It's a shame, to me, that weekend woodworkers are getting sucked in to buy low quality tools from the likes of Wood River. For every person touting their Wood River plane or chisel, I hear of 3 or 4 mentioning serious problems. A friend of mine who is a beginning woodworker thought he was doing himself a favor by purchasing one of their smoothing planes a couple years back. He brought it over to my shop one night because he couldn't get it to work like some of the tools he'd used in my shop before (his words). After a quick examination, the mating surfaces of the frog and bed were all way off, the frog was canted at an angle, and you couldn't adjust the iron to be square in the mouth to save your life. After all that, the iron would not hold an edge, and kept rolling off, even in a wood as soft as cherry.
Thankfully, Woodcraft gave him a refund.
I would hope that Woodcraft would start carrying a higher quality tool to peddle, but I think they need to stop importing their tools in from the far east before that is going to happen. The days of walking in the door to a cabinet of Lie Nielsen or Clifton bench planes is gone.
Not that I want to depend them too much, I don't like the fact that the planes are knock-offs, but I think a few years back they were selling the V1 and V2 planes. now it's the V3. I heard they had trouble the the early types, but I havn't heard much bad about the V3 anywhere on the net.
I agree with the fact that Chinese tools for the most part, are questionable and there is a higher chance of getting garbage, however, your friend bought the tool and it was his decision to save money. It also sounds like he did have a V1 or V2 version because the newer V3 line is better and quite frankly a "great" value - have you tried them? I would have one or two along side my Lie Nielsen and Veritas planes, however the totes don't feel right to me.
Yes, I agree that Woodcraft shouldn't import from China, but I personally believe it was the customers that encouraged it and created the market for a mid level plane, in this instance for it. This isn't always the case because corporations can be blamed in other instances of bringing crap to market, such as Nicholson but purchasing Woodriver is a personal choice. I don't think he was sucked into it.
Finally, Lie Nielsen and Veritas are here and won't be disappearing anytime soon - Veritas has a backlog on their new chisels and steel and Lie Nielsen is happy with their company size as well as volume. Woodriver just attracts different buyers
George, I am not surprised with your findings and thank you for posting this
Last edited by Mike Tekin; 02-06-2013 at 8:26 PM.
There are a few Woodcraft stores that still carry LN plane, for example, my local Woodcraft, in Stanton, CA still carries them. The owner told me that he was one of only a very few Woodcraft stores that were allowed to carry the LN planes without the demo area.
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Steel is a complicated subject, as evidenced by how many threads get posted on woodworking and knife forums on the subject. As I understand it there are multiple, often opposed objectives which have to be balanced in the making of steel edged tools. Hardness is one criteria but certainly not the only one and some submit that it is over rated as "the test" for how good a steel is. A jack hammer, at one extreme will totally destroy a very hard steel, as the impact nocks off pieces of steel rapidly. A knife designed to cut relatively soft objects can afford to be much harder than one designed to be forced through hardwood by impacting it with a hammer or mallet. The overly hard edge, viewed under magnification will reveal a jagged edge due to pieces breaking off the edge. The overly soft steel edge tends to roll and fold over easily also resulting in a dull blade quickly. New innovation in steels produce steels made from powders. Powdered steels tend to have a finer grain, less/smaller chunks of impurity in the edge, which may be less subject to pieces separating from the fine edge. I think forging tends to concentrate and reduce the size of particles on the edge. There is also how the steels chemical composition interacts with air, moisture, chemicals, work materials....
Another trade off in steel design weighs the hardness of a tools edge against commonly available sharpening gear. A steel that holds an edge 10% longer may not be a good choice for a person with sharpening gear that will take 50% more time to sharpen that steel. If one researches posts on this forum regarding the purchase of sharpening gear, looking for responses by professionals like Stu at Tools From Japan. The first question posed to these posters often concerns what kind of steel they will be sharpening. Many of the standard stones and abrasives available are not designed to cut modern hard or even some older forged steel. I believe many of even the large edged tool manufacturers have their steel blanks made one place while shaping, heat treatment, cold treatment, forging.....may be done at another. Tracking where the process failed might not be an easy task, allowing significant quantity of defective end product to slip by. I try not to buy bargain steel cutting tools that require a hard or tough steel.
Catering to a large customer is a lot different than selling your own duds or dealing with 10 small retailers who never have the ability to change your production numbers by more than a little bit for each one.
There was a little static at the time that WC was going to make a domestic plane, then they were going to make a domestically assembled plane but I guess that fizzled out.
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I own three of them and as far as I'm concerned they are hands down the best value available today in a bedrock style new bench plane. Lest you think I'm just a Woodriver fanboy, I also own nine Lie-Nielsen bench planes. I have no problem saying without hesitation that the LN planes are better. But the difference in price far out weighs the difference in quality. The LN has less backlash, the smaller ones are available in bronze, most give you the choice of a 50 or 55 degree high angle frog and LN has many more sizes. However, comparing a V3 to an iron LN, the V3 is very close, but my WR V3 #6 cost me $151.99 on sale versus a LN #6 for $375. For that kind of money I can put up with a little bit of backlash. I've had my WR V3 #4 for over a year and have used it extensively for a wide variety of projects. It was my goto smoother until I got a LN 4 1/5, and it's still my smoother away from my shop. Better the Woodriver than my bronze LN bouncing around in the truck. I recently used it to smooth a large maple butcher block island counter top at my daughter's house (after using a LN jointer to flatten it) and it did a great job. Other users and major magazine reviews of the V3 planes seem to agree with me. They are a very good plane and the best value.
I can't speak to all the Woodcraft products. I have a couple of the V3 block planes and am equally satisfied with them, but others like the shoulder plane that prompted this thread I've never touched. I do think it's to Woodcraft's credit that they gave your friend a full refund and that they also apparently agreed that their early bench planes weren't up to snuff and stop selling them until they re-engineered them into an acceptable product.
I also note that Lee Valley and Veritas items are now showing up in their catalog and stores.
Si vis pacem, para bellum
Must say that while i've no axe to grind (beyond that it'd be terrible if cost cutting and our inability to resist a cheap deal was to drive good quality product off the market as happened before) that it'd be nice to see more posts setting out actual user experience with mid range and similar planes, and with the MN65 (which from the metallurgy seems like it should be able to deliver a pretty decent edge?) and the other steels used in them.
The nominal specification/labelling is one thing, but the achievement of consistency of quality seems likely to be the real challenge/acid test of a maker and a fairly complex matter in the case of something like a plane.
Stuff like accuracy of composition/recipe of the steels, control of the casting, forging, rolling etc processes by which the parts are formed, stress relieving, accuracy of heat treatment, precision of machining, heat input during machining and sharpening etc etc all have the potential to make or break a given example of a product.
Chances are that when it comes to producing a mid range product to a high standard of quality that it may be that much of the cost and many of issues lie in some of the above - which presumably have fairly major implications for the choice of the suppliers, manufacturing processes, skills and systems used. Corner cutting could mean quite a degree of variation in quality between examples of a given make and model - the sort of thing that has tended to be a feature of low cost machine and tool imports.
On the commercial side of the equation. Given that competition of this sort is a fact of life the likes of Lee Valley and Lie Nielsen (the high end plane makers) will be very aware that they need to take care. In that while there presumably will always be a market for premium kit, it's important that the functional ability and quality of the product remains sufficient to differentiate it from the mid range stuff in the eyes of a sufficiently large segment to generate the income needed to support what they do.
If in order to chase volume they were to drop to relatively lower prices they could find themselves threatened by the emerging mid range guys. In that it could compromise their ability to maintain the required quality/product differentiation. It'd get messy too if the mid range guys turned out to be able to make the required quality off a lower cost base, or that the premium guys couldn't maintain a recognised advantage in performance/quality to justify their pricing.
The strength of the brands would help initially, but would eventually leak away .....
Last edited by ian maybury; 02-06-2013 at 7:08 PM. Reason: addition
When you heat steel up to red hot in transforms into austenite and then when cooled quickly enough transforms to martensite which is typically tempered to reduce hardness slightly to reduce brittleness. In 0.50-0.60% steels, this will result in hardness values around 60 Rc.
The tools steels with higher carbon and other things in them, cool to form very hard carbides and martensite which is tempered. This is like a mix of two different materials with the carbide being very hard and the martensite inbetween the carbide being somewhat softer. This gives you some very hard particles which will hold an edge better.
The metallurgy involved in these grades and how they actually achieve the hardness and properties takes a lot of study.
Trying to compare the properties of the steels and tool steels is difficult at best unless one understands the underlying basics. It is easier to compare O1 to A2 than comparing either to a 0.60% C steel.
Does Woodcraft have great sales on the Woodriver tools that I'm missing? I just looked up a couple prices, and none of them scream "great deal" compared to similar offerings from Lee Valley or Lie Nielsen. A Lee Valley bevel-up jointer is cheaper than the Woodriver number 7; and looking at something like the rabbet plane - the 30 bucks difference between WR and LV, or even the 45 between WR and LN doesn't seem like that big a deal when I'm already saving up 140 bucks to spend on a tool that I'm hoping will last me the rest of my life.
EDIT: I just saw the #4 price; I guess that deal looks a little better than the jointer and rabbet planes I originally looked at.
Last edited by Joshua Pierce; 02-06-2013 at 8:54 PM.
" Be willing to make mistakes in your basements, garages, apartments and palaces. I have made many. Your first attempts may be poor. They will not be futile. " - M.S. Bickford, Mouldings In Practice
Yes,Larry,which is why I have put decades of study into steels. .65 carbon is not going to make a good grade of tool steel. I can't say I blame them,as little money as they get for their products,but the Chinese will do anything they can to save a penny or 2 on something they sell. This is why my Jet wet wheel grinder breaks down: They used literally beer can thin metal to make the press on wire connectors for their circuit board. They crack being assembled at the factory,and soon break loose,causing many of them to not work right out of the box(I'm told by different dealers. A lucky few seem to have had no problems. Likely depends upon the soft touch of the teenage girl who assembled the unit.). A whole lot of that sort of thing goes on. In the end,we cause the problem,demanding products at 1950's USA prices.
Last edited by george wilson; 02-06-2013 at 9:27 PM.
Hi George. Just trying to understand this.
As before managanese and silicon will cause the steel to behave as though it has more carbon than 0.7% - borne out by the data sheets which specify similar hardness of something over HRC 60 for tempered 01 and 1566 (MN65) steels. This surely is well into the (hardness) territory of decent chisel and plane blades?
Are you saying that despite this that there is likely to be some major practical difference in the performance of blades made from the two? The 01 will presumably be a bit less brittle and more wear resistant because of the chromium, but that isn't necessarily a show stopper/winner on its own.
Even excluding alloying elements like the chromium it's clear that depending on the exact composition and heat treatment that as Larry said there's quite a few variations in the structure of simple carbon steels that can arise (i was trained in metallurgy, but so many years ago that it's fuzzy and anyway it's hard to predict exact properties given that so many iron/carbon compounds and variations on these are possible - ferrite/pearlite/martensite/cementite etc ) - so it's not a case of arguing anything one way or another.
Just of wondering (and in the restricted case of the MN65 versus a carbon or low alloy steel like 01) - that if hardness isn't the whole story then what are the other issues/performance characteristics in play?
Last edited by ian maybury; 02-06-2013 at 11:30 PM.
Si vis pacem, para bellum