You hang around forums long enough, or have a hand tool website, and you are bound to be asked for your advise on hand plane purchasing. I hesitate a little in answering these questions because I know at the end of it I am some what responsible for someone else's money.
So, let me first say, these are my views as I have developed them over the past several years. Both, as someone who uses hand tools and power tools, at home and at work on a daily basis. If anyone else wants to throw in their 2 cents, please do below in the comments section. I am open to all opinions and thoughts, as long as they are productive and positive.
The questions submitted to me is this:
I would really like to become more of a hybrid woodworker but I just don't know much about hand tools. What I've learned thus far really has all been online and magazines here and there. What hand tools would you recommend in order to be able to handle flattening and squaring up lumber? I don't know really much about the different types of hand planes. I would imagine the first step would be a jointer plane.
Needless to say this is both a simple and deep question depending on how far down the rabbit hole we want to go. So, hold onto your bunny ears, here we go.
Let's tackle brands really quick. Anything that says Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, Stanley (old Stanley tools, pre-1940's are better), Record, or now even WoodRiver planes from Woodcraft are good. They all have their pluses and minuses. Some cost a lot more, some are cheap and will require clean up to work. And you can always buy an already fixed up old Stanley off Ebay, which is one of the best cheap options. WoodRiver planes are a good middle ground too, because they are great planes, but don't cost as much as a LN or Veritas. I know, I have one at work and use it all the time.
Still with me.
What to stay away from. Just about everything else. Not that there is nothing else out there, it just gets more complicated when you dive into some of the smaller brands.
What to look for? I recommend you find an already fixed up Stanley (if you need recommended sellers I can help with that) or buy a new WoodRiver plane. Why? Because to properly tune up a hand plane you need to know how a plane is suppose to work, act, feel, and respond. If you have no experience with hand planes then you are going to get frustrated really quick and curse the day you started using them.
Want to know more about Stanley planes GO HERE and absorb.
Thickness Stock and Joint Edges with one plane.
Now for the good stuff that no one admits. You don't need a ton of hand planes to work wood. Now repeat that out loud ten times and believe it.
The Stanley No. 5 is my first recommendation. If you go with a different brand it will still be called a No. 5. The No. 5, or Jack Plane, is the perfect medium plane for just about all work. It is about 14" long and has a 2" iron. This plane with an additional iron can be put into service doing just about anything. I would also recommend you get a cap iron for that second blade, switching back and forth can get old really quick.
With a cambered iron, that means the blade is curved, it can remove stock just like a thickness planer, except your the power source. I typically camber my iron to an 8"-10" radius. Just mark out a radius on a 2" piece of wood and then trace that onto the iron. Grind the iron and then sharpen it. That will be your go to iron for fast stock removal. But, it doesn't leave a great surface, so that is why you have the second iron.
Flatten, Joint, and Smooth
With the second iron sharpened relatively flat, you can do everything else. I say relatively flat because you want to ease the corners so that they don't dig into the surface leaving track marks behind. See picture below to compare a camber and non-camber iron.
The flat iron can easily be used to clean up after the rough work is done, it can be set fine enough to smooth the surface too. That same iron will be perfect for jointing edges of boards and even for planing end grain, with or without a shooting board.
You can stop with the No. 5 if you want. If you are going hybrid then you really don't need much else. I only use a No. 5 WoodRiver plane at work, and I do everything that I need to do with a hand plane with that one plane. I have an arsenal of power tools at my disposal, but I still use my No. 5 all the time.
But, if you want more planes, then continue reading. I have two more suggestions.
Once you get some time under your belt and you feel comfortable with the No. 5 , it will be time to start thinking about the next bench plane you want.
This is where things get more personal.
To the left is a picture of 4 planes. Started left to right they are: No.4 Smoother (Lie-Nielsen), Low-Angle Jack (Veritas), No. 5 Stanley Jack Plane, and the No. 8 Stanley Jointer. At the moment these are the only 4 bench planes that I use. I used to own more, I had a No. 3, a couple No. 4's, a No. 4-1/2, two No. 5's , and a No. 7. Now, Just four because that is all I need and technically I could live without the Low-Angle Jack, but I don't want to.
I believe your second plane should either be a No. 4 smoother (9 1/2" long 2" blade), or a Jointer (No. 7 22" long 2-3/8" blade or No. 8 24" long 2-5/8" blade). This really depends on the work you do. If you are working with larger pieces, maybe the Jointer is the best choice. It works better on longer and larger surfaces than the No. 5. It does a better job jointing long edges and does a good job if you are working on table tops, doors, bookcases, or beds. And, you don't need to buy a high priced jointer. A good old Stanley or a WoodRiver will do just fine. You can buy fancy and new if you want too, won't hurt my feeling one bit, but it might hurt your pocket book.
The No. 4 will either be your second or third plane you will want. Now, if you are going to be using a random orbital sander, drum sander, or just hand sanding. You don't really need this. You can finish up with the No. 5 and go right to the sanding. But.... The No. 4 is best for leaving a super fine smooth surface, mainly do to its small size, and is a must have for a hand tool approach. And if you find yourself working on small boxes, cabinet face frames, or small pieces, then the No. 4 will be more useful than the larger planes. Plus, it can just about eliminate sanding all together, or all together period. Depends on how good you are with it.
The one thing I will say about the No. 4 smoother. You can buy vintage if you want, been there and done that, but I feel that you should buy the best that you can afford. This is where you want to reach deep, and then look through the couch for loose change. You don't want to skimp on a smoother. I love my Lie-Nielsen Bronze Smoother, yes it costs $350, that is high for some, but for others may not seem to bad. For me it was a chunk of change and I wouldn't trade this plane for anything.
Now, I am sure others may have more to add, comments to make, rebuttals, or gripes. That's fine. But, make your own decision and don't buy anything unless you feel comfortable about it. Buyers remorse is no good.
If you want to fill in the gaps, learn more, and find it in one place I have to recommend this book.
Handplane Essentials is a great book with many answers. It explains how to refurbish an old plane, what to look for, techniques for use, bevel up vs. bevel down planes, and so much more. And at $34.99 , it will be a book that you open up over and over again.
I hope I answered your question and didn't confuse you to no end. As you can see, there is a fair amount of information out there when it comes to hand planes. And opinions there are even more.