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A decent plane, but it takes some work to get there!

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Review by dfdye posted 1622 days ago 5074 views 0 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A decent plane, but it takes some work to get there! A decent plane, but it takes some work to get there! A decent plane, but it takes some work to get there! Click the pictures to enlarge them

Quick recommendation: Only buy this if it is between this and a cheap Stanley.

I saw this plane on sale for $25 at Sears, and had to pick it up. When I first got it out of the box, the handle was a little lose, but a quick turn of a screwdriver fixed that issue pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, that was the only “quick” fix. The sole of the plane is nowhere near flat, and the deep scratches on the body are a royal pain to work out. I spent a bunch of time trying to “grind” the base flat with basic sandpaper, and couldn’t get much better than shown in the picture of the sole. (yes, I know this isn’t how you should flatten a plane, but I didn’t have time to run down to the machine shop and didn’t want to damage a mill bit that costs more than the plane!) There is still a pretty deep spot that I will have to go back to when I get some better abrasives, but if you are thinking of buying this plane, just be aware that you will more than likely have to spend some time to get it “right.”

Fortunately, the blade sharpened right up. The back polished up pretty easily, and I was able to get a nice edge on it using 3M abrasives down to 0.5 micron. Adjusting the blade to get a uniform cut was pretty easy, and comparable to any similarly designed Stanley that I have used. I am not a heavy hand plane user, and I haven’t gotten the blade sufficiently dull to say how the edge will hold up, but the feel of the steel while sharpening gave me the impression that it is a little harder than the cheap Stanley blades, but not nearly as nice as premium plane blades. I wouldn’t expect it to hold an edge for too long, but since set up is pretty easy, you should be back to shaving before too long if you have to stop and re-hone.

I personally was able to get uniform 0.004” shavings from a scrap 2×4 with just a quick adjustment. I was getting sawdust later on an old bookshelf carcass that I am refinishing (the wood just didn’t want to make good curls—not sure the species) This is more than fine for my use, so I have been pretty happy with the performance.

Rating this plane is a bit tricky—now that I have things pretty close to where I want them, I have no desire to get a different plane, so I would give it 4 stars as I own it now. If, however, I were buying a new plane, I would have tried to go with something that would be less time-consuming to set up, and that would have a better blade. Out of the box, it isn’t very good, and is comparable to a cheap Stanley plane from a big box store—I would have given it a 2. It would have gotten the job done, but not very well.

From looking around at Woodcraft the last time I was there, the Groz seems to be a partial step up from the Footprint, and is actually cheaper than the normal price of the Footprint! The Groz will definitley need some work still. The WoodRiver plane is in a different class with a much thicker blade made from better steel and more finely finished body. At at almost $100 more than the Groz, it is in another price bracket too! Either of these planes would be a better choice than the footprint based on my experience, and if I were buying again today, I would probably save my pennies and get the Woodriver out of the gate to minimize headaches getting the cheap planes up to my liking. If you have more time than money and want to be cheap, I would still steer you towards the Groz rather than the Footprint.

That being said, if you have to buy a plane from Sears, this seems to be the best one they carry. I am happy using it, but only since I put a bunch of time and energy into getting it tuned up.

-- David from Indiana --




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dfdye

372 posts in 1640 days



35 comments so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 2489 days


#1 posted 1622 days ago

IMHO when I 1st saw how bad of shape the sole was in and the scratches on the body I would have taken it back right then. I’m sure you must have had your reasons, just saying what I would have done.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1640 days


#2 posted 1622 days ago

John,

I figured that I would have a little “fun” with a project. I have never tried to turn a junk plane into a decent tool, and I hadn’t seen a good used plane except in antique shops where they wanted insane money for badly damaged planes that were missing parts. The pictures do show what I was talking about that the plane needs a bunch of work to get usable, but the long, curved “scratches” you see aren’t deep in the metal, they are dust from what I had been working on. The bad scratches are in the middle/bottom right of the second picture.

The funny part is that it cuts well! It stil has a bunch of scratches and can be better (possibly going to lap it in a mill to get it dead flat) but it already is usable. The scratches on the side are irrelavent to me, but the sole is much better than when I started.

Like I said, and as you noted, I would not recommend this “project” to anyone else!

David

-- David from Indiana --

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2701 days


#3 posted 1622 days ago

Relative to used planes, you just need to keep looking. There are quite a few of them out there….

Once you have it flat on the bottom, I would not thing the scratches would affect performance.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5378 posts in 1835 days


#4 posted 1622 days ago

I’ve got the Groz #4 you mention. Once you lap the sole, deburr the frog, and hone the iron it is a nice plane. I have never seen a Footprint in person, so I can’t make any claims, but it looks like they are similar…

I am getting to the point that I somewhat enjoy the process of prepping a plane for use… Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, who knows?

