A block plane is a superb (and much used) trimming tool, but it doesn't provide much of an insight into "real" planing.
The smoothing plane can be used for many purposes; it can be treated as a shaping tool, or used as a fine finishing tool; it is the classic "household" plane, used for everything from trimming a door to tapering a stick.
The jack plane is in some ways even more versatile; being a little longer than a smoothing plane, it can provide a little more intrinsic accuracy when flattening stock; being a little larger, it's easier to get a good grip to perform rapid stock removal.
But if you fully intend to become a galoot, you will rapidly acquire a smoothing plane, a jack plane, and a longer flattening/jointing plane. If this is the case it doesn't really matter which one you get first.
If you stay mainly powered, and never buy another plane, your #4 will do a lovely job of removing power planer ripple, or band/table saw marks in a couple of strokes.
In short, a #4 is the "can't go wrong" choice for your first plane, whether your path takes you to complete neanderhood , or fully powered normite . They're also (and not by coincidence) the commonest, cheapest and easiest to find, both new and second hand.
However, there are wide range of replacement blades available. Any one of them offers a substantial performance improvement over all but the most exceptional original blades. At the time of writing (late 2003) most of these are priced around 20-25 pounds (in the UK market). Do not buy a modern Bailey blade from the big factories. They are too soft.
Modern premium blades are available from:
If you want "period" information on using metal bodied planes, Record used to publish a compilation of their catalogues and/or manuals, thinly disguised as an instructional text, under the title of "PlaneCraft: Hand Planing By Modern Methods", now available in reprint. As long as you feel able to ignore the general "Record's way is the right and only way" bias, there's very good information here.
If you're more "visually left brain oriented" (AKA want pretty moving pictures) instructional videos are available:
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