Planes I Like to Work With

DSC_0120I have so many planes now and use different ones throughout the day. I tend to keep the older and more worn ones I have bought near by because I feel an affinity with something that has so obviously been well used, cared for and feels the same as my own ones. I do own some new old, still-in-the-box tools because I like opening them and seeing them as unused pieces but that’s another side of me too. Even though I am in my mid 60s I still like to make sure I have enough tools to last me another 200 years for some vain reason. Also, I have 5 sons and a daughter and 13 grandchildren so far. I would like to think that some of my tools will go to them even though I have already provided my children with their own kits over the years. I’d like to sequester some for my grandchildren next and also some really special ones for my sons.DSC_0123

It’s no secret that I advise any woodworker to first invest in Stanley or Record planes of the pre 1970s and I have good reason for this. I have my range of  Stanley planes from a #3 – #8 and the same in the Record range. I also own the same in the wooden-bodied versions. Most of these tools are boxed in storage in Texas and one day I will decide where they will finally live. I have of course taken out my original planes I started my apprenticeship with and set them aside or brought them here with me.

DSC_0099I reach equally and without preference between Stanleys and Records. This tells me a lot. It’s a mix of  reasons but two that keep me firmly impressed that my choice is right for me. I prefer thinner irons because when properly sharpened and set they don’t chatter and the steel in both plane types sharpen up quickly, being only half as thick as  irons made by more prominent makers of today, and take and hold a good sharp edge. I also like the lightness of these planes which of course is counter to everything we are being told today. More on this elsewhere on my blog. For most of the people I know and meet, cost is an important factor. The #4, #4 1/2, #5 and #5 1/2 planes can be bought for under £30 if you shop wisely. Even well maintained ones can be had for this. I use Stanley and Record planes over  and more than all others, but I like other planes too.

Side note:

One of the most impressive demonstrations I ever saw was watching a skilled iron worker hammer forge the irons for Clifton planes. When I was there writing an article on the plane they told me that this method of hammer-forging tightens up on the grain in the steel and enables it to take and retain the sharpest of all edges whilst at the same time retain  excellent strength and edge holding properties.

Other plane makers I like

In recent years, through my research, I have stocked up on lesser known planes like Woden and I Sorby; because they fascinated me. I have a collection of Woden planes now and I need a #8 Woden to complete the series but I would never find use for one. Someone wrote that the Woden range was introduced by Record (having acquired the name when Woden went out of production) as a cheaper quality plane when Record took over the Woden range in the 1960s. That’s not true at all. The engineering on the Woden is very high quality and in my view exceeded the quality of Record. I have a rare Woden #4 corrugated sole in the set too.DSC_0036

I have three I Sorby planes and will likely stop at that. I bought the first one because of its scarcity and fell in love with it the minute I first used it. The engineering parallels the Woden and both plane types are tight. The I Sorby 4 1/2 I slightly narrower than what we know as the normal #4 1/2. The mechanisms are all identically Leonard Bailey with no acknowledgement on the soles in the form of casting. DSC_0045I generally avoid using these in the training films because I would hate for people to think it’s these planes that make my work work better than their regular Stanleys or Records because they all achieve identical results of high quality. That’s partly why I don’t use other high-end makers. I wouldn’t ever want anyone to think that they must have a highly engineered and expensive plane when a £20 eBay find will accomplish the same end results and give the same satisfaction. I have #5 I Sorby that I like too for the same reasons. I Sorby planes come up only occasionally on eBay and Wodens are more readily available but not at all common. I bought a #5 1/2 recently for £30 plus shipping. It was quite perfect and I will use it in my work as and when I want to.

20 comments on “Planes I Like to Work With

  1. Thanks for all you share Paul i really like watching you plane with a #4 stanley when we can clearly see a collection of very expensive veritas planes behind you in the cabinet a friend of mime called the other day to borrow a plane so he could shave a door i felt like i was put on the spot a bit so i lent him a #5 record to say i was anxcious was an understatement i think i paid about £15 for it not ten times that like some but it WAS set up just as i liked it i got it back scratched and the sole full of paint we live and learn

    • Lesson learned. Tell ’em the way it is. I tell them my planes are like finely tuned fountain pens first. Then I ask them whether they would ask a brain surgeon to borrow his scalpel or a formula one racer his car. If that doesn’t give them a hint of your protective concerns offer to look at the door with them. Here’s the thing, if they are true friends they will not be offended with the words “No”, “Get lost”. “Are you kidding!!!!???” or “I’ll trade for your Mercedes for a long weekend’s tour.”

