Aftermarket plane irons and breakers, opinions?

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Forum topic by Kenny posted 03-01-2012 06:33 AM 12724 views 1 time favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2415 days

03-01-2012 06:33 AM

I’m looking for some general opinions about the different makers of aftermarket plane irons and breakers.

I’m thinking I may upgrade the irons in a few of my planes that I really like, and I’d like to hear what you all think about the different models offered by different makers.

I’ve used a few, but in reality my experience is still very limited. I would imagine there are some on here who have tried nearly every manufacturers irons and have a lot more experience with replacement irons than I.

In order of interest, these are the planes I’m considering upgrading:
Stanley #32 transitional (don’t knock the half and half planes, I love my #32!)
Stanley #4 (or Millers Falls #9)
Stanley #5
Stanley #9-1/2 block plane

None of these planes are collectors items or valuable (except to me), so I don’t mind opening mouths for thicker blades, etc.

Thanks for any help or input you can provide.

-- Kenny

32 replies so far

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2918 days

#1 posted 03-01-2012 06:40 AM

I’ve used Lie-Nielsen irons in my Stanley #4 and my Keen Kutter #5. They work very well and offer a huge improvement over the thinner (and often pitted) original irons.

I have a Hock in my #12 scraper plane, but haven’t used it much. Hock irons have a great reputation, but they’re a little too square at the top for my taste. Pitiful reason to not like them, I know.

IBC / Rob Cosman blades are getting really good reviews. I’m sure the Dude will chime in and try to sell you some.

I’ve also heard great things about Veritas aftermarket irons. I know Chris Schwarz has a Veritas blade and chipbreaker in his Stanley 5 type 11.

Clifton’s are also probably very good, but they sure are expensive. Around 80 bucks or so for an iron.

Really, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the ones I mentioned. They all use quality steel and are substantially thicker than the old irons. I usually look for which ones have the best deal going on. I do know that Woodcraft has some IBC blades on sale now, so you may be interested in that.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 2946 days

#2 posted 03-01-2012 08:35 AM

Can’t help you much on this one Kenny, I have about six planes, (just Stanleys) including a couple of jointer planes, a jack plane, rebate plane a No5 and a 4 1/2 and a couple of smaller block planes.

It was always my intention to get into hand tool work but as yet haven’t got around top it. Most of my are all pre/post WWII when the steel used was still pretty good so have served me well for the rough work I need them for.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2847 days

#3 posted 03-01-2012 10:12 AM

May I ask why you are considering replacement irons? Is it because the irons you have now are in bad shape or are you looking for improvement with performance?

My personal opinion and advice would be if your going to buy a premium iron/breaker set then get it for your #4. You will notice the upgrade/improvement the most in your smoothing plane. I would start with that one and if you think your others would benefit then you could go back and get new irons for those as well.

As for what brand… I have both Pinnacle and Hock irons and I am very happy with both. I think they are all going to be about the same performance wise, the real results will be based on your sharpening skills.

Oh and I love my #32 also, its my favorite of my trans planes. If you do get an iron for that one I would get the Pinnacle replacement through Woodcraft. It takes the Stanley #8 sized iron and they are on sale all year through Woodcraft online. I think the #8 sized iron is like 35 dollars. I wouldn’t worry about getting new chip breaker with that plane. The old one will work with the new blade.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View ChristianCastillo's profile


27 posts in 2247 days

#4 posted 03-01-2012 10:42 AM

Stu of, has begun carrying Tsunesaburo Blue Steel plane irons for various models of western hand planes. Blue Steel is steel widely used in Japanese tools, and it is priced very economically to compete with offerings from many of the aforementioned domestic plane blade suppliers, just something to think about. Brent Beach, on his sharpening website, did a test among various plane blades, and without taking powdered metals and high speed steel into consideration, he said that the Tsunesaburo blue steel plane had the best edge retention among the high carbon steels.

Just something to think about.

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2415 days

#5 posted 03-01-2012 01:37 PM

Thanks for the advice.

Some I want to replace as they are in rough shape (#32 and #5), others as I’m looking for an upgrade of sorts. I also want a straight iron for my #5 so I can hone an aggressive radius on the stock cutter.

As well, I use my planes a lot, and I’d like to see about better edge retention on some of them. I do have an aftermarket iron or two (IBC and Lie-Nielsen), and I’ve been impressed with both. I also have some Hock irons for wooden planes that I haven’t made yet, so while I know they take a good edge, I haven’t used them at all.


-- Kenny

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2847 days

#6 posted 03-01-2012 02:13 PM

Kenny, if the iron in your 32 is rough then I would really consider that deal Woodcraft has on the Pinnacle replacement. I have one of the Pinnacles that size in my #8 and I have been really happy with it. I have thought about getting another one for my 32 because the iron in my 32 is also pretty rough.

I would also suggest buying another #5 so that way you can keep them set and not have to swap irons back and forth. You can get a decent Stanley jack plane for less then 20 dollars. Its a good excuse to buy another plane :)

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2415 days

#7 posted 03-01-2012 02:34 PM

Thanks Dan, I’m going to look into the Pinnacle at WoodCraft, though I’ll need the breaker too. I just checked it to be sure, and it is the plane that has a corner chipped/rusted off the breaker. It’s not a big chip (quite small actually), but since I really like the plane and I use it a lot, making it right is probably best.

As for the #5, it is my second #5! I bought it to have a straight-blade #5 (my Dunlap has an 8” radius on the blade), and the blade was just crap when it arrived (pitted under the breaker). But, I got it on Ebay in a lot of 5 planes that I got for an absolute steal ($12+shipping), so I can’t complain.

I do have a another #4 that has a good iron though, and the plane isn’t really worth restoring (Stanley Defiance), so maybe I’ll rob it’s cutter for a straight cutter?

-- Kenny

View bondogaposis's profile


4683 posts in 2318 days

#8 posted 03-01-2012 02:41 PM

I have been putting Hock irons and caps in all of my Stanley planes w/ very good results. So far I have put them in my #7, #5 and #60 1/2 block and #80 scraper. I still need to get them for my #3 & #4 1/2. but I can interchange the #7 w/ the #4 1/2 when I need to. The Hock irons are thicker this helps w/ chatter and the steel comes in choice of high carbon or cryo A2. Sometimes you will need to open the throat to accommodate the thicker irons. A few swipes w/ a file is sufficient on most planes to give the needed chip clearance. On my #5, I took the old iron and ground an 8” radius into the iron and use it for hogging off big chips for leveling panel glue ups. I can switch easily between the radius-ed iron and the straight iron and that is pretty convenient. Here is a link to Hock.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2415 days

#9 posted 03-01-2012 02:43 PM

On a separate note, has anyone ever tried the Buck Bros. replacement blades they sell at Home Depot?

NO, not for a “good” iron, I’m thinking it may be OK for a steep radius scrub plane iron or something? I know they don’t need to get super sharp in a scrub plane.

I know I’ve heard some guys have made wooden planes using Buck cutters, and have had decent results. So I’m think it may be OK for a roughing plane? And really, if it sucks, I’m out a whole $3, no big deal.

Any thoughts?

-- Kenny

View bandit571's profile


19741 posts in 2650 days

#10 posted 03-01-2012 03:13 PM

I have a Buck Brothers iron in my Great Neck #1( same size as a Stanley #4) I had to flatten the back a little, otherwise, worked right “out of the box”. It is too wide for my #3 Defiance, though one could slim it down to fit. Their “block plane’ irons are the ones with notches in them. My #110 needs a plain iron. A little work, and that $3 iron can make some nice shavings.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2847 days

#11 posted 03-01-2012 03:14 PM

Kenny, I have several Buck Bros irons and they work just fine. They will require some time to lap the back flat but for 3 dollars you cant complain.

Most any iron can be a good iron the key is in the sharpening.

With those rusted irons that are pitted you can usually clear that up by flattening the back on a coarse sandpaper. I have have salvaged some badly pitted irons and turned them into great users. Its a heck of a lot of work but if your money tight like me you might be up for it.

If your looking to put a new iron and chip breaker in your #32 then it would make more sense to buy as a set.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2326 days

#12 posted 03-01-2012 09:17 PM

+1 on finding the Hock blade shape less-than-pleasing (re: Brandon)

+1 on Dan’s comment re equipping the smoother (though I’d point out that the inadequate length of lever cap on nearly all Stanley block planes means that you’ll see quite an improvement in that 9 1/2)

Lastly, since you’re not worried about opening up the mouth, consider a Lie-Nielsen replacement for Stanley—a bit thicker (I think) than even than my all-time-favorite replacement irons, which is the Lee Valley iron and chipbreaker setup—an incredible deal.

View Marlow's profile


172 posts in 2638 days

#13 posted 03-02-2012 01:06 AM

+1 on the Lee Valley recommendation: they are dead flat and polished on the back, beyond any I’ve seen. I would also recommend the LN: how could you go wrong with a LN iron (or product for that matter)?

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2265 days

#14 posted 03-02-2012 02:04 AM

yes the IBC is a rigid iron the combo is best, no chatter what soever and its massive but my old sweetheart still planes better

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2919 days

#15 posted 03-02-2012 02:47 AM

I have two aftermarket blades: one is a Veritas blade for my Record T-5 and a Hock blade for my Stanley spokeshave. I have a whole of lot of planes and everyone but the two I just mentioned, use their original blades. I have both metal bodied planes sporting their thinner blades and old school wood bodied planes with very thick blades. I have also used LN and Veritas planes, so I am familiar with their products also. My experience has shown that as long as I properly tune the plane, the blade (also properly tuned) will do its job as it was intended to do. So why would I bother getting aftermarket blades? I replaced the T-5’s original blade with a Veritas A2 blades because the plane is for shooting board use. Having the harder metaled blade is a big improvement due to the abuse that blade takes in that role. The other one, the Hock blade in the spokeshave I bought because I wanted to try an aftermarket blade. Does it work better than the one it came with? No, it doesn’t. Both those blades I bought, however, are quality blades. They required little tuning to get ready for use. I’ve read a particular user bash Hock products. My experience with them so far is excellent. Sure, their blade wasn’t a marked improvement over the factory one, but it was still a very nice product and I would recommend them to anyone. Same with the Veritas blade.

Well, that’s my two cents.

-- Mike

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