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Buying a Plane

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*.

Plane on workbench

*Prices correct as of December 2017

Further Reading

To read more on planes, we recommend the following from Paul's blog:

Which Plane- Bevel Up First or Bevel Down


  1. Dennis Moyer on 13 September 2018 at 7:44 pm


    Before I found you I purchased a #5 Stanley plane that had the manufactured grooves in the bottom and one of the wings broken off. It there any way to make it a usable plane again?

    • Izzy Berger on 18 September 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Dennis,

      Thank you for your comment. I have passed this onto Paul and put his reply below:

      My suggestion for corrugated soles is to not use them. Unfortunately the idea was good but in practice it grabs the shavings and they wedge in the grooves and often damages the very surface you want to make smooth. You can use just about everything on the plane to retro fit on other planes or you could just find a plane sole on eBay as they often come up for sale. The broken wing really confirms it for me that you should replace the sole.

      Kind Regards,

  2. [email protected] on 18 December 2018 at 9:09 pm

    I am asking for advice. I’m thinking about buying a new Stanley # 4 (it’s cheaper than being used on eBay). In the guide you recommend buying used. Are the new Stanley planes poor in quality? I know that their hinges are plastic and that’s the only difference to my eye. Best wishes.

    • Izzy Berger on 20 December 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Karol,

      I asked your question to Paul and his answer is below:

      No you can get these to work just fine. They just feel tinny because of the plastic handles which can be replaced with wooden ones. (See Paul’s blog on it here)


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