I have so many planes now and use different ones throughout the day. I tend to keep the older and more worn ones I have bought near by because I feel an affinity with something that has so obviously been well used, cared for and feels the same as my own ones. I do own some new old, still-in-the-box tools because I like opening them and seeing them as unused pieces but that’s another side of me too. Even though I am in my mid 60s I still like to make sure I have enough tools to last me another 200 years for some vain reason. Also, I have 5 sons and a daughter and 13 grandchildren so far. I would like to think that some of my tools will go to them even though I have already provided my children with their own kits over the years. I’d like to sequester some for my grandchildren next and also some really special ones for my sons.
It’s no secret that I advise any woodworker to first invest in Stanley or Record planes of the pre 1970s and I have good reason for this. I have my range of Stanley planes from a #3 – #8 and the same in the Record range. I also own the same in the wooden-bodied versions. Most of these tools are boxed in storage in Texas and one day I will decide where they will finally live. I have of course taken out my original planes I started my apprenticeship with and set them aside or brought them here with me.
I reach equally and without preference between Stanleys and Records. This tells me a lot. It’s a mix of reasons but two that keep me firmly impressed that my choice is right for me. I prefer thinner irons because when properly sharpened and set they don’t chatter and the steel in both plane types sharpen up quickly, being only half as thick as irons made by more prominent makers of today, and take and hold a good sharp edge. I also like the lightness of these planes which of course is counter to everything we are being told today. More on this elsewhere on my blog. For most of the people I know and meet, cost is an important factor. The #4, #4 1/2, #5 and #5 1/2 planes can be bought for under £30 if you shop wisely. Even well maintained ones can be had for this. I use Stanley and Record planes over and more than all others, but I like other planes too.
One of the most impressive demonstrations I ever saw was watching a skilled iron worker hammer forge the irons for Clifton planes. When I was there writing an article on the plane they told me that this method of hammer-forging tightens up on the grain in the steel and enables it to take and retain the sharpest of all edges whilst at the same time retain excellent strength and edge holding properties.
Other plane makers I like
In recent years, through my research, I have stocked up on lesser known planes like Woden and I Sorby; because they fascinated me. I have a collection of Woden planes now and I need a #8 Woden to complete the series but I would never find use for one. Someone wrote that the Woden range was introduced by Record (having acquired the name when Woden went out of production) as a cheaper quality plane when Record took over the Woden range in the 1960s. That’s not true at all. The engineering on the Woden is very high quality and in my view exceeded the quality of Record. I have a rare Woden #4 corrugated sole in the set too.
I have three I Sorby planes and will likely stop at that. I bought the first one because of its scarcity and fell in love with it the minute I first used it. The engineering parallels the Woden and both plane types are tight. The I Sorby 4 1/2 I slightly narrower than what we know as the normal #4 1/2. The mechanisms are all identically Leonard Bailey with no acknowledgement on the soles in the form of casting. I generally avoid using these in the training films because I would hate for people to think it’s these planes that make my work work better than their regular Stanleys or Records because they all achieve identical results of high quality. That’s partly why I don’t use other high-end makers. I wouldn’t ever want anyone to think that they must have a highly engineered and expensive plane when a £20 eBay find will accomplish the same end results and give the same satisfaction. I have #5 I Sorby that I like too for the same reasons. I Sorby planes come up only occasionally on eBay and Wodens are more readily available but not at all common. I bought a #5 1/2 recently for £30 plus shipping. It was quite perfect and I will use it in my work as and when I want to.