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Hand planes and thickness planer

Bionian's picture

I am new to woodworking- about 7 months now.  I have aquired several power tools, including a Delta portable thickness planer.  I currently have no way to flatten or edge joint boards.  My interests lie in cabinets and furniture making, and  I have built some laundry room cabinets, a simple work bench, and a dresser so far.  I have realized that I need to produce flatter boards with truer edges for making pannels.  My theory is that if I am going to spend money, it is best to buy quality, so I innitially intended to buy a Lie-Nielsen #7 jointer plane.  But when I called the company for advise, they recommended starting instead with a low angle Jack plane due to its versatility and multiple blade options.  I cannot afford to by both planes right now, and since I am not comfortable with tuning a used or vintage plane, new seems to be the best option.

Is it better to go with the Jack plane to flatten the boards before placing them into the planer, then edge joint the best I can with the Jack plane, or would the #7 plane be sufficient for flattening the boards before placing them into the thickness planer?  Lie-Nielsen also makes the bevel up jointer plane, and that is also an option.  Thanks for any help you can provide.

gdblake's picture

You need to read first and buy later (post #170645, reply #1 of 14)


You need to learn more about handplanes and the uses of different sizes and configurations before buying anything that cost a few hundred dollars.  Knots' stupid spam filter is preventing me from giving you the answers you need.


We're all here because we're not all there.

hammer1's picture

LN has given you good advice. (post #170645, reply #2 of 14)

LN has given you good advice. When preparing a board to go in the planer, you don't have to entirely surface a face. In some cases, you may not need to do anything if the board is relatively flat. Other times, you just need to take off the high spots. The low angle jack can do this scrubbing accross the grain and you could use the toothed blade or a standard blade. You will flip the board as you plane which will surface both faces. By not entirely surfacing a face, you have a better start so in the planing process you can take equal amounts off both faces which is very important.

Unless you are edge joining long boards, over 8', the jack is long enough and the low angle is good on long grain edge work. You will want a long straight edge, fairly inexpensive at a big box, to check as you go.

The low angle jack can work well as a face smoothing plane, particularly with slight alterations to the sharpening bevel. That will depend on the species and if the board is figured. The 90 degree blade can do scraping plane work which may be the best approach to highly figured woods.

Another great use for the jack is using it as a shooting plane for truing up miters as well as end grain cuts. It's also good for cross grain work as well as chamfering edges and ends.

A #7 is a handfull. It won't do end grain very well and it's a lot to push for roughing a face. Not much use for shooting or beveling edges. It's mostly used for straightening long edges. The low angle jack is a bit of a compromise for straightening long edges but it's versatility covers a lot of other handplanes. You won't regret buying an LN, they'll take it back if you don't like it but I don't think that will be the case.

Beat it to fit / Paint it to match

Bionian's picture

Thanks, hammer1.  That is (post #170645, reply #4 of 14)

Thanks, hammer1.  That is good advice, and mostly what I needed.  Not having access to hand planes to try (I don't know anyone who currently uses them), I wasn't aware that roughing a face would be difficult with a #7.  That is what I wanted to know.  Eventually I intend to have multiple planes, including the jointer plane and a smoothing plane, but I need a place to start.  I just received a DVD from Lie Nielsen by Christopher Schwarts on Handplane Basics, and hopefully that will answer more questions.

Bionian's picture

I have been researching (post #170645, reply #3 of 14)

I have been researching online, and that is the reason for this post.  Perhaps the better way to phrase the question is "which will be more useful to me at this point- a jack plane or a jointer plane?"  I understand the uses of both.  I could true edges using my router table, and I could flatten the board faces using a jig and the thickness planer.  I know that the jointer plane can be used for flattening large pannels and board faces, but a jack plane can be used for that as well.  With LN's bevel up jack plane, I could insert the toothed blade and substitute it for a scrub plane- something that would be harder to do with the jointer plane.

So my question is more about process.  Would the jack plane be better at overcoming the deficiencies of the jointer plane, or would the jointer plane be sufficient for both edge jointing and flattening boards which are then going into the thickness planer?

gdblake's picture

Jack first then Jointer (post #170645, reply #5 of 14)


I'm going to try to answer again and hope that the spam filter doesn't get in the way.

