The plane I’m using for demonstration is the Lie Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane. In order for the plane to shave wood correctly, there must not be any movement (wobble, play, rocking, etc.) to the iron. Planing wood along its side grain should result in thin shavings rising above the surface of the wood as the edge of the plane iron is pushed forward, leaving a smooth surface, but sometimes splintering occurs. Almost anything I can do with a standard block plane, I can do better and faster with a Stanley #3 smoothing plane.
Surface planers are a great time-saving tool for experienced woodworkers, but it’s important to know that many surface planers only plane the surface of a piece of wood relative to the opposite surface. Between Lie Nielsen and Veritas there are at least two primary considerations – the plane totes (handles) are quite different between the two. Irons are provided this way on purpose, since the manufacturer has no way of knowing what you will be using the plane for, and subsequently how the iron would need to be honed. That means that while shooting with a block plane is possible, it is much more enjoyable with a jack plane.
Recently, however, a number of planes have been introduced with the bevel facing up. Aside from some advantages in how the effective blade angle can be changed by the angle at which the bevel is honed, the chief benefit of a bevel up plane comes in setting it up for cutting. The satisfaction of using the cap iron mechanism properly to get a good surface, using only through shavings-those made with straight, end-to-end passes of the plane, making it easier to produce or keep a uniform flat surface and do it quickly.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to get to, and since you don’t want to enlarge the mouth at all, just a touch using a small piece of angled wood with fine sandpaper wrapped around it is about as far as you want to take it. Thankfully, this is all that is usually needed to remove old crud. Two manufacturers, Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley/Veritas offer alternative higher frogs, though it is a bit cumbersome and costly to swap multiple frogs for a single plane. Once the entire plane is situated on the work, apply equal pressure to back and front handles and/or knobs. Held in this position the plane is pushed forward and back until the end is smoothed.
Buying an old plane from the flea market or ebay and tuning it up sounds great but buy the time you buy a new iron and maybe chip breaker you have put a lot of time and money into a plane that may not work as good as a new Lie-Nielsen or Veritas out of the box. My other favorite planes are my Veritas router planes, large and small, and my Veritas scraper plane.