What are the reasons so few modern planes measure up to the old one?

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I am starting to slip down the slope and have acquired several handplanes. Nothing great: a Stanley #4, a block plane, and I found an old Stanley router plane at a garage sale for $3.00--only one cutter but it is in good condition.
These purchase got me to wondering: Just what are the reasons these old mass-produced planes are better than many of the new mass-produced ones? Was it just because they were heavier? Because the were flatter? The metal was difference? Because the just felt better?
One would assume if you install a nice blade, like a Hock blade, into a newer plane, it should cut well--but I am not going to waste my money buying a cheapo Buck Brothers or something and then have it cut for crap.
Is it true old planes are better or is it urban legend? I guess the same could be said for other hand tools as well (saws, chisels, etc.). I can see why the metal used to make saws and chisels can have an impact because inferior steel won't take and keep an edge and 'good grade' steel may be very expensive but I don't see how this could be the case for planes since the metal that does the cutting is the blade, and a Hock takes care of that, doesn't it?
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com writes:
[...]

Well, none of my new planes (4) is worse than any of my old planes (10), and the old ones somethimes needed (or still need) work to get a mouth that is not a gaping 1/4" or even 1/2"...
But then, the new ones are very nicely made chinese (or taiwanese style) planes and a japanese block plane, the old ones european style wooden ones with lots of wear.
--
Dr. Juergen Hannappel http://lisa2.physik.uni-bonn.de/~hannappe
mailto: snipped-for-privacy@physik.uni-bonn.de Phone: +49 228 73 2447 FAX ... 7869
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How many dollars a day do you earn compared to how much a Stanley worker made when he produced #4 planes?

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I understand that, in comparison, the payscale has increased immensely over the years but that doesn't answer my question. I know if you made the old Stanleys the same way now as you did then and only accounted for labor, the price would be tremendously more than what a person made in, say, 1910.
And I also know the one best way to keeo labor costs down would be to go to China--I don't like that but it is the truth.
But it would seem to me that the improvements in economies of scale would come into play in modern times, like using computers and machines to do the work of scores of men.
I guess I am asking if a cheapo Buck Bros. plane from Home Depot will cut as good as an old Stanley if both were equipped with a Hock blade?
I am not trying to be a smart aleck, I am really confused as to whether it is worth obtaining old planes when as cheapo new would work as long as it used a good blade.
I would have to say the same is NOT true with a saw or chisel because not only does labor need to get factored in but also the steel used to make them--a higher quality steel will, obvisously, cost a lot more and no longer make a saw cheap.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Nope. The cheapo new one is different in other ways than just the blade. Looking at metal planes, you need to consider the type of metal used in the casting (ductile cast iron or brittle, bronze, etc.), the cast quality (voids, impurities), the machining of the base (smoothness, flatness, sides square to sole).
Then there are things like the quality of the machining of the frog, the fit of the cap iron to the blade, and on, and on.
Old planes are at least in part good because people actually relied on them. People who care about a decent plane now generally either use a good old one, or spend the money on a good new one (Veritas, Lie-Nielsen, Clifton, etc.)
Chris
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wrote:

Notwithstanding the bottom of the barrel stuff - there has always been cheap junk, even in the "good old days" - I should think that the quality of the metalurgy today is superior to that of 50 years ago.
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... and therein lies the preponderance of the answer to your question.
--
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On 2006-01-20 15:53:50 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com said:

Once, in my younger and stupider days, I bought a Buck Bros. plane at Home Depot before putting a straight-edge on it. When I got home, I did. Not even close. That plane went back to HD the next day.
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said:

Sometimes I have to wonder about the economies of scale. How much extra per plane the customers keep is added to the cost because of the planes customers return because they're trashy (the planes are trashy, not the customers)? Would we pay an extra two bucks, or however much, per plane to reduce the crappiness? It is obvious SOME of us will pay considerably more, as evidenced by Veritas and Lie-Nielsen planes, where economies of scale must be much less.
But, then, the handplane market seems to have pretty well petered out, except for true enthusiasts, so the overall chances of increasing sales at a better quality point and a very few bucks more are probably not worth the bean counters' time.
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On Sat, 21 Jan 2006 14:02:59 GMT, "Charles Self"

