Planing the sides: a bit of elbow grease. Or, am I using the right plane?

The other day I spent a few hours planing the rosewood sides of the guitar to thickness. They started at 4mm thick and I wanted to get them down to about 1.7mm. Believe me, that’s a lot of wood!

Making a good mess: planing the sides to thickness

Making a good mess: planing the sides to thickness

I use a Stanley low-angle block plane for all my guitar building work. It’s small, light, and easy to use.

The time and effort spent on planing the sides made me wonder if I should get a different plane. Since the block plane is quite small, it gets tiring on the hands after a while.

I’ve been looking at alternatives on the web, such as the Veritas low-angle smoothing plane. These seem more ergonomic than the standard block plane, with the vertical handle on the back and large knob on the front.  I’d like to try one first before I buy, as it’s quite an investment. I also wonder if it would be too heavy and large for the work I do, since the sides/backs/top need to get quite thin.

Alternatively, I could modify my block plane. Especially the knob on the front could be more ergonomic..

It would be great to hear from other woodworkers about this. How do you choose the right plane? How do you expand your tool collection without spending a fortune on tools you might not need?

12 thoughts on “Planing the sides: a bit of elbow grease. Or, am I using the right plane?

  1. I think I would try a Stanley #4. You should be able to pick up a good used one for low dollars and it will definitely give you a better hand position and the longer bed will improve results. The used plane is easy to set up and takes little work to flatten the sole if needed. There is nothing wrong with the veritas low angle plane either, just more expensive than a used plane. I’d say stop over and you can borrow one of mine but I’m betting its a long drive.

    • Thanks for the tip and thanks for the offer! Indeed it would be a long drive. I’ll check out the number 4 though. There’s plenty of those available second hand I think.

  2. Quick follow up.. Looking at eBay I can see a couple of #4’s they range in the mid to upper 20’s in price. Make sure you get a smooth sole not the corrugated. My father in law comes across them all the time and I could see what he has laying around if it helps although it will probably be the same price since he usually puts them on eBay.

    • That’s a very generous offer. There’s a Dutch ‘marketplace’ website that has lots of them for sale. I think I’ll check that out, as it’s easier to pick up directly from the seller (so I can check it’s condition, etc). Thanks though!

  3. Funny, I find myself leaning toward an older Stanley recommendation as well. I bought a Type 11 No. 3 from Josh at Hyperkitten and rehabbed it (click here for more info: Note – I did by a new blade and chip breaker.

    Chris Schwarz just put out a new video on how to rehab planes and there’s no better source in my opinion.

    That said, if I was going to by a new one and skip all the work, I’d by the LV bevel smoother. I owned that plane for a while and really liked it.

  4. A #4 would certainly be a nice addition to your shop, but in the interest of speeding up stock removal, adding some curvature to the block plane’s blade (or a second) would help a lot.

    I buy new tools as I find they are required, not just because it’s something that looks useful.


    • thanks for that tip. I also try to buy as needed. Same thing goes for chisels and gauges. That way my collection can develop in a more natural way, with tools that I’ll really use.

  5. Pingback: A New Plane: the Stanley Number 3 | Guitar building by hand

  6. Another thing to consider might be something along the lines of this:

    Pick up a Veritas Low Angle block plane.
    Buy the optional grips for it.,41182,48942
    If you plane highly figured woods, you could pick up the 50 degree blade, as well, and easily switch out blades when you go from planing for stock removal to finish planing figured wood.

    If you end up not liking that method, you still have a great low angle block plane (I have two and use them both quite regularly) and aren’t out that much for the optional grips.

    As far as trying a plane out first… is there a local woodworking guild in your area? If so, are you a member? if not, you should consider joining. There are so many benefits to being a part of an organization like that, even if most of the people are just tinkerers and don’t really ever build much. You’ll usually have one or two members who collect things, and collect a LOT of them. (There is a guy in our local guild who has something like 400 bench planes.) Anyway, then you can ask if anyone HAS the low angle Veritas plane that you can try out.

    Or, again, depending on location, you can try to make it to a Lee Valley store. Or the Vendor area at Woodworking in America later this year.

    Lie Nielsen has really been gearing up their small show/demonstrations lately. Might be worth checking to see if they have something coming your way in the near future.

    That’s just a couple of ideas off the top of my head.

    • thanks for these tips! Here in the Netherlands there’s not really a guild (as far as I’m aware)
      I have found a store here though where they sell Veritas tools. It’s a bit far from where I live but I’ll go there one day and see if I can try out those grips. I hadn’t come across those yet. I now have a no 3 and no 4 plane and I really enjoy using them.

  7. Pingback: Being one with the wood: bending the sides | Guitar building by hand

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