HANDPLANE BUYER’S GUIDE (CONTINUED)
Buy a Rabbet Plane or Moving Fillister Plane
When cutting rabbets, a dedicated rabbet plane is superior to a combination plane, especially if it has a skewed (angled) iron for cross-grain cutting. Below you’ll see a rabbet plane with a straight iron (on top) and a rabbet plane with a skewed iron (on bottom).
But, in my opinion, a moving fillister plane is superior to all other rabbet cutting planes.
Why? Because it has an adjustable fence, a slicing nicker (slices the cross grain fibers just ahead of the iron), a skewed iron (to make a cleaner cut), and an adjustable depth stop.
Moving fillister planes come with wooden bodies or steel bodies. Both are great. I own quite a few antique wooden moving fillister planes, and have done extensive rehab work on them, and love how they cut and feel. Some of the most popular metal moving fillister planes are the vintage all-metal Stanley No. 289 Moving fillister plane and the modern Veritas moving fillister plane, called the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane. Both are a great planes. I really, really like the Veritas skew rabbet plane. The design was incredibly well thought out, and when you’ve got it properly setup, it cuts panels and rabbets like a dream.
You can read Chris Schwarz’s review of this Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane here and you can buy it here.
Buy a Large and Small Router Plane
I use router hand planes all the time to cut dado joints (watch our dado tutorial here) and clean up tenon cheeks. A router plane is not very similar to a power router. Router planes are very useful and necessary for giving a flat bottom to dado joints and mortises, for creating a level base for decorative inlays, leveling tenon cheeks, cutting out mortises for hinges, etc. I have about ten router planes, and enjoy using them all. I have antique wooden router planes, antique metal router planes, and a modern metal router plane.
METAL ROUTER PLANES
The most popular antique metal router plane is probably the beautiful Stanley No. 71 Router Plane. I have a couple of them, and really enjoy using them. I also find these router planes to be simple and enjoyable to restore, and there isn’t a lot that can go wrong with router planes like these.
But Stanley 71 router planes are really in high demand at the moment, and the price is much higher now than when I bought mine. Also, finding different cutters and accessories can be a challenge, although I usually do most work with the stock cutter.
What about modern router planes? I have tried both of the two most popular modern router planes: The Lie-Nielsen No. 71 Large Router Plane and the Veritas Router Plane. The Lie-Nielsen No. 71 router plane runs about $140 plus shipping, and the Veritas runs about $159 plus shipping. Vintage Stanley No. 71 router planes run pretty close to this, or more expensive in some situations (and they still need to be tuned up). So I would recommend buying a new router plane.
Both new router planes are nice, but I actually preferred the Veritas router plane over the Lie-Nielsen router plane, for comfort, adjustability, and overall better engineering. Also, Veritas carries a lot more cutters than Lie-Nielsen (I believe Lie-Nielsen only carries one or two sizes), and the cutters are much less expensive. For those who do wood inlay, the Veritas offers a bunch of small size cutters for that purpose.
I bought the Veritas router plane a few years ago and still really like it, so Veritas would be my recommendation. But if you decide to ignore my advice and buy the Lie-Nielsen router plane, just make sure you buy the closed throat version so you can use the router plane on board edges.
A small metal router plane is also quite useful. I own both the Stanley No. 271 small router plane and the Record No. 722 small router plane. Both are perfect for routing out shallow mortises for hinges and inlay. You can buy them on eBay for around $30-$50 (see link below). Another new option is the Lie-Nielsen No. 271 small router plane (for around $80) and the Veritas Small Router Plane ($55).
WOODEN ROUTER PLANES
You can also buy vintage wooden router planes, lovingly called “Old Woman’s tooth” or “Grandma’s tooth”. Some of these (like the one in the above photo) are my favorite router planes. They can be more comfortable and solid than the metal router planes.
If your skill level permits, then you can always try to build a wooden router plane with this tutorial. A wood plane is always great to see in a workshop.
Here are the best prices that I’ve found on router planes:
B. Semi-Urgent Hand Planers (Buy these next)
This is a list of hand planes that are very useful, but that may not be absolutely necessary for beginner’s projects. But they might, depending on what you’re building!
Buy Wooden Molding Planes
I absolutely love antique wood planes, and molding planes (or “moulding” planes) are among my favorite type of wood plane. Molding planes are the traditional method for cutting decorative figures into furniture, tool box skirts, baseboards, crown molding, etc. I couldn’t believe how satisfying it was the first time I planed a molding profile into a board!
Here are the two molding planes that I’d recommend starting out with:
1. Buy a Beading Plane
A 1/8″, 3/16″ or 1/4″ “Side Bead” Plane for creating decorative beading along an edge. I use it for creating the “bead board” look on tongue & groove box bottoms & cabinet backs. Read Megan Fitzpatrick’s great article on Side Beads. And Bill Anderson wrote this great article on my website on how to restore antique beading planes.
2. Buy a Dedicated / Complex Molding Plane
A complex molding plane has a dedicated profile (e.g. Ovolo, Ogee, or Sash profile) and only cuts that profile, in one direction (with the board to the right of the plane). Just choose a molding profile that you like.
There are so many companies & individuals that used to make molding planes in the 18th & 19th centuries, so I’m not going to list any here. Just keep your eyes open for any major splits, cracks, or smashes. Also look at the thin boxwood inserts on the bottom of the plane to make sure they’re not coming loose, is chipped, or misaligned. Finally, make sure that the parts are all present (plane, iron, and wedge) and that they fit snugly into the plane body. Here are some good places to find these wooden side bead molding planes:
- View vintage side bead planes on ebay
- View new side bead planes (made by Philly Planes in England)
- View new molding planes (made by Philly Planes in England)
- View vintage Ovolo molding planes on ebay
- View vintage Ogee molding planes on ebay
- View vintage Sash molding planes on ebay
- Here’s another great article on molding planes.
