Hand Tools Archive

Anything else to test? Testing iron durability

david weaver
I've ordered a V11 stanley replacement iron and have a new LN A2 iron little used already (not my favorite kind of iron, but generally the best of the A2 irons available).

I also found a hock high carbon still in my piles (which I didn't think I had), and will test one of the $10 chinese high speed steel irons along with the group.

These are all stanley type irons. I want to, if possible, test all of the irons in the same plane and on the same wood. The procedure will be as follows:

* sharpen the irons initially after confirming in use that they are in good nick (as in, eliminate any poor performing anomalies before starting. If something is wrong with an iron, it's easy to tell when dimensioning and it's usually temporary). I will sharpen with a guide, which I never do, but just to control variables, and will sharpen on synthetic stones.

* take microscope photo of the edges (I may sharpen the various irons on other media just to see how the edges do to spot any issues. For example, A2 hates washitas. V11 grades them a little bit but takes a decent edge. I will probably not test anything other than the synthetically sharpened edges)

* take 100 strokes with each iron setting shaving thickness at .002". Swap irons after each 100 strokes and take a picture of each to get progressive dulling pictures. Will be rotated before dullness to limit the effect of wood variability

* the test wood will be hard maple. It's tempting to find something that is more abrasive like cocobolo to speed up the test, but the results may not be representative of how irons will wear in "normal wood".

The only subjective part of the test is that I will comment on the surface with each stage (it's hard to get pictures of small lines on wood because automatic cameras want to ignore that kind of thing - just as they like to cancel out reflections on a cleanly planed surface. I guess that is an outdoor glare reduction type function). I will plane until each no longer wants to stay in the cut under typical hand/arm weight (as in, until in actual use, you'd need to lean on a plane to get a continuous shaving).

I expect the V11 will fare best, and hope that it will also provide the best surface outside of O1 and simpler irons (and possibly better than the hock HCS iron at some point).

I have done a test like this comparing A2 irons in the past, and that and experience trying to get a finish off of the plane has shown the LN irons that I've had to be least likely to chip and leave lines if they're accommodated. I'd consider them the middle of the road standard in modern irons.

If I manage to do and document all of the above, I may run the test a second time just to confirm the results (this will take eons, thousands of shavings and I'm not going to do it all at once), and then do the same test either in a different wood or with a different shaving thickness.

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