Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Get woodworking #2

After getting the chisel sharp, I would take the beginner through a series of lessons demonstrating various uses of chisels, but I'll skip those here as readers of this blog are familiar with what they would contain.

What's next?  So far, I've spent about $90 of the beginner's money and next comes the biggest expenditure I would recommend.  A plane is the next tool logically; after all they're just chisels in guides.  My opinion is that, if you can afford it, you should own one new premium plane and it should be your first (I'm ignoring wooden planes for the simple reason that I know little about them.).  It's what I did by accident and I consider myself lucky.  The new plane works right out of the box, important since the beginner doesn't know how a plane should work.  A second reason is that I think you need to own one low angle, bevel up plane, one with square sides that is suitable for shooting.  Equipped with three or more blades, it has unmatched versatility and simplicity.  You'll never outgrow it.

This is a big expenditure, about $300, a major hurdle for a beginner.  You can definitely do without it.  The other alternative is to have the beginner get an old #5 and refurbish it, which might well be preferable.  I'd have them follow Bob Rozaieski's video.

This is a major departure from my friend Bob's recommendations in his podcast series and I definitely respect his opinion.  The smoother and extra blades I bought cost more than the seven old planes combined that I own.  I have never wanted another new premium bench plane, but I am really glad it was my first plane and I am glad that I have it.  If, as their skills increase, they decide they don't want it, it could easily be sold at a good price.

The bad news is, they've spent almost $400; the good news, it gets a lot cheaper the rest of the way.  As I look at my tool chest, I can honestly say that there isn't another new premium tool in it that I really need.  I have a number and I really like them, but I don't need them.  There are good vintage alternatives for all of them.  As I've gone along, I have enjoyed finding and refurbishing vintage tools more and more.


  1. Andy,

    Which premium plane did you buy?
    I ask because you mention that it was a smoother, and most people recommend a LA jack.

    I am getting good results from my jack and longer planes. I have a good vintage jack several long planes, so I don't need a "jack of all trades" that I can joint edges with in a pinch. I really need something that excels at smoothing and shooting.

    So the fit for me looks like the Veritas low angle smoother (the one with square sides), with 2 blades. I'm guessing you either bought that or the LN 164? Assuming I have good vintage jointers and jacks but my smoother is rough, what do you think is a good premium plane to round out my bench plane kit?

  2. Yes, that's the same one I have. I don't consider myself an expert, but I think a bevel up smoother that you can also use for shooting is the premium plane to buy. I actually bought all of the blades, which isn't necessary, but it gives me tremendous versatility, everything from endgrain to figured wood subject to tearout.

    Some people say the smoother is a little light for use on a shooting board and prefer the jack. There's a real advantage of trying these planes at shows before you buy. Both LV and Lie Nielsen will let you use their tools to your hearts content before you buy. If at all possible, do so.

  3. Thanks Andy.

    In this case I'd almost rather ask a non-expert, someone closer to my own ability level (though still clearly more experienced, plus you were previously an experienced Normite).

    I really hate the idea of buying a 15" plane as I have a pristine type 11 #5 with 3 blades including a Hock, and a very nice round-top 606. I think that I've got that size covered well for face and edge grain.

    I'm much more destitute in smoothing where my #4 is not that great and I haven't found a vintage deal that I liked.

    I'm sure that weight helps for shooting, but my bet is that low angle and premium quality are the two most important things. I've used an LN #62 and it's an awesome shooting plane, much better than the heavier 606 I use now.

    I have no easy access to Veritas planes but I have many of their other tools including their joinery saws and trust them to be of excellent quality.

    And I have to think for my kit and particular needs the LA smoother would be better as a true smooth plane than the LAJ would. I also somewhat like the smaller size both for portability in a tote for classes and because, lacking space, I'm trying to restrict myself to what will fit in a fairly small tool chest. :-)