Hand planes and the cost


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After seeing your question over on the power tool forum about diagnosing a runout problem on your Tormek I feel kind of stupid trying to help you find a low cost entre' into hand tool woodworking. You almost have more invested in a grinder than I do my entire kit of hand tools. I think we're on a completely different trajectory. You have a Tormek but no planer, jointer or their hand tool equivalents? I'm a little confused I don't mind saying.

I got the tormek for my knives. I used to fix up and make custom knives but have kinda grown out of that these days. It just happened to work well with my new hobby so I didn't sell it off.

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Let's all remember that for some (many?), the price point of entry can make or break the decision to take up this fine craft. If someone wants to plane a board, and doesn't have the funds to drop on L

Wow, that got outta hand real quick. Carus, did you say "pissing", dude you were fired up . Nice to see log getting a mention too!   You know this is a tricky tightrope to walk, the crosswinds that

Reading this thread reminds me of why I reduced my participation in forums over the past few years.    My own experience lead me to brands like Lie-Nielsen and I've happily stayed there. I started

Let us know how it works out. 

 

I've apparently been lucky in that the planes I've bought didn't require overly-laborious tuning and fettling.  I've actually been lucky twice I guess --  I lost essentially an entire shop in a fire that started in a workspace next to mine, I bought essentially the same kit I had and, still, not all that much fettling - easily less than one day on the whole bench plane lineup.

 

If you end up fixing and tuning your messed up Tormek rest assured that you will have no problem with putting a vintage kit of planes in working order should you decide to go that route.  Brain surgery it is not.  The first three foot long board that you four-square all by hand will be much more work than putting a jointer, jack, and smoother in decent working order if they aren't already there in the first place.   Stay away from pristine tools that nobody ever used or were obviously used a few times and put up.  You want something that has clearly been used but that has been reasonably well taken care of.  Planes that have been used tend to be planes that work well and this for reasons I'm sure are obvious to you.  For instance, If a previous owner rounded the arrises of a plane's sole then it's likely a keeper -- he or she probably knew what they were doing.

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The first planes I bought cost about $15.00. There was a lot to fettle and they were junk. The next few cost $30-40.00. There was less to fettle and as true Bailey clones they work very well. Now that I have them. My desire to fettle is mostly gone and eBay has burned me a time or two. I now want to put eyes on a plane and that starts escalating the cost. Let's face it, I am not in a hand tool city by any stretch so putting hands on a plane before purchase takes time. Is the time something you are willing to spend? It is an entity rarely accounted for. How many hours on eBay or at car boot sales? (Don't want to leave G out.) I am not here to say this is bad, just that there is a price to be weighed.

I'd say this was a big part of your issue. If you're hunting on the bay, you need to be pretty lucky to get a good plane for  $30 - $40. Back when I was picking up planes on the bay, a decent bench plane would usually go from $50 to $150 depending on size, type, & condition. Type one through type 8 is collectors territory, and type 16+ are not nearly as good as earlier versions.

 

Thus if your are going old plane hunting you want a type 9 through 15, the following link will help you identify them.

http://www.tooltrip.com/tooltrip9/stanley/stan-bpl/bailey-types.htm

 

I've never owned any bedrock planes, but I assume they are a lot like the standard versions in that they took a quality dive during/after world war two.

http://www.antique-used-tools.com/brtypes.htm

 

 

If you want to minimize the chances of getting burned, get yourself on  Patrick Leach's monthly tool list.

This is the one from September, but keep in mind stuff isn't going to be cheap.

 

http://www.supertool.com/forsale/september2014list.html

 

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I own nothing newer than type 11. The planes I bought that were rubbish had carefully hidden flaws like cracked castings. You will find a lot of the old timers here that frequently tout buying vintage, telling guys they are spending only $30 and finding gems. I think you are correct Dan, and I think I bought the lie and got lucky. Tooling that is useful costs. On the flip side, I have had great success with my few woodies in the $15-30.00 range.

