Hand Tools Archive

Re: LN's comments are a 50/50 mix

david weaver
Not necessarily less skill, but sharpenability. Some of it may have been less assumed skill, though. A friend's dad was a trade carpenter (he's long dead now) in the UK. He took care of his tools well enough and used them HARD, but sharpened with a carborundum stone and an india stone. I'm sure most of his sharpening was done on site, and the tools showed the abuse of site work.

Once stanley had a lot of customers working on site with mail order millwork, I'd assume the skill level of the user went down.

The 1900 or so irons seem to be slightly harder than the WW2 era tools, though it can be hit or miss. I'm sure some would like to assume that the laminated stanley irons would be harder, but I haven't found that to be universally true (even on irons with little use and no sign of being abused).

I don't think any professional maker would've tempered an iron to hock standards at any point because a site worker or a craftsman using only stones wouldn't tolerate it.

I'd be willing to bet that stanley's pre WWII stock is at least as good of quality as the base stock that hock's irons use, as I've had several of those in the past (sold all except one A2 that is in a plane....actually, it's the record from the UK joiner/carpenter mentioned above - it was given to me because his son isn't sentimental to say the least, but I'm waiting for a time that he'll actually take it back and not putting an iron that I'm too fond of in it because I know he won't use it when he does - the record iron that was in it was beyond recovery).

At any rate, I prefer stanley's irons to hock. I prefer mine to stanley's but it's not something that would move the needle. The problem with the hock irons is more fundamental - they don't fail in a fine way (the O1s), at least in the several I've seen. George actually brought this up to me separately after I sold mine off - he prefers a dark straw or even light brown. I didn't ask him why, but I suspect it's because he was actually making things with his tools and couldn't stand chipping irons.

I have some other hock made irons - one directly from ron - that do not exhibit the chippiness of the bench plane irons, but one was left over from a custom project and the other two came through Ron Brese, so those aren't exactly an option. Not sure if the starting stock for those is different.

My findings with Starrett O1 and Precision Presto O1 (both on the higher side of O1 steel, but not by any means expensive if you're doing something useful with them) across the board so far make me think that most substandard O1 irons are due to substandard starting stock. I haven't tempered my shooting plane yet. It must be 64 hardness, and it's a nuisance because of it, but I wanted to see how it would hold up. It's 40 degrees and bevel down with no back bevel or any of that nonsense, and it doesn't chip on any reasonable wood.

It's just hard to discuss any of these things without context. It's like the average discussion of a 59/60 hardness (deep straw or dark straw) iron being called too soft. What's the context? Working Cherry? No way. Anyone who thinks that's too soft is probably working with too thin of a shaving. Can more work be accomplished with a harder highly alloyed iron? Not in my experience. What about the stones? The fastest are the most productive? Also, not in my experience. I like an iron at 61/62 better than one at 59/60, but if I was working on a site somewhere, that wouldn't be the case. If I'd never made tools, I wouldn't care or know about any of it. If I'd never bought all of the stones that I've had, I'd never know that you can basically tell the hardness of an iron or knife (or chisel) with a familiar washita stone. It probably wouldn't make any difference with what I'm making, but I'd have gone away from anything more alloyed than oil hardening steel because it leaves lines on work and only lasts longer in a contest of 1 thousandth shavings.

© 1998 - 2017 by Ellis Walentine. All rights reserved.
No parts of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by
any means without the written permission of the publisher.