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Cheap, but Workable

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Review by Jimi_C posted 1773 days ago 5011 views 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Cheap, but Workable Cheap, but Workable No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

At $22.95, this plane is dirt cheap, and as such I was fully expecting to have to do some work on it in order to get it into usable condition. The only other plane I have is a Stanley SB4, which is apparently a British version of the #4 (weird that I got it at Lowes a couple of years ago). That plane is shown in the second picture I attached to the review, and it should be evident what the major issue with that plane is – the two screws that control depth of cut. Rather than having a single depth adjustment, there are two, so it is a constant trial and error process to get a nice consistent shaving. After struggling with this plane for a couple of weeks, I decided to start looking for a new #4.

While I’d love to buy a LN or Veritas, I just don’t have the cash to spend, especially since I’m just starting out and need to buy just about everything still. I considered buying an old plane and restoring it, but I’d rather spend my time using it. I read Anant planes are semi-decent, assuming you put a new blade in them and tune them up, so I started looking in that direction when I stumbled upon the Grizzly on Amazon.

In my opinion, it’s a pretty nice looking plane, and has some solid heft to it. One minor difference from the pictured plane is that it doesn’t have a lever on the lever cap – it has a brass screw for tightening which is no big deal in my opinion. Out of the box, the plane looked pretty good. There were one or two little dings in the cast iron, but nothing major. I used my straight edge to check the sole, and it looks pretty flat – later I’d find out it’s not perfect after truing it on some sand paper. It wasn’t horrible – the front and back were co-planar, but the front was not co-planar with the area around the mouth. According to some sites I researched on tuning hand planes, it is important that the front, mouth, and back of the sole be flat. The other areas of the sole aren’t as important, and are in fact hollowed out on some planes (such as Japanese planes).

I completely disassembled the plane, including the frog, and started filing down the recommended areas: frog touch points, mouth opening, etc., and then turned my attention to the blade. This is the worst aspect of the plane, as expected, and required the most work to clean up. First off, the cap iron is horrible. The machining on it is very rough, to the point it looks like someone shaped it with a Dremel. The edges are rounded back, and the contact with the blade is spotty. Holding the blade/cap iron up to a light I could see there was a pretty evident space there. I started out flattening the back of the blade, first on some 150 and then 220, followed by a 1000/6000 water stone, and then did the same to the beveled edge. After about an hour of work, I had a blade that was shaving hair semi-well. A bit more work and I’m sure it’d be even better, unfortunately I cracked the glass I was using to flatten on (cheap picture frame glass… I need to pick up a granite slab). I had already taken the cap iron and lever cap to the 150 to make sure their contact surfaces were nice and flat as well. I dried everything off and sprayed it down with some Boeshield to prevent rust and reassmbled. There is a bit of slop between the the adjustment knob and yoke, so if you go from raising to lowering the blade, you have to make a few turns before it re-engages in the other direction. I understand that’s common on cheaper planes, so again it was expected.

Taking the tuned up plane to a board, I was able to get a decent shaving that looked pretty good. If I had to guess it was .005 or so, as it wasn’t paper tissue whispy, but I holding it up to a light it looked pretty translucent. I’m sure with a little more tuning I’ll have no trouble getting some good shavings out of it.

Overall, I’m happy with this plane. I bought it knowing I’d have to devote a night to tuning it up, I was just hoping it wasn’t complete garbage based on a couple of bad reviews I read Grizzly planes get. If the blade had been better, I probably would have given this 4 stars. As is, I’ll probably buy a Hock blade for in a few months, which should give me a pretty good plane for ~ $60.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"




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Jimi_C

506 posts in 1859 days



14 comments so far

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1396 posts in 2088 days


#1 posted 1772 days ago

thanks for the review. although the price on this one appears really low, the others a bit higher, and i think your (really good) description leads me to continue buying antique stanleys/MF/union etc. off ebay. a little more of a crap shoot, but generally the blades dont need to be completely replaced, the cost is less, and I personally like having the old models. so far i’ve bought 7 planes/shaves off ebay, and the only one i will resell is a Union #5 with non-co-planar soles that I can’t bother to true up. the others are workable enough.

btw, was the part around the mouth recessed (too high)?

anyway, thanks again for the detail!

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 2509 days


#2 posted 1772 days ago

Nice review.
IMHO if you have to do all of the work you describe on the “cheaper new planes” why not buy an antique Stanley plane and spend your time on it. You would have a great plane with resale value should you ever decide to sell it where as the “cheaper planes” still would have little to no value on the resale market.
I suggest that if you are new to planes you should read Chris Schwarz’s book on planes.
http://www.woodworkersbookshop.com/product/book-woodworking-magazine-handplane-essentials/

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

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

506 posts in 1859 days


#3 posted 1772 days ago

@AaronK: Yes, the area around the mouth was lower than the front/back of the sole.

I’ve got a bid in on an older Stanley #7 on ebay now, since they’re a bit larger and even the cheap models go for much more than the cheap #4’s/block planes. I guess the point of my review was if you’re willing to put in the work, you can make this a good plane for $10 cheaper than an Anant or some of the other low end planes. Pretty much every review of those says to throw the blade away too, and put a Hock in it.

Part of the reason I hadn’t done this for the #4 was it was a bit of a hassle :) It really is a patience game, but since I was stuck using that horrible SB4, I wanted a new plane ASAP. Also, I really dislike how ebay sellers generally gouge you on the shipping/handling fees, and in this price range that was typically 2-3x more than the cost of the plane. That’s mitigated a bit by the slightly higher cost of the #7, and I don’t need one as badly (I have a planer/jointer), so I can wait on it. Really I just want the #7 because at some point in the future, I know I’ll be doing large table tops and will need it for flattening.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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AaronK

1396 posts in 2088 days


#4 posted 1772 days ago

yikes, i figured that was what you were talking about – that sucks – a lot of lapping to do.

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

506 posts in 1859 days


#5 posted 1772 days ago

Yep, I was lapping the sole when I cracked the glass. Still, after just about 5 minutes I had a nice shiny surface half way between the front and mouth, so it shouldn’t take too much more. Like I said in the review, the sole was pretty good out of the box based on my straight edge check.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Jerry's profile

Jerry

72 posts in 1777 days


#6 posted 1772 days ago

Hey!

Its great that you have “Discovered” hand planes, my only regret is that I wish I had figured this out 15-20 years ago instead of 10! If you are going to invest in some Hock Irons I would find an old Stanley #3 or #4 to put it in.

Keep the Grizzly plane with its original blade to use on the “Rough Stuff” , decking or wherever you might run into a nail or other blade/sole destroying hardware. I have the #3 through the #8 and use the #3 like a block plane sometimes and a smoother others!

Actually today is your lucky day, I read your profile and see you are in IT also? I work for Yale Science & Technology as a computer specialist! I was just in the shop wiping the plane collection off and lo and behold I have 4 #4’s.

Jimi_C , PM me your mailing address and I will gift you a Stanley #4, I had sharpened them when I put them away but you know how that goes, you will probably have to touch it up. I “Use” all of mine so it has been tuned and cleaned up. Drop me a note when you get it and make your first shaving.

I live about 15 minutes from New Britan Connecticut, Stanley planes around here practically fall from the trees…

Enjoy

Jerry

-- "The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should be a Store, Not a Govt. Agency"

View KellyS's profile

KellyS

78 posts in 1856 days


#7 posted 1771 days ago

Someone mentioned that the Ebay sellers gouge you on the shipping. Yeah, I guess that’s sort of true. This past summer, my wife and I along with my parents hit the beginning of the 127 Yard sale that runs from Alabama up to Ohio. Needless to say, I went plane crazy. I had just gotten bit by the plane bug, so off we went. If you can wait for it, it was a lot of fun and I found some good deals, some bad ones, and some garbage. It was a lot of fun. Nice time spent with my loved ones and came out with a box of planes. I probably wasn’t as saavy a buyer as some of the others, but I was satisfied. I ended up with a #7 Bailey, 2 or 3 # 5’s a #4, a bunch of block planes, I think I came back with 17 planes and I don’t think I spent that much at all. On the down side, I’m still cleaning up planes and still sharpening irons, but that’s sort of half the fun. I never seen a Bedrock or anything smaller that a #4, but we didn’t even make it to Chattanooga before the day was over. Next year, we plane (Freudian slip) to start in Chattanooga and work our way toward Ohio, we’ll probably take more than one day too. I’d really like to find an old tool auction that is close to Georgia. I’d love to go to one.
Anyways, enough of my rambling. Congratulations on the gifted plane.
Kelly

-- He who dies with the most tools wins!.....Just wait, I'm going to win!..ERR my wife will at least.

View IkeandBerry's profile

IkeandBerry

45 posts in 1888 days


#8 posted 1771 days ago

Good review. I was fortunate enough to work with someone who had a lot of old Stanley Bailey hand planes. His father in law collected them and he sold me a set in excellent condition. I ended up with 3 thru 7 plus a union block plane and a low angle block plane for $125. They had already been cleaned up the only thing that had to be done was to sharpen and hone the irons. I can say that being somewhat new to woodworking I am completely hooked on using hand planes whenever I can. It is so much quieter and I like the feel of the tool in my hands. Good luck!

-- There is nothing like the sound of a hand plane passing across a board in an otherwise quiet shop.

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

506 posts in 1859 days


#9 posted 1771 days ago

I’m definitely liking using hand planes. I really got the bug watching the Major League Woodworking videos, and saw how they’re really essential even if you’re using machines to process your rough lumber. I don’t think I’d ever get into using a #5 to flatten a board by hand (I’ll keep my jointer and planer, thanks), but for finishing I think I’ll always turn to hand planes and scrapers over sanding.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2646 days


#10 posted 1771 days ago

You will be delighted with one of these blades your “blade holder”

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Jimi_C's profile

Jimi_C

506 posts in 1859 days


#11 posted 1771 days ago

@Bob: Yep I was looking at those as well as the Hocks. The downside, like I said in the review, is that it’d need a new cap iron too, which I don’t think either of those come with from LV.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2646 days


#12 posted 1771 days ago

Jim, I was able to use the one that came with my planes.

http://lumberjocks.com/boboswin/blog/3332

bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

525 posts in 2105 days


#13 posted 1771 days ago

A great cheap “slab” for flatening is a piece of MDF. If you’re planning on using wet sandpaper to flatten the sole of your plane or lap the back of a chisel or plane iron, then coat it real well with some Thomson’s Water seal. I’ev even used a piece of scrap plywood.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View Jerry's profile

Jerry

72 posts in 1777 days


#14 posted 1770 days ago

Hi Guys,

Most excellent “Plane Talk”, no pun intended…I use the “Scary Sharp” method on the Stanley blades with great success however, after upgrading my #3, #5 and #7 with “Hock” chip breakers AND “Hock” blades they are different tools. The difference in how the plane works is substantial enough to warrant the expense. The little #3 becomes a “Super” block plane and smoother. I was working on the edge grain of some 16/4 Cherry last night and it was simply “Fun” to peel off 2 foot ribbons of hard, air dried Cherry. If you only buy the upgraded iron and blade for one of your old Stanleys you will be amazed at the quality and especially how long the edge remains on the Hock steel (A2) vs. the older Stanley blades. This point alone is worthy of the relatively small expense ($47.00-$50.00). YMMV

Jerry

-- "The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should be a Store, Not a Govt. Agency"

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