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Plane Selection Guide

To purchase the correct tool for your task follow the guide below. If you require further assistance, please email us via the 'Contact' link in the main menu. This page is designed to help new woodworkers purchase planes in an order which will suit their skill level based on projects they will most likely start out with. This is only a guide based on how I progressed through the leaning stages of using planes to make furniture.

This list is for a basic kit of planes I would use for furniture making in order of priority is as follows:

Smoothing Plane or A55 Smoothing Plane:
This plane will allow you to learn the basics of planing a machined dressed piece of flat wood smooth or to join short lengths of wood up to 0.9m long. Projects would include coffee tables, bed side tables and small cabinets where the length of wood won't be longer than 1 meter.

1" shoulder plane (or a 3/4" shoulder plane if you have small hands): 
This plane is necessary if you want to make mortice and tenon joints accurately. It can also be used for making along the grain rebates.

Trying Plane or A55 Trying Plane:
This plane becomes necessary once you start to do projects where the length of wood you are using gets over 1 meter. This plane makes it a lots easier to join and flatten long pieces of wood.

Block Plane (or a palm smoothing plane depending on your preference):
A small plane is very desirable to do the small trimming jobs you encounter when making furniture.

Note: This is only a basic kit and you can make a whole lot of nice furniture with these 4 planes. As your skill and confidence grows you will want to branch out into more complex designs which require more specialised planes.

The following list is based on what you want to achieve which will vary from person to person. Here are the options in no particular order.

Aussie Jack Plane
This is necessary if you want to buy rough sawn wood and dress it without a machine. This would be your First plane if you want to do this.

Large Flat Spoke Shave
This is necessary if you are profiling straight pieces of wood into round or oval shapes, eg making spokes.

Large Curved Spoke Shave
This is necessary if you want to introduce inside curves into your work eg curved legs in chairs or the back supports in chairs.

Small Curved Spoke Shave
This becomes necessary if you want to do very tight inside curves such as those found on a cabriole leg or in lutherie on the neck of a guitar for instance.

Jointer Plane or A55 Jointer Link
This is desirable if you are planing lengths of wood over 1.8m long. eg for long tables etc.

Skewed Rebate planes
These are desirable if you are doing a lot of long rebates. Also desirable if you are making mouldings in conjunction with Hollows and Rounds. Size depends on your task at hand.

Side Rebate planes
These are necessary if you want to do advanced joints like sliding dovetails and are very good for trimming dados and groves if you want the perfect fit. They are also desirable if you are making mouldings. Best to have both the left and right handed planes but you can get away with one plane - however you will most likely encounter grain direction problems. If doing sliding dovetail joints having the dovetail fence makes this task a lot easier for the operator.

Snipe Bill Planes
Highly desirable if you are using Hollows and Rounds to make mouldings. They simplify starting the profiles for Hollows and Rounds ensuring the profiles are parallel and they are in the correct position. Best to have both the left and right handed planes but you can get away with one plane but you will most likely encounter grain direction problems at some stage.

Hollow and Round Planes
Essential if you want to make mouldings for your furniture. The size depends on the moulding that you want to make.

1/2" Shoulder Plane
Desirable in box making for small decorative rebates or small joints.

1 1/4" Shoulder Plane
Desirable when making large mortice and tenon joints. Works well as a rebate plane also if you prefer a square blade setup as opposed to a skewed rebate.

Dado Planes
These planes are very efficient at making accurate dado's (groves) across the grain or with the grain at a specific size. They are used to make joints in forming up book shelf and cupboard carcasses. They are very intuitive and as long as you can hold the wood flat on your work bench they are very easy to use. eg mark the position of the dado, set a fence in position, and plane away. The size depends on the size of joint you wish to make. As a guide the 1/8" and 1/4" Dado would be most useful in draw making or very small pigeon hole shelving. The 3/4" dado is useful when making joints in larger carcase work, eg book cases, and the 1/2" dado for the in between size work or where you want to convert the 1/2" dado to a tapered sliding dovetail joint using 3/4" thick wood for shelving etc.

Note: for holding your work flat on a bench top our Tail Vice would be very useful.

Radius Plane
This plane is specifically designed for shaping the seat of a windsor chair, or other tasks that the radius of the sole will suit.

HNT Gordon Makes two styles of smoothing, trying and and jointer planes. If you have used metal bench planes quite a lot the Tote and knob style which has a mechanical adjuster is probably your best bet as you will be used to using this type of plane. If you have not done much woodwork and have no preconceived ideas about handle designs in planes, the horizontal handle style has some good advantages as you can push or pull the plane with ease which is useful when planing long table tops.