The Role of Hand Plane Sizes 1-8


The Role of Hand Plane Sizes 1-8

Here’s an archived discussion on the different uses of the various sizes of hand planes:

Question: What are the Roles of the Various Hand Plane Sizes?

If anybody feels so inclined, I’d be interested in hearing about what each of these planes is good for. Currently I own a #4 and a #5.

I have the feeling that #1-3 are just smaller and smaller smoothers, but why would you use them instead of a #4 ? I remember reading about a planing order of (I think) scrub, jack, jointer, smoother but I can’t find it.

At first this seemed like an odd order, but after thinking about it a bit it started to make sense. Where does the #6 fit in ? What are the differences between using a #7 or a #8 to joint ?

There no rush for this, I’m not about to buy more planes, but I’m curious…

Answer 1

Hi, i’m only a newbie but these are my answers:

the smaller planes are for planing smaller areas — you could smooth with a #8 but it’d take ages cos you’d have to take off so much stock. have you seen a #1?

I don’t know why such planes were ever made, i’m pretty small but there’s no way I could grasp the tote of the #1, that’s why the #3 is the smallest plane used i think. the order of planing that you write is the order that i use.

The #6 is just a heavier and longer jack, or a shorter and lighter jointer depending on how you want to use it (i think a #5 was invented because carpenters found the #6 too cumbersome).

Actually I use the #6 as my jack plane and my jointer but that’s only cos I don’t have enough money to buy a #5 and a #7 and the #6 was going cheap. the #8 will get things flatter more easily than the #7 will. I think a #8 might be too big for me but you never know….

Answer 2

As I am sure others will answer your query in depth, here are my thoughts… The difference between the 7 and 8 has to do with how much money you have to spend

The number 6 was created by a Stanley accountant who could not bear the thought of a missing numeral. The number 1 was created to fuel the astronomically rising prices of today’s old tool market and to give the old boy network something to brag about over a case of beer.

The number 2 is for those of us who cannot afford a number 1.

The number 3 is actually a really nice little plane. I use it for planing and edge jointing small workpieces. It is actually one of my favorites, and I have fairly large hands.

BTW, I heard that if you feed a number 8 steroids, it turns into a number 9.

Answer 3

If you can’t think of a use for a no.1 or no.2, try building jewelry boxes.

In the current copy of American Woodworking it looks like they’re making the final passes on a panel with a no. 6.

When you think about it, a no.6 is a nice size for this.

I had an old timer describe a no.6 to me as a “carpenter’s jointer.” He mentioned that the no. 7 and no. 8 were “only good for a workbench.” He said that if you had to carry your tools in a box to the worksite or take a plane up into the rafters, you’d know why the no.6 was invented.

Answer 4

There’s probably a good analogy between the Stanley bench plane numbering scheme and golf clubs, but because I know beans about golf I won’t try it.

My “arsenal” of bench planes is very modest:

1) A “new” UK Stanley #3 smoother

2) A 1940ish #5 jack plane

3) A 1918ish #7 jointer and (honesty compels me to include this)

4) A new AMT 9″ all purpose junk plane

I bought before I knew any better.

These work pretty well for me. I got the #3 instead of a #4 pretty much at the flip of a coin.

The #7 instead of a #8 because the latter seemed like overkill. I got the #5 because the #3 was a little dainty and I wanted something with a little more power (and PL recommended it).

I keep the AMT thing for really rough stuff sort of like a scrub plane.

I played with the Lie-Nielsen #1 and #2 up at his place last summer and played is the right word.

Seemed pretty useless to me. I haven’t a clue what a #6 would do that the others can’t.

This hasn’t stopped me from ordering a L-N #4 and the infill planes for the “project”, but this where things are starting to get pathological.

I hope I don’t get excited about block planes anytime soon, the #9 gets used a lot though.

Answer 5

#1 expensive paperweight.

#2 less expensive paperweight.

#3 a handy little smoother, even for folks with large hands.

#4 an overgrown #3.

#5 nice plane for whacking away saw marks and #40 furrows.

#6 no known sane people use these. the jack of no trades.

#7 a suitable jointer, if you’re *that* way.

#8 the only jointer for the self-respecting neanderthal.

All but answers 3, 5, and 8, are joking, in case you couldn’t tell.

Answer 6

After using a #8 for a few minutes a #5 feels like a toy. The #4 almost disappears in my hand. I guess it is all relative.

Answer 7

Am not a Stanley collector nor user to any great extent (tend to prefer wooden stock planes), so am surprised to be sending in a thought on the Stanley #1.

First saw a couple of these about 18 years ago, and immediately went through the various possibilities as to their purpose.

Still am not sure of its true purpose, though a small “smoother” seems as good an explanation as any.

Still remember my first impression being that it would be difficult to hold to actually put to use, however.

Had one thought on the idea of it being a “salesman’s sample”.

I hadn’t realized before that they never had a lateral adjustment lever. To me this totally discounts the idea that their purpose may have been as “samples.”

If they were to represent the Stanley line, then they would have reflected the other bench planes in miniature, so the salesmen could have pointed out all of the features.

The fact that the adjustment screw doesn’t angle up as on the larger planes, would also tend to reinforce this argument.

Interesting how this plane excites virtually everyone’s imagination.

Answer 8

I have seen some discussion on the purpose of the Stanley #1 and because of it’s size how hard it would be to use (Whether here or elsewhere). Questions like, “How to do you hold it.”

I just received a collection of Woodcuts Magazine.

An article in there claims that woodworking was fairly commonly taught in primary schools before the 1930’s and these planes were for kids.

Between the schools discontinuing them and the WWII metal drives, most were disposed of.

Makes sense to me. Those itty bitty totes are probably perfect for 8 yr old hands.

Answer 9

I’ve used both the #2 and the #1. My hands are a little larger than most and I found the #2 uncomfortable to use.

The handle is too small for 3 fingers inside and it’s awkward to hold with just two. (I prefer the #3 or the 5 1/4 for most uses, except jointing.)

I did use my #1 to make a simple “platform” to set it on. I found it usable by wrapping my hand around it with no finger(s) inside the handle.

There is a tool chest in the Smithsonian museum that was featured in American Woodworking (I think that’s the right mag) that was owned by a piano maker named Studley.

It is absolutely magnificent, with over 300 tools in an area only 19 1/2″ X 9 1/2″ X 39″.

There are several planes in this ingenious chest including a jointer, a jack plane, a full set of chisels, etc.

There are all kinds of nooks and crannies and fold out sections, etc. Included is a #1.

I am certain there weren’t any tools in there that he didn’t use as it must have taken him hundreds of hours to build it.

As far as I’m concerned this chest forever answers the question of whether the #1 was really used.

I think it was used as a smoothing plane where a block plane might not fit, being 1/2″ narrower than most, and having a fine adjustment mechanism.

Also, it fits very nicely in your pocket… Or, maybe there was some other reason, I’m just sure they were used.

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