best thing that you can do for yourself is to make sure that the blade is kept sharp.
How long should my jointer plane be
Stanley makes a No. 7 jointer plane that weighs 9.25 pounds and is at least 22” long. If you don’t want to buy a Stanley brand there are other brands out there that have almost the same length, weight and quality.
This size of plane is more than capable of truing up edges of lumber and flattening surfaces as well, such as the surface of a wooden work bench that needs to be resurfaced. It does a good job of taking out marks left behind from a power planer or a power jointer.
Most General Purpose Hand Plane For Limited Budget
If you’re working off of a budget and you’re having a hard time deciding which hand planes to buy. I would buy the two types of block planes that were talked about earlier. They are beginner friendly. They don’t cost very much and they have multiple uses.
How To Hand Plane End Grain
It’s possible to hand plane end grain of lumber but some precautions need to be taken to achieve the desired result. First and foremost, choosing the right plane to do the job. The low angle block planes do a nice job on end grain. Always make sure that the blade is kept sharp to prevent tear out.
As the hand plane passes over the surface make sure to take shallow cuts. Before starting this endeavor, practice on a scrap piece of wood to get a fine shaving coming out of the plane.
To further prevent tear out it’s a good idea to clamp pieces of wood just below the end grain that’s being planed. This gives support as the block plane is moved across the surface and keeps the end fibers from peeling off.
Stumpy Nubs has a great video on different types of hand planes