Buying good tools cheap – What planes do you use?

I would that someone would have come out with the regular Stanley #4 plane Bailey pattern again. You know, the lightweight one. One with nice Padauk or curly cherry handles. Or even highly polished beech would work for me with no stain. Also, I know the German tool makers Kuntz made a very junky model of some of these at one time, but they were never known for quality. I use the small  Veritas low-angle, bevel-up smoothing plane quite a bit when I am working on some pieces. I like all of their bevel-up planes  but this one I like because of its light weight as well of course as it’s quality. But if someone came back with the smaller #4 Bailey-pattern smoothing plane with the same quality as the higher end models produced today I would definitely buy it at the same price they are expecting for the #4 Bed Rocks. I want the thinner iron though I do think it could be slightly thicker, not much though.

This week I will be teaching a workshop making the dovetailed Shaker candle box. aIt’s one of my favourites classes because here we demolish the myths of tools, methods of work, sharpening and so much more. Actually ,we have two foundational one classes followed by two subsequent level II and III classes. Anyway, we will be using the #4 Stanley and Record smoothing planes as well as some Veritas planes too. This is where the rubber hits the road for many of them. Bevel-up, bevel-down? They both are welcome because they both have their place. Both are limite and both complement one another. These workshops are  a passage of discovery  and experimentation, opening doors many are reluctant to open. This week changes lives. You watch.

In this opening workshop we look inside the plane, discover it’s inner working s and find out why it was abandoned. It wasn’t abandoned because it didn’t work and work well. It wasn’t abandoned because it was bettered by more advanced technologies, fashion played a small part, but it wasn’t even that powerful interloper into our woodworking world. This the most commonly used of all Stanley planes simply died. It’s quality diminished as the last four decades came and went. What we have today is a sorry example of what once was. However, rest assured, the quantity of planes Stanley and Record produced between the late 1800’s and the close of the last century will supply us through recycling channels for ever. There are at any given tim about three hundred of them on eBay alone. Now this begs the question. What planes do you use in Poland and Germany? Holland and Belgium. What about all of the other EC countries? What about Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and so on?


  1. I’m still jumping around when I use my planes, far too much. I have most of the sizes but right now the two that reside outside the box are a No 4 and a No 6. I am one of the rare guys who loves my new model Stanley bevel up jack plane ( I know they use aluminum in some questionable places and the adjuster has a lot of play but it was one of my first purchases, it hasn’t let me down, and is fun to use.) and my Record low-angle block plane gets its fair share of use. Next would be my Lie-Nielsen (No 71) router plane and then the Stanley and Record spoke shaves.
    My next small project is to make some large/long spoons to use for stirring Clam Chowder at work (beefy, I make my chowder thick) and I’d love to progress to a French rolling pin soon too. More spokeshave and chisel work!
    I just bought some White Oak, American Black Walnut and African Mahogany to make a couple shaker boxes for Christmas gifts. Hello No 4 again!
    And, I have a couple slabs of Purple Heart and Maple for Chef-sized, end-grain cutting boards for my Exec Chef, Girlfriend and Dad. Bevel up time once they are glued-up but this project might just get the router plane for a juice groove and I need to figure out how to recess the bottom edges to get fingers underneth to pick them up. Mybe I’ll use feet to get them off the surface?.
    I’m a busy lil novice.
    I ordered a Veritas small plow plane with the conversion kit and the thick irons and T&G blades. I’m excited for its arrival to start some projects that I’ve been planing for a few years, produce boxes and magazine boxes with T&G car-siding.
    My local lumber source is loving me these days but I need to study up on my species, especially mixing them for contrast, which ones work well together.

    1. Unfortunately it took about three iterations for Stanley/Black and Decker/DeWalt/Whatever-Their-Name-Is-At-This-Hour to get the manufacturing right(-ish) on their new Sweatheart planes. The aluminum lever caps work fine IF the machining of the bed is crisp and clean so that the blade beds well. When this happens, you don’t need tremendous down force to hold the blade in place. Just spin the knob until the cap levers up to engage the screw and the button presses down on the back of the blade. Then about 1/4 turn more. That’s it. You should still be able to make small adjustments (yes, lots of backlash unfortunately) including lateral and the blade won’t slip. Just remember to wind out the depth adjuster to remove the backlash before planing.

      This goes for any vintage block plane with knuckle caps, articulated caps or any of the various designs that used the spin wheel and button to hold the blade in place (Stanley, Clifton and similarly designed shoulder planes also come to mind). If everything is clean, flat and true (to the best of your ability), you just don’t need to crank down on those spin knobs.

