Hand Tools Archive

Edge Longevity - soon forgotten

David Weaver
I see there is a raging (well, it's more like an incense fire) debate on another forum about the longevity of V11 and already some misinformation about it (and i'll include XHP because my irons are nearly identical in feel and relative life to O1 as the factory V11 irons are).

I suppose there will always be fans of carbon steel - I think carbon steel is still the best choice for rough work as I'm convinced it nicks the least easily and when it does, grinding anything like that out is twice as fast as pretty much anything else on the market.

But for planing in clean wood, there isn't a carbon steel iron on earth that will match V11 or XHP if they are made to even remotely similar spec.

When comparing numbers from one board to the next, to have any relevant comparison, you'd need to use both irons on the same board, and probably rotating back and forth.

What I found in tests (since it's quickly forgotten) is not a longevity difference of 10 or 30% in long grain, rather a factor of 1.8 to slightly greater than 2 in several tests.

In the two full tests that I did head to head with my O1 iron (which would outlast probably 99.9% of stock stanley irons), the footage was 1570 feet for V11 to 780 for O1. when I made an xhp iron, first iron that I made - 4046 feet XHP, 2224 feet with my O1 iron.

I also used a ward plane just to test edge properties with less than optimal sharpening and footages were about 20-25% less than my O1 irons (still love ward irons, but using them side by side, it's undeniable that even good O1 has enough alloying in it to make a difference).

The only test that was close was end grain, V11 planed 1051 to O1s 992. The V11 was noticeably less painful to plane with (less resistance) and the gap where they were comfortable to use is wider than the final result - the last half of the O1 test was brutal. It was much more difficult to come up with a subjective stopping point with end grain than it was long grain.

I didn't test chisels, so I can't comment there.

The two different pieces of beech mentioned above should be enough illustration to clarify why you can't plane another board in another shop (not even the same type of wood as those beech boards came from the same dealer in the same load, possibly even from the same tree) and compare results in feet. A relative comparison has to be done.

This isn't a discussion about this or that entire system, just iron longevity in clear wood (Which is what most people do most of their planing in). I guess I need to make a couple of videos at some point to get the results posted publicly.

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