A Stay-set # 3 Record Bench Plane

For more information on planes, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

It’s quite a lovely plane really. Compact and lightweight, feisty in the hand and then dead gutsy. That’s how I feel about all of the #3s really. I love plucking them from my tools from time to time and seeing them flip, turn and twist to task so willingly and immediately in my hands as I work my wood. But then there’s something uniquely special about this one I have and that’s the Stay-set element originating with the Record range of bench planes. Only Record made Stay-sets and in the #3 size it is especially scarce and getting rarer by the month these days. I looked on eBay when I started writing here to see how many there were and there were just two there.

The Stay-set Record bench plane; compact and short, feisty, gutsy, punchy and versatile.

I never used to like Stay-sets, couldn’t see the point in them, that is until I came to the conclusion that once the back face of the cutting iron is indeed lapped and polished out close to near flatness, it need never be done again. That being fact, it is only necessary to take the bevel down to the cutting edge when sharpening and polishing off the bevel to the buffing compound level and not at all the back, flat face. The buffing compound will remove the burr. If for some reason it doesn’t then the first stroke with the plane into the wood will remove it anyway. So I developed my liking for the Stay-set planes along the way and adding the #3 to my collection was my treat.

My #3 Stay-set plane had obviously never worked for any previous owner, which made me sad not prideful. I say that because the shavings jammed with every stroke I took when I bought it. As soon as the plane touched the wood I recognised the symptoms and I imagined the former owner/s struggling to get a decent shaving only to find the throat clogged with every stroke. Maybe that was why the lever cap was cinched down so hard the adjuster was just fixed immovably in one heavy-set position. By screwing the lever cap down it would apply enough pressure to the cap iron to force closure to the leading edge where the lever cap meets the back of the cutting iron. What was really needed was simple; abrade the underside of the cap iron to remove the hollow and the missed scallop at the leading edge and the incredible dynamic of tension between the assembly components can meet the wood to engage the full task of shaving.

The log jam in the throat tells the story.

The first tell-tale sign is the concertina shaving emitted in the throat of the plane. This first shaving always highlights the beginning of a jam. A second and third stroke will show a full jam on the underside of the plane in the throat and then too in the throat looking through from the top. Loosen the lever cap and, regardless of whether the cap iron is a regular type or a stay-set, you will find a compressed jam between the cap iron and the up-stand formed in the sole casting at the fore part of the plane. It’s good at this point to take a good look at what’s happened rather than just tugging the shavings away. By examination, you should be able to see exactly where the shaving jam began.

Still jammed betwixt cap iron and blade.

Remove the cap iron now and you will see the shavings in relation to the cutting iron and the cap iron. 99% of the time the leading edge of the cap iron is open.

The jammed throat builds up pressure stroke by stroke.


Shine to the flanks highlights the central hollow area to show where we need to abrade down to.

Even the very slightest opening here will result in a jam because the shavings always start from infinity and thicken as the shaving stroke progresses into the wood.

Rub back and forth and in one minute you have unity with the cutting iron.

This is always underestimated by new users and it is a common occurrence with new planes from both the Stanley and record stables of old. I can’t speak for new models but my experience tells me nothing has improved in the last sixty years by these British plane makers.

Almost there; get right up to the fore edge.

No matter the cap iron type, it’s a simple thing to flatten the underside of the cap iron on a flat surface. Here I am using a diamond plate but a file or abrasive paper will do the same. Rub back and forth if using stones or plates or abrasive paper on a  flat surface. Flip over to look for shine and this will reveal any hollow or bevel to the underside.

Keep going just enough to close off this inaccuracy when the cap iron marries back to the cutting iron. Reload into the plane body and make adjustments to the lever cap and the plane will whisk off shavings with the best of the rest.



  1. Thank you! At this point in my hand tool woodworking, a modern Stanley #5 is all I have, and I’ve had it nearly a decade now. After setting the cap iron as closely to the end of the iron as you show, this would happen, and would drive me crazy. I finally backed the cap iron to leave at least a 2 – 3 mm gap, and this seemed to prevent the jamming most of the time. I thought I had flattened the bottom of the cap iron shortly after I got the plane, but maybe not, or I didn’t do a very good job. I will take another look.

    1. I don’t think I have said as close to the edge as possible.Anywhere 1 to 3mm works but tighter on close grain works best.