      1. Whatever-Their-Name-is-at-this-Hour is right, unfortunately, along with Wherever-they’re-being-made-at-the-moment.
        You are also correct about the caps and the adjuster. Once dialed in, it is really fun. The Veritas would be the route I’d go today but back then all I knew was Stanley. It is alarming that my local guy sells the Stanleys but doesn’t know about the Veritas planes, even though he sells their sharpening guides. BTW, my Lie-Nielsen No 71 is great but they are uber-expensive tools and I wouldn’t have the 71, except it was a gift. That being said, I really do reccommend that hand woodworkers find a Stanley or used router plane on ebay or save up for a new one. I’ve fought with so many dadoes and grooves that this just makes ridiculously easy and I no longer have the desire to buy a $4000 table saw. Dadoes and grooves? No problemo and no complicated jigs.
        One of these days we need a list of reputable manufacturers, not just with planes but saws too. I see items made in Sheffield England but I don’t see reviews on them by people who actually use them. Lynx, PAX, etc…

        1. re: PAX, I took a chance on their 28″ 5-1/2pt rip saw and the saw itself is quite good. Mine tapers about 0.031″ at the toothline to 0.045″ at the spine. This isn’t very much and could be mostly due to manufacturing variance but it does seem consistent along the length. It came with about 0.008″ set which so far seems to be plenty (that is to say 0.008″ each side so 0.016″ across the points). It arrived sharp and cut straight. At least as straight as I can rip, comparing it to an Atkins I already have and restored.

          The toothline is slightly breasted and it is a skew back design. I don’t have a protractor handy to give you info on tooth geometry but it does seem to have a slightly relaxed rake making it relatively easy to start. I mostly use walnut, cherry, white oak, poplar and various pines. Most of my long rips have been in poplar and pine but I have used it to re-saw several pieces of walnut successfully (if occasionally rather ugly).

          So seems like pretty good steel but crap for a handle. It is OK as a handle but one of these days I need to reshape or replace. I did strip the lacquer and that helped.

          Tools for Working Wood lists it at $120. So if you aren’t feeling like waiting for a saw on eBay and then fixing it up etc, $120 is a reasonably good price. Particularly as this is a 28″ saw which tend to be a bit on the premium price side on eBay. My Atkins is 26″ but as I’m 6′ 4″ a 28″ rip fits me nicely.

          1. FYI, I have the direction of the taper listed BACKWARDS! It tapers down from the toothline to the spine, not, as I implied above, spine to toothline. Sorry for the confusion.

          2. Hi Rob, I just saw your replies. Thank you for the information. I’m OK on hand saws right now with plenty of vintage saws around the place. I have a few that need some attention to get up to snuff but I would like to get my Dad some new saws one of these days and the PAX you described sounds like a nice one to get him.

        2. Being both a wood worker, and a fourth generation blacksmith, it has occurred to me that many Stanley 71’s languish for lack of irons ( cutters ). Having made my own replacements over the years I now wonder if the procedure would be of value to others? It’s not rocket science, and opens up the possibility of the new life for fine old tools that lost their tooth.

          1. I think that would be a great video. As you say, easy to make and inexpensive. I make them for the school planes to fit plywood sizes which are usually wrongly sized for this. Where are you based, Brian?

          2. Fairly remote. The high desert, about a hour north of Palm Springs, southern California.

  2. I have purchased many years ago a “modern” STANLEY plane in a local OBI hardware store. I found it unusable because I did not know anything in those days about sharpening tools. (the STANLAY was shipped in dull condition) So I went on with power tools. Two years go I purchased a KUNZ plus Nr.4 plane and I was surprised – it worked reasonably well out out of the box. Because of this success I became interested in Hand tools and so I started my hand tool journey…
    I have the KUNZ Plus Nr4, three JUUMA planes No4 No5 and No6, a low bevel DICTUM hand plane, a DICTUM spoke shave and a Veritas low angel spoke shave. The quality of the JUUMA is IMHO very good – I can produce very nice surfaces with it. The KUNZ plus has a somewhat unusual construction but the quality is good – much better than the “older” frog green KUNZ planes. BTW: In the meantime I have learned sharpening planes and so even the low-quality STANLEY can be used successfully, but of course not so much fun as the JUUMA planes or the KUNZ plus.