 

You can find gems online for that much, but it's usually because someone doesn't know/care what they have, and/or it's  improperly categorized. 

 

for example this #3 type 13 i got for $21.50 (2009)

 

before:

http://www.dans-hobbies.com/2009/04/10/my-new-smoother-plane/

 

after:

http://www.dans-hobbies.com/2009/06/30/refurbished-stanley-3/

 

 

The real gold mine for tools isn't online, or even swap meets, it's yard sales. At yard sales, people just want the stuff gone, so they will take almost anything for it.

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I don't have a strong opinion on new vs vintage. I've mostly gone with restoring vintage planes and supplementing them with new irons.

 

I will say that I would be reticent to buy a tool off of eBay. I bought three vintage Stanley planes and an old Disston , and I got burned on almost all of them with hidden flaws. In contrast, being patient and buying off of craigslist payed off much better.

 

I will say, that if you don't know what a well tuned plane can do, you are somewhat doomed if you start off buying junk and hoping to fix it up. Buying a Veritas block plane really changed things for me. I became inspired to make the planes I had actually start working well.

 

To give you an idea here's what I've spent and the relative time invested in getting things to their current state, If I value my free time at $25/hour it sort of becomes a wash.

 

Vintage #4 from CL $45 + LV PMV-11 blade and chip breaker $70 + Cleaning and tuning (2 hours / $50)  $165

Vintage #5 from CL $50 + + LV PMV-11 blade and chip breaker $70 + Cleaning and tuning (3 hours / $75) $195

Family Heirloom #3  Cleaning and Tuning (5 hours $125)

Vintage #5 from eBay $45 + Cleaning and Tuning (5 hours $125) + new Tote ($30) $200

Stanley #110 from eBay $30 + hidden broken casting = worthless

Stanley #220 from CL $5 + Cleaning and Tuning (2 hours $50) $55

Veritas PMV-11 Low Angle Block $170 + Hours t I get to spend woodworking (Priceless)

 

If I had bought a new Veritas #4 and #5, they would have been $229 and $255 respectively. So essentially I am at around a $60 savings per tool for planes that probably don't perform as well as the new premium versions.

 

I do like the vintage stuff, and I really love using my great grandfather's #3, but I don't see myself buying any more vintage iron than what I already have, I do however thing there will be new premium stuff in my future.

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One more thing to add is that there was a point where these old Stanley's were new and folks probably said that the home-made wood body planes did just fine.

The issue is that we make progress. Even in the hand tool world where we may place a greater emphasis on the aesthetics and tradition of our craft, we are not immune to someone making things easier on us.

If I can avoid making or rescuing a tool and support and American or Canadian manufacturer in the process that sounds like a good deal all around.

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One more thing to add is that there was a point where these old Stanley's were new and folks probably said that the home-made wood body planes did just fine.

The issue is that we make progress. Even in the hand tool world where we may place a greater emphasis on the aesthetics and tradition of our craft, we are not immune to someone making things easier on us.

I have an issue with what you are implying, as it's simply incorrect.

It doesn't matter if it's an old woodie a new woodie (people still make them, and they aren't cheap), a vintage metal plane, or a new metal plane, if it was properly designed to start with, and is tuned properly, it will plane anything.

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New designs have included more convenient adjustments that tend to stay that way a little better, and quality of metal and the machining is better...so there are slight improvements that have been made.  I do agree with Dan that almost anything short of a brick can be made to work pretty well with varying degrees of effort put into it.  But I also agree with William that newer planes are somewhat advanced from their predecessors, however slight that advancement might be.

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Thanks, Kiki

 

I don't think anyone is making the argument that there is a fundamental problem with any wood or metal plane from eras past. What we're talking about is the merit of buying new and getting straight to work at a higher price versus saving a few bucks, buying used, and working on the planes before working on the wood. Folks with dosh to throw around will probably buy LN/LV without batting an eye. Folks on tight budgets will have to go the Flea Market route out of necessity. We're really talking to those folks in the middle who could probably make the LN/LV purchase work, but are trying to figure out for themselves ahead of time whether they'll be making the right decision. 

