Oh, it was such a sick, sinking feeling in my spirit. My student’s Irwin Record #4 smoothing plane sat bright blue atop his workbench awaiting my critique. He was proud of it but couldn’t get it to cut at all. I thought to myself, ‘well, it can’t be much, I’ll get it working!’ and I did, eventually. The blue may have put me off, but then when my hands touched it, picked it up, twiddled the parts, that was the point at which I knew it would be left to me burst his bubble. Still, I thought, it would be a kindness to let him down sooner than later so we pitched in to correct the flawed perspective of the giants view of what they make.
Here is IRWIN Record’s perspective of their planes taken from their website. Then I’ll give you mine alongside.
“IRWIN Record bring decades of experience and well proven design in this fine range of woodworking planes.”
- Irwin Record had nothing to do with designing the #4 Leonard Bailey pattern bench plane or many of their other planes. Mostly their planes are knock offs of the Leonard Bailey-pattern planes.
- Irwin Record therefore has no “proven” record of designing bench planes as such. See 1, above.
- To my knowledge spanning almost six decades in the field, Irwin Record NEVER designed or made a “fine range of woodworking planes.” All planes produced by Record or Record Marples came before Irwin took over the company. And the planes they have made for the last 6 decades have all been poorly made, badly finishes and fall far short of what should be expected.
Now to the nitty gritty. I picked up the plane and thought how shoddy it felt. Typically the plane sells for around £35 in the UK but it is on sale at Screwfix for £15. If you want one for spares it could be worth it except the on e I held had blade with a twist so big you might want it for a boat propellor. The handle is too small for most men’s hands of average size. The stamped out plate work for the cap iron and blade is shoddily finished or even unfinished. and requires filing to remove the burred edges to all of the components. The taped hole for the centre bolt securing the blade to the capo iron has a protrusion that prevents the plate from sitting tight against the cap iron which results in not being able to set the blade cutting edge to the cap iron correctly. The half moon at the heel of the plane has a sharp corn that damages the wood on the reverse stroke.
It took me best part of an hour to get the plane to work and that is with my experience of restoring hundreds of planes over a lifetime of woodworking. Whereas Irwin Record should be thoroughly ashamed of their bench planes they arrogantly boat of creating fine planes. In my estimation they parallel low entry level planes and it is no wonder that anyone is surprised when their planes simply cannot be made to work without serious input from a knowledgeable user. What Irwin Record did was open the door to success by other makers new to the world of plane making. These makers simply did with Irwin Record should have done but never did. For a minor investment of manpower, perhaps a few minutes more, they could put out a top notch plane that could sell for double and they would most likely put other makers out of business. Too late now!