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good brand of hand plane for entry level

stancalow's picture

Greetings:  I am interested in getting away from power tools and  using handplanes for my next projects (tables).  I am looking for recommendation on what is good brand to shoose given that I am not ready to pay for Lie-Nielson or other hihg end pro-brands, and don't have time to look for old Stanleys.  I guess I am looking for the plane equivalent of the Marples Blue handle chisels - good value and reasonable quality for my level.  Thanks for input.

RLMillard's picture

(post #94047, reply #1 of 5)

Planes are the premier woodworking tool; no other single tool can do more. Having said that no other tool can be more frustrating. My Grandma bought me a brand new Stanley smooth plane in 1980 that, had I not had considerable experience with a jointer plane, would have turned me against all hand planes. What I’m saying is buying a plane from  other than the specialty makers is a roll of the dice. There are countless articles on how to tune a plane, so if you get a dud all is not lost. I would look on Ebay for an older Stanley (pre WWII), which as long as they aren’t sought after variants sell for reasonable prices, and were made to high standards. The Clifton Planes look to be first rate tools and cost somewhat less than the Lie-Nielsen. Also Primus wood planes are top performers, and while not exactly cheap, they aren’t outrageous either.

AntzyClancy's picture

(post #94047, reply #2 of 5)

Best value would be new or used wooden planes.  For new, ECE or Knight.  You will get top-of-the-line performance for 1/4 the price.  Old planes require inspection or a money back guarantee, so be careful on eBay.

If you are not comfortable with wood, Veritas has good planes for a good price (not the best).

Old Stanleys are everywhere.  They are not hard to find.  There are probably 20+ Stanley #4's on eBay right now.

You can get almost any antique Stanley plane ever made from a dealer.  You will pay a more than at tool shows or on eBay, but the risk is almost zero.  Any antique (and most new planes) will require tuning.  I can give you the contact info for one that I trust, otherwise search the web and you'll find many.

Note: Tuning is much easy with wooden planes.  Personally I have tuned 4 antique Stanleys and, although they work superbly, I have come to the conclusion that I just do not like metal working.

Do yourself a favor, stay away from the new cheap planes.  This includes Record, Stanley, that one that starts with A-something, the one made in China, etc.  They are not worth your time.


GregB126's picture

(post #94047, reply #3 of 5)


I couldn't agree with Rob more.  There is NOTHING quite like a plane which performs the way you ask it to.  There is no frustration equivalent to that experienced when things go wrong.  I believe the answer is found in two areas.  One is equipment and the other is tuning/sharpening.  Both require a bit of education.  Early FAILURES caused me to read like a maniac and to ask lots of questions.  Now I can talk a good game and reach for my planes with confidence and put them back with delight.  Frustration is very rare at this point.

I have a Stanley #5 of about 1918 vintage and with a superbly sharpened iron and polished chip breaker, I just had some great fun with some beautiful birds eye maple.  Didn't even have to hold my breath!  I also used it to true the sole of a 150-yr-old Scottish beech try plane, which I used two days ago to true some moderately difficult Koa.  True sole, acceptably tight mouth and well sharpened iron, etc...  It is a blast to use.

While at first saying I'd never afford a Lie-Nielsen, I now have four of them and have designs on perhaps three more.  They are hefty, brilliantly made and of the soundest of designs.  You'll really understand this once you read a lot about how planes work.  I hope this isn't after frustrations like mine.  You can waste a lot of money and tears on lesser planes, then do hand springs after using one of the L-N's for the first time.

To be honest, the Veritas Bench planes look pretty good from a design point of view.  Their weight looks reasonably good.  It looks as if the mouth can be tight.  The iron looks fairly stout for the price range.  I don't have one, but would buy one if I was price conscious and didn't already have the size/function covered with L-N's.

The new Stanleys, Records and others (Anant is the Indian-made one referenced above, I believe) will frustrate you.  Clifton is okay, but will require some so called "fettling" (general truing and tuning, removing spurs, etc...).  With patience, they can be made to work fine.  Their price is in between too.

"With all thee get, get understanding."  Here are some good sources.  Hack's The Handplane Book.  Lee's Sharpening book.  Graham Blackburn's Traditional Woodworking Handtools.  Krenov's The Fine Art of Cabinet Making.  David Charlesworth's Furniture-Making Techniques.  This last one has helped me more than any other.  At least it came along after a foundation had kind of started and provided a stunning revelation, for me at least.  There is a chapter on "fettling", using a Stanley as the example.  There is one on sharpening the iron and dressing the breaker.  There are others on scraper planes and, as I recall, block planes.  He is a wonderfully insightful teacher (he runs a school in the west of England) and explains things exceptionally well.  The volume I refer to is his first.  There is a second, which I recently ordered, but not yet received.

Sorry for the long post.  You asked a simple question, but a simple answer isn't really there.  Have fun!

wedghead's picture

(post #94047, reply #4 of 5)

Love my old stanleys. They belonged to my grandfather, were well cared for, and required little tuning to make them work well. With the help of dano, Ed Williams and the rest I have come to truly enjoy using these fine tools. If the need arises, I might be talked into a l-n, but so far these three (no. 3,4, and 7) suit me just fine. Funny thing is, since I began using my planes, I felt the need for a cabinet scraper, burnisher,........well, you get the picture. Hand tools are addictive.

stancalow's picture

(post #94047, reply #5 of 5)

thanks for input.  I will be on the lookout for good old planes.  It sure seems like a gap in the marketplace, 'though.