Under my bench right now I can see three bench planes. There is a long one, a medium length and a short one. The long plane is used for truing edges and dead flat surfaces, the medium sized one is an everyday bench plane and the short one is used for smoothing finished carcasses and final truing up of surfaces. A Number 6 is for a reasonably well built male is the standard everyday plane, quite frequently referred to as a Jack plane.
If you are a strong dude then you may go for Number 7, or if you are relatively light of frame a Number 5 or 5 1/2. The number is the indication usually of the length of the plane, although some planes are slightly narrower than others, so start with this plane and just get that one plane to start off with. Later on you can add in a Number 7 or Number 8 plane for a long jointing plane for jointing edges and flattening dead flat surfaces, and you can later on add a smoothing plane, a Number 4 or 4 1/2 plane.
Do not buy either of these unless you have to. Start off somewhere in the middle. We've seen many students buying hundreds of planes over the years and it's come clear to us that the Lie Neilson brand and the Clifton brand are the two ones to go for. Veritas have made some interesting new planes even though their bench planes have given a couple of our guys problems with flatness and with the adjustment mechanism. When they get this sorted and I am sure we will we will start recommending them.
We have had students who have had problems with the Clifton planes not being as flat as their own specification demands but we are assured by the manufacturers that those problems have now been overcome. However I think if I were buying a plane right now I would be buying a Lie Neilson plane. They are the most expensive available but they have been reliably flat which is the essential quality that you are looking for in a plane and the machining of the blades and back irons have been acceptable. I would however change the blade to a high carbon forged steel blade from Clifton. The Victor blade fits real easy.
In our sharpening workshop we have a large granite surface plate usually used by engineers.We bought this when we had to argue with some tool suppliers that their planes were not as flat as they said. This surface is flat within a measured number of microns and has a Guarantee signed by an inspector to prove it. Lee Neilson and Clifton have been the most reliable suppliers although we have had planes of both returned as being outside their own specification. "Here will be upset," she said, I really dont care, my student was even more upset having spent lots of money and lots of time with a tool that was not to specification. You can buy less expensive planes but you will spend an awful lot of time faffing around with flatness and making the blade sit securely within the mechanism of the plane.
Dont waste your time. Buy a decent plane and learn how to use it properly.
When buying bench planes you need to understand what is normal and what is "York" pitch. The overall cutting angle that the blade is set to the sole of the plane is usually 45degrees. This is standard and fine. The front plane below is at standard pitch. Look at the smoother plane behind it this has a slightly higher pitch at about 50 degrees. this is York pitch and is useful for finishing difficult grained timber such as cherry. You can buy a different "frog" the block of steel that the blade sets on to give you "York" pitch.
Low Angle Bench Planes
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH LOW ANGLE BLOCK PLANES. We've recently had a space of these low angle bench planes in our workshops. Again these are Lie Neilson and Veritas planes and we can recommend these only partially. The attraction of these planes is that the blade is set at a very low angle with support to the cutting edge quite near that cutting edge. These blade have the bevel facing up and do not have a back iron making the planes more simple in construction. These planes are giving exceptionally high quality finish to the timber even on very figured timber. They are however not a replacement for a general bench plane. The adjustment of these projects are very critical. They need setting up once and leaving alone, so we would only recommend one of these planes as an addition to your armoury. Maybe bought after a few months on the job. In that case the favorite in the workshop seems to be a Number 6 or a Number 7 low angle plane, again manufactured by Lie Neilson though Veritas are also good and recommended.
Source by David Savage