stanley jack plane no5

No5 Jack Hand Plane Explained

TheNo5  hand plane is the jack of all trades.  I know most people start with the No 4 but frankly, the number 5 is probably the most versatile hand plane available. Old Stanley Bailey jack plane as it’s commonly known good tool and a little bit of fettling over the years it has really served me well. 

About the jack plane is that has a little bit of extra length and we know how important that is due to ride over the humps. A smoothing plane for otherwise the number 4 it’s grateful smoothing the surface of a worktop but the jack plane do both you could use a jack plane as a smoother but also it can true the edge of a door for instance so in my opinion, the jack plane is the ideal tool bag plane. 

This versatility makes it a great plane to take on-site where you may have a multitude of planning tasks to do, not just one or the other but several. Unlike my bench planes that I designate to the workshop, my jack plane has seen a bit of action! The Old Bailey Jack may not look pretty but it certainly still performs as though it did when it was now probably better. 

Hand planes in general benefit from Regular use imprinting your mechanical action onto that plane. From the plane iron to the handles or tote you will sign your DNA into that tool.

How big is the jack plane?

The jack plane is 14 inches in length 350mm. The weight of a jack plane varies from model to model. The  WoodRiver Jack Plane is much heavier than the Stanley Bailey due to the heavier castings. Rob Cosman has extensive videos on the WoodRiver hand planes.

What is the jack plane used for? 

Scrubbing, truing and shooting. Yes, the Jack plane is a great plane to use for all these tasks And more. 

  • Scrubbing
  • Truing
  • Shooting


A technique used to level boards that have just been unclamped and ready for flattening.  The scrubbing action is performed diagonally across the grain on a freshly glued panel or worktop. The jack is ideal for scrubbing but a scrub plane is even better.  The difference between a scrub plane and a jack plane is mainly in the plane iron itself. A purpose-made scrub plane has a special plane blade the difference being that the plane blade or iron is ground to a radius.  This aggressive plane iron can remove a lot of material at a time flattens undulated boards very quickly. The Jack plane with a standard straight blade can be used to finish the job once you finished with a scrub plane or you could use a Jack plane from the beginning.


The Jack plane can be used to straighten the edge of a board removing the wind or any Curve. A fraction longer than the smoothing plane but not as long as a Jointer plane, the jack plane is still a very capable at truing a long wooden board. 


The shooting board is a marriage between the board itself and the plane.  The Jack Plane makes a good partner for the shooting board. A shooting board is a very useful addition and can easily be made out of a few pieces of wood.  It allows you to accurately plane the end of a piece of the wood square.  

The smoothing plane a little too short and light but the jack plane is the Bare minimum. If you are considering using the number 5 as a shooting plane for use with the shooting bored.  you need to make sure that the sides of the plane are square with the sole or the bed of the plane. 

Although the hand plane can be used with a shooting board I still choose the No7 Jointer for this purpose because is heavier and has a longer sole. The best plane has the longest distance possible from the blade to the front of the hand plane.  This provides a longer run across the sole before it reaches the sharp edge of the blade. 

Where to buy a number 5 jack plane?

Is a popular plane and as such it is easy to find new or second-hand. 

Buying used tools!

Second-hand publications such as craigslist or Gumtree can reveal some nice tools.  if you’re looking for a little bit of protection through the eBay PayPal platforms will then you could use them instead. Bidding or buy it now listings has in the past been my source of finding good quality used tools just be sure to check the seller feedback.

It may be cast iron but it could be bent. 

As crazy as it may sound cast iron tools can bend. If the landline has been dropped on a hard surface it can suffer some damage. this damage can be in the form of a crack, breakage or just a slight bend in the casting.

It is a good idea to use a small 90° Square and a steel straight edge.  A combination of sighting along the sole and using the square and straight edge you should be able to see whether or not it is true.

Below are a selection of No5 hand planes. The Wood River is the best but the low angle No5 makes a great tool for the shooting board.

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A new tool could be your best option.

If you want to buy a new tool you have quite a few options. Almost all the manufacturers of woodworking planes make a number 5 wood plane.  You could empty your wallet and buy a Lie Nielsen, Veritas or the WoodRiver.

If I wanted to have a balance between value for money and quality I would choose the wood river. Considerably cheaper than the line Nielsen all veritas but very comparable in quality. Woodriver hand planes have a bedrock design.  Adjust the Frog and mouth without having to dismantle the plane.

When buying a used hand plane things you need to know that apply to all hand planes.  it is important to check that:

  • No cracks in the Castings of the sole. 
  • No wobbly handles Auto-Tune
  • All the components move freely 
  • The sole is true
  • Everything is present

In conclusion

In my opinion, the No5 jack plane should be the first plane you acquire. You might find it will be the only plane that you will ever need. But if you want to to take this woodworking malarkey more seriously you may find that you will want to develop your skills and purchase a wider range of hand planes.  please may include block planes as well as other special tools such as a compass plane for instance.

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