Second Hand Jointers – Hand Plane Buying Tips

by | Sep 21, 2018 | 23 comments

I’m always going on about how much I love a minimal tool kit, but in this post I’m going to rant on a bit, and give you a few pointers if you feel limited by the length of your hand plane.

A Number 5, or Jack plane, will comfortably see you through most jobs, but as you get more experienced or start to crack on with lots of big builds, then a longer jointer plane is going to make some sense.

Home made Wooden Jointer Plane

The long sole of a jointer plane is a huge aid when jointing long boards or flattening a large surface like this bench top. This wooden jointer is one that I knocked up myself, and can easily be built by following our step by step ‘Plane Build Video’ – CLICK HERE if you’d like to build your own

Jointer Planes – Big, Fickle & Pricey

The trouble with jointers is they’re big beautiful planes that come with a beautiful price tag. If you can justify something like the Lie Nielsen No 8. then you certainly won’t be disappointed, but this isn’t a tool that you’re going to be finding a use for every day.

It’s still easy to buy used Stanley’s for a smashing price, but as the plane gets longer this route becomes troublesome.

A Jack plane is a loyal dog. It’ll be in your hand like no other tool in your kit, from the start to the end of a job. And in return you can forgive it’s imperfections. If the sole isn’t true it’s not an issue, my No 5. (which you probably know I do everything with) was curved when I first got hold of it. And whilst you might think it’s been super tuned, the truth is I did absolutely nothing to put it right.

A jointer is much more fickle.

You’re going to the hassle of getting this plane so it can help you in truing up long edges. A long straight sole is the whole point.

Used Jointers – Common Problems

Picking up a second hand metal jointer will likely lead to headaches.
Let’s be honest, who has a 3’ flat plate laying around to true up that sole? And if you do, it’s going be an endless and boring job working through all that metal.

Wooden planes are a far better solution when you’re looking for something long and second hand.

The problem with flattening the sole becomes as simple as taking some shavings. Just take care to remove as little material as possible, and your sole will be good to go.

used wooden planes with cross pin

I’ve bought many an old wooden plane and though they can come with their issues (a loose handle in the case of the front one here), truing up the sole is always easy work.

But, before you go buying up any old jointer you see, there are some other concerns you need to keep in mind.

The Trouble With Wooden Jointers

A bellied bed (where the iron sits), and a wedge that doesn’t wedge (no matter how hard you hit) are very common problems with old wooden planes. They general come about because of wood movement which can be particularly notable is the plane’s been in some poor storage conditions.

And they’re problems that can require almost as much skill to fix as building a plane from scratch.
So this is where my advice may get a little unexpected.

Avoid The Problems – Choose Simple

Unless you can handle the plane before purchase, I find you’ll have much more success in getting a good runner if you avoid the traditional style wooden planes altogether.
Basically in recent years I’ve developed a slight obsession for German planes. You all know how I feel about the ECE.

The cross pin, which is a simpler, more modern (which it actually isn’t) approach to plane building, allows the timber to move far more before setting the iron becomes problematic. By its very nature the cross pin has just a single point of contact because it’s on a pivot.

I’ve been buying a lot of these old German wooden planes. So far every relic I’ve bought blind off the internet has just needed sharpening and the sole maybe a quick true up, and it’s been put straight to work.

Traditional and Cross Pin wooden planes

The traditional design wooden plane (front) has a complex mouth, and wood movement will often lead to an ill fitting wedge. The cross pin design (back) is much simpler and as a result continues to work despite a bit of movement in the wood.

I know it’s easy as a traditionalist to dislike the cross pin, but I promise you it’s more of a snobbery thing than application.

I’m not saying that traditional is worse by any means. It’s just that buying used tools can be stressful, and I certainly find the cross pin to yield the most success if you’re simply needing a longer plane with minimal fuss that doesn’t break the bank.

And if you have a bit more time to be fussing then building your own wooden jointer using the cross pin method is a surprisingly easy way to expand your kit. We’ve created a full step-by-step video to take you through your own wooden plane build. You can the details HERE.

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. Jeff Murray

    I have built a 30” 18th century jointer plane and it is my go to plane when jointing the edge of boards. It is a real pleasure to use and is probably my favorite plane. I have also resurrected a couple of wooden coffin smoothers, one of which was obviously in a fire because it’s finish was hard and bubbled up. It now has another life and is preforming quite well.

    • Drunk Uncle

      You must be quite old to have built a plane in the 18 century and post today..

      Just the tequila talking…


  2. Alan Thornton

    I know that they are often mocked, but I really like my 26 inch Stanley transitional plane for jointing. Easy to keep the bottom flat with the adjustments of a metal plane.

