Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Friday, January 13, 2012

From Russia With Love

It arrived in a box of plane parts that I found at the markets one Sunday - many moons ago.  It was in pieces, and only by a process of elimination could I deduce which parts belonged.  Not that I recognised these parts, but I am familiar with Stanley, Turner and Record, so once those bibs and bobs were removed - this is what was left.

It's a cast iron smoothing plane - about the size of a Stanley Number 4.

Pretty it isn't - but was it functional?

I decided to have a closer look, make some observations, and then put it through its paces.

Who knows, it might just be that diamond in the rough.

 And, yes it is rough.  The lever cap is probably the worst example, but the finishing is very poor indeed.

It does what it is supposed to do, and holds the blade and cap-iron quite well.

Fortunately, the frog is better made and fits the base quite nicely.

The frog casting must have been made in a different foundary, on a different day, or by someone who cared for their work.

It is in a different league to the lever cap.  In spite of the paint, it sits the base very well, and moves smoothly forward and back with the frog adjusting screw.

The depth adjuster is made from steel and rotates easily.

So far so good.  It isn't until we turn the frog over that a couple of little problems arise.

The lateral adjuster lever is about as small as you can get away with, and is simply a bent and folded strip of steel. Initially, it sat just under the blade, swinging in the breeze.  It needed bending upwards at the bottom to engage the blade slot.
 The yolk that connects the depth adjuster to the slot in the cap-iron is a poor fit, and this leads to problems with the blade in use.

It is simply too skinny, and creates quite a lot of slop and play in the depth adjusting mechanism as a whole.

In use, it becomes absolutely imperative that the depth adjuster be in the forward position, to keep forward pressure on the blade.

The base is thick and solid, and feels heavy in the hand. It could be more to do with the balance of the plane than its actual weight, as it is about the same mass as a Stanley Number 4.

After the quality issues presented thus far, it was a surprise to see that the sides were square to the sole.

The mouth is generous, making adjustments for fine shaving a little tricky.

At first blush, the blade looks to be too short, but compared to a Stanley blade it has about the same length of blade below the slot.  It isn't exactly the same amount of usable blade however, as the lateral adjustment lever will run out of available slotting when the blade is about half used.  In the second picture, the back of the blade shows a line where the paint finish ends - it is about here that the usable blade will exhaust itself.

These days, we are accustomed to plane blades that are flattened at the factory and virtually ready to go straight out of the box.

Not this one!

In fact, the back of the blade was a mess of craters.  I spent quite some time attempting to flatten the lower part of the blade and discovered - thankfully - that it had a pronounced hollow. Had it been convex, I am sure I would have given up.  Flattened this far, the cap-iron had to be set close to the cutting edge to avoid shavings lodging between the irons.

At this point the cap-iron did not fit well enough, and left a gap between the leading edge and the blade.  It had to be flattened on the oilstone to eliminate any possibility of shavings jamming in between the two irons.

The handles are not pretty.  They are utterly utilitarian.

The rear tote feels chunky in the hand, and never feels comfortable.

Even though the right index finger can reach the depth adjuster, it doesn't want to - as this changes the position of the palm on the handle - and it simply feels awkward.

OK -  now to the money question - how does it perform?

Well, quite creditably on softwoods.  To be fair, it would likely not encounter Australian hardwoods in its own country, so it does serve the purpose for which it was designed.

The finish on the softwoods that I tried, was very good.

In order to close the mouth, the frog had to be screwed forward.  No problem in softwoods, but pronounced chatter from the blade in hardwood.
Stick to softwoods then.

The most annoying characteristic was the failure of the depth adjuster to hold the depth chosen for the blade.

The problem is the thin-ness of the yolk, and the amount of play that this introduces into the adjustment mechanism.

As a total package, this is not the diamond that we hoped it might be.
It's not a lump of coal either, even though parts of it look like they have been kicked around a mine for a couple of years.
It is what it seems - a product designed to do a job - no more and no less.  There are no bells and whistles, and there isn't the slightest attempt to add bling anywhere on this tool.

Would I buy one - no.  Would I use one - yes, if I had no other plane to turn to.

The bottom line is that good results can be had from this plane, as long as you are aware of its limitations.  It would make an interesting talking point in any workshop.  Fortunately, these planes are not that common in Australia.

Happy woodworking to all.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting project, especially as I've recently cleaned up my dad's old Stanley No4.
    As a kid I had Russian cameras - Zorki IV rangefinder, then a Zenit SLR - and loved 'em.