Clear all

[Solved] Plane recommendation  


Topic starter

So, looking at getting a plane and bewildered by choices. What do you recommend? Near as I can tell it’s a Stanley No. 4 (“smoothing plane”) in the videos, but I could be wrong.



Come to think of it, if you wanted to do a bit in the livestream talking about the different hand planes and their application to guitar making, that would be cool!

Once you’ve got the plane, you need to learn the black art of sharpening,

That’s the bit that always gets me. A blunt plane is worse than no plane.

Just found the video... thanks, all.

Topic Tags
9 Answers

Hi John,

Looking at these tools they appear to be absolutely beautiful! You may ‘decide’ to upgrade at some stage in the future (can’t see why other than as a birthday/lottery win treat TBH) but you would have to become a really very extraordinary woodworker in the future for these planes to be the thing holding you back. Having said that, it is, however, always worth holding a straight edge to the sole of any new plane (preferably before you buy it) to check for flatness and there are many YouTube videos describing how to flatten a plane that is slightly out, often using a piece of plate glass and wet and dry paper. The results of this simple procedure can be quite remarkable and may be the difference between you enjoying your woodwork or you deciding that you are just never going to get the hang of it. Rushed production  is usually the culprit resulting in castings receiving their final machining before they have had time to cool properly and settle.

Good luck and I would say that the one thing that you should ask your father in law to pass on to you, prior to his tools becoming available, is sharpening techniques. Once learnt you will never forget them and they will make your planing and chiselling an absolute joy.




Different planes are used for different applications eg for jointing two pieces together a longer sole plane is best, but you still have to do a bit of work with a hand scraper to get a good join. Mark has a video on this. Also good for evening out rough timber and big waste removal if you don't have any machines. Smoothing planes re better for finishing and both can be used across the grain to avoid tear out.

Stanley is a solid make but you often have to flatten the sole with scraper and straight edge as they can be a bit wobbly. The Gucci boys toys are Lie Neilsen but very pricey and are good to straight from the box.


Lie Nielsen are lovely, but pricey, as Rocknroller says.
If I was in the market for a new plane, then I'd probably look at Quangsheng, they're Chinese but they're quality. I don't think anything Workshop Heaven stock is bad and that's their "affordable" line (they're not cheap, just not in the Lie Nielsen or Clifton sort of bracket.

And certainly not in the Holtey price bracket (I recommend sitting down before you look up prices on those!).

Mark used to run his workshops with nothing but a couple of little block planes, and in those days we actually did a lot of planing because he didn't have thicknessers and thickness sanders. It just took patience and care.

All of my planes are vintage Stanleys, either inherited from my grandfather (I need to restore those) or from the vintage toolshop.

I started working with only a Stanley smoothing plane which belonged to my dad and bought a Stanley block plane. I've never used a radius dish and used to do all the side shaping with the block plane and shining a torch inside to look for gaps.
Hoping to get a radius dish from Bagpress soon.
Over the years I've realised the limitations of brands like Stanley where the lever mechanism is easily dislodged and the blade falls out, so as I've got paid for repair jobs I've upgraded the Lie Neilsen which are quality.
I played in a Ceilidh band for a while doing weddings which was a cash cow while it lasted and and allowed me to buy lots of tools.


I don't have any big machines apart from a router and bench drill so it's still hand tools for me


I have been a "hand tool" woodworker for a while now... mostly because my shop is inside and I don't want the noise in the house. If I was to make a suggestion for a first plane I would say find a #4 smoothing plane. I would not purchase any planes from a "big box" store (ie. the stanley ones) because they are terrible like they said above, however if you find an antique/vintage one they are better than almost anything you can buy. You can do pretty much anything with a #4... thicknessing, jointing, smoothing, dimensioning... with a little practice... and then work on building up the tool supply for specific tasks. I have quite the selection of planes to choose from but, now that I am building a guitar, I want one of those little ones for the braces of an acoustic. 🙂 You will need to learn the art of sharpening but that does not take long. In no time all the tools in your shop will be hair popping, razor sharp. There is nothing better than a nice, thin, silky smooth shaving from a sharp plane or scraper. 🙂


You can spend £1500 on a plane but if you cant sharpen it there’s no point. A £35 or £40 Stanley plane will be fine, spend any spare cash on your sharpening system. I would recommend a reasonably course diamond ‘stone’ at about 600g (actually made of metal) and a combination water stone of 1000/6000 or there abouts. The diamond stone can be used to establish the correct geometry of the cutting edge and also to flatten the water stone if it starts to wear unevenly (it will, they are very soft). I would suggest avoiding oil stones if at all possible. They are slow cutting but most of all they are sodding messy and the last thing you need in a guitar workshop is oily finger prints everywhere.

When I went to the London College of Furniture in the early 80’s we spent about 4 or 5 weeks learning to sharpen our tools before we were let near a piece of wood. It was frustrating at the time but I can still sharpen a blade such that I can shave hair with it so it really was time well spent. This is why lots of woodworkers have bald patchers on their arms.


Darren have to agree with you, sharpening is the important skill to learn. I never use oilstones either.

Posted by: @darrenking

You can spend £1500 on a plane


That are just amazing pieces of engineering but isn’t it sad that it is being described as never having been used or honed as a means of boosting its perceived value. These things should be covered in dust and making shavings, not locked in a display cabinet or bank vault!


I agree, it's like a guitar that's never been played.

As tools it's arguably impossible to justify the prices of Holtey planes, but as engineering art made by an artisan, well let's just say if I won the lottery I'd probably waste some money on one.

Making a plane is on my list of things I'd like to do, though I'd probably keep it simple and make something like a chisel plane.

On the subject of things being "too nice to use", I can't remember which one it was but there was a YouTuber who made some lovely machinists hammers and sent them to other YouTubers. But they had strict instructions that they had to post videos of themselves hitting something hard with them and marring the perfect finish, because he wanted them to be tools, not display pieces.

I've seen some very nice planes made from U section brass with ebony end inserts but that shape of brass is very hard to source. An alternative way is to create the U shape with flat stock drilled and pinned together. Needs accurate machining.
Small finger planes can be milled from one inch or 25mm solid brass round bar with the end of the bar being the plane sole. Shape the sides and use a roll pin in front of the blade to wedge it against. It's on my list of 1000 jobs.


My wife calls it "handtool pattern baldness". 🙂


You don't need a fancy plane - you don't even have to learn how to sharpen it 😲  (yet)

It will arrive plenty sharp enough to use for a bit...while you save for your diamond sharpening stone and honing guide

Eventually you will need to get the hang of it but...

Also depends what you want to use it for...if it is for the basic build we only use it for trimming the fillet on the truss rod

My first plane:

Stanley Block Plane 102

Stanley 102 Block Plane - (bought 2 still have and use both)

Shockingly they have doubled in price since I feel old

If you are buying one to join soundboards or similar, then something a bit bigger/better will certainly help - Like Darren says the sky is the limit!! Happy hunting - let us know what you catch!!


Measure twice, cut once...

Cheers, all! I appreciate the advice. I ended up getting a set that I found on sale at Garrett Wade (a site recommended by my father-in-law who is a master woodworker but is sadly not ready to part with any of his tools! 😁)... it has the No. 4 and a block plane, as well as a spokeshave for the future when I’m good enough to, as Mark puts it, “show off!” I feel like they’ll be quite good as a beginning, better than big box store stuff, at a reasonable price.