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    Samuel Colchamiro

    Which plane to buy? No 4 or 4 1/2? Do you feel the extra width of blade?


    I’ve found both really useful. The No4 is much lighter to use than the 4 1/2, but the 4 1/2 is useful for wider boards. If you have to choose just one, I’d go for the No 4, you can get by planing most boards with it and, in my opinion, it’s better for final smoothing.

    Peter Fitzpatrick

    I have a Stanley 4½ and I do like it, but I certainly feel the extra weight when I’m using it. I’m not a big guy, so that’s not an insignificant consideration.

    Dave Ring

    Bear in mind that a good used No.4 1/2 could cost you twice as much as a No.4 in similar condition. No.4’s are far more common than No.4 1/2’s because many generations of woodworkers have found them to be more generally useful.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Dave Ring.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Dave Ring.
    Mike Goodwin

    The extra width, and length, can be useful when smoothing wider/longer pieces, like table tops. That said, I picked up my 4 1/2 primarily for the extra weight. As a purely personal preference, I prefer a heavier plane in general, (I use a 6 frequently, not just as a fore plane but as my primary shooting plan and as a joiner for smaller stock). I feel the extra weight aids me in working the wood with smoother, more flowing passes. I also like the larger ergonomic dimensions of the 4 1/2 over the 4, despite not being a particularly big guy.

    Despite my preferences if I could only have one or the other it would be the 4. They cost less, new or used, are mush easier to find on the used market and they are simply more versatile.


    I have and use both a 4 1/2 and 4, one is not better or worse than the other.

    Keith Walton

    Both for sure. Some may say Paul’s word is not gospel but I think he’s orettt spot on with this topic. If you can’t afford to buy multiple planes at once, get a no 4. But for multiple reasons you will want a 4 1/2 and a 5 and then maybe a 5 1/2 and I even grab a no 3 sometimes.

    My 4 1/2 is my favorite plan, it just came out the nicest after fettling. I often grab it first without thinking. That said I wouldn’t want to have it be my only plane and would take a no 4 if I had to pick one to start

    P McC

    If you could try planing with or at least handing a few different numbers it might help you make a decision. I have numbers 3,4, 4 ½, 5 and 6 at my bench. I almost never use the #3. Too small for my hand. I reach for the 4 ½ or 5 first because they fit my hand best. If I need a smaller plane I use the #60 ½ block plane. I have a Fulton the same size as a Stanley #4 but is clunkier and much heavier. I ground the blade to make it a very good scrub plane and use it often. It seems like the extra weight helps when hogging off rough wood.

    Of course I have rasped all the totes to give my little finger more room, and shaped them to be more comfortable to hold.

    Larry Geib

    There are #3’s and there are #3’s.

    The later versions are only 1/4” shorter than a standard #4 and the only real difference is that 1/4” narrower iron. It’s almost a pound lighter.

    The knob and tote on those later versions are EXACTLY the same. I think Stanley moved to standardization in the postwar years.
    If you are small or have arthritis, it might be a plane to consider because it’s easier to push.

    #3 on left, #4 on right.

    I have also reshaped the totes on virtually all my planes. I suppose that ruins them for collector value. I’ll be dead when it becomes an issue.

    I have plans to get them to young users anyway.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Larry Geib.

    There’s no initial advantage with the #4 1/2. The gain in speed on wider boards is not free, as it would be with machines. You have to input increased effort. They’re heavier and harder to get started and to push. On wider boards, the wider cutting-irons take larger shavings, meaning greater forward resistance all the time. They’re harder to stop at the end of each stroke. You need to arrest that momentum at the end of every stroke and pull that heavier plane back to the start. You will notice the difference.
    On wide boards, you’ll have two tough strokes with a #4 1/2, versus three, easy strokes of a #4.
    For narrow stock, chamfers, and single-handed use, the #4 1/2 is a little more awkward to balance and keep level.
    The #4 1/2 is the widest of all. Even for experienced tradesmen with arms like Popeye, that’s the maximum. We’re not aiming for tradesman speeds, it’s a hobby. How often are you planing wide boards anyway? Most planing is on strips of wood suited to the widths of #3 or #4.
    I’m not saying “don’t get a #4 1/2”. You’ll certainly want to get one later-on, you may even prefer it, I’m just suggesting a #3 or #4 is a better place to start.

    Dave Ring

    At one time I preferred the 4 1/2 because I could hold on to the tote using a four fingered grip. Once I learned to hold a No.4 with a 3 fingered grip, like a saw, the 4 1/2 was retired.

    Nowadays I use a No.5 for most things and a No.3 as a dedicated smoother.


    Adrian Kemp

    I have a 4.5 with a 40 degree bed and a 4 with a 50 degree bed.

    They aren’t really an either or thing. They serve different purposes (in so far as you could do all planing with a 4)

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