Choosing Your First Hand Plane

by | Apr 1, 2015 | 16 comments



Which Hand Plane Should I Buy First?

That’s a question I get asked a lot.
If you’re getting in to woodworking by hand then I can’t recommend the No 5, or equivalent jack plane length of plane enough. It’s the most versatile plane and can cover all of your needs of a bench plane.

Even when I have a choice, I can go through a full project build using only my Stanley No 5.

Watch the video to learn why, if I could only have one plane, it would have to be this.



A Dedicated Smoothing Plane – If I could have a second plane to go alongside my No 5, then I’d have to go nice and small. A short length ensures that is can excel at the tasks that a smoothing plane is used for.

Stop Struggling With Tear Out – Learn to set your Cap Irons & Smooth Beautifully, Even With A Cheap Hand Plane.

Buying New Without Breaking The BankECE Hand Plane Review. Is Their Jack Plane The Answer?

Plane Build Video Series

Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ken Haygarth

    Thanks Richard, great video and great advice.

    • Richard

      Cheers Ken 🙂

  2. Ian M. Stewart

    Thanks for that Richard.

    I truly had not considered your point about the ‘reference surface’ ahead of the mouth. I learned my woodworking at secondary school in the 1960’s, and naturally chose the No.4 I had used there for my first plane. I now use a 4-1/2 for my scrub and a No.6 for jointing/trueing. Still love the No.4 for smoothing and general joinery, although I also have a lovely old heavy infill plane, double iron, with a very tight mouth and true sole, about the size of a Jack. This is my plane for acheiving perfection, but I rarely resort to it as it takes a bit of faffing to get it set right after sharpening. it would handle that hard oak beautifully, I’m sure.

    I don’t have room to add a No.5 on top of all those.

    • Richard

      Thanks Ian, It sounds like you’ve got everything covered there, and a lovely plane collection. My collection is lacking an infill plane, something which I’d like to venture in to one day. I used one for the first time last year (shocking… I’ve been woodworking all my life!) I thought the weight would be a hindrance, but found it quite the opposite.

  3. Barry

    Many thanks Richard. Very helpful advice.

  4. Paul Chapman

    Excellent video, Richard, particularly the piece about a second blade. I think having the blade shaped to suit the work in hand is even more important than the size of the plane – although I agree a #5 is probably best if you only have one.

  5. Lenard Burgess

    Love your videos, thank you for posting them

  6. Chris Buckingham

    Excellent video, I think it is you first stumbling steps into woodworking that form your preferences in later life, if your teacher let you use his old infill plane you never quite feel the same about the Stanley you are expected to use yourself, the Stanley works OK on the bland Pine that we tend to use when we start our first projects, but when more “fancy” exotic woods are used it tends to be sadly lacking, it is then that we remember that heavy old infill plane that we used all those years ago, unfortunately the only way to have one for most of us is to make one, which I did, I also like my Record 4 1/2, and that is the one I probably use the most.

  7. Patrick Murphy

    Just what the Doctor ordered! I’m a woodworking beginner who’s spent a small fortune on cheap tools over the years for general DIY, car and bike repairs, etc, and being somewhat strapped for cash, I’m now a firm believer in buy once, buy right so this video is very useful.

    Can I ask if you’ll be making videos in the future on sharpening your plane blades and chisels?

  8. Ian M. Stewart

    Hi Patrick, glad to hear you are taking up the craft.
    Your best source of quality tools is likely to be pre 1980 ones from an online auction – you know the one – but don’t limit yourself to Stanley. The Record planes are just as good, provided they are not the modern versions, and tend to go for a bit less. Avoid anything later, they are not made in Sheffield, and don’t work as well. No4’s are abundant, the No.5 rarely appears, but can be found.
    Otherwise, if you buy new, then pay as much as you can afford for a known brand.

  9. Paul

    Another excellent and informative video. Richard I find all your information really helpful particularly for a beginner to hand woodworking. Look forward to more videos.

  10. Pete Aron

    I’d concur. I’m fortunate to have been given several planes from forefathers, four of them #5’s which is the size that seems to fit my hand best and so has become my favorite. I have one equipped with a straight blade and another with an 8″ radius. I love the texture left on wood with the radius’d blade when planing across the grain, rather than with it, and when you have to remove a lot of material quickly there isn’t much that can beat it.

  11. pierre rousseau

    Hi Richard and Helen, i really like the look of the new site ! I especially like the videos that you make , and watching them, I notice that on your wooden jack plane ( the one that looks like it is new ) . I assume it is from Philly planes …the tote on it is way off center why is that


  12. Nadav Rudnik

    Hi Richard
    What is the verotas plane you at
    Are using in this first plane video?
    Thank you for the awesome videos

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Nadav, this is the Veritas bevel-up Jack plane. I bought it with the intension for shooting with the low angle but it’s turned out to be a real gem and I use it more than I ever anticipated.

  13. Stacy

    Thank for the great info!

    I picked up a WWII era #3 and am having a tough time getting it to work well. Bevel down, cap iron back 1 – 2mm. It doesn’t really shave. Anything special about setting these up? The #5 I got at the same time works pretty well.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Which Saws Are Best For Ripping Thick Stuff? [Video] There's a lot of choice when it comes to rip saws. And unfortunately options usually just make things more complicated.So hopefully the video above will help clear up some of the confusion around which saw to reach for or at least give you...

My Posh Fillister Plane is Just a Roughing Tool

Every now and then I feel like I see something with new eyes. I’m often blow away at the beauty of say the sea, or the sky with a pretty sunrise. It's as though my brain has had a system reset and deleted its memory so I get to see it again like it's for the first...

Quick Homemade Clamps – Small & Large [with video]

In this post I share my favourite design for homemade clamps. They can be made really large or really small to suit your needs. Further down we also include a short video segment from our latest series where I explain further how the clamps work. I've just been...