|Review by Rick Boyett||posted 03-22-2010 01:53 AM||8410 views||0 times favorited||16 comments|
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/