  3. “Buying good tools cheap – What planes do you use?” — Can’t resist a straight line like that… I use the sharp one.

    I have a mix of old and new (more old than new) iron body planes with the oldest being a #6, #8 and #48. The #48 dates from the first generation of the design so anytime between 1875 and 1900. The #6 and #8 date to around 1900 to 1910. The newest stuff I have are modern Stanley Sweatheart (60-1/2, works well but like everything in the USA these days, supersized) and a LN 62. The rest of the fleet (multiples of #3, #4, #5, #5-1/2, #6, #7, all set up differently) fall in the 1930 to 1950 range including a Monkey-Ward #45 (actually made by Stanley, but these are much cheaper to acquire) and a mix of other Record and Stanley specialty planes. Lately I’ve been working on a harlequin set of hollows and rounds, focusing on acquiring only ones with skewed blades and York or higher pitch. This leaves out most of the American makers, so it is a motley (moudly?) collection of British and Scottish makers.

    I’ve only recently started reading Mr. Seller’s blog and for the most part I have to agree that just about any plane can be made to work and work well. But sometimes, you can do yourself a favor and be picky about the vintage and condition because various features come and go over the years in the tools. Even at $20-$40 each plane, if you make too many wrong guesses or bid with your heart instead of your head, it can quickly become overwhelmingly expensive. The best advice I can give for eBay is to be patient. There will be another one just like the one you lost out shortly.

  4. Before I purchased my first metal plane, because I was born and I grew up in Czechoslovakia (and as far as I know Hungarians, Austrians and Germans are on the same boat) my first planes were wooden planes. Old ones, yup! Skew rabbet, toother, kinda No 4, even smaller one than No 3 called “cleaner”, huge try planes, profile planes… And I’m still happily using them, especially my large try plane, 65cm/26″ heavy beast with almost 3″ wide blade.. But now I have small (actually what does it mean SMALL?? you ALL know what I mean..) collection of metal ones as well. My oldest one is Stanley No 4 type 7, but he’s waiting for resurrection – no blade, no chip breaker, cap lever is missing, broken tote and terribly fixed front knob.. By the way the upper edges of walls of this type 7 are SOOO thin compare to ANY plane No4 I’ve had in my hands that THIS body type could be used for THE LIGHT ONE !
    And my daily users are all old Stanleys, Records, Acorns, Millers Falls, Marples, one Sargent, Falcon/Pope, Spear&Jackson and …. More of them on the way 😉

  5. Thank you so much for all the information that you are providing us thru this website. I have a question about planes. What are your thoughts on the Krenov style planes? I aquired a japanese style plane a couple of years ago and really enjoy the feel it, just not the pull aspect. This leads me to wonder if a Krenov style plane would suit me. I look forward to your input.

    1. I love wooden planes and of course Krenov got many people on board making them. I have a couple but rarely use them beyond demoing them. I prefer traditional Western style wooden-bodied planes, but that shouldn’t influence anyone against the Asian style planes at all.

      1. Dear Sir,
        I am from Egyp, i work engineer . I watched many video fo you on youtube. I learned from you wood working. I made some projects depend on your teaching. So i have question for you and hope you answer my question. What about kunz compass handplane, i really need buy compass hand plane but the availble for me to buy the kunz because new. So hope get reply from you.

        1. Kunz manufactures two grades of tools in some types. The earlier range were never known as quality tools but they all generally work OK. I have not tried their compass plane or even seen one so I am afraid I cannot give an evaluation, Mohamed. I am sure they will be fine though not top quality.

  6. Frank,

    Have you ever seen this mark of wooden plane made in Czechoslovakia? I can’t make out the name because the first letter is missing.



  7. hello,

    I think there is not enough place for “missing” letter, name is YORK. this is old company.
    “n” in circle on iron should be “Narex” probably, if is made after 1948.
    Another old company still making wooden planes is

  8. The one thing I never hear anyone speak about and I never thought about buying one; is a plane made by “Faithful Tools” Recently I was given a faithful #4 smoothing plane, it needed a lot a tuning up and adjusting, but when I finally used it, I was very surprised how good this little plane was!! I own Stanley’s and the Records but now I sometimes find myself reaching for this plane!

