Plow Plane alternative

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    Dennis Good

    Nice job on the videos! I was wondering how I could easily cut the dado without using a plow plane. Is there an alternative way to do that and still be accurate?


    Ron Harper

    Yes you can knife the lines and use a chisel and router plane, but if you are going to do much hand tool woodworking, you will need a plow plane. Careful shopping can find them pretty cheap on ebay.

    Rob Young

    Cutting gauge, knife, chisels, saw and router plane can do grooves too but you will be happier with a plow plane of some kind.


    Metalic plow & combination planes are plentiful and inexpensive (relatively) on the secondary market.  Wooden ones (in good shape) are a bit more expensive and there are more things to check before purchasing than a metalic one so I’d stick with looking for a metal body plow plane as your first go.

    The Record 044 and 044R are nice, especially if you find one with all of the blades as later model ones came with both Imperial and Metric blades (better match to chisel sizes).  But those made by Clifton, Stanley, Union, Seigley, Mongomery Ward (actually Stanley castings) and a host of others are also fine.

    Probably the most common non-bench, non-block plane on eBay is the Stanley 45 in some configuration.  As a plow plane, you want one with its extra skate, at least a few blades (these are easy to find by themselves or even make), at least the long rods (2), a knob (either on the main stock or on the accessory skate, depending on the vintage), a functioning blade clamp, the main depth stop and a fence that is true.
    Later models of the 45 have some nice features like a micro-adjustable fence,  secondary depth stop, more adjustable blade mechanisms, a beading fence and a few others.

    Often missing (but seldom missed) is the slitting cutter and its depth stop.  I however have found it to be a clever addition.  Just watch your knuckles when picking up the plane body.  Frequently missing is the support cam and frankly, it isn’t missed as it is a pain in the butt to use.    Also frequently missing are the knickers but replacements and replacement screws are available.  You can live without them for crossgrain work if you just knife a line separately.

    In short, just look for a $50 plane with a few plow blades (1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ will get you most everything you could ever need) and spend a little time cleaning it up and experimenting.  But if you are patient, I’ve seen several 45 “kits” go by at the $100 to $150 that are very nearly complete, clean and ready to work and I’ve seen 100% complete pristine kits go for much less than $200.  Record and Stanley 44’s and 50’s seem to be a bit higher for whatever reason.  But you can’t really go wrong with a 44, 044, 044R or even the 43 family either.


    One other comment on the 45 combination plane design (also the 55 design but frankly, that thing is just too nutty to be as useful as the vintage advertising would have you believe),  with good sharp blades and good stock selection, the beading blades of the 45 work well up to about the 3/8″ size.  So, later when it comes time to add the bead to the clock you can make your own beading scraper, use a commercial scraper, a dedicated wooden body beading plane (these are generally the best for several reasons) or use a #45 or #50.

    So in the short term, a #45 in good shape will carry you very far along as you research and learn more about the other options out there.

    Dennis Good

    Thanks Guys for your suggestions. I will start my hunt for a plow plane tonite.


    Both Router and Plough planes are definitely well worthwhile investing in if you have the opportunity. Another option is whether to invest in a task specific plough plane or stretch to a multi-purpose combination plane. Alternative methods can be used if you find yourself seldom needing such pieces of equipment, but I’d honestly recommend making the investment when you feel the time is right. 😉

    John Guengerich Jr

    Rob has given probably the best answer that I’ve ever seen on plow planes.
    I have a Stanley 55 combination and like Rob says it is just nutty.
    It prompted me to buy a Veritas small plow plane with the wide blade conversion. The wide blade lets you… use wider blades but for me the important part is that there are Tongue and Groove blades available for the plane, with the conversion.

    Rob Young

    The #45 works a treat as a tongue and groove plane if only a bit of a mess to configure (they are so dang cheap, you could get two bodies and leave one set up with the tongue blade all the time!). Vintage #48s are also plentiful with vintage #49s not so much. Keep an eye out for the Union brand equivalents as they are just as good as vintage Stanleys (oh, by the way, some vintage Stanley’s ARE made by Union but we shouldn’t delve into the sordid details here, this being a family show and all). Also, the vintage #48s were designed to center on 7/8″ stock, not 3/4″ but they will work just fine on the 3/4″ stock. Just keep track of your face sides and reference the fence accordingly. The modern version sold by Lie-Nielsen is a real hoot to use and is made to center on 3/4″ stock. Its single blade is a bit easier to adjust, more like the old wooden buck-tooth match planes but you may not want to spend the money.

    Also, vintage #48s should have been sold with THREE blades, not just two. However you will seldom need the 5//8″ that is probably long since missing. I believe the stock blade size is supposed to be 5/16″ and that is a common size for the #45 and #55 crowd so you can easily find replacements except that they will probably have an extra notch the #48 doesn’t need. Still works fine. In fact, you can order brand new replacement blades in various sizes direct from Stanley if you are so inclined. They will work just fine.

    To put things into perspective, if the Stanley #71 & 71-1/2 are the most USEFUL of the joinery planes, the #48 and #49 are among the most FUN of the joinery planes.


    48’s, although a good tool, are as rare as hen’s teeth here in the UK and – in all honesty not worth waiting for if hoping to buy one specifically for this kind of project.