I did have a cheap Stanley #4 that I never could get flat, and the Groz came in about the same as your Footprint… A couple of scratches that are still there… But otherwise very flat…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View araldite's profile

araldite

187 posts in 2007 days


#5 posted 1621 days ago

I’m not sure you can turn a junk plane into a descent tool. You can turn a plane that was good in it’s day, but now a rusty mess, back into a descent tool with some work. But I think a plane that’s junk right out of the box can be made better, but not into a good tool.

In my opinion, you’re better off buying a rusty pre WW2 Stanley, or other good brand, and putting your effort into that. It will be a much better tool than the Footprint will ever be.

If you’re thinking about laping, forget Footprint. Put your time into something that has an intrinsically higher value, and where you can at increase the value of the plane your working on by your efforts. You’ll never increase the value of the Footprint.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2701 days


#6 posted 1621 days ago

I’m wondering if it is worth discussing the point of buying a modern low cost plane vs. buying a pre-WW2 used plane. I would think that if one was to purchase a quality used plane and tune it they would have better results than pretty much any of the modern low-cost planes ( Stanley, Footprint, Groz, etc.)

From a premium plane perspective I would think that Bedrocks, Lie-Nielsons, and Veritas would out perform Windriver and the new Stanley premiums. Anyone have an opinion?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1640 days


#7 posted 1621 days ago

Araldite, I can personally state that I get satisfactory results from my Footprint now that I have worked on it for a while. I have tried out higher end planes, and there is a gap between the performance of my plane and those planes, but it isn’t anything that will have an effect on my work. I can’t justify spending $300 on a high end plane any more than I can justify buying super high end cabinet saw! The additional performance does not impact MY work, so there is no reason for me to spend the money! The point of buying a Footprint or a Groz is about the same as buying a Skill circular saw vs. a Dewalt. The latter is clearly a better tool, but will it impact the quality of my final product? For me, the answer is no, even though I would clearly appreciate the better tools!

As a serious technical question to those advocating high end planes, what specifically do YOU find to be the advantage of the more expensive planes? I get great shavings, easy adjustability, and a slick sole now that I have taken the time to tune the Footprint up. What more do you look for in a plane? I have already said that I would appreciate better steel in the blade (I can upgrade that later if I really want to) and the finer depth adjustment threads on some other planes, but neither of these immediately affect the quality of my work, just the ease in which I can set up the plane and the length of time between sharpenings.

Wayne, good question regarding the trade off between the higher end planes. My judgement of tools typically is based on how well they produce a final product and how easily I can operate them. I would love to hear a comparison from someone who has used both the Woodriver and the higher end planes as to the differences in end results, and if there is some magic adjustment knob that justifies the cost of the Lie-Nielsons and the Veritas planes (granted, these tools look amazing, and are borderline artistic works! I wouldn’t fault anyone buying them for this reason alone!) So far, every review I have ever read of them only mentions how well they are made, how little time it take to tune them, and that you can get results that are very nice—no comparison as to how they are fundamentally different than the results of my Footprint other than they get the same results in a shorter time! If the extra $$$ is worth your time, but all means don’t even look at the cheap planes (as I said before!), but if you are a glutton for punishment and want to tune the plane up yourself, what is the fundamental difference in quality of cut that I am missing with my Footprint?

Please understand, I am definitely not trying to be argumentative, I really would like to hear why people spent more money on better planes and if it was purely for asthetics and time constraints, or if there is a magic result I am missing.

-- David from Indiana --

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1640 days


#8 posted 1621 days ago

Dbhost,

Thanks for chiming in regarding the Groz! Unless I am much mistaken, it looks like that is the plane in your profile picture? Glad you got yours working well.

-- David from Indiana --

View Shopsmithtom's profile

Shopsmithtom

780 posts in 2798 days


#9 posted 1619 days ago

I’d love to hear if the high end planes performed better than (for example) an old tuned Stanley. I have about 15 different old Stanley & Gage planes that I use in my shop. All were bought very reasonably in various states of aging & restored & tuned by me. Now, in use, I can’t imagine that a new plane at any price will perform better. They all work great. But, I have nothing to actually compare to, so I’m hoping that someone out there has used well tuned old planes & then bought a new high end one & can tell me what differences he/she sees in use.
C’mon…people, this could be great to learn. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Marc5's profile

Marc5

304 posts in 1945 days


#10 posted 1619 days ago

Tom,

To answer your question I own several Lie Nielsen planes, purchased over the past several years. In my humble opinion they are out of the box, the best planes currently available. When my father passed I found his #5 Bailey style plane and 9 1/2 block plane decided I needed to keep them and add it to my ever growing collection of tools with the intent to continue to use them. As a kid I remember every Dad having these planes laying around. I put the super tunes to them and they are perform as good as the LN’s. Quite honestly I use them as much if not more than the LN’s. The biggest difference I have noticed is the blades in the Lie Nielsen’s. hold a edge better. They are A2 instead of O2 tool steel. A2 is considerably harder and will hold a edge a lot longer but is also take more time to sharpen when you have to. Other than that I don’t notice to much of a difference.

