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Posted to rec.woodworking
Andy Dingley
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Default What are the reasons so few modern planes measure up to the old one?

On 20 Jan 2006 15:35:10 -0800, wrote:

All this said, I never hear about anything other than Lie-Nielsen or
Veritas or Knight planes as examples of fine quality modern planes.
Are there others as well?

There are loads of high-end plane makers. However they're a small niche
market, so you won't see them advertised widely. Read FWW, look at
catalogues from the top toolshops, or just Google and you'll see them.
Holtey, St James Bay, Steve Knight, Gordon (?) - the Australian guy with
the Chinese pattern woodies.

Sadly many of these planes are just _too_ well made. Something like a
Holtey is made to be perfect, because it's accepted that it's a purely
decorative piece. I don't understand this desire - the desire to own the
best and shiniest Norris plane ever made, when it isn't even a Norris.

The Norris A5 I use the most has a bent adjusting screw, because someone
dropped it. It still works (just a bit stiff) and it still works as well
as a Norris ought. However that damage probably knocks a couple of
hundred off the "collectible" price of the thing. Oh dear.

I know people who use Holtey tools day-in, day-out (mainly luthiers)
Interestingly though, they're nearly all using custom tools made
specially for them by Holtey and the excess finish was never asked for
or applied to them.

Is Clifton any good?

Clifton were produced by a well-respected UK hand tool retailer and a
well-respected industrial toolmaker in partnership, intending to make
simply the best bedrock-pattern iron-bodied plane they could. In all my
experience with Cliftons, then they've been excellent.

That said, there are reports from some US users of build quality and
accuracy being off. Whether this is just the flat earth society
measuring the irrelevant, I don't know.

The Clifton "Victor" iron is one of my favourite irons and I use it in
around half of my Stanley-pattern planes. It's not laminated, nor is it
A2 steel, but as a "classic" heavyweight iron made from traditional
steels it's the best around. I use laminated irons (Samurai or
Sweetheartt) in my fine smoothers, but these in most of my bench planes.
Much better than Hock. The Victor is very thick though. Retro-fitting
it to old planes often needs some mouth opening, and some people might
not want to do that to the rarer plane bodies.

How about the new Stanleys?


Are wooden planes better/worse than metal ones?

Depends what you're doing and what you're used to. They're a totally
different shape to handle. I think you need to accept that, and use them
for what they're best at. I haven't found a use for a Stanley
transitional yet.

Most of my wooden planes are old moulding planes (couple of hundred).
Many of these are worn-out pigs to use, but they cut a shape that I
want. I've also got a mixed bag of weird planes, some of which I made
myself, that are spindle rounders, chair seat hollowers and the like.

Next up are my Japanese planes. These work best when working on a
Japanese-style bench, with Japanese-style timber. Not a great deal of
use flattening an oak table, but the only thing for shaping an oval onto
a sword scabbard made of lime.

European (ECE) woodies have the advantage of easy adjustment (better
than the Stanley pattern) and light weight. I don't use these much, but
one of these as a scrub plane is by far my most powerful non-powered
plane for quickly rough-shaping timber. I plane barn beams with this
when timber framing - I don't want to carry a Stanley around for that

My very best smoothers are either a Norris or a very good Stanley (both
iron) or a couple of Steve Knight woodies.

I am still very new to this aspect of woodworking. Heck, I just made
my very first handcut dovetail joint last week.

Congratulations! Now do it very, very quickly. Then do some more, very,
very quickly too. You'll be doing them quickly and not so well. Then
you'll get better at them. IMHO you can't do a good one slowly and you
certainly can't learn to do good ones slowly. Don't fiddle with them -
that never works. Mark it out as crudely as you like, then saw it
exactly in one pass (that "exact" thing takes a bit of work). It's all
about whacking it with the saw, yet having the cut land exactly where
you wanted it. It's certainly not about trimming to fit afterwards.

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