If you are starting out with fairly rough boards you start with a jack plane (14 to 18" long) setup to take a course shaving (open mouth and a radiused iron to act like a gouge).  You use it across the grain to initially knock down the high spots if the board is warped, twisted, etc.  Winding sticks and a long straight edge let you know when you have gotten the board fairly flat.  You follow up with a jointer plane, working the faces diagonally first one way then the other to further flatten the board.  Finish the first face with the grain to finish up.  Use the jointer to shoot a long grain edge straight and square to your flattened reference face.  Mark the board to width and plane the second long grain edge straight and square.  Mark for final thickness and plane down the unworked face.  For all of this, I prefer to use bevel down planes.

Bevel up planes make great smoothers, not so great when you need to do rough work.  I have a LN bevel up jack and smoother.  I use them for finishing, not dimensioning.  Dimensioning is better done with bevel down planes.  Hammer1 gave you all the good reasons to own a bevel up jack.  I also have a LN #7.  It is a really nice jointer that does everything a jointer should.  45 years ago as a kid In school we learned to do everything with a Stanley #5 bevel down jack, jointing, smoothing, whatever.  I got pretty good at jointing long boards for glue ups with just a #5, it can be done.  But if I had to make do with only one bench plane I would probably want my #7.  Get Chris' book handplane essentials, it is the best quick course on buying and using handplanes I know of.


We're all here because we're not all there.

Bionian's picture

Thanks for the second post (post #170645, reply #9 of 14)

Thanks for your second post.  You have provided useful information. You mentioned that you do not use your LN bevel up plane for dimensioning.  Have you tried the toothed iron, and would it improve the usefulness for the BU jack plane for dimensioning? 

gdblake's picture

The toothing blade can be very useful (post #170645, reply #14 of 14)


I have used a LN bevel up jack with the toothing blade installed.  Normally, bevel up planes are not the right tool for hogging off a lot of material, but the toothing blade lets you do just that.  As an added bonus, it chews through knots with ease.  No, I don't have a toothing blade for my LN bevel up jack, because as I said, I prefer to use bevel down planes for the heavy work.

By the way, the "hot dog" add on handle is $60 (yes I bought one and use it).  It gives you a good grip on the plane so you can use it on its side with a shooting board.  Nice to have when making frame and panel doors, cabinet sides, etc. 

I doubt you will regret buying a bevel up jack unless you just quit woodworking.


We're all here because we're not all there.

gdblake's picture

Saturday Oct 27 handplane demonstrations (post #170645, reply #6 of 14)


Your profile doesn't say what part of the country you are in.  On Oct 27 I will be doing free handplane demonstrations at the Atlanta, GA Woodcraft on Holcomb Bridge road.  My LN planes will be with me plus some old Stanleys and several wooden planes (smoothers, jointers, jack, scrub, scraper) made using the Krenov method.  I will try to answer any handplane questions folks have as well as let them try out various planes.  There will be other presenters doing demonstrations on other topics as well.


We're all here because we're not all there.

Bionian's picture

Thanks, gdblake.  I live in (post #170645, reply #10 of 14)

Thanks, gdblake.  I live in the Tamp Bay area of Florida.  I will be working on the 27th, and will not be able to be there.  I have a son living in the Dunwoody vicinity, so  If you conduct another such workshop in the future, it might give me an excuse to come up there if the timing is right. 

RalphBarker's picture

Good advice (post #170645, reply #7 of 14)

You've received good advice, even if gdblake's was blocked by the spam filter.  ;-)

One thing to remember about thickness planers: the feed rollers will compress a cupped board, for example, flat before it reaches the cutter knives. Thus, you'd end up with a thinner cupped board. So, the purpose of the initial hand-plane use would be to flatten one side of the board prior to running it through the thickness planer. That hand-flattened surface would be placed on the bottom when the board is run through the thickness planer, thus providing an appropriate "reference surface" for the thicknessing operation.

I have the LN low-angle jack, and it's a nice plane. By purchasing additional irons, you can use it for multiple operations. For example, you can hone a camber (curvature across the edge) on one iron for rough flattening, and keep another with no camber for edge joining. I agree that this plane is long enough for many edge joining tasks, and is almost ideal for use on a shooting board - with the addition of their "hot dog" grip.

