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Good Quality Control could make this an oustanding plane.

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Review by Rick Boyett posted 03-22-2010 01:53 AM 6550 views 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Good Quality Control could make this an oustanding plane. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Stanley tools has a problem. There was a time when Stanley was a name associated with high quality tools. Tools that could be relied on to get the job done. This was especially true of hand planes. Stanley was the king of hand planes for a long time.

Then Stanley decided to make cheap tools and the rest is history.

But hey, what’s that, a ray of light over the horizon? Could it be that Stanley wants to reestablish its good name for actually being GOOD? I think that was one of the reasons that Stanley actually tried to make a set of bench and block planes that can compete with the likes of Veritas in terms of being a premium and quality tool.

Unfortunately for Stanley, the devil is in the details and once again, they have sinned..

I have read several reviews on the Stanley Sweetheart premium planes. Most were a mixed bag. On the good side was a set of planes that looked really good, had precisely machines soles and sides, and had 1/8” thick A2 steel. In the case of the 9 – 1/2 block plane, this could all be had for $99.99. Cheaper at some online retailers. Because of the mixed bag of reviews, I decided to take a good look at the Stanley while at my local Woodcraft store in Addison, TX. After a lengthy discussion with a very helpful and knowledgeable salesman, I purchased the plane and went merrily on my way home. Alas, my merriment was not to last.

Sure, the Stanley will cut and cut well. It comes out of the box with an excellent blade that was very well sharpened and honed. Sure I can get it better but Stanley had it ready to go, right out of the box. I inspected the sole with a precision straightedge and found that it was very flat from front to rear but had a very slight convex to the sole (about 0.0025). This is something I can expect from any hand plane and certainly doesn’t REQUIRE any remedy in woodworking. So I adjusted the very finely machined mouth opening, set my depth and lateral adjustments and locked them down. On my first pass over some black walnut, I got VERY FINE shavings. I had a nice grin on my face. I was liking what I was seeing. It was looking to me like Stanley had turned a corner.

Or had they?

The very first problem that I noticed has been mentioned by several reviewers. The Norris type depth adjustment has a significant amount of slop. It takes about 2.5 turns of the knob to move the blade from one direction to another. A quick break down of the plane found the culprit.

If you look at the setup of the Norris adjustment you can see that there is a pin that pushes the blade back and forth as you turn the knob.

In this picture, you can see that the pin is all the way forward of the hole that it rest in. This is how it would look if you had started pushing the blade forward for a more aggressive cut. Note the gap between the pin and the back of the hole is sits in.

If you want to back the blade off for a less aggressive cut, you have to back off the Norris adjuster until it pin contacts the back of the hole in the blade. It takes almost 2.5 turns to move from one side of the hole to another. All Stanley has to do to correct for this is to create a hole that is a proper size.

Of course this may be forgivable to many folks. I was ready to let it slide because I figured I could get used to it easily. But the next issue wasn’t so easy to forgive. When adjusting the blade I found that it was significantly screwed in that one side of the blade protruded further from the mouth than the other side. This is while the lateral adjustment was dead on straight.

The cause of the skewed blade is the machining inside the body. The corners just behind the mouth are not evenly machined. The right corner is higher than the left side. That lets the left side protrude further from the mouth opening. There are two remedies to this issue. One is to regrind the blade so that it is out of square. The other would be to file down the corner that is too high. I decided that this was too much to ask for a brand new plane and decided it was defective.

Today I drove back down to Addison and returned the block plane to Woodcraft. One of the stores managers took a look at the plane and VERY quickly agreed that the plane was skewed and defective. He told me that the Stanley rep was going to be at his store next week and he would return the plane to him with an explanation of the issue.

After looking around on the web, I have found that my complaints are not isolated. A quick Google search yielded several complaints about blade skew.

Stanley, if your people read this, please fix your plane. I gave you another shot and you failed me again. My next step is to order a new block plan from Lee Valley.

NOTE: Hi res versions of my photos can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rboyett/sets/72157625074600376/with/5042621280/




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Rick Boyett

167 posts in 1901 days



16 comments so far

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1398 posts in 2153 days


#1 posted 03-22-2010 03:31 AM

excellent review, the pics and explanation tell exactly what we need to know. thanks. good thing you were able to return it.

View bigike's profile

bigike

4032 posts in 1977 days


#2 posted 03-22-2010 04:22 AM

thanks for the review but stanley planes all have the backlash but the blade skew i would have filed first then if that didn’t fix it i woud return it. I want to get the #62 and maybe the low angle but i have alot of planes now so i think my next step is to go with lie nielson.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://www.icombadaniels@yahoo.com

View Shopsmithtom's profile

Shopsmithtom

780 posts in 2884 days


#3 posted 03-22-2010 05:45 AM

Great review & pics. I have read the same stuff & here’s my question to the Stanley execs are responsible for this product. If you’re going to re-enter the market & spend a bunch of $$$ on advertising…why in the H_ would you let a product of this quality out the door? (where ever that door is) I think I can speak for most woodworkers in saying that, after reading the promos, there was eager anticipation and hope that Stanley would hit a homer… not strike out.

Did they think we just wouldn’t notice the details? Did they think that we figured if it looked good in pictures, we’d overlook the sloppy quality control? And speaking of quality control, if they didn’t set tight standards for their manufacturer, they’re just plain stupid, and if they did, and someone didn’t follow up…do they still have a job??? making how much $$$? Where’s the breakdown? -SST

Veritas & Lie-Nielsen do it right. Yes they cost a bit to a bunch more. Does that mean that it simply can’t be done a a lesser price? If they can’t get right, please don’t just make another poor substitute, and if they can, then, for God’s sake, quit screwing around & do it.

At least this all makes my life simpler. No worrying about whether to try something new. I’ll just keep all my old Stanleys tuned up & ready to work.

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

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1286 posts in 1748 days


#4 posted 03-22-2010 08:08 AM

I was in my local Woodcraft store just last week and looked at this plane. They had the Stanley’s next to their own Wood River brands. The shame of it all is that in terms of quality, I could not tell the difference. This, in my thinking, is made even worse when the cost for one of these Stanleys is very near to the same price you would spend for a Veritas plane. Veritas or Lie Nielsen are setting the standard. No doubt.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2135 posts in 1797 days


#5 posted 03-22-2010 01:49 PM

Thanks for the review. I am like others here who waited for reviews on these planes with much anticipation. I was hoping to see Stanley take the plunge back to higher quality and re-establish the name. Reviews of this plane match reviews I have seen on the other new sweetheart models. I have a Veritas catalog here and will look to them for items of this nature.

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View DW_PGH's profile

DW_PGH

5 posts in 1679 days


#6 posted 03-22-2010 01:55 PM

Great review. We’re all still waiting for the plane that represents the free lunch. Overseas manufacturing and the right proirities may make that occur at some point, but as a friend of mine often says “there are no “deals” in new tools”. That’s not maybe entirely true every single time, but what you showed is exactly in concert with that – it’s the little details that make a plane $160 versus $99.

Your excellent points satisfy my curiosity about where they may not quite get it yet with these planes. It wasn’t until late in the game that most of their vintage planes had problems like that. My older ones are dead straight on at the mouth, very good accurate planes.

It is a shame that some of these cheaper planes don’t turn out to be a good “copy” of what LN and LV make. I already have a full shop, but more good options to bring more new people into woodworking, especially with hand tools, is never a bad thing.

Do you have any thoughts about the general level of finish on the planes, aside from the machining errors and the adjuster tolerance? It must be much better than the new made in mexico contractor’s grade plane. I ran across one of those once, and it took a lot of work on a lapping plate to get the milling marks off the sides and sole. The tooling marks were as deep as oak pores.

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1804 days


#7 posted 03-22-2010 04:31 PM

thank´s for a very fine rewiew
but sad then I have to go overseas
for buying a desent tool
I know I can get LN and LV here
in eruope but what a prize for
a poor man
I will safe my money until
I can afford it

Dennis

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 1901 days


#8 posted 03-22-2010 07:32 PM

I’ve gone ahead and ordered a Veritas Standard Block Plane to replace this one. I was intending to buy all of the Stanley premium Sweethearts but as you can see, I won’t be doing that now.

