Choosing a Jack Plane

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    Topic
  • #550516
    TCH2017
    Participant

    Oh my Gosh,

    I have been researching jack planes until the point where I just want someone to say “just go and buy this one.” Low angle vs. Standard angle. Which is best for the shooting board or end grain. The low angle should be the first plane one ever gets. The list goes on and on.

    Should I just get something and grow into it? What to do… what to do…

    Wait, I need to post a question! The low angle versions often suggest that they can be adjusted by closing the mouth for difficult grain (or end grain) and all that. Can a standard angle plane also be adjusted? Can’t the frog be moved ahead or back to open the mouth thus getting the same results as the low angle planes?

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 22 total)
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  • #550517
    georgewall42
    Participant

    @georgewall42

    A couple of questions: is this your first plane purchase? Or do you have a specific use in mind for this plane? Are you looking for new or used? Anyway, some thoughts from a beginner:

    IMHO, low-angle vs. standard jack plane is mostly a matter of personal preference. Both will plane wood. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, but to be honest, they are fairly minor.

    As you noted, most low angle jacks have an easy way to adjust the mouth opening. On a standard jack, you have to remove the lever cap, cap iron, and blade to get at the screws that loosen the frog, and then maneuver a screw driver between the frog and the tote to get at the frog adjustment screw to adjust the mouth opening. To be honest, it sounds worse than it is, and you don’t do it often, so it’s really not that big of a deal.

    Advantages of the standard jack is the lateral adjustment lever, and the location of the depth adjustment knob. Most low angle planes require either a hammer or set screw to make lateral adjustments, and the depth adjuster is a bit less convenient.

    A low angle jack is indeed nice for shooting end grain. The lower angle of a cut of a 25 degree iron (38 degrees vs. 45 degrees) does make the low angle slightly easier to use on end grain.
    However, in most cases, you can shoot end grain just as well on a standard jack. Planing end grain is mostly about having a sharp iron and using proper technique to prevent blowout, and that applies to both types of planes.

    The advantage of the low angle jack is that you can use a blade sharpened to a high angle and get a cutting angle that is well above the 45 degree angle found on the Stanley planes. The higher angle can help avoid tearout on difficult grained woods. Doing the same on the standard angle jack requires honing a back bevel on the blade; I’ve never done that, but I’ve heard it can be tricky for the inexperienced. And changing blades on a low angle jack is easier than the standard jack, as you have no cap iron to deal with (although I consider that a very minor difference).

    OTOH, there are other ways of avoiding tearout besides a higher cutting angle: use a freshly sharpened blade, and skew the plane to the direction of cut, and take a lighter cut each pass. My inexpert opinion is that I’m not sure there is much need for the high angle plane until you start working regularly with difficult woods.

    Full disclosure: I have both, and I do actually like my low angle jack, despite what I said above. It’s a versatile plane, and for certain tasks it has a nice feel in my hands (a very subjective assessment subject to personal preferences). It’s just not really the panacea the adverts and internet forums and blogs make it out to be. Technique and keep the cutting iron sharp make a bigger difference. If you can, see if you can find a local woodworking store where you can try both out. They do feel different, and you may find yourself liking one better than the other.

    #550519
    Dave Ring
    Participant

    @davering

    Just buy an older Stanley Bailey No.5.

    The best ones were made before WWII and have real rosewood/cocobolo handles. A good one shouldn’t cost you more than $40 and you can get off way cheaper if you are willing to poke around the flea markets, estate sales and antique malls.

    I’ve noticed that Paul, in his more recent videos, has been using a No.5 a lot.

    #550524
    btyreman
    Participant

    @btyreman

    No need for low angles or a bevel up with a jack plane, I would recommend a 5 1/2 a vintage stanley, nothing fancy.

    #550540
    David B
    Participant

    @dbockel2

    What someone else said, what you requested they say. Just go buy an old Stanley or Record #5 and tune it up. I’ve never used a low-angle plane…never needed one.

    #550541
    Doug Finch
    Participant

    @dfsixstring1968

    My first plane ever was a #5 Ward’s Master Quality (old US Montgomery Wards store) plane – for about $9.00 plus shipping. It was a pre-WWII model (made by Lakeside?). I wasn’t sure if I was going to like hand planing things and didn’t want to spend much money. When I cleaned it and removed the rust and grime, what a beautiful tool emerged. The wood handles are simply beautiful. I now have 8 or so planes but this one is still my “go to” plane. I spent the time learning how to tweak the settings and adjustments so that it does what I need. I use it as my smoothing plane more so than my actual smoothing plane.

