For more information on planes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
I’m learning quite a bit from your post and videos, thank you for making them available. I recently replaced my bench top of MDF to a laminated 2×4 with tool tray inspired from your tool bench series. Which brings me to my question I’ve gotten the top fairly flat with an ebay #4 plane but I’ve got my eye on a #6 I’ve not heard you comment on them would a # 5 be a better choice?
I have been a strong advocate for the #4 plane because it is the most versatile plane of all of the bench plane category and, AND, I really want new or beginner woodworkers to understand the true value and importance of this specific plane. It was and still is an incredible plane and it alone counters the false impression being passed out universally now that you need heavyweight planes. It’s not in any way true.
Seconhand tool dealers like Tony Murland are great guys to search out tools you need if you want a more guaranteed result than shopping on eBay
With regard to longer planes, these planes have a place in the workshop of any enthusiast. In fact, this week I have been prototyping a new bar stool design which will be made from hardwood for a book I am working on. The No 6 plane was the plane I used mostly because I needed elements to be trued as perfectly as possible. I use my components from the prototypes I make as reference pieces to develop the pieces for actual production whether this is for single production or batch production by machine methods.
We rely less and less on longer planes because we buy in our wood already machined S4S or we machine our own stock using machines that saw, joint and plane our stock S4S accurately which needs not further jointing by hand methods. The smaller smoothing planes are the perfect planes for removing the telltale machine marks and for truing up component parts.
So, on the one hand, no we don’t need longer planes for our general needs, but I do own every plane in the bench plane category and those by different makers like Stanley and Record. Because at the Castle workshop I don’t use machines normally associated with the conversion process, I tend to use longer planes. Mostly I can rely on my No5 and No 5 1/2. I can do everything with a No4, but sometimes I like the extra length and the extra weight too.
I know other craftsmen who like the longer planes for some of their work too. The quest for collecting a series from 3-8 is a natural one and one worth enjoying. I still do that, but 25 years ago I sold over a 2,000 hand tools through auction because I wanted to start in a different direction with my tool ownership. Now, every tool I have is a user.