The better #4 has yet to be built

Question:

Hi Paul,

Just wondering whether you could elaborate on your comment, “I wish someone would replicate the #4 with high-spec engineering and wooden handles like they do with some planes being made today. That’s a plane I would go for.”?

My initial reaction to this was “they do” (thinking Lie-Nielsen’s #4), but on reflection I’m now thinking you might preclude these due to their Bedrock style of bed/frog mating design (as per one of your previous commentaries about Bedrocks).

Just curious.

Cheers,
Damian

Answer:

Glad to. There are domestic makers I highly respect for what they achieved when they went against the flow and who have indeed, as far as I know, stayed true to the course they chose in establishing domestic businesses within their countries to create employment on local levels and resisted the conglomerate empires who set prices for them to work to or die. They have faced stiffer opposition from some companies in their countries who went to Asia for alternative supplies but that’s OK, adversity builds character.

So what would I like to see in my ideal smoothing plane?

Handle choices, small, medium and large made from durable and sustainable hardwoods that don’t crack.

Blade alternative. I have ideas for an alternative blade presentation that’s radical and low cost.

Same body of plane so the weight stays close to exactly the same as a Stanley Bailey pattern but perhaps if there is better casting iron around then replace that with the new and better.

Better engineering of component parts.

Sharpened and set up to a quality near ready to go out of the box.

Domestically made to each country.

Bevelled perimeter edge to plane sole.

All part corners softened to match a well used Stanley or Record.

Oh, and, Yes! A Bailey-pattern frog that could be adjusted the same way as is.

20 Comments

  1. Derek Long on 7 September 2015 at 3:10 am

    Different sized totes would be a nice improvement. Veritas does this with their new “custom plane” line, but it would be nice to have a standard but new and improved Bailey patent Stanley model. I have a Veritas bevel up jack, and it’s nice and all, but I always still reach for my old pre-war #4 or 5 1/2 first. I like the weight and shape of them in the hand best.



  2. Ford on 7 September 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I completely agree with you about the weight. The modern reproductions are just too heavy, especially the larger planes like the 6-8. Bigger and heavier is not always better…



  3. Ed on 7 September 2015 at 7:25 pm

    If such a plane could be produced ( I believe it could ) would you still want a degree of flex in the sole or a stiffer configuration? And what would you pay for such a plane? ( ball park)…



    • Paul Sellers on 7 September 2015 at 9:27 pm

      No one actually mentions body flex in relation to pressures from the lever cap lockdown. This lockdown changes the sole according to pressure and yet there is no practical way of measuring how much pressure we actually apply. I think cost would be the same as the Bed Rock planes but perhaps using slightly less materials would factor in to a slightly lower price. Depends also on where they would be made.



  4. Bob Nickason on 7 September 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Paul;
    You have just described the new composite bench planes by Veritas.
    A shop review of the plane would assist neophytes, such as myself, to determine if the plane is worth the purchase $.



    • Paul Sellers on 7 September 2015 at 8:42 pm

      I doubt that to be so. Lee Valley Veritas sticks to it’s own in-house designs. I have kept all of the engineering and design concepts of Leonard Bailey throughout here and nothing of Veritas follows any of these concepts. I admit to never having looked at the Veritas plane system you have described, however, but I cannot imagine Veritas using any single feature of Leonard Bailey’s. All of the modern plane makers from Lie Nielsen to Wood River and Quangsheng, Juuma and Clifton have all copied the Bailey pattern throughout yet none of them as far as I know mention this at all but all make claim to a Bed Rock frog which is but a minor change in frog adjustment. Veritas on the other hand have designed their planes from the ground up to make them very much Veritas. So, no not really. My plane is still fully a lightweight Bailey-pattern plane and any accolades go to Leonard Bailey.



  5. salkosafic on 7 September 2015 at 10:40 pm

    I think the next logical step in your business would be to make a Paul Sellers plane much like Rob Cosman did with his saws.



    • Paul Sellers on 8 September 2015 at 1:50 am

      I am so content that what’s available is already here I find peace in it. My comments are purely in answer to people’s questions that’s all. I love the saws and planes I can sharpen by hand in seconds or minutes and I can return to the work I have always loved in a seamless side shuffle. I own what others espouse to be the best tools in the world and yet a £15 plane and £20 250 year old saw, a £6 Stanley knife made in Sheffield all have yet to be bettered for me. I can replace them all in a few hours on eBay and still be making furniture and teaching my friends around the world. What a dream this all is to me today and what more can a man like me want? I have been working wood for five decades and two US Presidents have enjoyed my designs as have poor friends with nothing in Mexico and Texas, New York, Canada, England and Argentina. A million and a half people read and watch what I write and express in films crafted so carefully by my friends for them alone in each month and in every single country around the world and I have passed on my skills to conserve the best of what I know and benefitted from in the lived lives of others. I am contented my friend and my friends. I am contented.



      • salkosafic on 8 September 2015 at 2:46 am

        Truly you have lived a very fulfilled life not everyone is so fortunate if I can achieve this zen by the close of my life then my life’s work will be complete. I am only half the years in the trade of yours with much more to learn I sincerely hope I reach to my fiftieth year of working wood to have this honour like yourself to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. I sincerely hope I never allow pride to take control over me because that will be the day when I will cease to learn and will have nothing to offer.

        Congratulations Paul you truly are an inspiration to us all.