 

My argument stands that if you're not skilled with hand-tools you'll have a devil of a time starting with run down tools and tuning them up as your first step to woodworking. I did personally, as did a few woodworkers I've taken classes with. That skill is easier acquired after some time with a quality tool in hand - which not many people have access to and rely on the internet to be their mentor.

 

Chris Schwarz is putting together some great budget classes for woodworkers to clean up flea market finds and get them to work and I think that's admirable. I'd one day like to offer a similar class so that this stage in the journey doesn't have to be so frustrating and unpredictable. 

 

That being said, at least buy a LA Jack or block from LV or LN if you possibly can and feel the difference with a tool that's built with tighter tolerances, better metal, and -most importantly- holds its settings through the work. 

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Perhaps a more appropriate topic might be: "Which modern planes would you purchase because they offer a performance that vintage planes do not approach, and which planes do not make a significant difference whether modern or vintage once tuned/refurbished?"

 

Regards from Perth

 

Derek

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I am brand new to this hobby and am really fascinated by hand planes (though I do use power tools - I guess you could call me 'hybrid' but it'd be premature to call me a 'woodworker' at this point).  this is a terrific thread guys, even with the 'argument' (which I always believe to be productive anyway).  I have been strongly considering buying a LA jack for some time due to it's versatility, the fact that I do not want to spring for a power jointer and a planer, and frankly I like the idea of physically working the wood. (not to mention, rough cut lumber is WAY cheaper than dimensioned wood). 

 

I picked up an old Union #4 smoother at an estate sale ($10!!!) that was in excellent shape and I cleaned it up best I could, it seems to work very well (I get nice thin shavings, it 'feels' right, though I admit to not having much experience),  Kiki's post above resonated with me, as I do have a fairly difficult time making fine adjustments - there is a little bit of 'wiggle room' in the adjustment knob and when I want to make a really fine adjustment it takes quite a bit of play.    I can compensate for it so far, I'm not yet doing really fine work with it, I am mostly using it to smooth and flatten small stock.  To compare I have a cheap block plane that I bought for $20 when I first started making some outdoor furniture about a year ago and needed to trim just a bit off the leg of a bench I made, and even though I spent a couple hours trying to hone the blade and flatten the sole the damn thing is a piece of crap. the plane iron moves no matter how tight I get it.  i can make the blade sharp but 2 or 3 passes through endgrain is all it takes to dull the blade, and frankly it just feels clunky in my hand. I even chipped the blade.  on pine of all things.  every time I think I need to use it for something I just look at it, frown, and grab the smoother or just use a rasp (which I have fallen in love with!) or a sanding block. So even in my own limited experience I have already seen a difference in quality. I now have a $20 paperweight (though I have started using the blade to scrape glue, so there is that).

 

I guess the question, if there is one in this post, is if I can budget for ONE new, quality plane, is the LA jack the one to get? seems the answer is obvious but I really do have a limited budget and frankly I could probably find multiple used planes for much less ... but there it is, again - I frankly do not have the experience to know if the plane is well tuned or not, the one I did restore "seems" fine but I am not yet ready to declare myself capable of truly knowing.  seems to me that springing for a LA jack would be the way to go as far as learning the tool and then deciding from there what additional planes, if any, I might need.  make sense?  idk, don't mind me, just rambling here.  I appreciate all of the opinions here...

 

oh I do have one question about brand.  seems the LN and Veritas LA Jackplanes are basically the same price, and what I'm reading here is that they are about equal in quality.  I did see that Wood River makes a LA Jack that's about $50 cheaper, does anyone know if that would be a decent one to buy?  seems too that there are fewer blade options for the Wood River model, but I can't tell if it would take a veritas or LN blade... any input would be welcome, I am on a budget so $50 means something but I'd like to know if it's meaningful long term.