- View Molding planes at Jim Bode Tools (antique tool dealer)
And the best resource for buying, restoring, sharpening, and using molding planes is Bill Anderson. So I filmed a 2 disc DVD / Digital Download titled: “Choosing, Refurbishing and Using Moulding Planes with Bill Anderson”.
in 4.5 hours Bill Anderson covers:
- Moulding plane anatomy and how to choose and buy the best
- The differences between dedicated moulding planes, hollows & rounds, beaders & scratch stock and cleanup planes
- How to refurbish a moulding plane, from blade, to wedge and even how to replace damaged boxing
- The steps to lay out and create an Ovolo and Ogee profile, and more.
You can buy the video here and you can watch the preview below:
Buy a Shoulder Plane
Shoulder planes are used for trimming & improving cut joinery (e.g. shoulders, tenons, grooves, rabbets) and moldings. Because the shoulder plane iron runs the entire width of the plane body, it can also be used as a normal rabbet plane. Shoulder planes have a low angle iron that helps trim end grain. In my DVD “Choosing, Refurbishing, & Using Joinery Handplanes with Bill Anderson” Bill cautions woodworkers to be careful when purchasing a vintage shoulder plane as their machined bodies may be “out of true”, and difficult to refurbish. Years ago I purchased a Lie-Nielsen medium shoulder plane and enjoyed it…for awhile.
However the medium shoulder plane wasn’t versatile enough for cutting and trimming larger rabbets & tenon shoulders, so I sold it and purchased the Lie-Nielsen No. 73 Large Shoulder Plane, which has given given me better surface coverage on tenons and wider cuts when making moldings.
I also have the Lie-Nielsen Rabbet Block Plane which also works well for trimming tenons and cutting rabbet joints. And a small shoulder plane also works really well for trimming joints, especially mouldings:
Buy a Low Angle Jack Plane
I actually mentioned this hand plane in the very first part of this handplane buyer’s guide, as an option if you can only afford one bench plane. If you decided to go with the other options for a jack plane, then I would still recommend this as a specialty plane.
A low angle jack plane is perfect if you’re interested in planing a lot of end grain (like on butcher blocks), working difficult figured wood grain (by adding a iron sharpened at a higher angle), or using with a shooting board to true your ends & edges.
It can also do most everything that your normal jack hand plane can do, including rough stock removal of normal or figured grain (if you buy a toothing blade).
So rather than spending $200-$400 on the vintage (and highly sought-after) Stanley No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane, I’d recommend just buying the new Lie-Nielsen No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane for around $245.
It arrives in perfect condition (sharp, with a lapped iron) and costs less than the vintage Stanley No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane (what the Lie-Nielsen plane was inspired by). The vintage Stanley No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane will usually need a lot of restoration work, and I find the handle to be too small for my hands. Plus, the Lie-Nielsen is an improved-upon version of the Stanley No. 62.
Buy a Scraper Plane for Difficult Grain
When a very sharp handplane isn’t good enough to smooth the surface of difficult wood grain, then the next step for me is to scrape the wood surface. This obviously doesn’t produce as smooth as a surface, because of the very high angle of the blade or burr, but the hope is that at least the surface won’t tear out and cause ugly blemishes on your furniture. If you have just a small area to scrape, then a card scraper is the obvious choice. But for a large surface, a card scraper will leave shallow valleys (kind of like ice cream scoops) and it will be very difficult on your hands. A scraper plane remedies both of those issues.
The most common vintage scraper planes are:
- Vintage Stanley No. 112 scraper plane (find it here on Ebay)
- Vintage Stanley No. 80 hand scraper (pictured below. Find it here on Ebay)
- Vintage Stanley No. 85 cabinet maker’s scraper plane (find it here on Ebay)
- Vintage Stanley No. 12 scraper plane (find it here on Ebay)
- There are also other vintage scraper planes by various makers (see them here)
Scraper planes are difficult enough to master when they are new, so unless you’re excited to learn a lot about rehabbing, tuning & using scraper planes, buying a new scraper plane may be right for you. Then you just have to learn how to sharpen it and use it. And due to the rarity of certain scraper plane models, some of the vintage scraper planes are more expensive than the new versions.
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has remade the the Stanley No. 85 Cabinet Maker’s Scraper plane, which is better for medium to small surfaces (find the No. 85 here) and the No. 112 Large Scraper Plane, which is better for larger surfaces like tables or workbenches (findthe No. 112 here). You can also sometimes find them used on Ebay (see them here) but they may not cost much less than new scraper planes. Because of the large surfaces I’ve needed to scrape, I own the Lie-Nielsen No. 112 scraper plane. I also chose the Lie-Nielsen No. 112 scraper plane because it has an adjustable angle blade, whereas the No. 85 Cabinet Maker’s scraper plane has a fixed blade angle. Sometimes you need to dial in a specific, unknown angle to scrape a particular wood grain, which the No. 85 plane wouldn’t allow you to achieve. The No. 112 large scraper plane allows you to experiment and adjust the blade angle until you get an angle that works best.
Lee Valley also sells a No. 112 scraper plane, which I haven’t used (find it here). Below you can watch Lie-Nielsen’s videos on their scraper blades to help you see which scraper plane is right for you: