|Review by dfdye||posted 03-09-2010 09:19 AM||10437 views||0 times favorited||15 comments|
After having the blade in my new #4 Footprint wear down more quickly than I would have liked, I figured I should get a good blade to try and extend my time working with wood rather than sharpening gizmos. There has been some discussion in the forum and in other reviews of the Pinnacle line of blades from Woodcraft, so I figured I would give one a try.
Long story short, the Pinnacle blade is fantastic. The thickness difference between this blade and a stock cheap blade is huge, which required me backing the frog of my plane a good bit to allow throat clearance. Since it is so thick, the Pinnacle blade needs for the frog to be coplanar with the rear angled portion of the throat opening in my plane, so there is effectively no gap between the sole of the plane and the blade. This had the side benefit of effectively eliminating the chatter I had noticed before when the stock blade lost its fresh honing.
The steel in the Pinnacle is very hard, as advertised, but it is NOT super sharp out of the box as claimed by Woodcraft. It was pretty good, but it really did need a good honing. The initial grind is good, and is set at 30 degrees. I set my honing guide at my 30 degree guide mark (a utility knife line in my bench so that I stay consistent with all of my tools), and there was barely any difference between the angle of the factory bevel and my primary bevel. That being said, I barely got through “grinding” half of the width of the blade when I threw in the towel and called it “good enough.” This steel is REALLY hard, and I don’t see any point in grinding any more than this! For the primary bevel I went down to 5 micron sandpaper, and then established a 35 degree micro-bevel that was taken down to 0.5 micron (which you can see in the second picture). I put a very slight back bevel on the blade and took that to 0.5 micron as well. After honing, the blade easily shaved hairs off the back of my hand.
When I put the Pinnacle blade to wood (after adjusting the depth and alignment of the blade in my plane, of course), I was making fantastic shavings immediately. I got some neat, tightly rolled pine shavings that were not super thin, but were amazingly consistent throughout the entire cut (pictured). This was better in terms of cut consistency than I ever got with the stock blade. I was able to get super thin cuts with a little more adjustment, though I didn’t think to pull out calipers and measure the thickness. You could easily see through them, and they looked close to the 0.001-2 shavings I got with the freshly honed factory blade.
I am in the process of beating the stew out of the blade, but it hasn’t showed any signs of dulling at all, which is pretty amazing to me. I am very happy with the life of the edge so far, and look forward to spending more time using my plane and less time sharpening blades.
The only down side I can think of for this blade is that I paid more for the blade than I did for the plane I put it in C’est la vie!
As a follow up, I was going to get an A2 Hock for comparison in my #7 Stanley that I just finished restoring, but Woodcraft goofed up an didn’t get my order into the local store. Rather than spending money on shipping, I just got another IBC A2 blade they had in stock.
I know that a sample size of 2 isn’t really statistically significant, but I can say that all of my experiences with the 2” #4 blade were repeated with the wider #7 blade. Again, though they are advertised being able to shave out of the box, they are not nearly as sharp as I would like, but I figured I would test how sharp they were and just slap the blade in my plane and try it out. It did perform “OK” on pine 2×4’s that I tested it on, but it was clear that the blade was not nearly what I would consider freshly sharpened. The preparation at the factory does have a very clear benefit—the blade and back are pretty close to acceptable, so it hardly takes any time to hone the edge into good shape.
As a disclaimer, these are the only A2 blades I have owned, so I can’t really give a brand vs. brand comparison, just that the hard steel keeps its edge a very long time vs. the normal steel blades I have used in other planes. I am sold on these blades and would like to get a replacement for my Bailey block plane, and I am not really sure whether I will even consider going with a Hock this time since I have had such GREAT experiences with these IBC blades. I know I really should, just to have a basis for comparison between the brands.
I know that some complain that A2 doesn’t get as sharp as high carbon steel, or other steels with finer internal grain structures, but the fact that these two blades have held their edges for so long has made the consistency of cut hold out much longer than if I was using softer steel blades. I can’t accurately quantify how much longer these blades hold their edge, but I wasn’t noticing any difference in cut quality for my #4 until I started hitting some knots and put a few nice little dings in the blade edge. I still haven’t noticed any change in the cut quality of the #7, and I have put at least as much mileage on it as I would have with a normal blade before getting to a point where I would have to stop and sharpen. I’m not really sure how to describe this, but I like the idea of being able to complete a reasonably sized project without having a significant change in the cut quality of a tool. For me, not having a blade get dull in the middle of working a piece (and the associated tear-out that I inevitably get from putting of sharpening for too long), is worth the hypothetical loss of a little bit of sharpness on the front end. I personally feel the initial sharpness of the blades is pretty darn good. . .
Oh well, that discussion seems to be for a different day. . . .
-- David from Indiana --