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woodbrains

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Hello,

Has anyone done any comparison testing of replacement plane irons. Personally I favour Clifton/Victor irons and decided a while ago to replace all my planes' irons with the same. However, the cost of the little blighters is becoming really prohibitive; I think the first one I bought was 23 pounds and it wasn't that long ago. Currently they are 45 to 48 ish for 2 and 2-3/8 widths. Hock irons are, too, becoming rather silly, pricewise.

The Quangsheng replacements have the thickness I like and are really appealing in terms of finish and not least price, but I have an irritating niggle that buying these is rather un-patriotic, when the Sheffield made Cliffies should be given my patronage. Does any one think that the Clifton's are worth the extra, as well as supporting British industry? I could buy 3 Chinese irons for the price of one Clifton; am I mad to feel a little uneasy even considering the switch?

I spotted Ray Isles thicker irons on the WH website which are priced about right, in my mind. Has anyone any experience with these, compared to Cliftons and the rest. I don't mind doing a fair bit of fettling (back flatting etc.) if the steel is good, but if all I end up with is a similar product to the original plane iron, I think I might as well plump for the Quangsheng and live with my guilt. Or are there any other options?

Mike.
 

jimi43

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I think it is hugely personal and controversial to include the elements of patriotism and "slave" labour into the equation when deciding on a plane iron (or any other purchase come to that).

This is something for the buyer's conscience and beliefs which only the buyer can conclude.

If we take these aspects away for the moment, I would say that the British irons are superior and if price were not an issue, most here would choose those. Standard "Chinese" irons found in lesser examples of planes are total rubbish but the higher quality ones such as those from QS are very nice indeed. The one I tested was both easy to sharpen and seemed to hold an edge very well so far. It is T10 steel which appears to have all the benefits of the A2 steels but without the hassles.

As for further comparisons...check the search engine here, not sure if anyone has done a complete review of all of them side-by-side but someone will know.

Jim
 

Cheshirechappie

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Working on the basis that you'd have to do an awful lot of planing to wear an iron out, the chances are that you'd only have to buy a replacement iron once in a lifetime for any given plane. Spreading the cost over a period of months would re-iron as many planes as most of us actually need in about half a year or so.

If your existing irons are modern Stanley/Record thin things, then I think replacement is worth it. It made a noticable difference to my Record 07 (using a Clifton replacement, which I'm delighted with). If the existing irons are fairly thick, I'd be tempted to leave as is.

The old saying 'you never get owt for nowt' is very true. If you buy really good quality, you pay the price; but you only have to pay it once.
 

beech1948

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It is also the role of the manufacturer to provide goods at a price we can afford and a quality we can appreciate.

Recent price rises have driven into the market with little or no thought to Joe Public and our wallets. The Cliffie at £45 to £48 is now simply too expensive. Hock irons are at such a huge mark-up to US prices that they make it unpalatable to buy them at UK prices.

My choice for you would be to establish that the QS / AI irons are of suitable quality and then to choose whichever of these was the cheapest given equivalent quality. AI are at least UK based and make their irons.

I use both QS and AI irons. I can't tell which is which in a blindfold test. Results are identical and that's what counts. I have 3 LN planes and 1 LV and can see no difference in quality of result with either of them to the Stanley's with QS/AI blades. LN and LV are easier to use, easier to adjust and slightly more precise.

If UK manufacturing is not able to provide goods at the right price then we must go elsewhere.

regards
Alan
 

woodbrains

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Hi,

Thanks for the comments so far. I absolutely agree that the standard, thin (Record in my case) irons are well worth replacing and am keen to do so. I take the point that the irons are probably so seldom replaced that the cost over a lifetime is negligable, but it is not as if the cost can be spread over a lifetime; you have to cough up the cash all at once. This might be OK if taken in isolation, but we do not only need plane irons, there are router bits, spindle knives, drill bits etc. etc. so everything is a trade off.

I once made furniture professionally, and found it a difficult life to make and sell the things I designed, not least in part because the high prices that have to be asked to actually make a marginal living wage in this country made the things unattractively expensive. If we all bought cheap foregn imports, then we are all sunk. Ironically, because I no longer make furniture to make a living, I find it harder to justify buying premium British (or American) tools. I do want to enjoy woodworking in my spare time, so I'm not going to put up with rubbish either. It just pricks my conscence buying imported stuff, knowing it hurt me at the time, though.

I did but a QS low angle block plane to replace a broken Stanley. Wanted a LV or LN but couldn't afford it at the time. The Iron in the QS is remakable quality, so I'm sure replacing my irons with those would be worth while, but in the back of my mind I still wish i could have gotten the LN.

I think I will try Ray Isles irons and see if they do the trick.

Mike.
 

dunbarhamlin

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Have had a couple of Ray Iles' irons (for a block and jack.) Seem decent. Less fettling than a Hock. Decent kit.
 

GraemeD

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+1 for the Ray Iles irons. They sharpen easily and well, keep their edges as well as any O1 blade, and the backs on the two I've had have been flatter out of the packet than the two Hock blades I also tried. I read somewhere that Ray selectively puts the bevel on the "hollow" side after heat treatment has added any blade distortion, hence making the blades easiest to flatten - kind of like a Japanese hollow chisel. Seemed to work as far as I was concerned. These are now my first choice replacement blades due to the great balance between price and quality, and that is despite owning blades from all the usual makers like LN, LV and even Holtey...

Cheers
Graeme
 

Vann

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You don't need to replace your thin Stanley/Record irons. You can stiffen them up considerably with decent cap-irons. Any of the 3mm thick cap-irons will make a significant difference: Clifton (2-piece); Lie-Nielsen; Quangsheng, etc.

If you're determined to fit thicker irons, I'd suggest that the Ray Ilse D2 irons may be too hard to sharpen unless you've got the right gear. Ray Ilse A1 irons, on the other hand, should be okay from that point-of-view, but don't have the grain structure of the Cliffies, so in theory won't hold an edge as well.
Quangsheng irons are said to be very good (as you've noted), but personally I've decided not to purchase Chinese products anymore (where there's a choice :roll: ). (Slave labour, market domination, dealing with repressive regimes, etc. :( you know - all the usual suspects :roll: )

Cheers, Vann.
 

bugbear

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jimi43":bc4byd00 said:
I think it is hugely personal and controversial to include the elements of patriotism and "slave" labour into the equation when deciding on a plane iron (or any other purchase come to that).

This is something for the buyer's conscience and beliefs which only the buyer can conclude.

If we take these aspects away for the moment, I would say that the British irons are superior
Well done for ignoring patriotism... :lol: :lol: :lol:

To directly answer the OP's question, the most detailed comparisons I know of are these two:

http://bladetest.infillplane.com/

http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/Sharpen/bladetest.html

Try not to get confused...

BugBear
 

Jacob

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Basically if you are just interested in woodwork then it's not necessary to replace normal Stanley/Record blades as they tend to be perfectly OK and will normally last for many years - for longer than the life of most woodworkers in fact, unless they are seriously hand planing on a daily basis in the old fashioned way.
I'd concentrate on getting the best out of what you've got without spending loadsa dosh.
Generally there is much more scope for improving performance by practice, perhaps over quite a long period of time, rather than by changing kit.
 

jimi43

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bugbear":3cqnj7nj said:
Well done for ignoring patriotism... :lol: :lol: :lol:

BugBear
Thanks BB.

But seriously....most of us try to support the British market for obvious reasons but do any of us actually buy totally British in reality.

Anyone on this forum cannot possibly get to post without using something Chinese. Even the blinkin' power to run it is probably French! Only diplomacy and sanctions will prevent slave labour and while demand from the West is driven by cost....nobody is going to prevent this.

Perhaps..."if we set aside patriotism and "slave" labour for a moment"....might have been a better way of saying what I meant. :wink:

But then you knew that anyway! :mrgreen:

Jim
 

Richard T

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I was reading a while ago about how Clifton make their irons. They start with a round bar. :shock: That's an awful lot of work.
I can understand a perfectionist wanting to take the steel through the heat treating process from the very first working heat - ie all the heating involved with shaping as well as the heating to harden and temper and wanting to get a universally stable blade but anyone who has bought a piece of flat, ground, fully annealed O1 and made an iron from it will probably not be able to imagine making such a blank for themselves to start with. It's hours work even with power hammers, rollers and grinders.

If you want an iron made this way in Sheffield - it's £48. That's pretty good I think. Cheap for the amount of work that has gone into it; whether that much work and time is nessassarryy however is debatable.
 

Gerard Scanlan

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I agree with the comment about replacing the cap iron. I bought a Clifton cap iron from WH recently and I am really very impressed with the difference in the performance of my smoothing plane. Not only does it plane like a dream, the blade (just the regular 1980's stanley blade) has kept its edge razor sharp for over 10 hours of planing oak and walnut. In the past I was resharpening it after half an hour! I thought I needed to spend money on an blade and cap iron and Matthew at WH persuaded me to try a cap iron first and see if that didn't improve matters enough. How many sellers do that these days? He could have let me buy both and I would never have realised that the cap iron was the main contributor.
However you are doubtlessly at a far more advanced stage in woodworking than I will ever reach and so for you an even better quality blade might be exactly what you need. Afterall everyone has different requirements, I would drop Matthew a line and see what he advises.
 

bugbear

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jimi43":32qs53wm said:
bugbear":32qs53wm said:
Well done for ignoring patriotism... :lol: :lol: :lol:

BugBear
Thanks BB.

But seriously....most of us try to support the British market for obvious reasons but do any of us actually buy totally British in reality.

Anyone on this forum cannot possibly get to post without using something Chinese. Even the blinkin' power to run it is probably French! Only diplomacy and sanctions will prevent slave labour and while demand from the West is driven by cost....nobody is going to prevent this.

Perhaps..."if we set aside patriotism and "slave" labour for a moment"....might have been a better way of saying what I meant. :wink:

But then you knew that anyway! :mrgreen:

Jim
It's probably worth pointing out that it's not just a two-way choice between British and Chinese. Hock, Veritas, LN and Samurai all make worthy blades, in various countries.

BugBear
 

woodbrains

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Hi,

Already fully appreciate that a thick cap iron works wonders on thin blades and really only the Clifton 2 piece will do the job there; I know that won't go down well with some with sensitive feet! I like the thick iron combo though, too. Even thick cutting irons in Baily/Bed Rock style planes is less than half that of good old woodies or infills, so it stands to reason that a thick double iron combo will be the best solution.

As far as keeping the standard iron supplied with the plane, i'm afraid it just doesn't cut it (pun intended) Aside from the thickness issue, the steel just isn't up to the job. I have said this before, Baily planes were not designed for cabinetmaking in fine/difficult hardwoods, they are joiners tools for softwood and mild hard wood. We need to improve the cutting irons etc. to bring them up to approach the infills etc. that are cabinetmakers tools butt were priced out of the market when people chose the cheaper options. This is partly my point for the thread, I suppose.

Before the likes of Jacob swears blind that the standard bits of tin supplied in the planes originally are in fact good enough and do not need changing, I will say this; There are good technical reasons regaring the grain structure of the steel and how carbides are formed during manufacture which describe why the standard fare really isn't good enough. And from practcal experience I have found them to be lacking (as I suspect all the enlightened plane iron converters have already found) I have actually planed wood so ornery that the plane iron's edges have been 'turned over' like the burr on a scraper whilst planing and others so abrasive that 3-4 strokes dulled the iron so it would not cut any more. A2 is sometimes the only answer (D2 I suppose too) but anything is better than the standard rubbish.

The votes for Ray iles makes me think these will be worth a try over Quangsheng and pehaps I will be helping support a small British business to boot.

Mike.
 

Jacob

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woodbrains":2aroqlrf said:
.........
As far as keeping the standard iron supplied with the plane, i'm afraid it just doesn't cut it (pun intended) Aside from the thickness issue, the steel just isn't up to the job. I have said this before, Baily planes were not designed for cabinetmaking in fine/difficult hardwoods, they are joiners tools for softwood and mild hard wood. We need to improve the cutting irons etc. to bring them up to approach the infills etc. that are cabinetmakers tools butt were priced out of the market when people chose the cheaper options. This is partly my point for the thread, I suppose.....
Bailey planes more general purpose rather than just for joiners. NB Cabinet makers are joiners too and most of the wood used by cabinet makers is not all that demanding e.g. mahogany.
Yes difficult woods need a different approach. Traditionally this is to progress to scraper, sand paper etc. Next most practical is to put a bevel on the face of a normal blade to increase the effective angle.
My approach has been to buy just one plane (LV la smoother) which will go where other planes won't. Absolutely no point in going through the whole lot replacing blades or cap irons with expensive alternatives when just one plane will do it!
I have back-up of course - scraper as mentioned above and ultimately the belt sander or ROS, but my Bailey planes with their thin blades do nearly all the stuff I do by hand.

I also think it is really bad that so many people are being persuaded that their tools are defective and that they should upgraded or replaced at great cost. It is simply untrue (in general, though any specific tool, including "top end" ones, may be less than perfect).
Dont' let them talk you into spending loadsa money unnecessarily!
 

bugbear

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Jacob":2eu0g22l said:
Yes difficult woods need a different approach. Traditionally this is to progress to scraper, sand paper etc. Next most practical is to put a bevel on the face of a normal blade to increase the effective angle.
That's all quite modern. Traditionally, a cabinet maker would simply use a high EP BD smoother. Prior to Bailey's design becoming ubiquitous, wooden planes were made with bedding angles more carefully matched to particular tasks.

There used to be a whole nomenclature for commonly used pitches, which was almost lost until the present, "New Golden Age" of handtools.

BugBear
 

Jacob

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bugbear":2bxk8ljc said:
Jacob":2bxk8ljc said:
Yes difficult woods need a different approach. Traditionally this is to progress to scraper, sand paper etc. Next most practical is to put a bevel on the face of a normal blade to increase the effective angle.
That's all quite modern.
I think scrapers and abrasives go back to the early stone age. 2 million years if not more.
Traditionally, a cabinet maker would simply use a high EP BD smoother. Prior to Bailey's design becoming ubiquitous, wooden planes were made with bedding angles more carefully matched to particular tasks.

BugBear
For those that had them this was one tradition. The others made do quite adequately, in different ways
 

bugbear

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Jacob":2fk6gg1o said:
bugbear":2fk6gg1o said:
Jacob":2fk6gg1o said:
Yes difficult woods need a different approach. Traditionally this is to progress to scraper, sand paper etc. Next most practical is to put a bevel on the face of a normal blade to increase the effective angle.
That's all quite modern.
I think scrapers and abrasives go back to the early stone age. 2 million years if not more.
Traditionally, a cabinet maker would simply use a high EP BD smoother. Prior to Bailey's design becoming ubiquitous, wooden planes were made with bedding angles more carefully matched to particular tasks.

BugBear
For those that had them this was one tradition. The others made do quite adequately, in different ways
High EP smoothers weren't deemed exotic, only to be used by the Woodworking Gods - they were normal common, and cheap. It's only the modern era where pitches other than 45 are deemed high faultin'.

BugBear
 

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