In one of the recent videos I was whining on about the jack plane, and how feel that the No 5 is the best all round, multi use bench plane.
In another video I’ve also mentioned my love for a nice small smoothing plane, so I thought it’d be worth going through some of my reasons.
Setting Up With Hand Planes
Strategic Tool Buying
For beginners I’ve noticed that one of the big questions when buying tools is should I go new or old. The thing that bugs me about the all old option, is that whilst you get the tools cheap, you need to buy more tools and kit, for the refurbing. However if you buy strategically you don’t have to spend a fortune, or dare I say a penny.
The jack plane I’ve covered here; just tune up, get an edge on the blade, done and dusted.
The jointer plane needs a perfectly straight sole, though it doesn’t necessarily need to be flat. You won’t need this plane straight away though, so put it on the back burner and we’ll come back to it.
Setting Up Your First Smoothing Plane
The Finest Plane Of Them All
The smoothing plane – this is where you need to put your efforts in setting up. It’s the last plane used on your work, so unlike the jack, it can’t look like it’s been up a troll’s arse. Or rather whilst it doesn’t need to look fine, it needs to be fine. This is where you need your perfection.
When I did my rant about your first hand plane, the question was one plane, and in that instance I had just a jack with two blades. The second iron makes the plane capable of both rough and smooth work, along with jointing.
That’s where I’d start, and if I had to have only one plane it’s also where I’d stay. But if I’m going to expand my collection and get a dedicated smoothing plane then I want it to be exceptional.
If you’re looking for a dedicated smoother (we’ll just talk about metal planes here for ease) then my recommendation is to consider a No. 3 size.
By comparison this makes the No.4, and particularly the 4 1/2 feel like an engineering brick, since it is both shorter and narrower.
You don’t need an arsenal of tools, but with a small selection it’s worth ensuring that each is optimised to suit its task. Having a small smoothing plane is tremendously beneficial. You’ll be able to finish the surface beautifully whilst removing as little material as possible, because it won’t be making any attempt to flatten.
The Smoothing Plane In Use
As the user we control the surface finish created just as much as the tool itself. Whilst a sharp iron and well set plane can create whisper thin shavings, when our strokes are consistent we achieve a smoother result.
The second we come against the grain, more resistance is created and there’s a change in pace of our shaving. This all encourages a shoddy finish. This may be nominal, but on a fine finish it’s notable.
The narrow blade of the No. 3 hand plane gives you great strength behind each shaving, so you can push through any grain with consistency.
In other words; the finest smoothing plane with the sharpest of edges being pushed by the jitteriest of arm will give the finish of the arm.
Small Plane = Fast & Cheap Restoration
For tarting up your used smoothing plane you’ll need to take extra lengths than with the jack or any roughing tool.
The beauty with the No. 3 is it’s small, so you won’t need to splash out. I’ve just helped Helen flatten the sole of hers on a sharpening stone, no need for a snazzy expensive flat plate. And if you’ve got diamond stones then this will be the fastest sole flatten of your life!
Overall the areas to focus on along with the flat sole, are making sure that the back of the iron is flat, and I also give the cap iron a lot of work.
This is the only plane that I will worry about either the sole or the cap iron, if there’s a cap iron on a jack I’ll usually back it up out of the way instead, since I find it more of a hindrance.
I do no work on the frog; this is also touched on in the next rant.
Get the iron nice and sharp and you should be good to go.
We all have different approaches with these things.
I know that many would seek true flatness on every iron and every plane and there’s a lot of sense in that. I’ve always preferred choosing the optimum size and set up for the task in mind, this is what I do in my work and manage to put food on the table, so I’m not going to complain at that.
If you have big hands and struggle to hold a No. 3 then you need to grab it like your straggling someone, that works for me. You’re already sticking one finger off the handle on a normal plane, so just do the same with another.