Just about ready to break down, spend some $ and order a Lie-Nielsen 4
1/2 smoothing plane when I wandered across Clifton's web site. Price
is too close to matter much (LN = $300, Clifton $310) but all the
chatter here is on LN. Anyone used both, have an opinion?
The fine woodworking May/June 2005 issue evaluated no. 4 metal
smoothing planes including L-N and Cliffton. The Clifton has a dished
sole that "made for erratic performance". They lapped the sole for 30
minutes and corrected it, but did not rate it as high as the L-N. L-N
and Veritas tied as Best Overall.
Having to lap the sole on a $250-$300 plane is totally unacceptable in
Personnally, I would spend my money on the Veritas. But then I place no
value in how "pretty" a plane is. If that's important, the L-N wins
MAYBE a LN is prettier, but isn't a Veritas pretty ENOUGH? Even my wife
thinks my Veritas planes are tres cool. I'll check out their web site
to see what you mean about "pretty".
In a 'pretty contest', you need to add in Steve Knight's and Wayne
I own a couple of Steve's, and aspire to owning one of Wayne's.
Steve's designs work exceptionally well. So do the Veritas designs, of
which I have a LA Smoother, with the high angle blade.
But an _old_ Stanley Sweetheart 4.5, well tuned, and with a slight back
bevel, is not too shabby, unless the grain is really nasty.
wondering about the 12 steps...
The question is do you know how to tune up a plane? If you don't and
don't want to bother to learn beyond a quick honeing of the blade the
only answer is Lie-Nielsen. The others mentioned will require a fair
amount of rework to get them into shape.
I've owned a couple of Veritas planes and they needed a lot of tuning
but worked well after they were tuned up. Personally, I feel they are
probably worth the money but I wouldn't buy another.
I have recently been in class with someone who tuned up a new Clifton
after giving up on another cheap plane. It also required some tuning
but worked very well afterwards. I seemed very well made and I would
consider buying one.
If you want to learn who to tune up a plane and get something decent
in the bargain I would look for a used older Stanley in fairly good
shape and learn how to tune it up. You will wind up with a very good
plane, gained a lot of useful knowledge and not have spent a lot of
I currently have 4 or 5 different Lie-Nielson and 3 or 4 Older
Stanley's and have recently ordered a Steve Knight plane. Although I
got rid of my Veritas planes they would be a very acceptable
alternative. I have had an opportunity to try several others but I
haven't seen anything else worth the money (of course there are some
REALLY expensive planes I haven't seen that are probably very good).
Additionally your would have to take any plane purchase decision on a
case by case basis as I'm sure LN, Veritas and Clifton all have some
models better then others. I can only go by my experience for what I
have owned and directly had experience using. Others my have a
On Wed, 22 Jun 2005 21:59:28 -0500, Tom Banes
For a simple smoother, get a Veritas
For rare repros, get a Lie-Nielsen.
For crap English production quality, get a Clifton.
If you're in Europe, just stock up on cheap Lie-Nielsens, because the
dollar is in the toilet.
Cliftons are _supposed_ to be the best Stanley repro made. They have the
best irons, the materials are better chosen (bronze isn't the best
choice for a bench plane in the English climate). But they still can't
make the things reliably. If you get a good one, they're an excellent
plane - as good as anything. But you've only a 50:50 chance of getting
one that's made to an acceptable standard of quality for a plane at this
As someone who in the past has worked on trying to improve production
quality in English factories, this really annoys me. Clifton make
aerospace tooling (hopefully better than this) and they should have no
trouble at all making a mere plane. Yet they demonstrably can't. I don't
know whether it's poor machining, or that old favourite of letting the
accountants season the castings for too short a time beforehand -- but
at this price, they shoudl be _right_ and they're not.
If you don't like the Clifton bench plane, certainly don't waste your
money on their curved spokeshaves. These are an example of how
non-woodworking designers can foul up a tool by drawing it out and never
actually using one.