I also collect fountain pens. You can easily make a $1000 fountain pen, with just one old guy in Vietnam and a pot of lacquer. If you have a really good idea, then you can change the $10 pen market overnight too. What you can't make an impact in is the $100 market. They need to be both superior, and mass-produced. Even the big names like Sheaffer and Parker have lost their way at this level.
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"Charles Self" wrote in message

per
Sad, but I'd bet the above no longer even enters the equation in today's topsy turvy, MBA tainted, business model.
Upper management remuneration, stock price, and employee benefits/perks appear to be foremost in current business philosophy, not product quality or service.
Whereas if the latter two are foremost, the first three seem to take care of themselves ... just ask Robin Lee.
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Wedding announcement in today's Roanoke paper: nice looking couple, so you wouldn't suspect...the woman has her MBA, the guy is finishing his up.
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First, crappy planes were made back when, just as they are made now, and for the same reason - to meet the standard of a user who did not demand the finest hand-finished and fettled hardware for the price that such commanded. You'll have to look to find one of any age, because most were trashed. The user of a crummy tool had two choices, fettle to a higher standard, or pitch it. I've got a couple of old thin metal types on my shelves as hand-me downs, but they have some hours in them, where I've worked the frog, the bed, and removed manufacturing uglies like grinding burrs. One of jacks has a Hock iron, which still makes it no match for my LV or LN planes, though it's a good deal more useable than when I started. The smooth is just a dust collector.
As to cost and quality, there are a couple of roads available there, as well. Back when I worked in a stamping plant making parts for Fords, of steel produced in the Ford steel mills - Henry liked vertical integration - we were obliged to reject some rolled stock because the number of defects was too high. That steel was resold to Cadillac division downtown, where hand finishing was the norm, and each stamping was filed, bumped fitted and sanded to a different standard at a higher price. No way you could do that for a Ford, or even a Mercury, where the standards of material and manufacture were higher than the Ford of similar body style. Imagine the Lincoln plant was the same as Cadillac.
When you buy a used plane, chances are it's one of the fittest, or it would not have survived.
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True. And that's a major part of the reason that around the world, we see so many old, superb houses. The poorly built houses collapsed many years ago, just as the poorly made tools hit the trash bins early. The good stuff just keeps on keeping on.
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On 2006-01-21 09:05:10 -0500, "Charles Self"

Ehhhh...I'd have to respectfully disagree. My house is 114 years old but it certainly isn't "superb."
2' x 6" floor joists over 14' or 16' spans...piers made from bricks and sand lime...the floors slope and slop like a rough day at sea...but I'll readiy admit it's "charming" and looks "lived in!"
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Colonel wrote:

Heh. Reminds me of the house I grew up in. It was a pretty standard farmhouse with a basically square floorplan, and the basement was divided in two halves with a wall from the front to the back. Then, on the first floor, there was a hallway down the middle from the front to the back, with walls on either side of it.
Now, those walls down the side of the hallway? As best I can tell, they were load-bearing.
So, the hallway floor, with the basement support going down the middle of it and the unsupported walls on either side of it holding up the upstairs, was crowned like a good road -- the middle was about two inches higher than the sides. (Someone had painted it black like a road, too. It was great for toy cars....) And the floors in the rooms all sloped down towards the hallway.
- Brooks
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Let us know how strait and true you are at 114. :)

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Another point, here, too: the houses that stand, as goofy footed as they may be, are the good ones. Everything else has collapsed.
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I used to live in an old farmhouse in Goode, VA that had no joists under the first floor...4' centers with white oak logs that had been adzed or otherwise smoothed on top. The rest of the house was a mess.
I got burned out of a neat cottage back in '84, solid brick except for floor joists, single layer floors and 2x10 joists over a 19-1/2 span. You thought you were on a trampoline. Entrance to the basement was by swinging through a basement window set about 3' below ground level. House was built in '55, 1855. All sorts of neat features, including 13" thick exterior walls, a doubled kitchen to DR wall that was about 30" thick and a 39" thick wall between one bedroom and another, and between the living room and the DR. The fire started in the wiring in the LR, and the 39" thick wall saved my life, as one old lady saw the fire start about 4 a.m. in the LR, and I didn't wake up until 7.
I know awaken at 4:00 every day.
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wrote:

I live 30 minutes from Stanley headquarters in New Britain, CT.
I don't think Stanley makes ANYTHING here anymore, it's all Chinese and Mexican. That said, I'll bet the people making Stanley stuff today still make the same hourly wage they did in 1910. <G>
Hint: Stanley HQ is all cubicles...
Barry
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