Over the years I have amassed quite a few hand planes in my shop. The hand planes range from early wood and transitional planes to specialty rabbeting planes, block planes, bench planes and jointer sized planes. For a time, I enjoyed restoring old wood and transitional hand planes and would often re-sole the transitional planes with new hardwood soles. I replaced cracked handles with newly crafted ones. I soon found that these early versions of hand planes did not perform as well as modern hand planes even with considerable fettling and tuning. For a period of time, I was crafting my own wood bodied hand planes with modern thick blade assemblies and these performed considerably better as the mouths were tighter.
On to the modern steel-bodied planes. I currently own an assortment of these hand planes primarily from two or three manufacturers and they tend to perform very well as long as the blades are kept sharp. Regular sharpening is key to the performance of a hand plane. Also, adjustments are much more precise on the newer hand planes with either Norris type or Bedrock type setups.
With the considerable assortment of hand planes in my shop, I find I that I tend to reach for the same four planes, These are a No. 4.5, No. 7, Standard angle Block and Lo-angle Block. I very often grab the Standard angle block plane as a small smoother when working on small parts. It works well, is light and easy to maneuver. The bench smoother is a Bedrock type No. 4.5 and is my most frequently used hand plane. The longer No.7 is used to work long edges and flatten boards. The Lo-angle block plane is used primarily for planing across short edges and ends of boards. I reach for some of the other specialty planes when the need arises. The conclusion to all this is that more often than not I find myself reaching for these four hand planes. It is easier to keep these hand planes blades sharp and thus maintain fewer tools. This was not planned but a method of work developed over the years for reasons of efficiency, versatility and speed.
All for now…