The Race Is On

Got around today to adding a shoulder plane to my tool collection.


I chose to go with the large plane with a 1 1/4″ wide blade. There’s an argument made by Chris Schwarz in The Anarchist’s Tool Chest that a large shoulder plane can let you get by without a dedicated Rabbet plane, as you can use the shoulder plane as an improvised rabbet without a fence.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I think I’d want a dedicated rabbet pretty quick if I found myself making very many of them. Nonetheless, it seems a sound enough way to get by without the extra expenditure if you need to for a while, so it opens up a bit more what joints I’m capable of producing.

My principal question is whether or not I’ll be as happy with a large shoulder at 1 1/4″ as I would with a smaller version. My mortise and tenon joints so far have been made in 3/4 or 4/4 stock, and I worry that the larger size will prove to be unwieldy.

That said I’m still excited about having this plane. Larger than needed or not, this will be the first newly made plane I own. All my current planes are vintage models. I’m very happy with all of them, for various reasons. This plane though will give me a chance to experience what a new quality made plane is like to use.

My last purchase from Lie-Nielsen was my dovetail saw. I placed that order at 3:08 p.m. and the saw was sitting at my door at 12:29 p.m. the following day.

Today’s order was placed at 11:26 a.m. There’s a lot more snow on the ground and the streets are a lot narrower than they were for that order. Still, I can’t help but be curious about how soon they deliver the tool this time. According to an email I received, the tool was shipped at 12:15 p.m., 44 minutes after I placed my order.

What a company.

[UPDATE: According to UPS, my new plane was left at my front door at 1:14 p.m. That’s 25 hours and 47 minutes after the order was placed.]

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24 Responses to The Race Is On

  1. snwoodwork says:

    Congrats on the new tool. I know for me, that is going to be a hard tool to buy.


    • Wesley Beal says:

      Is the difficulty due to the price and the ability to do work without one? That’s what I found challenging about making the purchase.

      I’ve managed to cut a few mortise and tenon and other joints so far that turned out alright without the benefit of this tool, so the notion of plunking down the cash wasn’t easy.

      I helped rationalize it by thinking that I could now cut rabbets; plus, while I’ve been able to make other joints without it I am sure it will make my work look a lot nicer. I wonder if I won’t also fine it useful in unexpected ways to be able to plane right up to the edge of something. If I see something that needs cleaned up after I’ve glued something together, my No. 4 will only go so close to a joint before I need to do freehand work with a chisel. This plane will make new options available.

      Those are the highlights of my rationalizations, in any case. Summarizing them, while very specialized and therefore precisely machined and expensive, it seems like it can also be a very versatile tool, a lot like a chisel, that will come in handy more often than just for cleaning up tenons.


  2. snwoodwork says:

    It seems like an expensive unitasker (to borrow an Alton Brown term). However, my view may change once I get more into mortise and tenons joints. I think I need to finish purchasing general purpose tools before I start on the more specialized hand tools. Maybe if I were closer to a LN store; probably best I’m not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      A sound plan, for sure. The other rationalization that works for any purchase from Lie-Nielsen can be seen by going on eBay and searching for their tools. They maintain their value. If at some point I need to I can sell this tool used for very near what I paid for it.

      Oh, and I’m also an Alton Brown fan. Great show.


  3. billlattpa says:

    I’m personally not a fan of the shoulder plane; they always seemed overly fussy to me. On the other hand there are those that swear by them. If making dados by hand, I prefer the saw, chisel, router plane method, or a dado plane. But certainly a shoulder plane has its place, and you can’t go wrong with Lie Nielsen. Congrats and good luck with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. spokeshave27 says:

    Wesley – there is no truer saying than ‘you get what you pay for’ in tools. And Lie-Nielsen tool is right up there with the best of them. It is a lot of Money and a lot of tool…

    The shoulder plane is a relatively modern invention (1860s). While the shoulder plane can be used for other tasks, with its very low angle and fine mouth, they are designed specifically for correcting tenon shoulders and cheeks. Way to specialized for me. I have been working wood for 30+ years and while I have several shoulder planes (Record and Stanley), in all that time I have used a shoulder plane only a few times.

    A better and, IMO, more accurate way of cutting a tenon is to scribe the shoulder with a marking knife and then use a hand saw and cut to the waste side of the line, then with a chisel pare in and slightly down towards the tenon. This will give a very nice mating joint, eliminates the need for corrective action – applying most of the glue to the tenon, rather than the shoulder will avoid having to clean up glue.

    However, really you need two shoulder planes a narrow 1/2″ for those small shoulders you make and large 1-1/4 for larger wider shoulders.

    Shoulder planes can do more damage if used without care and your shoulders are small – this plane is heavy and wide. Shoulders of tenons are typically small and tearing out end grain using a shoulder plane is quite easy, even if you take care.

