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.