Hand Tools

V11/XHP is sort of the woodworker's alloy
Response To:
Plane blade metrics ()

David Weaver
When we tested blades, CPM M4 slightly outlasted V11, but it didn't wear quite as uniformly and the planing resistance was greater. I'd choose V11 over it, but there may be situations where high hardness M4 does "more better", like interrupted cuts.

I don't know, but I do know that getting a CPM M4 iron or 10 would be expensive.

In terms of why you'd bother to use this or even O1, it's simple. I can get flat stock and make a blade in an hour and have control over the hardness. The iron will then nick and notch less easily than 3V or V11, and if it does, it'll be twice as fast to grind and hone through the damage, and it'll sharpen on anything if the hardness is driven up a little bit.

In day to day work, I can't duplicate edge longevity with alloyed irons as the test results showed. XHP lasts a little longer. It takes more nicking and the edge life span decreases from the test results and then it takes far more effort to get rid of several thousandths of edge to eliminate the nicking. 3V would take the same nicking (the maple inclusion did some of its most drastic work on 3V, probably due to the iron's softness). Nobody cares about those little nicks in a knife, what they care about is large parts of the edge leaving.

When I made a bed last year and planed pine with defects in it, the only iron that went damage free was the ward iron in my try plane. I tested a ward iron in the edge life test, and it didn't fare that well against V11, but in "real work" that makes twice that a different plane with a ward iron does far more planing than V11 (and requires far less then to refresh it because there's no damage). The first time was sizing plane bodies with an older butcher iron (but a good one, one that's not soft) in a try plane against an LV custom plane. I could size a plane body from rough wood with the butcher iron try plane, but the custom 5 1/2 sized plane was more effort to use and despite a longer wearing iron, it wouldn't stay in the cut.

I"ve gone completely back to O1 and water hardening steel - edge life is kind of meaningless when you can increase the shaving thickness to offset it and nicking and how fast you can hone something becomes the real issue. The steels that are the least abrasion resistant seem to be the best (especially at higher hardness) at holding up in something less than ideal.

What's the difference between me and someone new to woodworking who will plane a lot of test pieces and who may just be smooth planing uninterrupted wood coming out of a planer? probably a lot. I think they'll like whatever iron tests the best.

Making a plane iron is kind of like sharpening saws, though. If you know how to do it, it's less effort to make one than it is to find someone else to do some of the steps. And it's less hassle. Making has also allowed me to learn that toughness isn't really a necessary attribute in woodworking tools - we don't find limits due to toughness, and then if there is deflection and the steel remains, that's actually a detriment rather than an asset.

(separate aside, in regular use, the hard green chinese iron is also something I'd choose over 3v and V11 - its hardness is a virtue - it gets unexpected edge strength from it and no real desire to hold on to its wire edge. I think it'd be an entirely different seeming iron at 59 hardness, though it would be easier to flatten it).

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