  6. Tony on 8 September 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Paul, have you offered your ideas to plane makers? I suspect so, what did they say?
    I recent started down the road of used planes, and I am not finding it as easy to find good planes reasonable. Paying $50 to $75 plus shipping for old useds planes is not reasonable to me, however, I think I need to change my definition of reasonable in this case considering the alternative is a $300 plane.



    • Paul Sellers on 9 September 2015 at 1:29 am

      Not really into plane making but I do restore a number 4 pretty well like writing my name in my sleep.
      I still think planes second hand are cheap enough. #4’s are available her for $30-35 so I would be surprised if shipping is more than $40. The cost of a #4 still comes in under $100 with shipping then, which is cheap enough for a lifetime plane. I buy one every other week or so for under £20 still.



  7. Andrew Leslie on 9 September 2015 at 2:25 am

    Hey Paul,
    I accidentally spent money on a cheap Buck Bros #4 style plane from Home Depot, before I knew any better.

    Do you think a cheap plane like this is salvageable into a useful good tool, or should I just go to ebay and replace it with an old Stanley at my soonest convenience?



    • Paul Sellers on 9 September 2015 at 8:00 am

      Buck Bros and Home Depot should be shamed, absolutely shamed by the sham of supplying America with quality goods when tools like these appear on their shelves year after year. Take it back, get your money and invest in a secondhand Stanley.



      • salkosafic on 9 September 2015 at 8:18 am

        Well said I’ve been tempted to say something but refrained myself.



  8. Jaime on 9 September 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I had to spent a long time tuning my Cliftons out of the box: they now run like Rolls Royces. It does however make you wonder what the point on spending so much money on them is….



  9. Danny on 22 September 2015 at 8:02 pm

    LN planes are superb tools, I own several and can only dream of owning all of the tools they make. One or two pounds extra on those tools and the Irons that are supplied by the maker have worked to my favor; It took a minute to learned to balance the mass and the force that I applied to the tool in use to get the best out of the tool. It is a handtool and it depends allot on the user on what performance they get out of it. Its my believe that if you have to take an inmense amount of shavings to finish a piece you defently did not prepare your stock right. My arm has not fallen off from the tools weight and I actually enjoy using and owning such a high quality tool. The tool is flawless in its design and I have not encounter someone who has said they could not finish there work because of the planes limitations.



    • Paul Sellers on 22 September 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Glad to hear it. That’s good news.



  10. Ken Powell on 30 September 2015 at 12:32 am

    Hi Paul

    I have been a hobbyist woodworker for approximately 30 years. I started with a $300 Sears 10″ table saw that I thought was the best tool I had ever seen…at the time in 1983. Along the way, i have acquired much better power tools, but I always felt something was missing in my shop. I took a class in 2012 where I learned how to make a Chippendale side chair. Seeing the instructor work “magic” with a Stanley 4 1/2 plane along with card scrapers, chisels, compass plane made me realize just how much i didn’t know after 30 years. I have built three additional side chairs and have been acquiring old Stanley planes as the “good ones” show up on eBay. I particularly like the planes built in between 1915 and 1930 because of the frog design. My point is that I totally agree with your position regarding weight of the old Stanley’s vs the heavy new offerings based on the Bedrock design. I have purchased one Lie-Nielsen 4 1/2 plane but find myself reaching for my 1918 Stanley 4 1/2 because of the fit of the handle and the lighter weight. It just feels so right in my hand. I enjoy your videos immensely and your honest and, IMHO, correct assessment of the current state of hand tools.

    -ken



  11. Spencer on 1 October 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I bought one of the Buck Bros Home Depot #4 planes a couple of years ago, before I knew any better. Do not buy one, but just in case someone is reading this and it’s too late to take it back, I managed to get mine to work fine: I flattened it (took forever), sharpened the blade up to 2000 grit, flattened the cap iron so it contacted the blade all the way across, and it still didn’t work well. After putting it away in disgust for a few months, I figured out that the portions of the frog that contact the iron were not flat at all. The iron was only contacting the frog at 2 or 3 points. It didn’t take much time to get those flat (working around the adjustment lever was awkward though). After that it worked fine–not as good as a Stanley, but ok. I’d describe it as buying a plane “kit” of almost finished parts, and you have to figure out the manufacturing defects and fix them.

    Now I have a Stanley #4 from ebay (for the same price as the BB plane) and turned the BB one into a scrub plane using Paul’s method.

    Thank you Paul for all that you do. Can’t wait to buy your book.



    • Raul on 3 April 2017 at 7:40 pm

      This is an old post, but here I am, reading it. So probably someone will also read this. Just as Spencer said, I bought a new Stanley 4C plane. It was my first plane. They are currently being made in Mexico. It didn’t work out of the box.

      The biggest problem that it had is that the blade was always protruding from the sole. No matter how much you retracted it, it was always beyond the sole. So I couldn’t really flatten the sole. It took me a while to figure it out. The problem was that the chip breaker was too long. I had to remove a lot of material from it. After that, I had to flatten the sole and blade, remove burrs from the casting, re-shape a washer so that the frog could be tightened, and reduce the length of the screw for the handle. Yes, it took me a while, but now it produces nice shavings.

      I found and old #4 from 1930 in ebay. Now that’s my finishing plane and I use the new one for rough work. I guess that the moral of the story is that all planes will work if properly tuned; it is just a matter of how much work are you willing to do.