  2. I feel sorry for previous owners, when I find old tools like this in unused condition. They must have had promising expectations, and left feeling disappointed, probably blaming their lack of ability. I cannot understand why Stanley/Record & Co. never thought to include Fettling Pamphlets with new tools when they weren’t going to finish the task themselves.
    I’m glad to have discovered the merits of the #3 Plane early on, before the waves of buyers jostling at auction. I actually prefer it to the #4. It’s lighter, yet just as capable.

  3. Having been inspired by your original work bench series, I recently bought the tools and materials I required to go forth and build. Your video content is exceptional and your information has provided nothing but pleasure. After watching your videos, I have sharpened/setup my tools and cut some practice M&T’s. The first time I used a really sharp chisel I giggled like a little girl and I couldn’t stop carving away. The same goes for when I sharpened and setup my #4 bench plane. The glass like finish it produced was a pure joy. I had a little step in the surface at first, but using your guidance I quickly corrected that.

    Thank you.

    Any idea when the new “Work Bench” series will be available? I can’t wait to get started ?

    BTW, Hannah did an awesome job

  4. I bought a Stanley #45 that had never been used. The blade would not lock into the plane so it couldn’t be used. Quick fix on the grinder and away we go.

  5. Paul love this new angle of posting your blog weekly

    After asking you said you were on the steps….is that still true?
    PLEASE tell us when you start a new project.
    Thanks John2V

  6. Does “stay-set” refer to the 2-piece cap iron design with the removable end piece? Modern Clifton planes use this design, so if someone is willing to pay for a new plane and doesn’t mind the weight of a Bedrock, that’s where you can find one. I bought a #3 and a #5 Clifton before learning to restore old planes. My #3 Clifton is, by far, the best cutting plane I own. I don’t know why.

    I’m undecided about the stay-set feature. At times, it just seems to be a frustration because I forget it’s a two piece cap and then have to go chase the end piece when it falls off as I take the iron out of the plane because I’m not paying attention. I’m not sure it really saves any sharpening time. But, I definitely like the Cliftons, as long as I don’t remember the prices.

    1. Well, I certainly would not buy a modern stay-set for the stay-set element as a plus. I just did this as an interesting element. Makers, as in the case of the one you mention, put their own spin on attracting sales by dissing secondhand planes as being in need of” hours of flattening and fettling to make them fit for use.” Most any vintage plane will likely need no real deep flattening and then only minimal fettling. I can take almost any plane no matter the maker and even the cheapos and have them totally working in about 15-30 minutes max. Often the high end planes need flattening and fettling anyway.

  7. What else could cause the throat to keep jamming up with shavings,I’ve flattened my no4 to the best my eyes can tell,but once I’m every ten passes,the plane stops cutting because the shaving is sticking out of the bottom of the mouth and prevents the blade from taking a shaving.
    So not really a jam,just a shaving sticking out the bottom

    1. Some times when you drag back the shaving can be sticking to the sole and unless you know how to work it the shaving jams on the underside of the cutting iron and up against the rear sole.

        1. Either run the plane all the way off the end of the work or lift the back (heel) of the plane before stopping the forward movement if you’re not working all the way to the end. Lifting the heel leads to cutting the shaving. Either way, frequently grab the shavings and toss them aside rather than letting them accumulate in the throat.

        2. Correction: “Run all the way off the work” really means run the mouth off the work. You can keep the heel engaged so that you do not need to reregister. When lifting the heel, the toe stays on…it’s a tilt or rotation more than a lift.

    2. I’m finding that this very afternoon on some pine – beautifully even and fine shavings with my No. 5 – but it’s really down to my technique as I’m a little too quick to pull back on the plane with the sole on the workpiece and that’s trapping the nearly-but-not-quite-ejected last shaving under the sole.

      Just a little less haste and allowing the point of cut to over-run the workpiece a little more is allowing that last shaving to clear.

      1. It’s some really knotty white wood I’ve been working on,it has knots every 6” so the grain is all over the place lol.

        Baptism of fire for sure as it’s the first project I’ve ever made,it’s a tool chest similar to Paul’s and the anarchists.

        I did what Paul recommended and used 13/16ths instead of the 3/4” Chris Schwaz said to use.

        I’m glad I did as just the carcass weights a fair bit already,without the lid tool tools and tools etc.

        Can’t wait to get better to so I can return to work and afford to join masterclasses and build some funiture for the house,keep the Mrs sweet

  8. All of my Stanley planes were purchased used, I must have bought 30 or more of them over the years. I’ve had to tune every one of them to make them work. I have given half of them away as gifts after being able to take shavings that you could see through without jamming the plane.
    From this small sample of planes I would suspect that most hobbiest/ homeowners were never able to make them work.