Hi Andy, Tom, et al,
On Thu, 23 Jun 2005, Andy Dingley wrote:
Apparantly with Cliftons it's a bit of a crapshoot. I bought a #6
Clifton when Woodcraft was clearing them out for half price. I really
like that plane a lot. But, others' experiences that I've read about
have been different as Andy documents. The only complaint I might have
with mine is that the backlash adjustment is a little sloppy, but other
than that it's fine. I like the blade and chip-breaker...it's a lot
easier to sharpen than the A2 blades you often see with L-N and Veritas
I agree here...had mine been a bad one, I'd have been mightily pissed
It would be interesting to know whether English, not Scottish, planes
have historically been really high quality. We have a different
perspective on precision in the 21st century than was common back in the
day, don't you think?
There doesn't seem to be any quality difference between English and
Scottish. Sheffield was the mass market and somewhat built down to a
price. The better makers (Scotland, Bristol or Norris in London) were
aiming at a higher market, so took more care.
I imagine Cliftons are the best planes Sheffield has ever produced. But
old Record or Footprint aren't the target here - Lie-Nielsen is. Old
planes had easier clients than modern ones too. A journeyman would have
bought a Stanley just to make packing cases or window boxes with - but
these days that work is done with power tools, and anyone buying L-N is
using it for fine cabinetry (actual or aspirational).
I have a Clifton #6 (fore plane) that I really like, but probably wouldn't
have bought it if it weren't for the Woodcraft liquidation sale awhile ago
(got it for $175).
I also have several Lie-Nielsen planes including the 4 1/2, low-angle jack
and a couple specialty ones. I don't own a Veritas bench plane, but have
their LA block plane and several other tools made by them. I also have many
old Stanley planes, and 2 Steven Knight woodies. Planes are good :)
At any rate, the fit and finish of the clifton plane is very nice, but is
just a little lower in quality than the Lie-Nielsen. My particular #6 had a
very flat sole and was machined extremely well, but the adjuster has just
enough backlash (relative to the Lie-Nielsen) to be noticeable. The
Lie-Nielsen is definitely the way to go, even when compared to the Veritas
(for the 4.5 at any rate).
Many thanks to all for the feedback. I hadn't even considered an LV
plane, so it's back to the drawing board! The seemingly random quality
of Clifton is not what I'm looking for.
In response to a couple of questions, I've tuned up several old
Stanley bench planes (#3, #5, #8) and a small Stanley block plane (9
1/2) that I scarffed up on Ebay when no one was looking. A bit of
electrolysis, a bunch of lapping, even more iron fixing and honing
(why do folks WANT to cut nails with a plane?), and they all perform
to my satisfaction. I have an LN scrub plane that is great, though a
pain to hone, and an LN rabbet plane that I'm still learning to use
(not many rabbets will sit still long enough to shave!). So I'm no
expert, just ham fisted learner.
I do appreciate the input as the best learning is:
1. Personal experience
2. Others' personal experience
and I haven't had time to learn everything about being a woodie, not
by a long shot.
On Wed, 22 Jun 2005 21:59:28 -0500, Tom Banes
If you choose to go the LN route you might consider purchasing an
additional high angle frog or an additional blade that you can grind
to a different angle.This can sometimes be a great help if you wind up
planning some difficult figured wood. LN also has Toothed Blades
available for their number 4 and number 5 bench planes. I don't think
they have this blade available for the 4 1/2. This blade also can be
of some help on difficult woods. The combination of the high angle
frog and a toothed blade gives quite a few additional options for one
plane. I have used both the high angle frog and a toothed blade on
occasions and it was very helpful. There is also a toothed blade
available for the low angle jack which I have used to good effect on
some curly maple and curly cherry. To bad the planes are so expensive
but I guess you get what you pay for.
Glad to hear you like the scrub plane as it's probably my next
purchase. Don't know who's plane just yet but the LN is up near the
top of the list.
On Thu, 23 Jun 2005 14:29:05 -0500, Tom Banes
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