    When starting woodworking it’s easy to be confused with the plethora of tools being marketed and sold. One only has to look in the latest catalogues to see the confusing array of tools available, some so specialized that you may only use them once or twice and some are just ‘trivial’ in their task. It’s important to not fall for the more is better philosophy – if I have this tool or that tool I’d be a better craftsman…

    There is a natural progression at work, but only if derived from understanding based on personal experience. If you have a plane or chisel and develop a relationship between eye, brain, muscle, hand, tool and wood you will gain an understanding of how the blade cuts the wood, and you will know when it’s time to purchase the next tool to accomplish the task – the task at hand will guide you.

    Here is a great article by Maurice Fraser “Shoulder Plane” in Volume 76 of Fine Woodworking magazine (May-June 1989, Taunton Press)

    I always look to the old time woodworkers of the 17th, 18th & 19th century, they had but a few tools and were able to produce quality furniture.

    BUT if you have the money – go for it!
    May the grain always be with you!


  5. snwoodwork says:

    It’s funny how we justify different purchases. For whatever reason, the shoulder plane seems expensive to me but a plow plane ($31 less than the should plane) comes across as a more practical tool. Which is silly since a plow plane is basically a one trick pony as well. Conversely, the three rasps Schwarz recommends costs $275 combined but I don’t take issue with spending money on those. Granted, I can piecemeal the rasps ($100, $75, $100; compartmentalization is fun) so that may have something to do with it.

    Most importantly, you have the tool and now get to use it. From what I have read by the people that swear by shoulder planes, they work and do so well. The next time you cut a tenon I’d love to see a before/after with the shoulder plane. Or maybe use the plane on one tenon and use a chisel or whatever on another tenon.


  6. Wesley Beal says:

    Package was delivered at 1:14 p.m. Not their fastest delivery, but still very quick turnaround for their slowest shipping option, especially given how narrow our streets are with all this snow.

    You all are doing a good job of making me worry whether I should of made this purchase or not. I have thought that the tool I want most next isn’t on the lists of essential tools needed that I’ve looked at; that tool would be a No. 7 plane. The ability to take advantage of the No. 7 for flattening boards seems very attractive to me.

    Two things keep my mood upbeat. One, I could turn around and sell this tool for $5 less than I paid for it tomorrow if I chose to.

    Second, while extremely specialized I also still imagine this tool as being a bit more versatile than it seems.

    Let me give an example. Even before I took up woodworking I struggled with an annual household chore: getting our storm windows / screens to fit into our windows as the seasons change. We’ve got older windows; whether we open our window up to screen or glass depends on what we place outside. During the Winter the screens are stored downstairs, and during the Summer the glass storm windows are stored downstairs. Because the house is older and settles over time, fitting these pieces in at the turn of the seasons is a real chore. You’ve got to force them in, and sometimes you can’t. I’ve worked over the windows with sandpaper trying to get them to fit before, and wished I owned a plane that would allow me to make fine adjustments to the height of the frames. A shoulder plane will do this.

    Strange example, but thanks to owning this tool I’ll be able to get the window’s to fit this year.

    I think in woodworking I’ll discover times when it’s necessary to plane right up at the edge of something other than just cleaning up tenons. Maybe not, but again, if I decide it’s a waste of money I can always sell it.

    I’m also going to experiment at making rabbets with it. Rather than freehand I’ll probably clamp guides down onto the board I’m working on, but it ought to work out well. If that’s the case, then I’ll save the price of a dedicated rabbet plane, which from Lee Valley costs just about the same price as this Shoulder plane does.,41182,48945

    Who knows, though? I’ve wondered of late whether we’re all on the right track attempting to procure high quality, specialized tools. I wonder how well we could build things if we took a totally different route, and opted for the cheapest (but still functional) and smallest tool set we could think up. Just a No. 5, without a smoothing or a block plane, get a chisel plane, go cheap or even japanese for small crosscut and rip cut saws, skip the dedicated dovetail saw altogether, & etc.

    Would we still be able to make nice things? If so, does that mean we’re all being taken for a ride?


  7. spokeshave27 says:

    The four most essential planes are: No 4 smoothing plane No 5 Jack Plane, No 7 jointer plane – and a block plane – for many years they were the only planes I used. Go for early 20 century models – here’s a very nice jointer

    If you pick only one – I’d get a No 5 – the most versatile plane.
    Certainly no need to purchase – over priced tools – especially when you are starting out.

    if you are going to make rabbets with the shoulder plane, I would suggest that you deeply score the edge of the rabbet. Rabbet planes have a ‘nicker’ that scores the cross grain fibers and a shoulder plane does not – without scoring the wood, you will have tearout. Also the blade on a rabbet plane is generally skewed, allowing it to cut across the grain.

    Anyway – the main thing is to have fun with this stuff and there are really no correct ways to do any of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      That is a nice looking No. 7. If I hadn’t just purchased this Shoulder plane, I’d put down a bid. 🙂

      So far I’ve got a No. 5 (belonged to my Grandfather), a No. 4, and a block plane.

