| 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?
It could be because the poorly-made old ones took the path that the
newer poorly-made planes will follow: to the scrap heap.
The good old planes and the good new planes were/are/will be afforded
appropriate TLC and in another hundred years people will hold up a LN,
LV, or Clifton plane and ask the same question.
DeSoto, Iowa USA
On 20 Jan 2006 12:23:03 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Look at the retail price for them when new, as a proportion of a
worker's weekly wage. In their day, these were expensive tools and only
owned by well-heeled tradesmen. There were cheaper options, as might
have been used by farmers and similar, but these were relatively crude
and we don't pay so much attention to them today.
It's difficult to realise just _how_ expensive a "simple" tool like this
was in its day, and how few possessions even a well-off tradesman would
have owned at the time. That box of good planes might have been a major
investment, yet nowadays we happily see a Unisaw as a mere trifling
indulgence in a hobby.
My grandfather was well off for the time. He owned a small shop, a
stable and began a lorry haulage business. Yet today (and discounting
the horses), I live on my own in a house that's about the same size he
had, have a workshop the size of his stable, and probably have an equal
weight of petrol vehicles.
For a fascinating look at 1900's life for jobbing trademen, I thoroughly
recommend "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
Ok, ok, I give. Allt hese answers make quite a bit of sense,
especially now that I understand that these tools were in the same mold
as the finer planes today. And they lasted this long only because they
were workers and built with quality materials and great craftsmanship.
Andy: Thanks for the book suggestion. That seems like a good read.
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? Is Clifton any good? How about the new
Stanleys? Are wooden planes better/worse than metal ones?
I am still very new to this aspect of woodworking. Heck, I just made
my very first handcut dovetail joint last week. It took me a heck of
a long time to cut it and the pieces don't fit like a glove, let me
tell you! But it worked. And I can only see me getting better at it
as time goes on. I am planning on making a drawer, of sorts, as my
first "project" using dovetails. I know it will probably be a nasty
looking thing, but it'll be better than nothing.
I am beginning to find hand tools very interesting and that is why I
want to learn about such things as the quality of modern hand planes.
I guess I am being impatient. I need to scrounge garage sales and eBay
to get good deals because I don't have the money to plop down $250 for
a hand plane!
If I did that, the wife would have my left nut, too.
On 20 Jan 2006 15:35:10 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
On Sat, 21 Jan 2006 15:53:24 +0100, Juergen Hannappel
The screw adjuster (like the GTL planes) has a big advantage over
Stanley of not having backlash in a fork lever.
I know the wedge system too, but those offer no advantage over old
English planes that I can buy locally for pocket-change.
My best scrub plane is an ECE with a horn front handle, a hornbeam sole
and wedge adjust. The iron is a '50s laminated Marples though - better
than the standard irons, as I find those a bit thin and bendy.
Wow, the Norris sure is a unique-looking plane. But what I wouldn't
give to hold one. I think I beginning to get the fever really bad now.
I see you said you have a couple hundred, HUNDRED, moulding planes. I
am beginning to understand how that can happen. I just want to buy
everything I see!
Thanks for the tips on the dovetails. I tried what you said this
afternoon: I made some joints really fast and you were right, they
basically sucked. But I see the method in the madness. I need to do
some more. Then some more! Thanks!!.
On 21 Jan 2006 14:50:47 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Save your money. The good things about a Norris are the adjuster and the
weight of the thing. You can get pretty much all the performance by
buying a new Lee Valley. The Norris style adjuster is just a much
better design than the Stanley style.
Just had a rough eyeball of them and it's about 130 that are real shaped
moulding planes and a few dozens more that are various rounders (concave
and convex), plain rebates, fillisters, and oddball carriage-maker's
routers and the like.
I happen to have a reprint of a Montgomery-Ward catalog from Fall of
1894 handy, and it's got some Bailey planes in it just like the #5 I
picked up at an antique mall a few weeks ago. Here's the price list:
Bailey Adjustable Iron Planes:
Smooth plane (iron), 8 inches long, No. 3 ........ $1.37
Smooth plane (iron), 9 inches long, No. 4 ........ $1.50
Smooth plane (iron), 10 inches long, No. 4 1/2 ... $1.70
Jack plane (iron), 14 inches long, No. 5 ......... $1.70
Fore plane (iron), 18 inches long, No. 6 ......... $2.16
Jointer plane (iron), 22 inches long, No. 7 ...... $2.40
Jointer plane (iron), 24 inches long, No. 8 ...... $2.96
So, what's the equivalent value today? There's a handy online tool at
http://www.eh.net/hmit/compare/ which compares these sorts of things.
So, plug in $1.70 in 1894 (for a No. 4-1/2 plane), and today that's
worth $194.75 if one compares it using the average unskilled labor rate
then and now.
And I see in my Lee Valley catalog that the really nice Veritas No.
4-1/2 smoothing plane costs $195 today.
Startling coincidence, innit?
The "bmoses-nospam" address is valid; no unmunging needed.
Cripes that's amazing! I even had an inkling of wonder about exactly those
differences between then and now, and it evens out! But, look at the current
prices of new stanley planes these days, far far cheaper.
Alex - "newbie_neander" woodworker
On 20 Jan 2006 12:23:03 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
What you are seeing is a cumulative effect of "value-engineering" over
the years. Various cost-saving measures, looser tolerances, more
inexpensive alloys got applied to those designs, a little at a time until
you went from something that was rock-solid and well-built to the flimsy,
poorly made specimens one gets today. Along the way, users became less
demanding as power tools began taking more of the jobs of hand planes and
the primary purpose to which handplanes were applied was by home handymen
to plane down sticking doors. Many of the buyers of modern handplanes had
no idea of what planes are capable, I know that until I started making
furniture, I had no idea.
If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough
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