  9. I bought a new stanley no 4 from home depot. I live in Mexico. Hereis not so easy to get oldies neither top quality ones, and a lot of eBay stuff wont ship to mex, any way it is quite expensive having my tools shipped from outside. So, my new stanley was ver y bad o me. Corrugated, out of flat sole, all stickey, the meeting placer between thr frog and the sole was covered with PAINT, not machined, way oír of flat; this caused a lot of play to the frog. Then, when trying to clase the mouth o realized the blade will protrude permanently. So i put somw shims underneath the frog, but from time to time, everything becomes lose. All brands here are ver y por quality, i hace examined them: stanley, truper, pretool, surtek. This is sad. So i recently knew that stanley is making the sweethearts héroe un Mexico, but you cant get them anywhere here, I would hace to buy it from Usa. Isnt that ironic?

  10. From trawling ebay and the like, it seems to me that the metal planes never really made it to the Eastern Europe: in Poland, where I’m from, some mid-to-late 20th century examples of #4 can be usually found, but nothing like in England. Even in France the wooden planes are available in significantly higher quantities than the Bailey ones — and because of the short supply, the metal planes are generally more pricy. I have no clue about the quality of French-manufactured Bailey-pattern planes, so didn’t go for it for my first plane, might try it out at some point out of sheer curiosity. Note that both in France and Poland I have yet to see a Bailey plane larger than #4 on offer; if I do, it’ll probably be seriously overpriced. I imagine Stanley never made it that far east before WW2, and after that the Iron Curtain and increasing mechanisation prevented the spread, but it’s speculation based on what seems to be available (and needless to say, the price of England-made Stanley would have been astronomical in Poland in the 60s).

    As for wooden planes, one feature of German/Polish planes that stands out to me is the shape of the smoothers: they generally have a “horn” (and I have seen a version with actual horn used) that serves as a knob and are rectangular, in contrast to the coffin-shaped smoothers without a knob, which seem more prevalent in England and France.

    Another curious thing is that I have never met with the notion of a spokeshave in Poland: in fact, as far as I understand, the language does not distinguish between a spokeshave and a drawknife. I have no idea what was used instead, but intend to do some digging when I get a chance.

  11. Hello everybody. First of all a million thanks to Mr Sellers for what he is and all he does.
    I’m from France.
    Out of sheer curiosity I’ve in the past ebayed various brand of « vintage » metal hand planes and conclude that only Stanley, complies with Ockman’s razor principle. I have the strong feeling that modern manufacturers are more focusing on originality than efficiency.
    At present my scrub plane is an old Peugeot green oak wooden smoother with a thick round modified blade that can incredibly cut deep in the hardest woods. I love and use mainly the new Stanley n° 4, a 20 years old Bailey n° 6, a Veritas NX block plane.
    I keep in my everyday tool box a Veritas LABD jack plane only to remember how a bad plane should be made : sure the sole if dead flat, the sides at 90 degree but the cap screw is too short and the blade wobble, the fancy Norris style lateral adjustment requires hammer taps to reach the requested angle, the mouth adjustment is a non sense.
    I may replace my Bailey 6 by the Lie Nielsen version but only to satisfy my human inherent vanity. Otherwise, chisels are Bahco, measurement tools from Starrett, a LN router plane, hammers in various sizes from Blanchard and a Hultafors impact hammer, diamond plate from DMT, Richard Kell honing guide and Japanese Z saw system because my dominant eye and hand conflict. My table saw feels excluded since I’ve bought a Worx handy cut saw.
    As you see by these brand names, it’s hard to find any good hand tool manufacturer in France and It seems that France has forgotten there could by an industry out of high technology, fashion and luxury food. This might explain why it suffers a so high level of unemployment and poor craftsmanship in general. Timber also becomes very difficult to find and it reaches gold price while unexploited forest areas are increasing day by day.
    Fact is that if you are a wood worker you want to part from the mass production system and become an eccentric. Then if you are an eccentric you cannot use ordinary tools. Regards

    1. It’s great to hear from you, Bader and to better understand the obstacles facing French woodworkers. I liked the descriptions you’ve given and none of us are escaping the concepts you express. We are making a difference in a shared approach to change and in the long term the traditions of good workmanship will prevail through us amateurs. That has been the goal and we are winning.

    2. I know this comment is 2 uears old now, but I not 1, but 2 things in your post made me sit up from lying down on my bed in excitment.