    1. Dear Mr. Sellers
      I have a Record No. 4 plane with the “stay-set” cap iron. I don’t use the plane because it has a crack in one of the side-cheeks. However, I actually took the blade assembly from the Record and put it into my Stanley No.4.,not because I see much advantage from the stay-set system, but because I think the slightly thicker Record blade and the design of the Record cap-iron gives greater stability to the blade and eliminates chatter.
      It is inherent in the design of the Bailey lever-cap that it only bears down on the blade at two places: across the front edge and right at the back end where the cam-lever is. I’ve noticed that,using the Stanley blade, when the lever-cap is locked down, a paper-thin gap opens up between the lower face of the blade and the upper surface of the frog around the middle part of the blade, and I suspect this is enough to allow the blade to flex and chatter. The Record cap-iron, with the deeper bearing surface shown in your photos, as opposed to the “bulged-up” Stanley cap-iron, seems to go a long way to prevent chatter.
      I know you don’t particularly favour the thicker replacement blades for Stanley planes, and I haven’t tried them, but I would just say that a properly-set wooden plane with it’s much thicker iron and wedge bearing on a greater surface area never seems prone to chatter.

      1. I’ve said it before many times and I’ll say it here, Ivor, my planes never, ever chatter with just the standard irons in place in either Record or Stanley so, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Actually, did you ever ask yourself why the irons are thicker on wooden planes by the throat and then taper? Was it to prevent chatter? Not at all, it was to counter the pressure of push and then the wedge too. When the plane is pushed into the wood there is a lot of pressure on the cutting iron assembly. With the blade itself being a wedge it tightens itself under pressure so it can’t go anywhere.

  9. On topic I have a normal record no 3,rose wood handles and the first type under the record brand.

    I bought it for my 11 yr old some to use,I’m trying to get him into woodworking,he’s slowly getting more interested.

    1. Great place to start, I’d say! Well done. Bit by bit you can win them away from just working two thumbs on a glass screen.

  10. The cap iron for my Stanley 4 is slipping away from the edge when I tighten it. Remedies?

    1. Usually there is some burr around the hole that receives the setscrew and a little abrading or filing will correct it.

  11. Paul,
    On the subject of planes, now seems perhaps an appropriate time to update us on how you have got on with the “cheap” planes you bought a year or so back.
    You said you were going to use them for a while and report.
    Shortly after your blog on the subject I was in a branch of “Toolstation”, (for something not woodworking), and bought a “Silverline” #4 plane there, for a little over £12. The sole was darned near perfect right from the get go, though I did have to adjust the lever cap arm as per one of your tips.
    It works just great, and though I have several #4 planes, (Stanleys and Record), it’s the one I pick up most. The only “gripe”, and I’m nitpicking slightly, is that it doesn’t seem to hold it’s edge as long as the others.
    How do you find yours then?

    Matt Sims

  12. Very timely and helpful! Ive been having this same exact problem. Many thanks for your tips!!

  13. A little over a year ago when I started woodworking my first #4 Stanley plane I bought on Ebay arrived and I had this exact problem with jamming. I read everything I could find to try and understand why my plane was jamming so badly, and no one had an answer, until in total frustration I went about flattening every part and piece on the plane that made sense to be flat to an OCD level. Wish I had known it was just the cap iron. But either way after flattening the back if the iron, cap iron, frog, and even the lever cap, the plane cut absolutely beautifully after the many hours on rubbing down each surface with sand paper on a piece of plate glass and still does a year later without a single jam.

  14. Thanks Paul. I love work with bench plane. great explanation about this record bench plane, it is a quality brand.

  15. I have a couple of spare No 3’s, now that you have blogged about the Record, I expect the prices to shoot up and I can make a few bob out of mine (and reinvest the proceeds in more tools of course!).

  16. Paul,

    I’ve acquired an I think 60’s Record No. 5 with the “Stay-Set”. It has very few miles on it.
    You wrote an earlier blog saying “Stay-Sets” don’t stay set. This more recent blog is diametrically opposite to that.
    I was going to replace the “Stay-Set” cap Iron which appears gimmicky to me with a Veritas one, what do you advise?


    1. I changed my mind on this because I realised after a few years that I no longer strop the flat face of tools once I have initialised that face. It is totally unnecessary to continue stropping this face as this face never wears. Taking the bevel down into the steel is enough to reestablish the cutting edge. That being the case, the stay set iron allows for the bevel to be sharpened without the nuisance of removing the cap iron every time you sharpen.

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