    • Eddy, don’t you just hate that? After the exact same experience my response has become, ” sorry, bud, I don’t loan my toothbrush, or my tools”!

  2. Hi Mr. Sellers,

    I don’t mean to bring in other (previously discussed) topics, but I HAVE been meaning to ask for a while now: how does the SMALL bevel up plane from veritas fit into your work cycle? You’ve mentioned that you do like that plane, and I’d like to know how you would use it. Do you turn to it mainly for its smaller size (relative to the #4)? There are times when I feel like something smaller than the #4, and I’d rather not buy a block plane. I prefer totes. I recently found a Wards Master #3 for 10 bucks; apparently they were made by Union. It feels like decent quality and is in excellent shape though the casting does seem a bit thin compared to a #4. I suspect 3’s are like that. It should fettle up nicely though. Thanks!

    • Well, I think their small bevel-up has become something of a favourite and I know that it’s because of the weight to size ratio as much as anything. It works favourably and has good balance. I have likened some heavyweight planes to draft horses and so the number 4 for me comes in as a feisty Arabian with spunk and quickness. That’s what this Veritas plane brings to the stable for me. I cannot dismiss block planes in the same stable but not for what people say they use them. I like them for single-handed use mostly. removing the arris to parts mostly. Some veneer work and for small trimming on a shooting board. I used the Veritas block plane and their bevel-up jack plan extensively on the White House pieces I designed and built for the Permanent Collection of the White Hose five years ago.

  3. I have a couple of old Stanley No. 4’s that I’ve restored, one set up as a scrub, per your suggestion. I also have a couple of older Stanley block planes. One works nicely, the other is still waiting for me to get around to restoring that. I’m very happy with what I have so far. What would you say should be the next plane to add to the collection? I’m thinking of something larger for jointing. Maybe a 5, 5 1/2, 6 or 7?

  4. Hi Paul,

    I’d like your thoughts or other bloggers on Stanley blades. I have had to buy a new blade for my Stanley No.6, so I bought a Stanley blade. To my frustration the new blade was not straight and I had to spend a few hours going through all the grits to achieve a flat polished surface. Granted, I only have to do this once in the lifetime of this blade (probably mine too), but I wonder what quality I am paying for.
    As a counter point I bought a Hock blade from Amazon for my Record No.4 and it was close to perfect (albeit double the price). I have not noticed any discernible difference in the plane fitted with the Hock blade although it does feel more substantial.
    P.S. I do not wish to start another blade storm.
    I understand if you do not have time to reply to all your emails.

    Regards,
    Maurice Villari

    • My conclusions are always about the same. Retrofitting because there is a problem is fine. Sometimes you just have to do it. I know a lot of times people forget that they can take out hollows and bellies with a single blow on a benchtop with a nylon faced hammer. That removes the hours of labour. Also, remember the whole of the face doesn’t have to be flat. If it’s hollow just grind off on the coarse stone to gain flatness for 1/4″ behind the cutting edge. Thats about 10 years of service of like me you never grind on a mechanical grinder.
      Re retrofit irons for thicker or newer alloys or whatever; Some people like thicker irons and there is nothing wrong with that. BUT…..if it is on advice that thick irons will eliminate chatter or give a better cut or do more than the standard irons that come with the planes you are buying into a clever strategy that’s nothing more than a sales marketing. If someone tells someone tells someone that fitting a thicker iron eliminates the ultra-minute risk of plane chatter that might happen once in ten years of everyday use, what would they do? But that’s not what happens. The implication in saying thicker irons eliminate plane blade chatter is that they chatter with every stroke. Fact is they do not chatter if they are correctly sharpened and set in the plane. I defy any of the suppliers of heavy planes and thicker plane irons to actually produce chatter in such a a plane on demand in front of me. They can’t and that to me proves that in general thin plane irons do not chatter. What these companies do is what all companies should have done and that is send out a well tuned plane or plane iron so that it works out of the box.