    #550542
    harry wheeler
    Participant

    @harryawheeler

    To answer your question, absolutely, the frog is adjustable on standard bench planes like a Stanley or a Record for that exact reason. But once you get one set, you’ll rarely ever find a need to move it. I never found it made much difference except maybe on some highly figured wood. Low angle planes do work a little better on figured wood and marginally better on end grain but that’s about the only things they’re good at which is why I only have one and I don’t know where it is. I agree with the others. If you’re game for a used one that might need a little work, look for an old No.4 or No.5 Stanley. I picked up a very nice Stanley No.4 a couple of months ago on Ebay for $20 plus shipping. Stay away from the Stanley type 20’s (a blue bed is a dead giveaway it’s a 20) or the newer Stanley “junk”. They aren’t the same quality as the older type 19’s and earlier were. If you don’t want to work on one, have a look at the Woodcraft planes. I’ve got one of their 5 1/2’s and I love that thing. They aren’t exactly cheap, but they are certainly affordable.

    Harry

    #550543
    David B
    Participant

    @dbockel2

    Woodcraft’s Wood River planes are heavy! $20-30 has been my sweet spot for #4’s on eBay that I’ve restored in an evening. I spent closer to $100 for a #4 1/2 (that I rarely use). I have a 5 and a 5 1/2 but don’t use either that often (#5 will more often hit the shooting board for me but if I have some wide panels I’d definitely consider the larger/longer options. I love my #4s.

    #550544
    harry wheeler
    Participant

    @harryawheeler

    You’re right, the Wood River plane is heavy, but that was what I was after. The inertia of a heavy plane is an advantage on a shooting board which is where I use mine the most.

    Harry

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by harry wheeler.
    #550545
    Dave Ring
    Participant

    @davering

    Congrats to Doug regarding that Wards Master Quality No.5. That’s a real “dark horse” brand and those tools are usually first rate. I have a Wards Master No.3 that used to be my go-to smoother and it’s virtually identical to prewar Baileys except for markings and the tip of the lateral lever. Obviously made by Stanley.

    Lakeside is another old Monkey Ward house brand. Some of the older Lakeside tools are topnotch but I think that they demoted the brand to “budget” status after the introduction of the Wards Master Quality line.

    Dave

    #550546
    David B
    Participant

    @dbockel2

    I purchased, restored, and re-sold (for nary a profit) a Lakeside jack plane I got off ebay. I did not like the way it performed at all–it seemed “loose”. Maybe it was beyond a meaningful tune-up. The cap iron did not seem particularly solid/stable and the tote jiggled. I’m no collector so if I don’t like the way it performs I probably won’t keep it.

    On the other hand, I have a Sargent #4 I got off ebay for $20 because I thought it was a brand collectors seemed to approve of. When I got it I was disappointed to find the tote/knob are made from a black-resin material and the screws are steel-headed, Philips-head screws. Otherwise it could be so pretty–I think I have some spare Stanley hardware about. But then the plane truthfully performs beautifully. If not for the resin and screw heads I would smile so much wider when I grab it. Is it possible to craft a new tote for this vintage of Sargent plane–it has a plastic nub at the front of the tote for stability vs. a screw. Are the screw angles/lengths the same as a Stanley #4? I have some spare hardware but the tote has a different form…

    Whoops–sorry to hijack the thread (pun intended):O

    #550547
    Sven-Olof Jansson
    Participant

    @sojansson

    A Stanley #5 with a 0.3 mm arc, that ruined a lot of work until I realised the tool I’d bought wasn’t ready for use, convinced me of the virtues of Clifton, Lie-Nielsen, and Veritas.

    Jack plane from any of these companies will accommodate most tasks, be a delight to work with, and by their quality add to making woodworking the joy it should be – not least when the momentum induced by their weights allow unhindered passage through knots and not too obnoxious grain. Coupled with the precision gone into the manufacturing of any of these tools, the price tags I think are well justified.

    /soj

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Cambridge, MA

    Attachments:
    #550549
    joeleonetti
    Participant

    @joeleonetti

    I have both in between the wars Stanley and Lie-Nielsen. Either one will do the job. The Stanley may need some set up. The Lie Nielsen will be good to go from the box. I prefer the lighter weight and thinner O1 steel of the Stanley. I prefer the refinements in Lie Nielsen. Both will do the job quite nicely.

    #550550
    btyreman
    Participant

    @btyreman

    the advantage of a premium model is that there is virtually no work in setting it up, that is basically what you are paying for, but it can end up costing a fortune.

    #550579
    Brian A
    Participant

    @brian8

    I have a stanley #605 ‘Bedrock’ – aka ‘the Fred Flintstone Jack Plane”. It don’t pass unhindered through knots, and there is some play in the adjusters. I should probably sharpen it more often.

    .

    #550582
    Dave Ring
    Participant

    @davering

    Vintage Stanley No.5:
    $15-$20 (Typical selling prices in SE Michigan USA)
    $20-$50 Bid Price + $15-$20 Shipping (eBay)

    Veritas or Lie-Nielsen Jack Plane:
    $245-$325 plus $14-$20 Shipping

    Dave

Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 22 total)

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