-- Marc

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 2336 days


#11 posted 1619 days ago

Everyone talks about the availability of pre-WWII planes – that all you need to do is tune them up. Well, I’ve been watching ebay and other places now for over a year and it seems the best I can find are ones that need work and still go for over $40-$50. I can in no way afford LN’s or Veritas, I can’t even afford to look at these, so I have nothing. Yard sales here in Maine don’t seem to carry used tools or, if they do, you’re looking at el-cheapos that nothing would help – $5 when new block planes with no adjustments.

Jim

-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View JoeButler's profile

JoeButler

39 posts in 2331 days


#12 posted 1619 days ago

I too have gone the Groz way. I simply can’t afford to pay that much for high end planes for a hobby. If I made a living doing this, it might be different. Also, I started out with power tools and then slowly realized that they couldn’t do everything. (Sorry Norm on New Yankee Workshop!)

So I have slowly been picking up hand tools when I can afford them. I started out with a $8 set of cheap chisels from Harbor Freight. Crap, yes. But they sharpened up enough that I could see where they would be handy. I have just replaced them with a better set ($60 on sale) from Woodcraft. Still no where near top of the line, but more than enough for what I will use them for.

I have yet to use any of the Groz planes I got over the holidays (#4, #5, #7, regular block, low angle block and shoulder plane). To be honest, I’m not really sure how/why/when to use them. But I’m watching videos from several sources and hope to have it figured out soon.

But I have also wondered about today’s modern planes. The advertisements for Groz say “Soles are guaranteed flat to within 0.003”. (No, I haven’t checked mine…I don’t have the tools to measure that accurately. I did set each one on my table saw…none of them rocked. LOL) I’m not a machinist, but that seems pretty flat to me. Were the planes pre-WWII milled to within that tolerance? What about wooden planes? I would think they would be impossible to get completely flat. Even if you managed to do it today, wouldn’t the wood move some and tomorrow it would be off again?

How long have they been making metal planes? I would guess only in the last 10? (25?, 50?) years have we been able to get soles machined as flat as today’s high end planes have?

As I say, I’m not a machinist. But I would really be interested in hearing the answers to the above. I would guess, that even with the highest end hand tools, I couldn’t do as good a job as an experienced hand tool person with properly tuned lower end tools. How much of it is really based on improved technology, how much on the experience of the user and how much in “tool snobbery”?

-- Joe

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5378 posts in 1835 days


#13 posted 1618 days ago

Yep, the planes in my pic are my Groz planes.

What got me to buy a new Groz instead of a pre WW2 Stanley or the like is the age / temper of the metal. Metal can and often does get working fatigue. It is impossible to tell just by eyeballing it, which used plane is in good fixable shape, and which one looks good, but will snap in half a week after you get it home… And while that is rare, it does happen…

With the blade honed nicely, my Groz gives me shavings in walnut that you can read through, and they are consistent. I’m not sure what else a more expensive plane could do for me.

I’m not saying that there isn’t some added value to the likes of Veritas or Lie Nielsen, The fit and finish are certainly much better than the cheaper planes, but then again, the tuning process typically fixes those issues, or should… About the only issue I can see in the perspective of usability once tuning is done is the quality of the blade. The higher end planes tend to have harder steel blades, which is one of the reasons a LOT of Groz, Footprint, and even current Stanley and Buck Bros planes get Hock irons swapped into them…

Now to compare the Groz or Footprint to the current low end Stanley or Buck Bros is not fair to the Groz or Footprint. The Buck Bros in particular, the ones I have seen seem to come fitted with aluminum adjusters, and other low quality, soft components that blow out upon first usage… They simply put are NOT worth the effort. I have not made the Buck Bros mistake, but I did on a current model low end Lowes Stanley #4. It went back within 36 hours, and I got my Groz…

I have seen, and used properly tuned Footprint #4 similar to the one reviewed by the OP, and it is a good plane once tuned up…

I am wanting to fill in my plane selection with a #5, #6, and #7, and if given a good deal I would probably grab a Footprint…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 2489 days


#14 posted 1618 days ago

FWIW – When I look at used planes and other tools in the wild (Wild =’s not on the Internet to me, where you can hold the tool in your hand) items to take along include: a small accurate square (I use a 4”), a set of feeler gauges, cheap at any auto supply store or at HF), if you are looking at larger items a 12” or longer straight edge, and if your eyes are like mine a small magnifying glass. You want to make sure the plane is straight, square, and not cracked.
And most of all read a good book as in: Handplane Essentials By Christopher Schwarz
http://www.woodworkersbookshop.com/product/book-woodworking-magazine-handplane-essentials/hand-tools

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Shopsmithtom's profile

Shopsmithtom

780 posts in 2798 days


#15 posted 1618 days ago

Good discussion & info. Thanks. By the way, Jim C., I guess I don’t think of $30 – even $50 for a good Stanley is out of line. There have been many in that range that pretty much only need cosmetic work. I’m seeing that the Groz & others can be had in that range, but I guess I kinda like the old ones just for the heritage attached to them. For me there’s a good feeling when I think that some guy was using that plane a hundred years ago. ..but, that’s just me. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

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