Quangsheng No.3 Bedrock Pattern Smoothing Plane Review

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Alf

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Quangsheng No.3 Bedrock Pattern Smoothing Plane

quangsheng001.jpg


Somehow I managed to find a flimsy but sufficiently plausible excuse to satisfy my curiosity and order one of these planes from Workshop Heaven in December. Being a good little plane junkie, I only unpacked it, fondled it, hoicked the iron assembly out and took a few pics before my conscience reminded me one part of the plausible excuse was 'Christmas present'... So I put it aside until now. Anyway, it comes in its own wooden box with sliding lid, a modest 'Workshop Heaven' label stuck to the top. That turned out to be the sum total of literature included with the plane - unless you count 'No 3' on the toe and the information on the two silica gel sachets. The plane itself is well secured in its box, smothered in rust-inhibiting gunk and sealed in a sturdy plastic bag. The more cynical reader should note it really was sealed; no-one had gone over it to cherry-pick a prime example on the off-chance I was intending to review it.



The information on the product pages tell me the body is cast steel, about which I know precisely zero - except I believe it's supposed to be a Good Thing but usually expensive. It's certainly heavy; 4lb 7oz or just over 2Kg, compared to 3lbs 8oz for a cast iron LN and 3lbs 12 oz for the Clifton. I actually double-checked the weight because it seemed ridiculous. But then the overall dimensions are 9¼" long by 2 3⁄16" wide, so perhaps less surprising. The LN is only 8" long. The casting is around 1⁄8" on the sides and a trifle more at the sole.



The iron and cap iron are both 1⁄8" thick and the usual 1¾" wide; the iron being 'T10' or 'W1' as we call it in the decadent West. Lever cap is plated in a ghastly modern Stanley kinda way with a keyhole shaped slot for the cap screw, rather than a kidney type. Depth adjustment assembly might be bronze? Not sure. About ¾ of a turn of backlash and the knurling on the wheel might benefit from being knocked back a bit. Lateral adjuster is of the cheap and tacky twisted design and probably comes the closest in appearance to what you might expect from a plane of this pedigree. Tote and front knob are 'grasstree', finished with some ghastly dead brown finish, which feels okay but looks, well, dead. A dink out of the rear tote demonstrates that it probably won't wear well.



Paint finish is a sort of semi-gloss black, evenly applied and none missing. Fit and finish is really very good. Machining of the sole and sides is fine; square too, and flat enough, as you'll see. The top edges of the sides are nicely chamfered. Machining of the mating faces of the Bedrock frog are equally finely done, flat and square. The machining of the mouth is a bit rough, particularly the back edge, but square to the sides. Found a little swarf on the Bedrock posts, but there's really nothing drastic at all. Pretty impressive in fact.



Owing to the delay in getting back to it, a small bloom of rust threatened the sole and one side, so a quick swipe over some fine wet'n'dry was called for. Took no time but did demonstrate the sole and sides were flat. However alarm bells had been sounded, so I took the time to wax or oil (as necessary) all parts. I also took the opportunity to scribe the plane's name and the date of purchase on the bottom of the frog. I understand the re-branded-for-whoever's-buying mentality of manufacture, but when a manufacturer has no identifying marks on the tool or packaging, well it does nothing for one's confidence as a buyer and quite frankly I don't like it. And heck, maybe my scribble will help a galoot sometime in the future. :wink:

With the plane body all waxed and ready to go, I turned my attention to the double iron. The cap iron, if I understand the L-N 'Improved Chipbreaker' correctly, is a direct, um, 'homage' to same. Except it has quite deep and noticeable grinding/milling marks on the front edge. I ho-hummed over whether to deal with that right away, but decided it was fairer to try it first unfettled. Besides which, what about corrugated plane soles? Maybe this would be a 'find'? Slicker passage for resinous shavings... No? No, maybe not... :D



The grinding of the iron itself was much better, and a five minute burst on my diamond stone removed virtually all fine grinding marks from the back, as you can see. I confess to missing the luxury of LVs ready-lapped irons though, and I tired of the job before it was properly done. I'll come back to finish it another day. As is my custom with everything from old chisels to LV irons, I started with a hollow grind instead of the provided flat 25° bevel. I was a trifle nervous, not knowing how the W1 would behave, but took my time and a few minutes on a coarse grey wheel on my hand-cranked grinder and it was done; my fingers were approximately ¾" away from the edge and it never even got warm. I finished up with a fine diamond stone and hard white Arkansas, freehand somewhere roundabout the 30° mark. As it turns out the iron wasn't quite square and I put the plane at a disadvantage by ending up with a fractionally skewed edge; must remember to use a honing guide next time, for fairness.



About this point I found myself missing the ease of setting up a bevel-up plane, but that's not important right now... What is important is that the frog squirms around a bit, so care was needed to make sure it was set square to the mouth. I eyeballed the setting of it to try and line it up with the back of the mouth, fully expecting to have to move it. The mark 1 eyeball must be in better nick than I thought though, because it was just ideal. By the time the depth was set for a fine shaving, there was a lovely tight mouth. Huzzah. Actually setting the depth of cut was okay, if a little tedious having to knock back the backlash every time I got impatient. Once set it didn't slip or otherwise manage to disappear and cut too deep or not at all, which is the important thing.

In use this plane definitely calls for the three-finger variety of hold on the rear tote. Matthew at Workshop Heaven claims "as long as you don’t have hands like JCB digger buckets (it) is extremely comfortable to use". Well I famously don't have hands of that ilk - just ask the Veritas R&D boys, who apparently do :lol: - and I have to say it's a bit cramped in there. I think the classic tote-making mistake of not removing enough from the inside curve has been committed. That and the rather square feel - it's all a bit run-over-a-router-cutter in profile - and I can see there's plenty of room for improvement. It's not impossibly uncomfortable, but you'd start to feel it after a a panel or two. No worries though, 'cos we're woodworkers so we can probably become grasstree workers too. Meanwhile the fore finger, relegated to resting on the frog, is getting an okay ride; the finish on the backside of the frog is really very good. The front knob is, of course, of the high variety and reasonably comfy.



So setting the tool to the wood, and I started with a pretty unremarkable piece of oak scrap. Piece of cake and a lovely polished finish to it. No abrasives required here. So I decided to be naughty and plane it against the grain. Not as polished, but perfectly smooth and it didn't hiccup at all. The only tiny issue I had was a little clogging on the mouth in one corner - primarily because of that skew edge I'd missed, making everything slightly congested at one side of the mouth. I think a very fine fettle of the mouth might be beneficial as well, though. The cap iron, despite it's corrugated front edge, didn't appear to be causing any problems at all; go figure.



I had a piece of rosewood scrap floating about the place, so I had a go at that. Fine and dandy. Against the grain? Wince City, Arizona? Er, nope. Didn't turn a hair and got an admirable result. At around this point I got carried away and went through every bit of suitable scrap hardwood I had handy.



The edge held up extremely well - obviously the sharper the better, but it went blunt in a well-behaved manner and no sudden edge failure. The finish was great on everything but the odd piece that I know damn well needs a higher angle whether the plane is an old Stanley or a Lie Nielsen.



As is my custom, my opinion is based on first impressions and a preliminary play. And that opinion is that, actually, I'm - somewhat reluctantly - very impressed. This is a pretty darn good plane. I believe it's safe to say I know how to sharpen well enough to give any plane a fighting chance, but the sharpest iron in the world is no use if the adjustment isn't good enough. This plane's adjustments are good enough. They don't have the positive feel and tight tolerances of a high end plane, but they're no worse than a reasonable old Stanley or Record. The iron is thicker and takes, and holds, a wicked edge; the cap iron sturdier; and if you don't leave it unattended for three weeks minus any anti-rust protection :oops: then it's going to be a lot less rusty than the majority of old Stanley's too. The sole is flat enough, the sides square and all the parts are there, again an improvement on many an older plane. Perhaps most reassuring for the neophyte plane buyer, you get the backup of buying a new tool from a reputable dealer and knowing that, if there's a problem, you've got a much better chance of getting it sorted out. Of course if you're a real neophyte you'll want to budget in a book or DVD to tell you which bit does what as well... It's not of LN, Cliffie or LV quality, of course not. You don't get that extra something and attention to detail that a top quality plane will give you, and with the best will in the world Workshop Heaven can't give you the same level of backup for your tool that a manufacturer in the UK or North America can. The Quangsheng could be improved with tweaking, particularly for comfort, but it is eminently usable as it stands and, yes, I quite like it. But no, I won't be selling my LNs or Veritas. I may be mad, but I'm not insane... :wink:

Available from Workshop Heaven and cost me £79.50 (December 2009)

No affiliation with Workshop Heaven or whoever the dickens Quangsheng might be, and it's an entirely unsolicited review.

Footnote:
I debated long and hard over whether to address the moral and ethical implications of purchasing a Chinese-made knock-off; planes similar to this have provoked very passionate debate, particularly in North America. But then it occurred to me that I've never delved into the implications of not owning one single British-made Clifton Bedrock, never tut-tutted at LN for having an entire line of tools largely based on other people's designs, and never debated whether one should buy Canadian if you care about baby seals. So I'm not going to start now. I know, more or less, where I stand. I'm betting you, the reader, know where you stand. 'Nuff said.
 

Mr Ed

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Excellent review Alf and quite thought provoking in respect of the benefits (or otherwise) of high end planes.

Ed
 

newt

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Alf a top review makes me feel a couple of years younger, if you carry on like this you will be sharpening saws. What ever next :wink: .
 

Mattty

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Thats a brilliant review, thanks Alf. I generally 'skip' reviews as being a tad cynical i don't always believe the reviwers motives.
I am after a no6 and don't have the budget for a Clifton which would be my first choice, do you have any knowledge of there no6?
 

big soft moose

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Nice review alf and very helpful to those of us (like me) who know less about these things - any chance of you getting a quasheng no.6 to review :lol: as thats the one i'm umming and ahhing about at the moment
 

Modernist

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Nice review Alf - I'm glad you also found the iron to hold a good edge. There are times when you start to question your own judgement, it seemed too good to be true to me.

Mr Grims currently got mine on a deep testing regime and apart from finding the 9 1/2 a bit heavy he seems to approve!

The slightly soft mechanism seems a remakably small sacrifice for the huge differrence in price.

I only have one gap on the shelf currently, with the No 6 on it, so I'm tempted.
 

Chris Knight

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Alf,

It's really great to have another review from you - thank you!

It's great to see a bit more competition in this area too. I definitely don't want it to seriously hurt our North American friends or Clifton but a bit of a spur to even greater things is not so bad.
 

Alf

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Thankee, chaps. Was fun getting back on the old reviewing hobby horse again. As for the #6, well now you come to mention it, I don't actually have a #6... But nope, I'm not going there! I imagine the gist of quality of adjustment and finish would be just as applicable. The only queries I'd personally have would be whether the straightness of sole and so forth is maintained in the larger plane, and what effect the weight of the casting has on the balance. The former could be a deal breaker; the latter maybe not so much, depending on your use.

newt":3le9qvs0 said:
Alf a top review makes me feel a couple of years younger, if you carry on like this you will be sharpening saws. What ever next :wink: .
Pete, next I'm hoping the time warp will carry me back to when I was actually making stuff. If it can find one of those tiny windows of opportunity. :lol:
 

Modernist

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Was it Wizer who had a No 6 for review.

Even on a 2nd look that No 3 looks on balance to be a desirable addition. Not for me (Veritas hands I'm afraid) I'd have to hold it like a block plane :D
 

wizer

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Nope not me. I'd have gone for a 5 1/2 if they did them. Is a no.6 wildly different to a 5 1/2?

I did have the spokeshave for review and I will post my findings as soon as I'm not spending most of the day riving in agony ;)

Good review Alf, thanks.
 

Modernist

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Sorry to hear you are not well - hope you're OK soon.

I don't have a 5 1/2 either but I do have a 5 which is lacking in heft and width for general work. The QS 6 had the additional advantage of a bedrock frog and old Stanley 6's are going for about £55 so it's no contest. Since I have a 7 and 8 for long edging a 6 seems a good choice for upper end general work with benefit of a bit more length but less weight than the 7 and 8 which take a bit of heaving.

My existing 5 can then be set up in virtual scrub mode. I'll put a reasonable camber on the 6 with hardly any on the 7 and none on the 8, both of which will now stay on standard blades. Now there's a saving :D

That's my thinking anyway
 

wizer

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I think I might try a No.6 and the Block plane. That'll do me nicely. ;)
 
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Like Matty, above, I'm typically cynical about reviewer's motives, etc.

Not so with your review. Great presentation apparently unencumbered by a whole lot of baggage and commercial associations.

Will look forward to more.
 
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