Questions Answered – Which Plane for Small Surface Work

Question:

Hello

I am looking for a bit of advice. I have been into woodworking for 5+ years but it has always involved power tools. Recently I started building small wine glass holders that are roughly 12 inches long by 7 inches wide. They are made up of several different types of wood laminated together. In the past i would clean up the glue squeeze out and fix any dips/valleys with a lot of sanding. After watching your videos on YouTube I believe using a hand plane would not only allow me to level these glue ups without creating a cloud of dust, but also provide a much cleaner end result.

What I am not sure of is where to even start. I am on a pretty strict budget and would like to stay under 100 dollars, but if needed I could go up to 150 dollars. Is there a plane you would recommend for these small glue ups within that budget? Perhaps you already addressed this in a blog that I missed while searching for information, if that is the case could you please point me to it?

Thank you for your time.

Jeremy

Answer:

I am glad that we are finally emerging from the dominant and unfortunate culture of using mass-machine methods to at last recognise the value of real woodworking and hand work in particular. You are right to seek out new qualities for your hand work. You are joining the ranks of real woodworking and the simpler work you describe will enable you to deliver a product more superior than anything you have made before. The unfortunate culture of machine-only woodworking  seems so distant to the intimacy hand work delivers, so here are my thoughts.

It’s more than likely you will achieve the finest results with perhaps four planes the cost of which should be no more than the $100 you allow as an initial investment if you shop secondhand cutiously. In actuality you can phase in the planes one at a time. Start by buying a #4 Stanley smoothing plane and restore it by following this sharpening video we made for YouTube.

Buying an older plane that has been well used usually means the plane will be ready to use apart from sharpening.

Different woods side by side can sometimes be more problematic as can the same woods that are laminated. A well sharpened Stanley will usually take care of anything and the pieces are so small you should not have a problem. if you do, then a #80 scraper comes to the rescue. This tool will work any different wood including laminations of different woods.

The Stanley 4 should cost you no more than $30-40. Later, after you’ve mastered the first, buy a #5 and work with that one. After that go for a #4 1/2 and later, if you feel you need the extra width, but #5 1/2.

9 comments on “Questions Answered – Which Plane for Small Surface Work

  1. Paul,

    This is an excellent answer because it solidifies my own thoughts on my favorite tools. While I have all the power tools I need with just a table saw, band saw, and drill press, my two absolute favorite tools to use are my 1939-1940 Stanley No. 4 in tip-top condition and my No. 80 Stanley scraper plane (from England, written on the sticker). These tools are almost spiritual. I used to use a belt sander e.g. to level aprons, top rails, dovetail pin or tail height differences, etc. None of that nonsense anymore for me. You can damage your work with a belt sander. Yes it gets the job done, but the handwork is more satisfying, just as fast, and it’s way more precise.

    You give a good answer Paul. And, your choice of tool recommendations is becoming my own. I’m amazed at why the education here in the US is not about the use of hand-tools. It’s more about selling power tools. Ah, there it is. … marketing and selling. Thanks for being honest about this woodworking business. Your methods are where great quality comes from and also keep craftsmanship alive. Now I just want to find commissions to do using Sassafras here in North Carolina, it’s $2.50 or less a board foot based on my demand. 🙂

  2. Paul, perhaps a good old $15 card scraper (properly cleaned up with a good burr and properly used) would be the cheapest/quickest way to clean up glue squeeze out? It can also level small areas pretty easily as well though of course Paul’s recommendation on planes does that leveling easier and with less soreness to your thumbs.

  3. Jeremy, I knew what Paul’s answer would be. And I can totally back him up. I’m in much the same position as you. I have a full compliment of power tools but find myself using them less and less. I’ll use the electron machines if I’m doing something for the house that I just want to get done quickly. But when I’m making something nice, it’s so much more rewarding and relaxing to pull out the hand tools and really work the wood.

    I’ve recently acquired two Stanley No. 4’s from eBay. One cost $20 and the other $40. Prices seem to go up and down. Currently, there seems to be nothing on there for less than $50, but I’m betting they’ll go back down. I restored both of my planes based on Paul’s videos and other videos and writings I’ve found on the web. I’d never used a plane before, but now I’m in love with both of them. And I like to think that I’m actually getting pretty good at using them. Good luck in your journey.

  4. A suggestion. If you make sure to have all the pieces of the laminate having the grain going in the same direction, it will pay huge dividends. It isnot so important when sanding, but yourplanes will really appreciate it

  5. My problem is assembling and setting up the plane for optimum performance. I’ve bought half a dozen No.4s, a 4 1/2, a 3, 5, and 6 and done what I can with derusting and cleaning & sharpening. I try to reassemble them with thought and accuracy but I never get it right.
    I even bought a brand new No.5 and reassembled it faithfully after sharpening – a plane that worked okay before I tampered with it is now so problematic as to be useless. Maybe it’s instinct or many years of acquired skill, maybe an extraordinary level of hand – eye co-ordination, I just know I aint got it.

    • I had the same problem when I first started using Hand Planes. When I retired 4 1/2 years ago all I did for a couple years was learn how to fettle planes, chisels, clean saws ( Learning how to sharpen saws now ) I bought a couple books one by Michael Dunbar ( Restoring Handtools ) and one by Garrett Hack ( restoring Handtools, Planes ) and of course watched a lot of You Tube videos.

      Now it didn’t take me all that long to figure out how to set up a plane after I completely disassembled it. I really enjoy fettling tools, it is a good relaxer at least for me. You just have to play with them and then the light comes on.

      Since that time Paul Sellers was introduced to me and I bought his book and started watching his videos and subscribed to Woodworking Master Classes on line courses and the rest is history.

      Steve

  6. Señor Creo que la destreza se adquiere con la practica, no todos tenemos la misma facilidad de aprendizaje, pero con una practica continua, de prueba y error, se logra un éxito aceptable, mejorando notablemente los resultados. Me parece que es mucho mejor el uso tradicional de herramientas manuales,y después usar si es necesario las herramientas eléctricas, que se las sabrà usar mejor, teniendo la experiencia del trabajo tradicional, manual y artesanal.

  7. Hi Jeremy once you get your plane watch Paul’s videos and practice setting up your plane. Don’t get discouraged and just pay attention to detail. Keep it simple and fall in love with your new tool. Be ware once you got it, old discarded tools will speak to you if as asking you to save them, They seem to say take me home and give me new life again, I have found some of my best tools at swap meets for under $10.00. Enjoy the change and you will live longer by not choking on dust. Now the only time I turn on my big dust collector is to vacuum my shop floor. And that’s only because I save the shavings for heating my shop and the bags male it easy to store. When you can get Paul’s course of 7 DVDs and book it is the best bang for your buck.
    Respectfully
    Mike Melendrez

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