Every one of my old Stanleys (#3, #4, #5, #8) are all still in great shape when it comes to their bodies. A couple have developed chipped blades so I was thinking of upgrading to newer planes. Instead I’ll now follow the more sensible route and buy new blades..

View reggiek's profile

reggiek

2240 posts in 1959 days


#9 posted 03-23-2010 05:40 AM

Great review and excellent info. It’s just too bad that Stanley is putting all that money into advertising but not enough into quality control. Luckily there are manufacturers like Niesen and Veritas – but they are alot like Festool…Great quality but budget buster prices.

It would be nice to see Stanley get back to its pre crap quality at a reasonable price -

Thanks again Rick and glad you did this review for us – I will certainly hold off any purchase of the newer Stanley products until the are worth purchasing. So for now – if I have to buy new it’s Niesen or Veritas – I don’t mind buying the older Stanley’s. It’s about the same with Festool for new hand power tools or I don’t mind the older Dewalt or Porter Cable.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Sean's profile

Sean

156 posts in 2304 days


#10 posted 03-23-2010 07:27 AM

Did they think we just wouldn’t notice the details? Did they think that we figured if it looked good in pictures, we’d overlook the sloppy quality control?

Yeah, Tom thats exactly what they expect. and they get it. There are people on this website that are more than happy to have a half-assed product as long as it’s for half-price, and will try telling you that you are a foolish snob for being willing to pay more for something better.

-- "Democracy is by far the worst system of government. Except all the others that have been tried." ~ Winston Churchill

View SouthpawCA's profile

SouthpawCA

254 posts in 1922 days


#11 posted 03-23-2010 06:41 PM

I’m wondering if LJs should have reps from all these companies respond to issues like this. I’ve thought about this type of thing when I got a bad dado blade. The product can be taken back to the store for a replacement, but the bad reviews cannot be taken back. Do all these companies care about their products? Do they realize the bad news travels fast? It’s the little degrading things that happen over time that eventually kills a product. The Kreg Jig site has a rep that responds and supplies solutions to any issues. There should definitely be something similar on here.

-- Don

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 1901 days


#12 posted 03-23-2010 06:50 PM

Don,

I was kinda wondering the same thing. So I linked this review onto Stanley’s facebook page. Let’s see if they respond or delete it.

Rick

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747DRVR

199 posts in 2045 days


#13 posted 03-23-2010 06:54 PM

Rick,you should write for the magazines.Nice job

View Dusty56's profile

Dusty56

11664 posts in 2377 days


#14 posted 03-24-2010 01:53 AM

Excellent review and the pictures are worth their weight in gold : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Rick Boyett's profile

Rick Boyett

167 posts in 1901 days


#15 posted 03-24-2010 04:06 PM

It’s pretty common knowledge that all of the sweethearts are made in Mexico.

I really don’t think that something made in Mexico (or China and India for that matter) has to be synonymous with “bad quality”. There are several good quality products that come out of Mexico. The issue is quality control which is a responsibility of management and the corporate office. If QC was a priority for them, they wouldn’t have let this become an issue..

BTW, here are some review and thread links that also speak to the problems with the Sweetheart planes in general:

Wicked Skew on my Stanley Low Angle Block Plane

New Stanley Sweet Heart #60 1/2 Low Angle Block Plane Mini Review

Review: Stanley No. 62 by Christopher Schwarz of Woodworking Magazine

In Mr. Schwarz’s article, he said that he contacted Stanley and asked about the problems they had seen. He said that Stanley was making changes at the factory to remedy the problems. This was back in Sept 2009. I contacted Mr. Schwarz about this article and asked him if Stanley ever got back to him about the machining issues that were causing the skew. He said that they did not….

Keep in mind that these were planes SENT to Mr. Schwarzs BY STANLEY specifically for review purposes. They didn’t even do a proper QC on planes that they knew were going to be reviewed and written about.

There is also a review in the April 2010 issue of Fine WoodWorking Magazine. It isn’t kind..

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