HANDPLANE BUYER’S GUIDE (CONTINUED)
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 a Low Angle Jack Plane
If you’re interested in working difficult figured wood grain, planing a lot of end grain (like on butcher blocks), or using a shooting board to true your ends & edges, then this simple hand planer should move to your urgent list. Even though it’s a professional plane, the low angle configuration is simpler than the complex frog on bench planes. It is actually a good hand plane to start out with.
It can also do most everything that your normal jack hand plane can do. Rather than spending $200-$400 on the vintage (and highly sought-after) Stanley plane (the Stanley No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane), I’d recommend just buying the new Lie-Nielsen No. 62 Low Angle Jack Plane for $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. Plus, the Lie-Nielsen is an improved-upon version of the Stanley No. 62. Mine handplanes perfectly!
Buy Wooden Molding Planes
Antique wood planes have become one of my tool obsessions, and moulding planes (or “molding” 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’s the two planes that I’d recommend starting out with (don’t worry, they’re just the “gateway drugs” to buying more molding planes):
- 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.
- A complex molder (e.g. Ovolo, Ogee, or Sash profile). 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 or are chipped. 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.
Buy a shoulder plane
Shoulder planes are used for trimming & improving cut joinery (e.g. shoulders, tenons, grooves, & rabbets). They have a low angle iron that helps trim end grain. In my DVD “Choosing, Refurbishing, & Using Joinery Handplanes with Bill Anderson” Bill warns against not purchase vintage shoulder planes 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 for trimming tenons and cutting rabbet joints.
Buy a Dedicated Plow Plane
Grooves are one of the most common joints that you will cut on many furniture projects (drawer & box bottoms, cabinet backs, etc.) so I recommend buying some sort of plow plane. Fortunately, everyone used plow planes, so antique plow planes are super common and can be found for very low prices. In the “urgent” section I suggested that you can purchase a popular “Combination Plane” (like theStanley No. 45) which performs many functions. But if you cut a lot of grooves, a dedicated plow plane does a better job.
You can look into buying a simple metal plow plane (Stanley No. 248, Stanley No. 46, or Stanley No. 50), or a beautiful antique wooden screw arm plow plane (my favorite because the fence stays rigidly in place after you set it). I also love the look of such a lovely wood plane.
Just make sure the wooden screw threads aren’t overly damaged. If there are a couple dings in the threads, then it’ll work fine. But if 3 or more consecutive rows of threads are damaged, then it will not tighten and will be too difficult (for most people) to repair. Before buying a screw arm plow plane, make sure you inspect the threads that are hidden under the screw knob. Often broken threads are hidden close to the plane. So if you buy online, ask for photos of all the threads. Again, Bill goes into more depth on what to look for in antique plow planes in the DVD “Choosing, Refurbishing, & Using Joinery Handplanes with Bill Anderson”
If you’re on a tight budget, then go with one of the simple antique Stanley metal plow planes (No. 248, No. 46, No. 50, etc.). Antique Stanley planes are of very high quality. Most vintage plow planes will do a great job plowing grooves. But if you want a fantastic plow plane, go for a wooden screw arm plow plane with a variety of cutters. Just make sure the cutters fit the particular wooden plow plane. A wood plane like this shouldn’t cost you more than $150, unless it’s made of some exotic wood.
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 a classic wooden moving fillister plane, but there are a couple vintage and new fillisters that are highly popular. Those include 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 hand planer. You can read Chris Schwarz’s review of this new plane here and buy it here. I own the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane, and absolutely love it.