Paul Sellers recommends the Bailey-pattern #4 as it usually suits the build or stature of most people, if you have a slightly smaller stature, the #3 might suit better. Paul uses the #4 and #4½ the most. The ½ refers to the extra width, so these planes are both the same in length, but the #4½ is slightly wider. Refrain from buying any with previous breaks in the handle. Although these can be repaired, the fix is very rarely permanent under heavy use. When looking for breaks, see if you can see any horizontal split lines, these will most likely be nearer to the base of the handle but not always. Also, the horn at the top of the handle needs to be fully intact as this prevents the hand from slipping upwards under heavier planing thrusts. eBay is often a good place to find planes secondhand. It is wise to buy a bevel-down plane as these can do all the same things as a bevel-up plane (but not vice versa). The most common one is a bevel-down, however if it is a bevel-up then it will likely specify this in the name/description. The bevel-up plane is sometimes preferred for more refined work and although used the same way as bevel-down planes it has more limited uses. They are also often more expensive than bevel-down planes which are more widely available on secondhand markets. Stanley planes are a good make recommended by Paul Sellers as are Record. When purchasing a plane, look for the length of the blade, if it is roughly the same height as the handle, you will have plenty of life left in it that way. If it is short then you will have to replace the blade sooner or even straight away which adds costs.
To view the parts of a plane, click here.
We purchased this Bailey #4 secondhand from eBay for £29.50 with £3.50 delivery*.
*Prices correct as of December 2017
To read more on planes, we recommend the following from Paul’s blog: