Hand Tools Archive

Observation 2

David Weaver
The buck irons are soft (that's what's in the stanley). A soft iron is better for use with the buffer - for whatever reason, they are easier to get right with geometry and the sharpness seems smoother off of the buffer. No clue why. I did a video with the buffer and sharpened hard and soft irons, so it is, of course, not a problem to buff any of them to finish, but the cheap buck irons have come out as great users.

I had no issue planing cocobolo with them, either, nor bubinga. They will get dull faster than the latest wiz bang whatever, but the harder irons will sustain damage in the hardwoods, especially with silica, and it will become a challenge to stay ahead of that damage.

I'll be using these inexpensive irons for a while as I found no real shortcoming with them planing all of the bed parts (which was full of knots) and the pain in the rear of getting them to take a good edge on natural stones (they are cut too easily and the softness makes them retain a wire edge more than a harder "dryer" feeling iron) - that nuisance doesn't exist with the buffer.

Here's the most interesting part. In medium hardwoods and in cocobolo, the buck iron in a stanley plane will plane a greater volume of wood than the A2 iron in the bevel up plane, even when sharpened with the same abrasives.

I don't know if I could create a standardized test to show the shortened edge life of a 55 degree effective edge vs. a stanley plane with a 45 degree iron and cap iron set close, but it probably wouldn't be that hard. Standardized tests often don't do a good job of showing nuances in actual work, though, and in this case, the stanley plane stays regulated in the cut far better and that equates to it feeling the same for much longer on top of the nominal longer lasting edge without respect to feel (i.e., it's more better than just the extra volume planed).

The BU plane is a beginner's trap. I know from experience in the past that a lot of end grain work (from making kitchen cabinets) in the vise is done far better with a stanley 4 than a bu jack. The stanley is less sticky and gets through the cut with less resistance.

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