      “Japanese Z saw system because my dominant eye and hand conflict.” You mean the saw guide system? I have seen those available, but haven’t thought on them as problem solvers for me, figured I just needed more practice. I’m left-eye dominant, but mostly right handed. I can do some stuff with my left, but other than some easier sawcuts, I just feel it’s too much trouble to try and go right handed. Im getting better, but when I’m tired, or not able to fully FULLY focus, I find my hand – and saw and cuts – drifting so it alligns according to the parallax as seen through my left eye. I’ve been practicing archery for some years now, self-thought, through lots of reading, videos and stuff.
      Eye-dominance/hand dominance is an important factor in it (and other shooting categories or hunting). Fortunately I’m a left-handed archer, so no crossdominance in that. I soon hypothesized that my eye-hand cross-dominance could be playing some part on this, and even tried (shamefully) patching my left-eye when doing some cuts. As much as I like looking like a pirate-woodworker-archer pediatrician (yes, I care for the young as my day job) it was weird. And ridiculous. And I was afraid to start shooting right-eyed/left handed (that would be immensely awkward. And potencially expensive, getting some right handed bows). I wonder if Paul has anything to say about that – the eye/hand dominance issue, if this gets to him anyhow.

      The second, “As you see by these brand names, it’s hard to find any good hand tool manufacturer in France and It seems that France has forgotten there could by an industry out of high technology, fashion and luxury food. This might explain why it suffers a so high level of unemployment and poor craftsmanship in general.” Interchange the fashion and luxury food parts for other things, and change France for Brazil, and I’m in an extremely similar situation. We have some quality tools ( I have a 70’s, or probably 80’s Stanley n4 made in Brazil that are pretty usable. Maybe not as nice as the 40’s made in England that I somehow managed to find here, but using it after the India-made new Stanley ones was a relief, as I was just starting to think I was incapable of working with handtools.), but when I find locally manufactured tools they fall short to the expectations of quality against the imports. Even our timber is surprisingly expensive. Yes. Expensive wood. In Brazil.
      So, cheers up to you mate, and to us, and to our eccentricity. Because you can’t be much more eccentric than a pirate-carpenter-archer-physician that spends hours watching videos of gentlemen sawing wood, and masterfully teaching others continents away to do it. Oh, and by the way, thanks for all your lessons Paul. What you are doing is immensely special, and truly a cultural legacy. Not just the technical part, but also the philosophical. Remebering and passing on that we can, and should, do things with both thought and feeling, and increase our self-awareness becoming wholer in the process. I should be joining woodworking masterclasses soon, im really looking foward to it.
      Best regards to all

  12. Hi Paul,

    First i would like to thank you for excellent learning content (blog, video …)

    At this moment my primary use of planes is for rough flattening one side of the board before putting it into planer.

    I am using E.C. Emmerich Expert plane (sometime called Secundus) plane, primarily because of comfort but blade dulls very fast and there are no aftermarket blades for it.

    I have large hands and I am having trouble finding plane with rear handle large enough.

    I also have Lie Nielsen low angle jack and its handle is close but i had to change handle with rasp to suites my hands.It is still not comfortable but at least not painful now.

    I would also like to use planes for removing planer marks, smoothing, but I can not find one that is comfortable to use.

    Do you know any metal plane (beside Veritas custom) that have large rear handle?



  13. I recently bought a Bailey #6 plane that was in rough shape but it was so cheap I couldn’t resist, the problem is it didn’t come with a blade, chip breaker or cap plate, I’m sorry if I’m not using the proper names, and was wondering if I could buy new replacement parts for this plane. I would shop Ebay but you can’t be certain the sellers know what they have and you end up with the wrong parts.
    This plane was rusty but it was still very flat and I cleaned it up pretty well.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for all you do,

    1. Any 2 3/8″ iron, cap iron and lever cap will fit the No6. Stanley and Record will be interchangeable. It may end up costing you more than buying a complete No6 plane in the end though.

      1. Thanks for getting back so quickly.I paid less then $20 for it and maybe now that I know what I need I can find some parts cheap enough.

        Thanks again Paul!

  14. Have you tried anything from the new Stanley Sweetheart line? They get surprisingly good (albeit mixed, for planes) reviews, given Stanley’s reputation, and vintage/antique Stanleys are hardly a bargain, so far as I can tell (Maybe you should start telling people to NOT buy them, if you think you inflated the price?).

    Thanks for everything.

    1. I’m sorry – I just found the post. It was from 2011 and didn’t have “Stanley” in the title.

  15. As a NZ’er who has only recently taken up woodworking and finds your website, video’s and blogs something of a revelation, I can honestly say, that as far as handtools from that era goes, we were still very much reliant on Mother England. A perusal of Trade Me (our local version of E Bay) shows nothing but Stanley and Record for 2nd hand planes

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