Bench plane review - Record #4 vs Millers Falls

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indeed, and as Mr Sellers himself says the evidence of chatter can be removed with a couple of swipes with the sandpaper in any case.

I am still intrigued by the - admittedly very subjective - comments on the improved way that planes feel when using a Record Stay Set, and wonder if the same is true for the 2 part lever cap. In a surprise turn of events I will be taking some time off from tool-fiddling in the Spring to do some actual woodwork (I have decided to make a new bench - hand tools only this time!). Watch this space for some real world experiments!
Right, I am never one to leave a dead horse unflogged, so here is the promised information about imitators of the marvellous MF lever cap. I already remarked that only one (that I could find) highly discerning manufacturer copied the design.

Who was it I hear you all cry?! Non other than the Lee Valley. As some may recall, in the mid 1980s LV launched a new range of planes branded 'Paragon' that were a copy of the MF design and included the word famous lever cap. It was not a happy tale, unfortunately, as the planes were quickly withdrawn following complaints about quality. This sawmillcreek thread contains a post from Rob Lee himself explaining the problems:

The basic problem we had with the Paragon planes at that time was really the inappropriate body material, and inconsistent stress relief. With cast iron - it can move significantly - overnight, after a week, or after a year. We checked and re-machined each one manually (pre-CNC days!!) ...

While it was at/near the top of the heap in it's day - tolerances and materials are far better now, from several suppliers.... and customers have far more measuring tools

It is interesting - and perhaps charitable - of Mr Lee to attribute some of the challenges to increased customer expectations, but I wonder also if it was a reflection on the oft quoted view that hand-tool manufacturing standards had deteriorated significantly after the 1950s? Perhaps there was a good reason for the old practice of leaving castings out in all weathers to "season" after all!

The good news is that this episode encouraged LV to take over plane manufacturing themselves, something they seem to have got quite good at.

a comparison between the MF and Paragons here:

and some more info here:

including a pic of the 1984 catalogue entry:


PS the sawmillcreek link is worth pursuing for links to several pictures of LV's 'old tool warehouse' - I wonder if this is a museum or for research purposes? example:

Hello all,

I got in touch with Rob Lee of Lee Valley (Veritas) and he was kind enough to reply to my daft enquiries. The disappointing news is they do not have any plans to reintroduce the 2-piece lever cap - one of the problems being that there is no standard for the set-back distance for the screw that retains the lever cap, so there would be no guarantee it would be compatible with most bench planes on the market.

I am duty bound to point out that this would have been an ideal opportunity for him to blame the lever-cap design itself, but he did not - surely more evidence (as if it were needed!) of the brilliance of the design.

He also pointed out that it would probably be as affordable to by MF parts/planes for their caps, compared to the cost of a newly produced cap. Sage advice indeed, so make sure you get hold of yours soon before they are all gone!


PS Veritas do a brilliant range of tools, don't they? I have a Veritas block plane and it is the best made hand tool I have by a country mile.