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If You Could Only Have One Plane...


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I've reached the limit of what I can do with a cheap block plane from the local ACE hardware store. However, I am not a professional woodworker. It is hard for me to justify a $150 LN block plane AND a $300 bench plane AND a $75 spoke shave, etc. I might be able to spend $150 TOTAL, if there was no reasonable alterantive for less.

I want a plane to join pieces of 6/4 ash and 1/4 maple. I also need to smooth plane the surfaces of the ash and maple and thickness plane spruce and rosewood. Finally, I would use the plane to smooth a neck for the fretboard join and to even and smooth a skarf join.

OK, so this is probably impossible, but...

If you were to invest in just one decent plane, what would people recommend? ECE smothing plane? Vertias low angle smoothing plane? LN adjustable angle block plane? Some Bailey/Stanley plane from e-Bay? A 4 1/2, a 5, a block plane? What?

I have seen discussions on the merits of a LN vs Veritas vs ECE vs Stanley, but all of them seem to come from the point of having already decided to by a specific size/type of plane, etc.

I understand that there is no deffinite answer. All I am asking is for those who have extensive experience, what would be your recommendation given my budget and use limitations?


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A jack plane (no.5) would be the one to go for - it's name comes from 'jack of all trades' as it can do a bit of everything. A good *old* stanley or Sargent will do the trick - light enough for most work, and long enough for most of the jointing required in guitars. You can find these planes cheap in charity shops, or on eBay.

If you prefer to buy new, the veritas line looks very nice for the money, I'd go with whatever their no.5 type is.

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One man's junk IS another man's treasure. I picked up a little known brand called an "Estes" No. 5, I dunno, from Italy? for only five bucks at a garage sale. It was a little beat up, cracked wooden handle, but the quality was still there. A good plane should come with good maintenance as well. Whatever you buy, keep the blade sharp and store it inside.

Edited by Southpa
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If you are looking solely for the best quality single plane you can get for the above mentioned tasks this is as close as I could find retail.

Veritas Low Angle #5

But for $150 you should be able to pick up the following by looking around:

Modern Stanley Jack $49.99 Will take some work to get it in shape but on a budget it should do the trick. You would be much better off searching for a Stanley 605c Bedrock #5 (LN's is based on this model) They can get pretty pricey but may be found at garage sales, flea markets,etc. for a fair price. If you do pursue looking for older stanley's the baileys aren't too shabby, but given the choice I'd pick up a bedrock style. Just my opinion, though, as I find them easier to initially tune up. If you are thinking of going the route of buying an older plane to tune up you may want to start by reading up and tuning your block plane. It'll let you know what you can realisticaly do, and a good block plane is always welcome in the shop anyway.

Anant spokeshave $16.99 Anant's planes aren't all that great, but I have had good results with this spokeshave.

The other two planes I use regularly are; a shoulder plane, and a # 7 Bailey smoothing plane. But I couldn't find anything that would fit into the current budget, and as these are a bit more specialized, they may be something to consider down the road.

But with a jackplane, blockplane, spokeshave and a couple of scrapers you should be able to meet most of your needs one way or the other. Hope this is of some help.

Nate Robinson :D

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I am not a professional woodworker.

Neither am I, but my Veritas have TOTALLY been worth the $$$.

If you were to invest in just one decent plane, what would people recommend?

The most versatile is probably the Veritas Low Angle Jack n8rofwyo posted, I really like my Veritas #6 foreplane, though. I was actually going to get the low angle jack, but bought an extra blade for my #6 instead, and will play around with re-grinding the front edge to a different angle or maybe toothing it for more versatility.

You should really get a high quality tool. First of all it takes skill to be able to easily plane a board/edge flat, and a poor tool will make that harder to achieve. As said cheaper new planes need alot of work, but older ones can be better and bought for less.

If you are interested, I actually have four old planes, one no name and three stanley/baileys I'm unloading (because of my Veritas). Two #4's and two #5's. They aint pretty, but they'd be cheap. The Stanleys are all Type 19's, made from 1948-1961.

I might be able to spend $150 TOTAL, if there was no reasonable alterantive for less.

Christmas is coming... :D

Edited by M_A_T_T
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If you're not going to be working lengths more than 3 feet, I'd be tempted to say a 4 or 4 1/2 (which is what I bought in more or less the same situation you're in). If you're trying to plane edges on boards more than three feet long, though, the extra length of a 5 or 6 will really help.

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