      • Thank you Paul.
        I have not encountered any chatter with any of my planes using standard “thin” irons, unless I haven’t tightened the frog screws. I do take care to make sure my iron is sharpened/honed before I begin a project and I found that if one does that regularly it reduces the time needed to get a perfect edge.
        I thank you for showing us the technique of shaping the edges of the blade, it makes a huge difference to the final product. That is something that most sharpening blogs/videos leave out or not stress sufficiently.
        I am cynical enough not to believe all the marketing hype about blades. I only bought the Hock blade because my local supplier was trying to charge me $30.00 (instead of the usual $20.00) for a 2inch Stanley blade, so I decided to thumb my nose at him.
        I thank you again for taking the time to reply and wish you and your family all the best.

        Regards,
        Maurice Villari

  5. A great post that puts forward a completely common-sense, reasonable attitude towards tool usage.

    Regarding the loaning of planes – I’ve ended up with a Sargeant and a Stanley Handyman that do a decent job on household chores but are not quite robust enough for shop work. Those are my loaners.

  6. Paul, thanks again for a great blog! It’s hard to be a tactal craftsperson and not collect tools. Without getting overly metaphysical, I always thought there is a tie to a previously owned tool. Energy or something. It just causes problems with multiple disciplines. Too many fine old tools begging to not be retired. Still, a happy dilemma. I also don’t hear much about the Stanley #2. A toy? At the same age as you, Paul, I find myself using its’ blockplane size more and more. The tote fits the web of my hand and gives a good purchase to pull the plane from for grain reversal. An old Humanities professor of mine used to say ” people, we don’t know what we like, we like what we know “

  7. Hello Paul,

    That was/is an excellent blog on your characterization of your planes and how you like to capture their essence thru work. I too, mostly because of you, have been collecting these miraculous pieces of engineering and have a very nice collection of Stanley’s #4-#8. Have not yet found an acceptable #3 yet but its out there. I have paralleled my Stanley collection with some very nice Winchester planes and I do have a nice # 3 in that moniker and I am still looking for more of the Winchesters. Fortunately there are so many Flea markets, antique shops and garage/estate sales here in the states, if one keeps consistent with the shopping you will find the treasure. Find, sharpen, tune, and shave wood; a truly great endeavor for this retiree. THANKS!
    Jeff Brann, Memphis, Tn

  8. Paul another great Blog and I agree with you whole heartily about the vintage Stanley’s. I have #3 – #7 with a few Sargent’s and Keen Kutter K series in the mix as well. The only new planes I own are LV Medium Shoulder plane and their small router plane.

    I probably use my Bedrock #4 the most with it’s original blade and love it, and you are right once set up properly and sharpen the blade it does everything I ask of it.

    People do not need to spend a fortune on the newer “boutique” planes, they are not going to do any better job IMO.

    Steve

    PS: I do own a few Woody’s as well and enjoy using them.

  9. Hi Paul
    Great blog. Sorting through and found this one very interesting. When I am working on a project I keep a No. 3 on the bench for end grain.

  10. Hi, Paul, I recently came across a Sedgley No. 4 smoothing plane. I got it for free and did not expect much of it, but when I started restoring it I was pleasantly surprised. The handles are rosewood and fitted to perfection. The screws holding them are quite massive and the adjusting wheel has hardly any slop. I own about 20 planes by Stanley and Record but this one can hold its own against the best of them. I have never heard you mention this brand and I was wondering whether you had used their planes and what your opinion was of them. Thanks.
    Kind regards,
    Mick

  11. Hi Paul,

    Appreciate the fact that this is a two and half year blog, but nonetheless was wondering how I would determine a pre ‘1970’s’ plane as per your suggestion? Is there anyway of identifying the age at all?

    Many thanks in advance.
    Eddie Q (Surrey UK)

    • As long as you have sharpened it correctly the problem can be another issue. Some times the steel is very brittle at the cutting edge from the hardening process in new irons. Just continue to sharpen the edge, use the plane, and you will soon get to the ‘inner’ steel that will have continued consistency in hardness and edge retention qualities and the problem will disappear.

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