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I picked up an old Union #4 smoother at an estate sale ($10!!!) that was in excellent shape and I cleaned it up best I could, it seems to work very well (I get nice thin shavings, it 'feels' right, though I admit to not having much experience),  Kiki's post above resonated with me, as I do have a fairly difficult time making fine adjustments - there is a little bit of 'wiggle room' in the adjustment knob and when I want to make a really fine adjustment it takes quite a bit of play.

All planes are this way, even the super high end ones. The only difference is the amount of play in the adjustment mechanism. Because of the scale of the adjustment mechanisms, it would be really hard for manufactures to include backlash compensation mechanisms, like those found on machine tools.

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Someone forgot to tell that to my planes.

It might only be 5 or 10 thousands, but it's there. Brese, Holtey, etc have it. Every plane that uses a screw mechanism to adjust the depth of cut has it. It's why people are always told to back off some random amount before trying to reset the depth of cut. It will get worse overtime, as the screw and nut wears.

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I assumed that's what he was referring to, as it's what I have helped the most beginners with.

I've gone the same way my self actually, hence the reason the only 2 planes I own at the moment are an old #15 and a LV apron plane.

yes that's what I was referring to, thanks it makes some sense.   One decent plane does not make me an expert obviously, I do think that I did a pretty decent job of restoring this old plane, will post pics later but it feels really nice to use.  but I have no problem learning how to fine-adjust the depth. the blade sits snugly and doesn't move side to side except with the lever adjustment so I'm happy with it overall.  I want to get something that will help me mill stock, and given my limited budget I thought the LA jack was the way to go.  haven't gotten anything yet though.

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Perhaps a more appropriate topic might be: "Which modern planes would you purchase because they offer a performance that vintage planes do not approach, and which planes do not make a significant difference whether modern or vintage once tuned/refurbished?".

Regards from Perth

Derek

Haha maybe but that is a long title and no one would want to read that long of a title. :)

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After all the pro's and con's, what it really boils down to is individual preference, Price not being part of the equation.  It's what works for you and you alone. I have Stanley numbers 2c 3,4,5. Union 7c and I'm comfortable with them, and since I treat them as well as I treat myself. they do what I ask.  I've used a couple of LN and a LV. and they work beautifully.... But then again so do my old Stanley's.... Again, it's what your comfortable with and nothing more!      Arguing for one or the other is ego driven!

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I do this for a living, and have done so for 41 years now.  We handplane hundreds of square feet of wood a year working on old houses.  I do not use the wood that Derek does simply because it doesn't fit anywhere in what we do, so have no reason to.  The only new plane I have is a LV Shooting Plane.  I bought it because I needed one for a job, and had always gotten by with a Lion Trimmer before.  The new shooter works great.  It does not work so good that it makes me want to put away a single one of my old planes to buy a mult-hundred dollar replacement.  If I had the time when I developed the need for the shooter, I could have easily made a wooden one that works just fine, but the time/pay balance would not come close to our hourly rate for the time involved, so the new one was actually the cheaper way in.

 

We primarily work with old recycled Heart Pine, White Oak, and Walnut.   Probably half the planes we are still using were bought before LN started in business.  Since then, other models have filled in blank spots since ebay came online.  I do have a 4-1/2 that's been tuned to it's present state, which works just fine on Curly Maple, since the mid or late '80s.  The old ones do just fine for me.  I never bought one that needed much cosmetic work, or rust removal, but they all came cheap-like a pristine Stanley 8 for 75 bucks.

 

I have absolutely no reason at all to buy a several hundred dollar plane, other than maybe the shooting plane, since a nice old one would have cost as much anyway.  I deduct any money I spend on tools, but it doesn't get spent needlessly.

 

Probably the most time I've spent on any one plane in tuning it is a couple of hours, and probably only a couple took that much time. These were not hours that took anything away from paying hours.   I do have a good, cheap setup for flattening things, but that's been here for a long time.

 

Either can do equal work, unless there is some specific need for a particular wood.  It's not ego, it's mostly ability to sharpen.  Getting the iron super sharp takes care of all sorts of issues.

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