Reply by Kenny

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Posted on My first best handplane

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260 posts in 2471 days

#1 posted 02-26-2012 10:49 PM

The low-angle Jack is more easily tuned to different uses than a comparable bevel-down plane. Figured woods will often experience tear-out with a 45 degree angle of attack. To change this on a bevel-down plane, you must change the frog, which is a major expense. Or, the other method, which I do NOT recommend, is to hone a back-bevel on the blade. To remove this back bevel, you must grind away the end of the blade until the back-bevel is gone, wasting a lot of steel in the process.
To make this same change on a bevel-up plane, you can simply swap the blade to one with a higher angle honed on the edge. Or, hone a micro-bevel, which is much more easily removed than the back-bevel.

Also, to change the mouth opening on a bevel-UP plane, like the Veritas, you can simply loosen the locking knob and turn the adjustment screw.
On all but the Bed-Rock design (ie: all Stanley Baily style planes), you must remove the blade. loosen the screws which affix the frog, slide the frog forward or back, tighten the screws, install the blade, check the opening, and if it’s not perfect, go back and redo all previous steps.

Part of learning to use a hand-plane properly is learning how to quickly tune it. This should take no more than a minute at most once you gain experience. I can swap blades in my low-angle Veritas block plane and be back working in under 2 minutes, taking even thickness shavings of .001” thickness if I choose. And I’m slow!

Changing a blade in a bevel-up plane to deal with varying conditions is MUCH faster than doing so on a bevel-down plane. I’ll swap a blade over a frog any day!

Bevel-down planes also lack a cap-iron, or chip-breaker, so this is one less area you have to deal with adjusting. The blades are much thicker because of this, and will resist chatter because of this and the fact that the blade beds directly to the sole, creating a very stable blade platform.

Yes, the initial price is higher than a vintage Stanley. But, consider this: You pay for the Stanley, unless you pay a lot you will need to clean it up a good deal, removing rust in many cases, then you’ll need to lap the sole and sides (I’ve yet to find a vintage plane that HASN’T needed this), you can figure at least 4 hours of work to do this properly.
Now after the sole and sides are flat, you’ll need to inspect the mouth and file it square if it’s not already, and they’re usually not. Often times totes and knobs are in bad shape and need repair and refinishing or replacement, more time and cost.
Now, you still have to get it sharp. And in several cases I’ve seen, the blades need a lot of work! Not to mention the factory Stanley blade and cap-irons are much thinner than those made for the planes we make now. Most people opt to replace them with an aftermarket blade and cap-iron assembly which is thicker. This often results in the mouth needing to be opened more, depending on how thick you want to go.

Figure in all the time and effort you have put into this 80 year old plane, and you could have just bought the Veritas and been done with it.

Take this example: I have a nice Stanley #4 I picked up for $20 on Ebay. I spent just over 6 hours cleaning it up, squaring the mouth perfectly, lapping the sides and sole flat and square and refinishing the tote and knob. I then spent nearly $80 on a Hock blade and breaker package. So, I have $100 in this plane, plus 6 hours of my time. Figure I charge $35 for my time in my shop, and I have $310 invested in this plane! Not such a “steal” after all, now is it?

Now take my Veritas Low-Angle Block plane: I paid $130 for the plane, $35 for the tote and knob, and another $80 on 3 optional blades. $245 total, for a brand spankin new plane that is much more versatile and was dead flat and true out of the box, ready to be put to wood and make shavings.

Me, having tried both methods, I’ll spend the money if I have it every single time. It’s just a better investment to pay the money and end up with a better tool with more versatility.

I do still buy and restore hand planes, but I do it because I enjoy it and I like the history. When I want a plane that is going to just work and be versatile, I buy new.

-- Kenny

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