      I’ve also got a Stanley No. 45 with a full set of blades. Everything read says it’s not ideal for most things, but I like figuring out how to make it work.

      Every time I’ve cut a dado joint I’ve wished I had a router plane….


  8. snwoodwork says:

    Definitely not trying to make you regret your purchase. Since I’ve purchased all my hand planes via eBay, looking at LV and LN prices makes me choke a little sometimes. No doubt they make great products (I love my three Veritas saws) but they are expensive. It’s similar to me looking at Powermatic (good golly) or Festool products. Like I said earlier, use the shoulder plane and take pictures; I want to see what all it does.

    And I highly recommend a try plane; it’s my favorite one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wesley Beal says:

      Haven’t used it yet, but just holding it, adjusting it, etc. I don’t have any regrets.

      Will I decide that a shoulder plane belongs on my list of essential, must have tools? I don’t know yet. It was on the one I’m using now to build my kit (and it was on Charles Hayward’s list too). It does seem very specialized; I think if a day comes that I feel confident enough to make a list of tools I think people ought to have I’d want to make it a series of “staged” lists: Just Getting Started, Rounding out Skills, Specializing….

      As far as the price is concerned, when I decided I wanted to get serious about this hobby I decided I’d devote some money each month, between $150 and $300, to building my collection of tools &/or purchasing wood and other materials. Bit by bit, month by month, I’m getting there.


      • snwoodwork says:

        I bet I would feel the same once the tool arrived. Looking at your tool list (and I’ve been tempted to do something similar) we have nearly the same tools. The obvious difference being the power tools. Though with your recent table saw purpose, you’re catching up. I think I’m going to get rasps next & then I will be left with the more specialized tools like shoulder & plow planes. Though I think moulding planes will have a larger presence as I can find them.

        The “Johnny Cash” approach to buying tools is where it’s at. One piece at a time.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wesley Beal says:

          One of the great things about Lie-Nielsen: you get a tool from them, when you hold it your hands, you remember what you paid for it, and you think “yeah, that seems about right.” This baby feels like every dime of the cost was put to good use making it.


          • snwoodwork says:

            I bet; I’d love to try out some of their stuff. I almost bought a router plane from them. But then I found a Miller’s Falls one on eBay for like $36.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Wesley Beal says:

              I’ve thought about hunting an old Stanley 71 for a router. Schwarz, when talking about the sources of tools for TAC, mentioned that the depth stop didn’t work well, so he preferred the LN or the LV.

              This is a time when the Lie-Nielsen is cheaper than the Lee Valley (LN: $140, LV: $149). However the LV comes with 2 blades (1/2 straight and 1/2 spear) while the LN has one (5/8 straight). Does the ability to switch between spear tip and straight matter? Beats me.

              How frustrating will an unreliable depth stop be on a vintage model? I don’t know the answer to that either. Being a beginner is expensive.


              • spokeshave27 says:

                never had a problem with my 71 – as with all planes when you advance or back-off the the blade you need to turn the knob so that there can be no backward movement.. A lot of people use the square blade for roughing out and the pointed for finishing. But I believe that they have this backwards. I use the spear-point for hogging out dados, lock and hinge mortises and then finish with the square blade. It’s very flexible and maneuverable in that it cuts going forward and side to side. It also works well for scribing the edge so as to eliminate any blow out or chipping. Anyway – each to his own!


      • spokeshave27 says:

        and so the addiction starts 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • spokeshave27 says:

        Charles H. Hayward did have it listed – but was not in the beginners list – he also has Expansion bits listed – and while I have three of then (will gladly give you one if you want it) I have never used it. Just goes to show you that you can accumulate tools that you never use based on the advice of ads and the ‘experts’ … I’ll still stick to my mantra-

        There is a natural progression at work, but only if derived from understanding based on personal experience. If you have a plane or chisel and develop a relationship between eye, brain, muscle, hand, tool and wood you will gain an understanding of how the blade cuts the wood, and you will know when it’s time to purchase the next tool to accomplish the task – the task at hand will guide you. But boy is it fun collecting – I just bought a $400 Norris smoothing plan – if someone had told me 35 years ago that I’d be spending that much on a hand tool I would have laughed.

        As they say the only difference between men and boys is the cost of the toys.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. snwoodwork says:

    Yeah, I read what Schwarz said after I bought mine. It was a bit of a fluke. I found the auction a day before it ended, placed a bid, and forgot about it. I’ve not used it extensively but so far it locks down fine. I did get a new LV blade for Christmas; I need to try that out still.

    I agree with the above on letting the project dictate the tools. I don’t have excess space so all purchases have to count.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wesley Beal says:

    This whole conversation has led me to a new post. It’s a bit rough – goes on a lot longer than it needs to – but I find this conversation very interesting and want to continue it.


  11. spokeshave27 says:

    okay – I have to make a living – have a fun day making sawdustandwoodchips

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Practice Projects | wesleyworkswithwood

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