    #45/405 multi-planes (Stanley/Record) work exceedingly well, as do Record’s 040/043/044 plough and 050 combination planes. For ploughing, rebate, prep for raised panel work and work producing housing/dado joints they all work well and prove simple to set up, although the 050 & 405 have the advantage of being provided with beading, tongue and groove (Match) cutters and can also handle sash, fluting,ovolo and reeding work when fitted with additional cutters.

    Cutters supplied with the 405 were:
    1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, 13/16″ & 7/8″ Plough & Dado cutters.
    1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″ & 1/2″ Beading cutters.
    1-3/4″ Sash cutter.
    3/16″ & 1/4″ Match (Tongue & Groove) cutter.
    1-1/4″ Fillester cutter.
    Slitting cutter.

    The 050 is another very handy multi-plane with similar handling characteristic, but slightly less facility for varied work. It was provided with:
    1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″ & 1/2″ Beading cutters.
    1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 5/8″ & 7/8″ Plough & Dado cutters.
    1/4″ Match (Tongue & Groove) cutter.

    The 040/043 and 044 are primarily plough planes and the one used by Paul for plough work on the clock is a 044. The 040 and 043 (Due to their smaller size) tend to be suited to prep work such as drawer slips, picture frames, etc., with 3 cutters. 1/8, 3/16 & 1/4 inches . The 044 was supplied with 8 cutters. 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2 & 9/16 inches Additonal cutters can be had at 4mm, 6mm, 9mm & 12mm for the 040/043 and 044 planes.


    Router planes…….. I’ll never decry newer incarnations of the router plane as they’re excellent pieces of kit, but older versions are proven more than capable of handling everyday work and can be had for a fraction of the price demanded for newer alternatives by Veritas and Lie Nielsen.

    Rob Young

    Some additional semi-random comments on T&G planes and combination planes:

    I should point out that the vintage #48s (and their cousins from Union etc) were designed to center the groove/tongue on 7/8″ stock. They will however work just fine down to nearly 5/8″ stock but without centering the elements. The #49 was designed to center on 1/2″ I believe.

    The new incarnation of the #48 from LN is designed to center on 3/4″ stock but will work fine down to nearly 1/2″ stock, with the commensurate shift in the planed element of course. While it is pricey, I’ve had ample opportunity to use them and they are NICE. If you expected to be making solid wood backs for cabinets for the next 30 years, you should seriously buy one. If on the other hand, you don’t have the money to spend, keep looking for the vintage metal or wooden stock planes.

    FYI, with wooden stock T&G planes, sometimes they are a matched set, other times not. Harlequin sets can be made to match with some care. And like their metal counterparts, they were often designed to center on a specific stock width.

    If having perfectly centered tongue and grove joints is your thing, then the combination planes are the way to go.


    Glad I came to this forum as I was just about to post the same question as Dennis in the Router Plane string under General Woodworking.

    I think the way to go for me is either a plough or combination plane – I have a router plane which is great for what it is, but not sure I have the skill to use it for creating and not just cleaning out dados. I want to make some drawers for my workbench and thought that the plough plane looks ideal for creating the dados/grooves that will hold the drawer bottom into the sides and front.  I’ve a couple of questions though which I hope you experts can help me with:

    1. Can a combination plane do rabbetts/rebates on the end of panels?  the Stanley #50 blurb suggests it could (same kind of functionality as you’d get from a dedicated rebate plane) but I’ve seen no examples of it in practice.

    2. What would be a reasonable price to pay for a used one on eBay? I’m in the UK by the way.

    Big thanks as always.


    Yorkshireman currently living in Hampshire


    Hi Jon,

    Combination and plough planes cut cross grain with little/no problems as long as the end grain adjacent with the rebate or housing is cleanly cut (e.g knife wall method or using integral cutting spurs).

    Record # 050’s generally go for between £20 – £35 complete with all cutters and box

    Record #044’s generally go for between £15 – £30 complete

    Stanley 50/13’s generally go for silly money at between £10 – £25 complete (Often un-used)

    Record #405’s vary widely between £30 – £175 complete (I just picked one up for my son @ £52 a few weeks ago)


    The above are the heavier plough and combination planes that tend to be suited to a better selection in cutter widths.  The #50/050 and 405 can handle additional cutters (With the 405 being more versatile), but the question would be whether of not you’d use them.

    Lighter-weight and smaller number of cutter options can be found with Record’s #40 & 43, but they’re great for draw-slip and smaller rebate/ploughing work. 🙂

    Another very well worthwhile plane to have in your arsenal (As there’s an overlap between ploughing and rebating) is the #78/078, or 778 fillister plane, but the ongoing list can prove endless, depending on the style and types of work you’ll be involved in.  Of the three, I’d opt for a 778, as it has far better depth adjustment and a more stable fence arrangement.


    Thanks Gary,

    Looks like I’ll be hitting fleaBay  again at the weekend then ;o)  (don’t tell my missus)

    BTW, do any of you use ‘sniping’ in eBay auctions.  I saw an article written by Paul Sellers a few weeks ago where he mentioned Gixen.  I’ve used it twice to great effect since then.


    Yorkshireman currently living in Hampshire


    My lips are sealed mate 😉

    I’ve used Gixen a few times and had some luck with sniping too. 🙂  I found setting a price ceiling and letting the auction run is perhaps the best approach Jon, plus scouring for poorly described items before setting up a snipe has paid a few dividends too 🙂

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