Everyone needs a good plane. Well, if you’re hand tool woodworking that is. If you’re not interested in tools, you are about to get very bored. Look away now! (My next post will be about something I’ve made).

I found myself trying to work out what essential tools I needed to get going with learning and developing skills in hand tool woodworking,  What is the most effective use of the money and space that I have as I equip myself to make pieces of furniture and household items? Where can I save, and when do I just need to bite the bullet and go for the best I can afford? I have included some links in this post, that I think you will find helpful, which helped me to demystify all the available information and get on with what we’re really here for… woodworking

It can be complicated tHelpingrying to work out where to start and what to get. Just looking at planes. They can be found in all shapes and sizes for a huge variety of different

task, ranging in price from £10 to £1000 or more. Now, the first type of plane that pops into our head when we think of planes are probably the bench planes. These planes are used to flatten/straighten, reduce/shape and smooth the wood. But as we start to look at what is available today, and read what the woodworking gurus and manufacturers tell us we need, we once again get bombarded with information. Do we need the heavy

and highly engineered planes that might be all we can buy for the immediate future, but promise perfect results and come perfectly finished. What about a high angled frog! Do we need bevel up planes that promise to reduce tear out. Or do we look at the woodworking history books, and buy a collection of longer planes so we can plane rough milled timber down to dimensioned boards, as did the apprentices of yesteryear.

Stanley No 4 Smoothing Plane

Stanley No 4 Smoothing Plane

As a beginner, this can all be rather overwhelming, and we have to be careful to not get caught up in it. I have to remember my aim. That I am looking for a plane to flatten/straighten, reduce/shape, and smooth mostly dimensioned timber to make furniture in the limited time and within the finances I have available. Which is why I really appreciated Paul’s advice: you can do pretty much everything you need to do when stating out, with a commonplace Stanley No 4 smoothing plane. Look for a pre 1960s model (so not new and not with plastic handles), as after this, the quality started to drop. A Bailey pattern plane is just fine. Don’t worry yourself trying the find the rarer and overhyped Bedrock pattern (and if that last statement doesn’t mean anythiSharpeningng to you, I would ignore it for now).  These’s can be had for £10-£30 on ebay and sometimes cheaper from car boot sales, and are widely available. There are a number of thing to look out for when getting one of these, as can be seen from this link.


Once you have managed to get hold of one, there are a few, quick steps to follow to flatten, fettle and sharpen the No 4 plane, to transform it from car boot find into a wonderful tool. Check out the videos near the bottom of Paul’s video page that I have linked to, to see how its done. Then we can use it for many things including flattening boards, straightening edges, creating round overs, and for that final smooth planed finish. You can even get a few spare irons, sharpen one with a steeper angle at the edge for when you have tear out,Planing  and sharpen another with a camber to use as a scrub plane to get a lot of material off. All in all I really like the Stanley No 4. I have found it very useful in building up strength and sensitivity with a lighter and inexpensive plane than can do pretty much anything I need it to.

Right then. Let’s get planing!