My favourite hand planes

Using hand tools seems to be all the rage among amateur woodworkers these days. I'm not part of that fashionable trend - I prefer to get things done by the most expedient method available. In fact, for some things, such as joinery, I take the philosophy that if you have to use hand tools, you are cheating. Hand cut dovetails are not a repeatable process, so as far as I am concerned, cutting them by hand is not conquering the problem.

But I do use hand planes from time to time, and I thought I'd write a bit about them. My hand planes are very much the opposite of what is fashionable.

I'll start with this long one, a jointer plane of sorts, I guess. I bought it for $5 at a yard sale a few years back.

It doesn't have a mirror finish on the sole, but it's flat enough for me. And the sides of it are not even machined - just the raw casting.

The adjustment mechanism is all made out of stamped sheet metal. Even the knob is made from sheet metal. No nice brass parts on this plane!

Even the frog of it (the part that holds the knife) is made out of sheet metal!

They just don't make them like they used to. This hand plane was never made for hand plane fetishists. It was made to be inexpensive and to be used. They don't make them like this anymore, because people who buy hand planes these days aren't interested in getting the job done cheaply. It's all about having a beautiful hand plane. And this hand plane is not one of those beautiful ones.

But, sharpened up, it cuts really nicely, and that's what matters. I'm not saying it's better, or even as good as a Lie Nielson would be, but a comparable Lie Nielson plane would cost over $300. Needless to say, I don't have any Lie Nielson hand planes.

This one's an other yardsale special. What distinguishes this one is that it's very light.

It has an adjustment mechanism more like what you would see on a spokeshave. The blade is fairly thin too.

Being light positively does not make this a better plane. But I have more than once had this plane in my luggage when visiting my sister. And when you put a tool in your luggage, it's better if it's a light one!

And finally, this little "Kunz" hand plane is the most frequently used hand plane in my shop!

I rarely actually "plane" anything with this plane. But it's my favourite plane for putting a chamfer or a round on the edge of something. To approximate a roundover on an edge, I take several passes at different angles. It's much quicker than using a router or sandpaper.

I have tried various roundover planes and tools, but I still prefer to use this plane. Even if I want sanded round edges, I always start by rounding the edge with the plane so I won't have to remove as much material with the sandpaper.

I have since built a wooden palm plane based on this one.

I keep my various hand planes in tool holders on the wall behind my drill press. Each plane holder is shaped to exactly fit that plane. Most of my hand planes are from yardsales.

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