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Thread: Minimum bench plane size

  1. #1
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    Default Minimum bench plane size

    Would a Stanley No.5 be a long enough bench plane for working on the centre seams of the plates? I picked up one for a reasonable price hoping it would be long enough for the job.

  2. #2
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    I use a no. 5 for all my thicknessing work, tops, backs and centre seams. Good for planing the edges of the centre seams before joining. I use a shooting board then check the two edges of the tops or backs by holiding them together against the workshop window and looking for any light seeping through the join. I have a very good Clifton (UK made) plane with an excellent blade. Keep it as sharp as you can and set it for a very fine cut. As a hobby builder (with over 40 instruments over 15 years to date) I do not use machines other than a band saw and a drill press and actually enjoy using the hand plane.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    The general rule for joinery is that a plane can edge join boards up to three times its length, so no problem. As John Kelly said above, a shooting board can be a big help.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    I don't know how much experience you have with hand tools in general and planes in particular, but from your question I'll assume you are not an expert.
    As already stated, a #5 plane is plenty long enough for joining plates. Like all hand tools (and power tools), however, it is up to the user to get good results. Once the plane is well sharpened and well set up (requires learning the skills to do those things) then the user must acquire the skills to use the tool well enough to achieve excellent joints.

    As an aside, many people approach tool use with a philosophy that I consider to be the opposite of reality. The job of straightening the edge of a piece of wood existed before planes existed. Who knows what tools and approaches people used to accomplish straight pieces of wood, but eventually and gradually the hand plane was developed. (A slot in a board with a chisel wedged in and onward from there.) I've seen frustrated people trying to straighten a board with a plane and not understanding why they aren't getting it done. It is as if they expect the plane to automatically straighten the wood and all they have to do is push (or pull, in some cases) the plane along the edge. It is as if the they think the plane is the perfect tool for the job instead of being a tool that was contrived to accomplish a task to the best of the workers ability. So anyway, by thinking of the tool (any tool) as the best way I have to accomplish a task, as a culmination of problem solving ideas turned into a tool, not the perfect solution, I believe I can be a better tool user.

    FWIW, I use a #7 plane for joining plates. It is set up with a laminated iron that is ground, sharpened and honed with a dead straight edge with a very small back bevel, a sharpened chip breaker set directly behind the edge of the iron, and the throat of the plane set for minimal chip clearance. I don't use that plane for jobs other than jointing.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    John Hamlett's approach is especially good because it means you can think about how you can get a job done today, instead of feeling like you need another $1000 purchase to solve all your problems. While you can solve a lot of problems with purchases and dedicated tools, unless you need to do it all day, every day, it's almost always a false economy. Look how many people have Festool equipment to "save them time" when they only do floating tenons a couple times a year.

    In my day job, I run a college machine shop for biomedical research. Everyone comes to the shop because "they need X tool", which based on the assumption that "the tool can do X", and of course, if something goes wrong, it's because "the tool messed up".

    Every tool is part of a system that is at least as dependent on the user's competence as on the condition and capabilities of the equipment. Just like every mandolin is part of a system. An unremarkable mandolin as part of a system that includes a competent player can do a lot of stuff that a fancy custom-made mandolin can't do as part of a system that includes someone who has never touched a mandolin before.

    I actually don't own a good large hand plane or jointer.
    I do have a really awesome granite surface plate, though... I feel a little lame making joints with sandpaper. Then I clamp up the dead-nuts glue joint and forget about feeling lame until next time.
    Last edited by Marty Jacobson; Jul-23-2021 at 11:28am.

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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    Thanks for all the replies guys. Although my father was a master carpenter and joiner (and showed me how to level, set and sharpen saw teeth) it was quite a few decades ago. My experience is mostly in the engineering field. As my 1928 A0 needs a rest, a friend and I have just bought plans (Roger Siminoff) to build a mandola and mandolin.
    I have refretted my Doug Eaton mandolin and my 1930s Jedson tenor banjo. A world renowned luthier friend of mine is moving up here eventually and I hope to learn as much so that the questions I ask him will be further on in the construction, as I presume violin family carving and staining are similar to that used for the mandolin family.

  11. #7
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil O'Dendron View Post
    ...I presume violin family carving and staining are similar to that used for the mandolin family.
    Carving is similar, though mandolin makers, for the most part, have no qualms about using sandpaper for smoothing whereas some purist violin makers use scrapers exclusively.
    As for coloring and finishing, in general, mandolin makers and violin makers live in two different worlds.

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  13. #8
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum bench plane size

    You can do a lot with a Jack plane but it is nice to have a few of differing sizes. I think I am modest at three thumb planes. A mini block plane, a couple block planes and a Jack and a jointer. Can’t hardly go wrong with a goo ole Stanle #5. I am having the urge to build a few myself out of wood.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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