I have commented all over the net about Groz planes. I really think they are a good option to save some money. My set included a #4 smoother and a low angle block with adjustable throat. It was on sale for about $40-50 over at Woodcraft. Quality-wise they are comparable to a flee market or e-bay Stanley branded plane. I think the Stanley is a bit nicer, but it is definitely a buyer beware situation buying a 30-100 year old plane sight unseen (know what I mean Vern). With the Groz you get a virgin plane that is unlikely to have been truly messed up by someone with good intentions and a file/drill/sandpaper/whatever. With a Stanley of unknown background you can easily find yourself in over your head as a new entry into the world of hand planes.
You will notice that I have not mentioned saving time. Yes, that is the hook. You get a Stanley knock-off. Other than looks and basic features the similarities end and you have to choose your battles. You new plane will require sharpening, flattening of the sole, cleaning up the throat, and some adjustment to get the best performance out of it.
Before you go running off to buy a Lie Neilsen or Veritas check this video:
My initial thoughts on the Groz
I took this video after little use of the planes. I paid the $5ea to have woodcraft sharpen the blades and started using the tools as soon as they arrived. They do work just fine, but are not of the caliber to take to a $50 piece of exotic wood. Heck, they may never be.
At this point I have owned the planes for about a month. I have taken the time to flatten the soles on both. Neither were that great to begin with. Can’t say that it drastically effected their performance, but I figured that it would be time well spent none the less. Only issue that I came across was that the block plane’s adjustable toe sits differently open vs. closed, so it can only be flat at either extreme. I chose flat at the narrow throat position. Here is a shot closing in on flat. I went until I was flat across the throat, but left the hollow between the throat and heel.
The #4 required some filing at the entry of the throat. A poor casting job had left it uneven, almost jagged, at the edge. A small mill file and about 5 minutes was all that it took to remedy that. If you find that you need to go that route, keep a square close by to make sure you don’t go off course and make things worse.
After dressing up the plane bodies it was time to move onto the blades. Here is an idea of what you will receive from Woodcraft sharpening…
Ewww gross. To their credit they do actually cut fair in this condition, but imo they are really not too sharp in this state.
The #4 received a Hock blade and cap iron. The Hock iron took a bit more work than I would have liked to get sharpened up initially. But the cap iron was beautiful right from the start. Actually just for s&g I placed both right into the plane and ran a couple of test cuts. They gave a similar cut to the sharpened factory setup. After a good sharpening of the Hock cut very nicely and remedied the chatter I was seeing in the cuts done with the factory blade. The combination of the nice Hock parts ($55 shipped at Craftsman Studio) and the tuned up plane body this smoother now lives up to its name and really can smooth hardwood. It still has some tearout on difficult grained walnut, but I have my doubts that any plane other than a scraper could deal with this board.
The low angle block got a full service sharpening. A few times over in fact. I got impatient the first couple of times and rushed to higher grit paper/stones before those deep factory marks were really gone. The state that this blade came from the factory is really a bit of work to get cleaned up. I ended up using a backer board, so I could apply more pressure at the courser grits. I went from 120g on granite to 220 on granite, 400g on cast iron, 4000g waterstone, and 6000 waterstone to flatten and polisth the back. The bevel was prepped on water stones (800,4000,6000), leaving the Woodcraft hollow grind.
With prep and tuning these Groz planes went from functional to enjoyable to use. I can pull shavings about .001” thinner than before (full width). Surface finish left by them is very smooth. Their only limitation seems to be that their throats don’t adjust narrower. If you get into a situation that requires a narrower throat you will need to shell out for a high end plane from Lee Valley or Lie Neilsen.
So do I recommend these??
Yes. No. It depends on who the user is. If the user has no interest in tuning these planes to maximize performance then I definitely wouldn’t recommend them. If the user is on a tight budget and can donate a bit of time to figuring out how to work these then I would recommend them. Personally I think they are a good value.
-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama