In a video by Mr. Tom Fidgen, Mr. Terry Gordon of HNT Gordon says that it was when he first used a plane similar to the smoothing plane he now offers, that he felt that he, and not the plane, dictated what woodworking he could do. The same applies to me I thought. It was my first #5½ that brought that sensation, and ever since it has truly been a jack-plane for everything. Finding it took me past one Stanley #4, a #5 (that taught me that some tools aren’t ready for use when bought), and a HNT Gordon that does not agree with wood from conifers.
Now, if my #5½ was the tool that redeemed my planing from total randomness, why then isn’t that plane model the one for everyone? Alan Peters, for instance, allegedly used a #7 for almost all planing, and others, yet again, vary a lot in their choices. Perhaps there had been some improvement in my use of a bench plane that just coincided with the decision to dish out the money for a Clifton #5½. A hypothesis worthy of testing, I applied all the planes, plus a Lie-Nielsen #5½, to dimension some pieces of silicate – sold as white oak – and found that, with exception of the #4 and the HNT Gordon, they all worked. The latter has a bed angle of 60°, and I can’t push it through demanding oak. As for the #4, in my feeble hands it’s simply not suited for the task.
In conclusion: a plane will be liked when its use coincides with desired results, whether that is due to the properties of the plane or skills development of the user.
London, UK; Boston, MA
Those are good points,
and your needs change as the size and scope of your work changes. I used to make and install custom doors and used a 7 in the shop and a 6 in the field – a lot
( I never could handle an 8) . They mostly sit on the shelf for the smaller stuff I do now. I drag them out once in a while just for exercise.
Now the skinny 5 1/2 is the largest plane I mostly use for panel, jointing, and chuteing. ( yes, the plane goes in a chute. Nobody gets shot.)
The #5 only really gets used if another plane is dull and I don’t want to stop.
The two #4s get used the next most so I don’t have to stop and sharpen. I keep one in really super sharp condition for wild grain. A #80 handles grain the planes can’t tame, which isn’t much with domestic woods.
Cabinet planes are next, and I use them more now than when I earned a living. It was all power routers and shapers ( a giant table router for you Brits) then. The complaint of longer setup time never applied in the shop. One separate router was dedicated to each profile for efficiency.
We probably had 40. I still have 4 I never use.
And the rest of my planing is with H&R and moulding planes of one sort or another They are the most fun.
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