  3. Ed

    I found the gnarliest Stanley #8 at a flea market that you could ever imagine for $35. The various screws were so rusted I didn’t know if i could make it work again. I got it going and put it on a machinist friend’s table to see how flat it was and learned two things. First, the plane was unbelievably flat except at the very toe and for a bit of the heel. Other than those places, we couldn’t get a feeler gauge under it. Second, it didn’t take much pressure to flex those parts down flat. I decided that flattening this particular plane would be a waste of time and that it was good to go.

    This plane comes off the shelf more often than I would have guessed.

    I replaced the blade with a Hock blade, and I think that may have been a waste of money. The blade is exceptionally good, that’s not the problem. It’s just that I never use this plane for finishing cuts. It’s always used for prep work. So, the pitting in the old blade never would have mattered. Maybe I’ll be glad for the thick blade if I do a big table with exposed end-grain ends

    • Gary

      I have an old jointer purchased for £7 at flea market
      The wedge doesn’t and is split

      What would you suggest as a fix?
      Could I just drill and peg?
      I have used it and does work albeit with a lot of messing

  4. Gary

    I have an old jointer bought at a flea market for £7
    The wedge doesn’t and it’s split

    What would you suggest as a fix?
    Could I just drill a pin hole through?

  5. Dean

    I managed to buy a Stanley N07 and it was as flat! I do have a 600 x 600 x 100 granite block, so flattening the sole was not going to be a problem. This is a really nice plane to use and the addition of a Hock blade made it even better.

  6. Byron

    If I were to adapt the wooden jack plane plans to a 24″ jointer, what would you recommend for the bed distance from the front? Using the same proportion as the jack it would be 9″, but this post is the perfect time to ask.

    • Greg

      Proportional placement, That is the tactic I employed with my 32” jointer from Mr. Maguire’s plans for a 16” Jack back in April of this year.

      • Byron

        Thank you, I will go with that.

        • Greg

          Enjoy the build, I did.
          I really like the Hock irons that I got for them.

          They will be easier to use when I finish their totes, I designed my own to fit my hands.

          • Byron

            I am closing in on finishing my workbench, and I have prepared a couple of blanks for wooden jointers. I have a Veritas iron and cap for the jointer and some kits for a jack. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

  7. Salko Safic

    I have an old beaten p wooden jointer. I really don’t know it’s age, but it looks like it’s ready to become firewood yet it’s my most often go to plane for flattening and edges even though I have an LN jointer a hand away. I don’t dislike metal planes in any way but I do reach for the wooden more often.

    I’ve watched Richard’s video on making one and he’s explanation of the build makes it look super easy to do. Maybe I should just go ahead and build a new one.

    • Greg

      Making one gets my vote.

    • Julian

      Salco, it sounds like your beaten up piece of firewood is still performing like an old friend should, and I do like the idea of your long LN gathering dust. Just don’t let the making of a possible replacement damage a great friendship.

  8. foromir

    My Joh. Weiss & Sohn wooden jointer with laminated sole as well as laminated 60 mm blade was the plane that I owe my Eureka moment which led me to switch to wooden planes. I used it on my planing board project which went on to be my frist and only woodworking bench.

  9. Israel Katz

    I believe. My apologies if I’m wrong that the only basic difference between a No. 5 and a No. 8 or higher is the length of the sole. Is it not possible to build to build some kind of boot to install a No. 5 into to extend its sole. I would think it should be easier than a whole plane.

    • Michael Ballinger

      But why?

  10. Davidos

    F!!k sake Richard we’re have you been .i was just getting over the withdrawal and you pop up in my inbox ..” New build video I tought .
    Is there one on the way .what about that lovely oak table …..?????

    • Marc

      The homepage says:
      Next Series
      Intro Coming 27th September

  11. Tore B Pedersen

    You happy with that english pattern ECE Jack plane in the background of the second picture?… I’m just about to pull the trigger on it. I got a good but incredibly heavy bedrock pattern jack plane and want something lighter…

    Is it more a mini jointer or a big smoother?.

  12. Freda Telfer

    I have a jointer plane from a Glasgow brewery. It is seven and a half feet long, 2 feet high and one end the other end rests on the floor. Midway two legs. Support it. A plaque attached states.
    Coopers’ tools.
    The jointer plane for the great maturation casks, as used by the German coopers brought to the Brewery in 1885.
    Made from on oak beam.
    I have been informed that the wooden barrels were for the oversea shipments
    . Example. The 50/- pale ale.

  13. ross morrow

    Dear Sirs,

    I was meandering through eBay and I saw this little’ beauty, or is it?
    Not knowing anything about wooden planes, and yes I’m the nutcase
    With the the big Record No.8!!
    But I am a sucker for larger planes, probably cause I’ve hands more
    Akin to boat paddles and pork sausages for fingers, so generally
    They’re more comfortable to use, and the weight will really “flatten”
    anything in their paths.

    Enough rambling here goes:
    Large Jointer Plane John Weiss Sohn Wien Rare Iron Goldenberg Bench Plane I think it’s approximately 30” long

    Yours faithfully



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