Buying Jack Planes / Fore Planes / Scrub Planes
If you can only afford to start out with one bench plane, then I’d recommend buying a Stanley Bailey No. 5 Jack Plane. These Jack planes are the most common planes available, and were manufactured in the millions. The price ranges anywhere from $15 to $50 (I wouldn’t pay more than that).
A No. 5 Jack plane should predominantly be used for flattening boards via rough stock removal (i.e. “scrubbing” a board). If you use a cambered blade (8-10 inch radius) and open the mouth wider, then large chips can move through quickly. See my tutorial on four squaring a board here.
If you plan on also buying a dedicated smoothing plane and a dedicated jointer plane (the other bench planes) and this plane will only be used for rough stock removal (like it is for me), then there is no need to tune this hand plane up much. Just sharpen the iron really well.
But if you can’t afford all three bench planes at first (smoothing plane, Jack plane, and Jointer plane) then you could tune this Jack plane up nicely. Chris Schwarz has a nice DVD called “Super-Tune a Handplane” that can help you restore and sharpen a handplane. Then you can temporarily use the jack plane for all three tasks: rough removal, flattening, & smoothing. If used with a straight blade (or even just slightly cambered / arched), with the mouth closed down tight, it can also be used like a smoothing plane and it can also be used as a jointer plane, for flattening and truing the edges of boards up to three times its length (any longer and you’ll need an actual jointer plane). That’s all three bench planes in one! Of course, a short No. 3 or No. 4 smoothing plane is better for smoothing and a large No. 7 jointer plane is better for flattening & jointing. I’ll cover those further down on this page.
If you don’t feel the desire to rehab a Jack plane, then you’re in luck. I would recommend buying a new Lie-Nielsen No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane (bevel up), which is a remake of the hard-to-find antique Stanley No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane. It can be used as a Jack plane for rough stock removal (if you buy a separate “toothed iron” and also open the mouth wider), as a smoothing plane, and as a jointer plane (again, for boards less than three times its length).
The additional bonus of this low angle jack plane is that the low angle works great for planing end grain. And you can purchase another iron from Lie-Nielsen and sharpen it at a very high angle (around 50 degrees) for when you’re ready to start planing difficult, figured wood grain. It also works well with shooting boards. And it’s much more affordable than Lie-Nielsen’s other bench planes. Want to better understand bevel up vs. bevel down hand planes? Read this article by Christopher Schwarz to choose between Bevel up vs. Bevel down hand planes.
If I’ve convinced you to purchase a Stanley Bailey No. 5 Jack plane, then look for planes made prior to World War II, when the quality standards were higher. But if you go with the low angle jack plane, I prefer the new Lie-Nielsen No. 62 version over the antique Stanley No. 62 version because of a larger tote (handle) and lower price than the original rare antique hand plane.
* How do you know the age of a Stanley handplane? Check out my Stanley Bailey Handplane Type / Age Study (click here)
* Money Saver Tip: There’s no need to buy the more expensive Stanley Bed Rock No. 605 Jack Plane or the Lie-Nielsen No. 5 Jack Plane (based off the 605 Bed Rock plane). Spending a lot of money on a tool devoted to rough stock removal doesn’t make any sense. Save your money for a nicer smoothing plane and jointer plane.
Here are some Stanley Handplane searches to check out:
If your budget allows for all three bench planes, then instead of buying a metal bodied Stanley Bailey Jack plane, I’d recommend buying an all-wood jack plane or even better, an affordable “transitional” jack plane like this Stanley No. 26 Transitional hand plane. This can save you some money. A transitional hand plane is a hybrid between a metal Stanley plane and a wooden body plane.
A good condition transitional jack plane shouldn’t cost you more than $25 and is perfectly suitable for rough stock removal. I don’t find transitional planes to work as well for precision work like smoothing or jointing, but for making ugly wood chips fly, they work just as well as any more expensive jack plane.
I also really love the feeling and light weight of an all-wooden jack plane or a transitional plane. Just look closely before you buy a wooden plane, because some of the older wooden planes are in poor condition, with splits, cracks, and missing parts. If you’re looking to purchase a vintage wooden hand plane, check out my blog post first: “How to Buy a Vintage Wooden Hand Plane“.
Now you can search below for some vintage and new wooden jack planes and transition planes: