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.
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.
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.
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.
Jeff Murray says
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 says
You must be quite old to have built a plane in the 18 century and post today..
Just the tequila talking…
Alan Thornton says
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
Thank you, I will go with that.
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.
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.
Salko Safic says
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.
Making one gets my vote.
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.
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.
Israel Katz says
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 says
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 …..?????
The homepage says:
Intro Coming 27th September
Tore B Pedersen says
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?.
Freda Telfer says
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.
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.
ross morrow says
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