Bionian's picture

Thanks, Ralph.  I think that (post #170645, reply #11 of 14)

Thanks, Ralph.  I think that due to the LN low agle jack plane's versatility I may start with that jack, especially since you and Hammer1 have said that I could still use it for edge jointing.  It makes sense to simply check with a straight edge during the process.  A friend of mine told me today that he obtains a reasonably true edge on the table saw by placing a straight edge against the fence, then the board against the straight edge.  The resulting cut will be straight and a reference for the cross-grain.  For that I can use a cutting board and the LA Jack plane.  I also built a straight-edge jig for my router and a 1/2" straight bit which could true the long-grain edge.  I will likely get either the #7 or a smoother plane after the jack plane.

roc's picture

You have already received great info (post #170645, reply #8 of 14)

But we were just talking about this sort of thing the other day;

jointer planes

making stock flat

those sorts of things

So I figured I would post a link to that thread.  I left a monolith there, or novella if you like.  When you understand what is said in that discussion then you will be well on your hand planing way.  Until then something to shovel through.

In short I have two big jointer planes, I don't need even one to do extremely accurate edge or face planing.  They are fun to own though.  A big accurate straight edge is a MUST !.  When you can afford it get one more accurate than the Home Depot one.  Such as the one I use :

and more info

Some photos: first you will need to buy or make some Winding or "Winking" sticks.  To make them you will need a way to tell when they are straight.

These two gentleman go by accuracy and facts.  Always check the theory that the straight edge you have bought is in FACT straight.  Of course Mac could make a straight edge out of a paper clip and some chewing gum but for those of us that are not that smart or talented or both we are going to have to depend on a reference surface like my pink slab of granite surface plate which comes with a guarantee of flatness and a certification note. Failing that you will need to depend on the promise of a reputable straight edge maker.

Let me list the ones I trust (for the most part ):


. . . .

Even my Mitutoyo brand straight edge isn't super great.  Though it is a great company . . .  perhaps something happened to the straight edge after it left the factory.  Oh yah and then there was that time I dropped it.

The two long straight edges toward the back, in the photo on the red surface plate cover, are aluminum from Varitas. I put tape in the mid point along their length to help find the balance point.  They are out of straight enough to make a difference for producing perfection but are usable.  If your work isn't perfect this could be one reason.

Then there are the winking sticks further forward in same photo then smaller straight edges.

The square propped up vertically on the left was made from two straight edges I TIG welded together and then corrected by hammering the weld spots to expand the metal and bring them into perfection.

Fun huh ?

Next photo; just trying to show the small ones.  Sorry I got lazy and didn't clean the lens; or not enough light.  New camera in my iPod touch.  Seems like my  old iPhone did better.  I am probably not using it right yet.

Last photo shows the "straight edges" you get at the local art supply or office supply. You know the ones with the cork back stuck on then?  Forget these.  They are not straight and won't stand up so you can squint under them.  They are just rulers for measuring length.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

Bionian's picture

Thanks, Roc.  I always enjoy (post #170645, reply #12 of 14)

Thanks, Roc.  I always enjoy reading your posts.  You win my prize for creative writing.  I have not used winding sticks yet, though I have used straight edges.  I have bought a 4 foot I-beam level, and also a 8-foot aluminum level.  Hopefully they are straight enough.  Without a known accurate straight edge to measure them against, who knows?  I don't recall having dropped either one.    Since I am laying out $$$$ for a plane, I have wondered if I could use these two levels as winding sticks.  But if I spend the money on winding sticks instead of the plane, I might see that the table top is not level, but I won't be able to do anything about it.  The 4' is red and the 8' is yellow.  They seem to show high points well.

roc's picture

You are on your way. (post #170645, reply #13 of 14)

 >use these two levels as winding sticks.  <

You sure can.  It is handy to have the rear one two tone like my maple one with the ebony stip.  Not a necessity though.

>But if I spend the money on winding sticks instead of the plane, I might see that the table top is not level, but I won't be able to do anything about it.<

Ha, ha, ha that is true.  So true. One step at a time.

>The 4' is red and the 8' is yellow.  They seem to show high points well.<

Wow 8 foot.  You can go to town with that one.  And back.

Levels are nice and wide.  They won't fall over easy.  My thin 48 incher is always falling over . . .  WHAM !

You got me beat there.

Be sure to post photos of your projects so we can see what you are up to !


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )