Hand Work Hand Tool Blog

Hand Work Hand Tool Blog

Who Begot Who? Comparing Planes from Lie-Nielsen, Wood River and Stanley

comments (87) May 21st, 2009 in blogs

TGB Tom Begnal, associate editor, retired
thumbs up 130 users recommend

Family photo. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right)
Side view. Bedrock (top), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (bottom)
Knob bosses. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right)
Family photo. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right) - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Family photo. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right)

Photo: Tom Begnal

Woodcraft, the Parkersburg, West Virginia company that sells woodworking tools by mail-order and through a national network of retail stores, recently introduced a new line of planes under the Wood River name. These planes, made in China, have generated a lot of interest and debate on Knots, our online woodworking forum. You can find a review of the planes by Chris Gochnour online and on page 20 of our July/August 2009 issue.

Seems a lot of Knots posters think the Wood River planes look too much like those built by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, makers of top-quality bench planes, and founded over 25 years ago in Maine by Tom Lie-Nielsen.

But, a number of other posters suggested that both Wood River and Lie-Nielsen have a common ancestor in the Bedrock planes made by Stanley from the late 1890s until the early 1940s. Those posters are correct. Indeed, both makers state in their catalog that their bench plane designs are rooted in the original Bedrock.

To add some perspective to the story, I put three No. 5 planes side-by-side; an old Stanley Bedrock, a Lie-Nielsen, and a Wood River. A quick glance at them suggests that there aren’t a lot of differences between the trio.  But a closer look using a ruler and caliper made some of the differences clearer. (see Chart below).

Planes  Side view

Family photo. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right). Side view. Bedrock (top), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (bottom)



Width x

Weight Chipbreaker Blade Width
of frog
Knob size Handle
Bedrock No. 5 2.400 x 14 4 lb. 8 oz. 0.072 x 2 x 4-7/8 0.100 x 2 x 6-7/8 1.995 Steel Steel All the same 0.900
Lie-Nielsen No. 5 2.435 x 13-15/16 5 lb. 4 oz. 0.062 x 2 x 5-1/4 0.118 x 2 x 6-1/2 2.100 Bronze Bronze All the same 1.000
Wood River No. 5 2.448 x 13-15/16 5 lb. 9 oz. 0.112 x 2 x 4-7/8 0.120 x 2 x 7-9/16 1.940 Steel Steel All the same 0.950

With the measuring tools in hand, it became obvious that Lie-Nielsen made several improvements to the old Bedrock. For example, a look at the No. 5 shows that the sole and side walls are thicker than the Bedrock. Also, Lie-Nielsen introduced some current technology by using stress-relieved ductile-iron for the casting, with manganese-bronze as an option. The blade is thicker and made from tool steel, with an A-2 steel blade as an upgrade.

Then, too, a few years ago, he improved the chipbreaker, making it thicker to help reduce blade-chatter. And, he added a shallow lip on the business end, ground to a 1º angle, to help ensure gap-free contact.

Interestingly, the Wood River plane also has a thick sole and side walls. And, it has a thick blade like the Lie-Nielsen, and a similar stepped chipbreaker.

The body-castings show some other differences between the Lie-Nielsen and the Bedrock. On the Lie-Nielsen, the wood knob mounts to a double boss; the Bedrock has a single boss surrounded by a raised ring. Wood River has a double boss much like the Lie-Nielsen.

Knob bosses. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right) 

At the back of the body casting, the Lie-Nielsen wood handle mounts to an elongated boss. On the Bedrock, that same detail is somewhat different. But, on the Wood River, the boss nearly matches the Lie-Nielsen.


Handle bosses. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen (center), Wood River (right)

Also, when it comes to the frogs, the one on the Wood River is closer to the Lie-Nielsen version than to the Bedrock.


Frogs. Bedrock (left), Lie-Nielsen, (center), Wood river (right)

So who begot who? For sure, we know there’s Bedrock DNA in both Lie-Nielsen and Wood River. And, based on my side-by-side look, it appears there are Lie-Nielsen genes in Wood River.

Copying is not new or unique to the tool trade, nor is having tools made in China to reduce cost. It’s up to each of us to decide just how comfortable we are with those facts of life.

Photos: Tom Begnal

posted in: blogs, tool

Comments (87)

CarolynJBass CarolynJBass writes: Useful tools for woodworkers.
Posted: 1:57 am on February 29th

RebeccaShaw RebeccaShaw writes: Great wood-working tools.
Posted: 3:08 am on February 15th

CherylEGriffin CherylEGriffin writes: Very useful tool in wooden works.
Posted: 5:16 am on February 3rd

jamiecook674 jamiecook674 writes: This tool is really useful for wood waste removal. It is available in different designs as you shared.
Posted: 4:47 am on December 15th

Eric_Rucker Eric_Rucker writes: I just scanned all of the comments and I am appalled by the egocentric, whining rationalizing that passes for thinking here. Too little debate about the substantive issues raised by what Woodcraft has done and a whole lot of chatter about first-world personal economic ends justifying any means necessary, though nobody was honest enough with themselves to state it that clearly.

Let's pretend for the sake of argument that WR and L-N products are equivalent quality and don't violate intellectual property law (if it was really about copying Stanley, WR tools would have molds pulled from them and look like Stanleys). Other than Mike92, Tailspin, and Starrynight, and somebody whose name I'm forgetting who talked about smelly cutting solvents/oils, nobody addressed the probable human and environmental cost of the Wood River Chinese manufacturing. Too many of the comments boiled down to distorted notions of what each of us thinks we can "afford." Huh. So the whole world of ethics comes down to whether I think I can afford it or not?

Maybe L-N tools are not expensive. Maybe they are amazingly cheap for a company that respects its workers and environmental laws. Maybe the Chinese stuff is artificially monetarily cheap for first world consumers. If so, how is that possible? Maybe Chinese workers and the Chinese environment are being asked to "afford" living conditions none of us would remotely tolerate. Maybe prevailing winds send Chinese pollution to our west coast where most of our food is grown, so we get sick too, like our Chinese brothers and sisters, et cetera. And we still continue to think of affordability in terms of our wallets, and even then we get it wrong because we don't connect our wallet-based illusions to the medical bills for cancers and other things like unemployment, when our to our actions at the cash registers of the world are part of the drain on our wallets.

What else do we spend our money on? Do we need all that stuff? Yeah, right. And then we have the gall to whine that we can't afford the true price of the tools we do need to do your jobs or pursue our hobbies? Where are our priorities? And do we think Chinese workers can afford one hobby let alone several hobbies? They can't even afford to do their jobs and live their lives. And we talk about Woodworking as a noble Craft when we are just crass consumers. And thank you Taunton for doing such a great job driving the cycles of mindless desire that drive mindless consumption.

We need to put our house in order, brother and sister woodworkers: we are clearly not listening to the trees in the wood we work, or to our hearts as they work through our hands.

Posted: 12:00 pm on January 18th

Riggs888 Riggs888 writes: Just a few random thoughts...

Lots of good info here gentlemen. I don't have very many LN tools - because of the prices. I have bought several of the Wood River planes and they seems to perform very well, I also have several old Stanley flea-market finds that I have tuned and sharpened and they do fine.

In this global economy, it's difficult to buy anything that is completely "made in America". I have made a career out of manufacturing, and would hazard a guess that many of the machine tools used to fabricate LN products (and those of others) were purchased from overseas manufacturers. I care less about borders than I do about quality and value, and in some cases history.

Several of the tools I have on my want list were originally manufactured in England, and I will be proud to use them in my shop.
Posted: 8:44 am on December 1st

Schull Schull writes: I am becoming very conflicted about buying American regardless of the data. There is an implied assumption that 'Chinese made' equates to lower quality, just like we assumed in the 70s and 80s with Japanese cars and we know where that ended. Can I spell Lexus and Infiniti? I work in the high tech industry and I'm afraid the Chinese are no longer racing us to the bottom (lower cost goods); they're racing us to the top. The top quality smart phone in the world, according to a recent poll is the Apple iPhone, made in China. Is it an American product? Apple is an American company, but increasingly their products are manufactured in China. I vacation in Maine every September and always stop by the Lie-Nielsen facility in Warren as a part of that. They make beautiful products, but there is always that nagging voice asking me if we in the US have a permanent corner on quality. Woodworking is a hobby for mostly (not always) those that can afford to choose what they buy. The professionals will make decisions based on cost/benefit and it's not clear to me that LN will always command that value proposition for all buyers.
Posted: 8:09 pm on April 8th

james3one james3one writes: I'll take any chance I get to purchase a tool made here in the US. The LN is still outside my price range so I'll gladly take the Stanley Bedrock #605(and I did), tune it up and get to work. I acquired mine from a fellow woodworker, locally. Not only did the money stay in the country but in my community as well. If not a quality American made tool from LN why not a nice old Stanley from a guy in your own neighborhood. With very little tuning, I'm getting light, fluffy shavings from all of my old Stanleys. Woodcraft gets enough of my money as it is.
Posted: 12:26 pm on December 26th

thedovetailjoint thedovetailjoint writes: Great article and an excellent thread of comments!

There will always be demand, and dare I say need for low cost, entry-level tools; and these tools have ALWAYS been made in the third world. Heck, 130 years ago the third world was the USA! As for LN, if WC is going to have a product value engineered, which tool should they emulate? No one copies #2!

I have an Ace Hardware private label Millers Falls plane from 1993 that was made with the same care for design, material and workmanship as my old 1985 Ford Mustang. In both cases these were pieces of garbage. Would it have been better if WC copied THAT plane?

As for patent protection, Thomas Lie-Nielsen has no patents on his bench planes, and if he did he would be entitled to the full coverage of protection afforded to patent holders in exchange for disclosing his innovations and putting them in the public domain at the end of the term of the patent. That’s the deal with the devil that all patent holders make. I just searched the US Patent office and see that Lie-Nielsen was recently granted a patent for a router plane, and in 2021 it will be fair game if anyone produces a faithful copy. That’s how it works.

That said, there are NO patent infringement or trade dress or copyright issues in this situation, even IF WC copied the LN product.

I’m fully plugged-in in my shop and only rarely reach for a plane. I’d love to own a WoodRiver plane and have never considered purchasing a Lie-Nielsen tool. Yes, they’re nice, but I just can’t justify it to myself. So many routers and so little time.

Posted: 3:48 pm on November 9th

CTWoodWkr CTWoodWkr writes: I don't understand Lie-Nielsen's recent decision to only sell their tools directly to customers and discontinue selling through retailers such as Woodcraft. However I won't buy Woodriver tools which are obvious Chinese copies of Lie-Nielsen planes. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks is an American company employing American craftsmen producing very high quality tools. I use their tools in my furniture business every day. Of course, the price is higher than a Chinese knock off but quality and value not price should be the priority when purchasing woodworking tools. Everyday I try to educate my clients about my handcrafted furniture and why they should buy quality and value from a local craftsman. It would be incredibly hypercritical to build their furniture using imported tools made with cheap foreign labor. As a US citizen, I will continue to buy from Lie-Nielsen and support American jobs. It is time we stop exporting the jobs of our fellow craftsmen. When we demand to buy on low price alone we end up cheating ourselves and our fellow Americans.
Posted: 10:36 am on October 8th

Morbius_Of_Oz Morbius_Of_Oz writes: I love the LN quality - their design and execution. If anything, LN might like to consider that there is a market for a less expensive version of their tools. A US manufactured, less expensive LN product would blow WR out of the water, and provide American jobs. As an Australian outsider - that would make sense to me.
Posted: 3:07 am on February 8th

danielwhite2 danielwhite2 writes: When i walk into woodcraft today, something is missing. I am happy to have a woodcraft in my town however, i feel something is definitely missing. I am 52 and have been a professional woodwork all of my adult life. i am saddened to see the WR's. Put your glasses on and look closely!
Posted: 9:16 pm on January 28th

wongacliff wongacliff writes: Hi,

In Australia we search and find old USA Stanley planes and restore them. I have a set of SW's that are razor sharp and can cut the finest of shavings consistently. There is nothing better than working with quality hand tools.

You can also purchase fully fettled USA Stanleys from a dealer who prides himself on his restorations and getting them "scary sharp". Say for late model USA 4 type 17 something like $A140.

Without question I am of the opinion that at around $A50.00 plus half an afternoon's work you end up with a quality plane with character - some of my earlier restorations are type 9's and they still perform very well.

My comment is this - the old planes are great and cheap provided you are prepared to do some work. The down side is that eventually the stocks may become exhausted.



Posted: 1:52 am on June 22nd

JBAR60 JBAR60 writes: My gradpa always told me to buy the best tool you can aford and learn how to use it properly and take good care of it and it will always pay you back. I'm 62 and live by his words of wisdom. I recently purchased a Stanley # 4 at a flea market for $10. It was in very good condition , just needed the sole lapped and the blade sharpened. Now it looks like new and works fine. To top it off, now I have a better understanding of how to take care of it for years to come. When I can afford it I hope to owne a LN !
Posted: 7:17 pm on June 8th

jdurfer jdurfer writes: I too started with cheap (really cheap) planes and was very disappointed with their use. My wife has taken the practice to buy me an heirloom tool on our anneversary. It is always a LN plane (that I specify of course!) Not only are they trouble free and well manufactured tools; they are also a joy to use and each one is special because it came from my wife. It's a way to involve her in my hobby. I also use the each of the LN's way more frequently than their cheaper cousins, they just work. Hows that go agian?...You get what you pay for.
Posted: 7:13 pm on June 7th

Mortimor Mortimor writes: For those of you who are focused on cost, let'sget with the program. Brian Boggs was so broke when he first started, he made his first chisel from a screwdriver and would recycle pieces of fence for constructing work benches - none of this expensive Chinese made tools that cost over a hundred dollars.
Lie-Nielson products are wonderful for beginners like myself. I don't have the skills to completely evaluate a plane's dimensions and correct the defects nor am I interested in developing those skills. It was enough to learn how to sharpen tools and then to use them properly and to pick the right tool. I know that I will never have any trouble re-selling my planes, and that they will last my lifetime.
I have gradually replaced almost all the bargain tools I once owned and the results are that I enjoy woodworking much more and my wife now asks me to make things around for our home. So these L/N planes make my wife happy too and how much is THAT worth? It pays for the planes!
For those who are into the bitter "rich man/poor man arguments," I repeat Oscar Wilde's oft quoted remark, "The cynic is the man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." L/N is something I had to wait for in my life and they are a joy to use. The same with Auriou rasps - they really are that much better and my works shows it, plus it feels so much better using these tools.
Posted: 11:09 am on June 7th

BloomingtonMike BloomingtonMike writes: At $110, the WoodRiver No 4 is not half the price of a Lie Nielsen No 4 ($300), it is closer to one third. People keep saying it is half price and I read half price in the FWW article today.

Lie Nielson took the Stanley planes, improved many ideas of them, and then charges us you for them. Many people are happy to pay them for that.

If LN was really as into the needs of WWs of the world, maybe they could have reached more of them by doing exactly what Woodcraft did. Sell two lines (offer an imported mfg line as well) - extreme quality and then almost extreme quality.

We are lucky to have options - just like BigBrett58 said!! Woodcraft took a risk by offering this to us (legally and morally IMO). They know what they are doing though I hope.

The FWW article was very favorable to the WoodRiver plane. Someone is buying them, they are out of stock on woodcraft.com.

Posted: 8:01 pm on June 6th

Bernie_Walsh Bernie_Walsh writes: This is an interesting debate....
I am English and if I take the majority view from my American cousins, I would not be a good patriot because I go to the movies, I own an Apple phone and computer and take my holidays at Disney in Florida, I prefer to buy US made clothing and lastly the hobby I hold in the highest regard has it's debating stage from an American Publishing House.... hmmm, I think some people should stop eulogising about how bad it is to buy foreign product or the foreigners might do the same.

I choose what I use mostly based on "fit for purpose", sometimes more biased on price, sometimes biased on availability - always based on value. I am happy to tune my equipment as I have acquired skills and mastered techniques I would not have otherwise learned and I don't consider this metalwork over woodwork I view this as all part of the same hobby. Marc Spagnola suggests that woodworkers are fine engineers that work in wood - I totally agree with this view.

I don't buy Lie-Nielsen equipment because it won't satisfy all my needs -In my circumstances I can't balance the price against my need other need of value. I take more time and use a Stanley Plane which will satisfy both my need for a good result (quality) versus my need for value. Maybe purchasing decisions should be made this way and not be border dependant.

Posted: 4:28 am on June 6th

Bernie_Walsh Bernie_Walsh writes: This is an interesting debate....
I am English and if I take the majority view from my American cousins, I would not be a good patriot because I go to the movies, I own an Apple phone and computer and take my holidays at Disney in Florida, I prefer to buy US made clothing and lastly the hobby I hold in the highest regard has it's debating stage from an American Publishing House.... hmmm, I think some people should stop eulogising about how bad it is to buy foreign product or the foreigners might do the same.

I choose what I use mostly based on "fit for purpose", sometimes more biased on price, sometimes biased on availability - always based on value. I am happy to tune my equipment as I have acquired skills and mastered techniques I would not have otherwise learned and I don't consider this metalwork over woodwork I view this as all part of the same hobby. Marc Spagnola suggests that woodworkers are fine engineers that work in wood - I totally agree with this view.

I don't buy Lie-Nielsen equipment because it won't satisfy all my needs -In my circumstances I can't balance the price against my need other need of value. I take more time and use a Stanley Plane which will satisfy both my need for a good result (quality) versus my need for value. Maybe purchasing decisions should be made this way and not be border dependant.

Posted: 4:27 am on June 6th

cutshurt cutshurt writes: Just to add another point of view. My brother in law looks at me and my prized Bed Rock planes and all of their copies with pity and sadness. He makes his own exquisitely crafted wooden planes and collects/uses Hotley, Norris and others that have no resemblance to anything made by Stanley, Lie-Neilsen or Wood River. He often tells me to "put down my toys and see what you can accomplish with a real plane". All of my Lie-Neilsen planes together wouldn't buy even one of his Hotley planes.
Posted: 9:48 pm on June 4th

cutshurt cutshurt writes: I am curious as to what Fine Woodworking would have to say if Stanley was to reintroduce the Bedrock line of planes and decided to incorporate some of the Lie-Neilsen improvements?

I buy the best that I can afford and own Lie-Nielsen, original Stanley Bailey and Bed Rock and a few Veritas and Preston. There is no doubt as to the quality of a LN plane and the company is a pleasure to deal with, but my prized planes are lovingly restored Bed Rocks. Although I do not own any of the Wood River planes, when I started out I probably would have purchased them if they were all that I could afford. You can get alot more use out of the plane that you can afford but requires a thorough tune up than a picture of a plane that is pinned on your workshop wall and is being saved up for.
Posted: 8:58 pm on June 4th

G3ne G3ne writes: I'm an hobbyist woodworker of 53 years and have bought a lot of tools, cheap and expensive. I have a couple of LNs, a couple of LVs and several garage sale planes that I restored to good working order. I recently sprung for the WR #5 Jack, and must admit after using it for a couple of months, it ain't bad for $120, but certainly isn't a match for the LN. Like a lot of others here, I'd prefer to buy American or Canadian products if I can, but won't automatically rule out Asian stuff if it's worthy. My other hobbies are skiing and diving, and must admit that a persons' skill and physical conditioning are much more important than the skiis or fins on their feet. Same with woodworking. I know several folks who can turn out beautiful work with very modest tools. Of course, that's just my opinion...I could be wrong..
Posted: 8:44 pm on June 4th

RalphinHB RalphinHB writes: I can't be sure, but I believe that the KEY word in the sentence... "I, too, prefer to stay away from Chinese manufacturing."...is "PREFER".

Sometimes we hardly have a choice, but if it's important for someone to buy American, then I don't believe we can knock that choice, this is America. I don't feel that way about buying American, I want to get the most bang for my buck...I just happen to feel for myself, that when it comes to tools, to buy the best that I can afford. I think that the LN tools are a good bang for the buck.

Proud Toyota truck owner.
Posted: 4:24 pm on June 4th

RalphinHB RalphinHB writes: I just voted with my dollars by buying a #3 bronze plane from Lie-Nielsen. Times too precious to spend all day tuning up and replacing the iron of a plane anymore.
Posted: 4:14 pm on June 4th

415 415 writes: Do the Woodcraft planes work as good as the LN out of the box?

"I, too, prefer to stay away from Chinese manufacturing."

Did you type that on a keyboard made in the US while looking at at US made screen?
Posted: 2:35 pm on June 4th

Madbeaver Madbeaver writes: Hello everyone I find it a good read when these sort of talks come up in the world of W.W. For me you get what you paid for!

There is nothing like high quailty tools, however if you want a price point, then look to your "yard sale " / Antiques stores.

I have right now a Number 4,5 & 6 Baily planes for under $200.00 and with some time cleaning up / truning up.

So now what I would get in my planes is a bevel up from L.V. not a off shore model:)

Sorry not with the time.

Posted: 12:25 pm on June 4th

pisdoff pisdoff writes: Fred west: How can you consider it undercutting?
It is simply supplying an alternative for those who cannot afford a L N.

Not everyone can afford a Cadillac, that's why
makes Chevys.
Posted: 11:32 am on June 4th

pisdoff pisdoff writes: Woodshaver, nobody is arguing that point. The argument is what do you do if you can't afford them?

$300 or so buys an awful lot of food, and mostly anything else.
Posted: 11:26 am on June 4th

pisdoff pisdoff writes: Yankeewoodworker states 'I've made a practice of giving gifts of ln hand planes'. I only have one question:

What do I have to do to become your best friend:-)
Posted: 11:07 am on June 4th

windridge windridge writes: You know, it's an old argument that not everyone gets, it's more a life experience thing. Some learn it earlier than others.
Here in the land of LL Bean, whose "100% satisfaction guaranteed in every way" is almost absurd, Lie Nielsen has emerged as a way to have a really good tool and actually save money in the long run. I recently dropped a 60 1/2R LN on a stone floor and bent the front knob and the adjustment on the cap. I dropped this very heavily used (and abused) plane from about 12 feet and was ready for a bill. LN not only replaced the parts, but also polished the sole without charge.
Yep, you get what you pay for. If you don't have ton's of money, you really can't aford the cheap tool.

Thanks for the forum,

Posted: 11:00 am on June 4th

hedge42 hedge42 writes: When I played serious golf in college my coach would always say..'a good putter will find a way to get the ball in the hole with a broomstick.' The same adage holds true for hand planes...give me a decent $50 Stanley whatever off of Ebay and about 2 hours to refurbish it and I will be producing the same results as a Lie-Neilsen out of the box for considerably more money. You cannot buy talent or feel...some of both are needed to obtain results in the woodshop or on the golf course.
Posted: 10:55 am on June 4th

pisdoff pisdoff writes: Krenovian writes 'don't give me that rationale about ln planes being unaffordable'.

That's not a rationale, that's reality. If you can afford the best, by all means buy it. I don't think there are many who would deny that LN is the best either.
The fact of the matter is, they are expensive! If you couldn't afford a Cadillac (maybe a poor comparison at the moment, but I'm sure you get the historical implication), should you go without a car until you have saved up enough to get one? Or does it make sense to go buy a Chevy or a Hundai or whatever to fulfill your basic needs?

I don't think anyone believes they are getting a LN on the cheap when they buy a wood river or whatever, but if it is an affordable substitute......

Posted: 10:47 am on June 4th

z123456789 z123456789 writes: Lie-Neilson Planes are very nice tools. I will never own one, because they are not so nice that I can't get the same results from an old Stanley or Wards Master that has been finely tuned.

When I recently bought a 1947 Unisaw I had several people question my rationale for buying a 61 year-old table saw. The man that owned it before me turned out amazing fine furniture even though he still used the original fence, I upgraded. I spent 12 hours fine tuning the saw (mostly because I had to take it apart to move it) and cleaning the top and now it cuts perfectly with its 1hp high torque motor that cuts through 3 inch oak like butter. $400 and 12 hours of my time learning all about my new to me table saw, that cuts as well as any PM 66 or modern Unisaw I have used.

One of the great things about less than perfect out of the box or used tools is that as you fine tune them you learn a great deal about them. I have a mish mash of planes from several manufacturers, they all have flat polished soles, and razor sharp blades, and most took an hour of theraputic for me fine tuning. But I know these tools now. I also have gotten to see how the planes are different. What I found out is that I would rather fine tune a plane myself than pay LN or LV to do it for me. As a result I have an added sense of confidence of knowing if I find a hidden nail I know how to fix my plane. The reality is that knowing how to properly use a plane is more important than have a technically perfect plane.
Posted: 9:54 am on June 4th

South Africa South Africa writes: These Lie-Nielsen look a likes have even popped in little South Africa.
Tool makers have for decades copied each other, Record for example built an industry around copying Stanley etc., even to the point of using the same numbering system with a 0 in front but at least they had the decency to wait for patents to expire & then copied them in an open transparent manner.
Currently all sorts of manufacturers copy existing tools, Kunz, Anant etc etc.
Even Lie-Nielsen themselves have never claimed to do anything other than to offer improved, superbly manufactured products based on other peoples originals.
But these planes are a direct rip off of Lie-Nielsen products, right down to the thickness of castings, thickness of blades, colour of the wood (thick coating trying to look like cherry) etc.
In my opinion, supporting this type of blatant plagiarism is exactly the same as buying pirated music, films etc. & should be treated by the law as such.
Why else would the people involved in copying Thomas Lie-Nielsen's products go to such extremes to get the look & feel of a Lie-Nielsen product than to profit from his reputation of excellence built up over 20 odd years of hard work.
I would not even bother to test this product as that would be giving those involved credibility they don't deserve.
Hey, thats only an Africans opinion, you Americans should be proud of the quality of your products

Posted: 7:32 am on June 4th

MotorT MotorT writes: Ok...So maybe my approach was all wrong. What are the salient features of the Lee-Nielsen. June 13, I'm taking a Wood working class in Philidelphia, Dove-tails, they recommend Lee-Nielsen, Tite Mark, Two cheerys and so on.

I am a Master Electrician by trade, for 40 years I bought nothing but the best but now I am retired, so I have gotten cheap. Reading the posts above, especially the one about the 'Knock-offs' really brought it home. For example, just about everything that has a screw connection, needs to be torqued to a specification provided by the manufacture. Of course. the higher the voltage the more critical the torque spec., I had just bought a Craftsman screwdriver and the first twist the tip twisted, My Kleins never twisted, disgusted I threw the screwdriver away. Sure I could take it back, but being in business I didn't have the time to waste to drive all the way to Sears for a replacement.

So bottom line, I see the error of my ways.
Posted: 7:29 am on June 4th

South Africa South Africa writes: These Lie-Nielsen look a likes have even popped in little South Africa.
Tool makers have for decades copied each other, Record for example built an industry around copying Stanley etc., even to the point of using the same numbering system with a 0 in front but at least they had the decency to wait for patents to expire & then copied them in an open transparent manner.
Currently all sorts of manufacturers copy existing tools, Kunz, Anant etc etc.
Even Lie-Nielsen themselves have never claimed to do anything other than to offer improved, superbly manufactured products based on other peoples originals.
But these planes are a direct rip off of Lie-Nielsen products, right down to the thickness of castings, thickness of blades, colour of the wood (thick coating trying to look like cherry) etc.
In my opinion, supporting this type of blatant plagiarism is exactly the same as buying pirated music, films etc. & should be treated by the law as such.
Why else would the people involved in copying Thomas Lie-Nielsen's products go to such extremes to get the look & feel of a Lie-Nielsen product than to profit from their reputation of excellence built up over 20 odd years of hard work.
I would not even bother to test this product as that would be giving those involved credibility they don't deserve.

Posted: 7:23 am on June 4th

South Africa South Africa writes: These Lie-Nielsen look a likes have even popped in little South Africa.
Tool makers have for decades copied each other, Record for example built an industry around copying Stanley etc., even to the point of using the same numbering system with a 0 in front but at least they had the decency to wait for patents to expire & then copied them in an open transparent manner.
Currently all sorts of manufacturers copy existing tools, Kunz, Anant etc etc.
Even Lie-Nielsen themselves have never claimed to do anything other than to offer improved, superbly manufactured products based on other peoples originals.
But these planes are a direct rip off of Lie-Nielsen products, right down to the thickness of castings, thickness of blades, colour of the wood (thick coating trying to look like cherry) etc.
In my opinion, supporting this type of blatant plagiarism is exactly the same as buying pirated music, films etc. & should be treated by the law as such.
Why else would the people involved in copying Thomas Lie-Nielsen's products go to such extremes to get the look & feel of a Lie-Nielsen product than to profit from their reputation of excellence built up over 20 odd years of hard work.
I would not even bother to test this product as that would be giving those involved credibility they don't deserve.

Posted: 7:21 am on June 4th

Razorarrow Razorarrow writes: I'm as broke as they come so when I do get a Lie-Nielsen I'm that much happier about it. I have two and there will be more. I don't care what anyone says this is a true American product. Started on a kitchen table! Come on guys this is what America is about. When I see a Stanley in good shape at a good price I will pick that up. But my main problem with the Chinese crap is not that it's of poor quality because a monkey could turn out a decent product. It's the job loss just to make the fat cats fatter. Look around and tell me where you can find anything American made. No where! When I see a nice Chinese piece all I can hear in my head is that Head of China telling Bush to shut up or he'll dumb a trillion U.S. dollars on the mark to crush our economy. No I have a choice and it's fun to save for this kind of tool, so I will save and get everyone of Lie-Nielsen tools or die trying. I have a choice and I chose made in Maine. I always hated that made in the America crap on poor quality products. It's a piece of crap " oh but it's made in America", so what! Just the unions pushing to keep their over paid jobs.
Posted: 12:28 am on June 4th

tkluck tkluck writes: Gee Wizz. Usually you see this kind of stuff in a PC vs. Mac thread. A flame war with all that saw dust?

I make wooden stuff for a hobby. I have grand children. Sometimes I make nice stuff for posterity. Or because the kids need a bookcase, a shelf, a picnic table. Or for my wife's birthday.

A couple of interesting things seem to pop out at me:
-I can't afford LN tools.
-I can't afford the furniture the pros here make ether.
-The economic concerns of a handful of high priced professional furniture makers to the very rich has absolutely nothing to do with my reality.
-The comments of the pros are a bit like reading Miss July's turnons and turnoffs. Mildly interesting perhaps, but are they personally relevant? At my age? Not very likely.
-It's not that hard to acquire a vintage Stanley plane, tune it and replace the blade.
-I buy that old Stanley from an American who usually needs the money more than LN, LV or Woodcraft.
-I learned to make wooden planes. May never buy another iron one. And talk about savings!
-My Honda was made in here, by folks whose uncle couldn't get them a UAW job at GM. Not by foreigners.

One last thought. It's been a rather long time since I bought a copy of the magazine with the above mentioned Miss July in it, but I subscribe to Fine Wood Working. For the pictures.

Posted: 10:17 pm on June 3rd

rk10007 rk10007 writes: Quite an interesting discussion, veering between tradition, craft, politics, economics, psychology, sociology and the plight of our auto industry. Jack Cafferty recently landed himself in trouble by characterizing the Chinese as a bunch of "goons and thugs" and said products manufactured in China are "junk." Then again, he may have been speaking of what has become of Detroit.
As for handplanes, I was once counseled to look for Stanley planes made in Sheffield, England. I was advised that the steel was of high quality, and, accomodating the European market, the Sheffield Stanleys were a heavier, more sturdy plane than their American or Canadian counterpart. I am not yet sure, as I am only now putting together my dream workshop, and have yet to tune the planes and put them to the test. My collection is all N.O.S., and I am pleased with the fit and finish, though, I must admit, they do not compare with the bronze beauties cast by LN. I am pleased nonetheless. I am sure they will serve my hobbiest purposes, just fine. Also, though they were manufactured across the pond, that was long, long ago, and my e-bay purchases all added to the domestic economy.
I recently purchased my first new car. All my past purchases were American cars, strangely enough, some were purchased from foreigners, and none purchased in the same decade of manufacture. My recent new car purchase was a Honda Element. While I'd have much preferred to buy American, it was not so much that I left the American market, as the American market left me. Nothing here compares to the versatility of the Element. It seems the Japanese, like LN, have a knack for listening, not just producing.
Posted: 9:32 pm on June 3rd

krenovian krenovian writes: I feel very sad every time I see Woodcraft knock off a small manufacturer. I believe Tite-Mark was the first victim, and now this WR stuff. Looking at the castings, it is clear that the knock-off is based solely on the LN plane. As a customer of Woodcraft, I think it is time for us to just say no to these tools. And this is not the same as buying a Japanese vs. American car. Those vehicles are differentiated and they are large companies that can protect their innovations. LN, although expensive, have provided a product that was no longer available from the original manufacture. You all can rationalize all you want about not affording LN and justifying buying the knock-off. But I know, deep-down, you know who's business you are hurting, and why.

By the way, I spent 20 years in the Fortune 500 and have a business degree, so don't give me the tired, "service to shareholder argument." When I started, public corporations had ethical practices, not like today.
Posted: 8:08 pm on June 3rd

chs chs writes: It is of my opinion we must look at what is american made and buy that. Not trying to offended people outside of the United States.
Posted: 7:17 pm on June 3rd

torlew torlew writes: It never ceases to amaze me how Chippendale,Hepplewhite etc made such exquisite furniture without the aid of LN or LV or the availability of tool steel irons(high carbon goes without saying).Its all down to the craftsman.
Posted: 6:04 pm on June 3rd

Mark Dennen Mark Dennen writes: I recall a comment supposedly attributed to Lincoln regarding the use of tariffs. It was something like, "I don't fully understand the dynamics of the tariff, but I know if I buy an English coat, I have the coat and the English have the money. But if I buy an American coat, I have the coat and an American has the money." As for me, I try to buy the very best quality tool and thus never have to worry about buying a replacement for a long, long time. It forces me to budget and carefully consider each purchase.

We have a many fine craftsmen in this country and I am glad to support them through the purchase of their products. Either we all hang together or surely we will all hang separately.

Posted: 5:50 pm on June 3rd

Fred Herring Fred Herring writes: I Live in Holland. I've used planes of Nooitgedagt, Record, Veritas and Clifton. Then I bought a Lie-Nielsen, maybe about ten year ago. The dollar was high in those days, and I have to pay high shipping costs, a tax rate of 18.5%, customs fee and importation fee for importing goods from outside Europe (how about protectionism...).
But, the very high quality, the very good service and the nice people at Lie-Nielsen make up for all the pain you feel in your wallet. On the other hand, if you cannot afford it, you can buy cheaper planes. But prepare for an awful lot of work to make them perform like a Lie-Nielsen. What do you want to be: a metal worker or a woodworker?

Posted: 4:33 pm on June 3rd

knut knut writes: what
Posted: 3:03 pm on June 3rd

knut knut writes: I respect that many people appreciate LN AND LV products. I have no doubt that their reputation is well earned. I also wonder what all the talk is about. If the aforementioned planes are worth it, people will continue to pay the price for them. On the other hand, I'm sure a lot of folks would like to pay less for one, in both cases all according to their particular needs and desires. As for the political issues involved, how many of you can say you do not now or have ever owned a foreign brand car or other foreign products? For hobbyist woodworkers who don't sell their products, tools are out-of-pocket expense items, and not everyone can justify the cost of the highest priced ones. However, most still want as good a tool as they can afford, and if it happens to be Chinese, so what?
Posted: 3:00 pm on June 3rd

Bowis Bowis writes: Just one point of clarification (since I attacked the notion of buying purely based on country of origin). I don't own a single hand plane that wasn't made in the U.S. or Canada. But those decisions were made based on buying the best quality tool I could afford. My LN smoother is probably my favorite hand tool, but I also own a post-WWII Stanley #4 that is a virtual piece of garbage. Both made in the same country, but with widely varying quality. My point is, evaluate on quality and value, not country of manufacture. I know a lot of beginner woodworkers that can't afford a $300 plane, so if Wood River can offer them something of usable quality at half the price, this will only help to drive competition, innovation, and build our craft.
Posted: 2:54 pm on June 3rd

WaterPenny WaterPenny writes: I am a scientist by training. At one time I worked professionally in a wood shop making furniture. I learned about good and bad tools both in the wood shop and through experience. I inherited my father's hand tools and they do not work any better now than they did when I was a kid using them. They are cheap tools and no amount of tuning will bring them up to a quality standard. I assume they were US made at some time in the 1940's. I purchased a Stanley hand plane and it performs fine. I purchased a LN edge plane and found out how a fine tool works! I was asked to make screen doors for our ship (I am an aquatic scientist) and used my LN #2 to plane the trim pieces for the screen doors while traversing the Welland Canal. The plane did exactly what I needed done with only the effort required to do the work. The old tool I inherited would not have performed in this situation and would have produced an inferior worked piece.

Yes, the cost of the LN planes are high. I appreciate the quality built in the tool and is reflected in its use. As for the Woodcraft WR they are just trying to get reasonable tool into the hands of their customers. Only time and use will tell if the WR tools are worth the investment.

I am not limited in my acceptance or rejection of pieces of equipment based on where they are manufactured. My camera is Japanese, my microscope is German with an American made digital camera attached. I would rather have a quality 'tool' that will do the job I need (require). My work demands that my equipment not be the limiting factor rather my skill, either as a scientist or a wood worker. I like coffee but coffee does not grow in the US.
Posted: 2:06 pm on June 3rd

gtc10485 gtc10485 writes: Thomas Lie Nielsen is a wonderful, valuable resource. If you want him to be there the next time you need him, save up and buy his stuff. His products are worth every penny. Think about trying to buy a replacement part for a Wood River ten years from now. I remember what it was like trying to buy bedrock parts 20 years ago.

St. Louis
Posted: 1:08 pm on June 3rd

GRJensen GRJensen writes: Would I buy one of the Chinese knock-offs? Probably not. I have come to value quality over price when it comes to tools, and don't mind spending a little more to get something that is of enduring quality and value. I have spent much of the past few years building my collection of hand-planes, starting with my Dad's old Stanley No 5. My collection now includes a Stanley No 3 (1898), a Stanley No 4 (1910), a Stanley No 7 (1920), a Stanley No 92 (1940's), a pre-WWII Craftsman filister plane, etc. My point here is that (with the exception of a newer Stanley block plane) I could have spent a lot less money and probably got something that 'works'. I sure woudl not have spent countless hours in the shop restoring and tuning these old planes. But I get a tremendous rush everytime Dad's old jack plane cuts shavings so thin you can read newsprint through them!
Posted: 12:58 pm on June 3rd

Madison2 Madison2 writes: Well the controversey rages and I really can add nothing that has not already been said multiple times. However, as a maker who does buy tools for professional use I will say that I own and use hand planes daily, from Stanley's that I've refurbished to both LV and LN.

Here's my take. My clients are Americans and Canadians they support me and I like to think I support them. I'm happy to say that when I share my views with my clients they are often impressed that things like LN planes are made here in the US. So while I am not against imports I can honestly say that in this case my using tools made here does have a positive impact on my business.

Also for those of you squawking about the prices of a good plane consider this, a hundred years ago a quality hand plane sold for about a month's wage. So if we assume the wage was around 10.00 a month and we saw inflation over the past 100 years at 3% that 10.00 hand plane in 1909 would cost about $200 in 2009. Far less than a month's wage!

Let's all get back to work!


Posted: 12:33 pm on June 3rd

bcwoody bcwoody writes: Some have stated that they have over the years added to a full collection of old Stanleys etc etc.
In this wonderful world of working wood and its woodworkers of all levels of skill, some amateur and some professional there are those that love hand tools and collect them and those that use tools to make money. The latter use particular tools for their ability to perform the task to required specification and the tool's ease of use (the experience).
I too love tools but in my experience replacing the collections with a few really good tools is way better in real performance, it saves time and the pleasure factor is a TEN. I have reduced a wannabe collection of old collectibles and acquired only a well selected few top quality hand tools. Mine are comprised of LN and Veritas tools and I find I spend far less time fussing and more time happy with a solid performing tool. For example consider one block plane only. For most of your work you will look for a low angle. When you need to deal with gnarly grain then replace only the blade with a steeper ground blade that you have available.
With this approach I will hardly consider the knock-offs. Its not worth the time if I must check to see if the tool is capable. With LN and Veritas I don't have to check the tool. I have the peace of mind that it WILL work flawlessly and less tools makes the overall cost more manageable.
Here is a challenge to the doubters - take a new Veritas block plane (not the polished version and not the old style - too wide) or an LN 60 1/2 as your first move up. Chances are you will buy more of these manufacturers products after that.
Posted: 12:31 pm on June 3rd

mstrrktek mstrrktek writes: It is sad to see more of the same thing going on with Woodcraft copying something great and taking it to China to make. Is this truly to make available an affordable plane to those who can not afford a Lie-Nielsen? No. A definite no. It is merely Woodcraft's desire to take sales away from Lie-Nielsen. Why not instead work with LN to perhaps get a better price for Woodcraft and make LN's just a bit cheaper when purchased from Woodcraft?
Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for Woodcraft, but it seems they are becoming more of a "corporation" than a store serving the woodworking community. Their "more than retail" prices on many things, such as whiteside router bits, and so many other things, is testimony to this.
It is becoming a vicious circle of downward descent in retail businesses when they do this sort of thing. When is the last time Rockler did NOT have some new "rockler innovation" for sale in its catalog?
Lie-Nielsen, and those like this company are what we need more of in America and from which we need to stay loyal to and promote.
If you really need a plane, but can't afford a LN, start with a "cheap" (not "too" cheap!) one that can be readily fine-tuned; or, save!!! LN is worth every penny - I never used planes until I got my first LN - now I find excuses to just go "relax" by using my LN. Truly a pleasant experience - right out of the AMERICAN box!!!
Posted: 12:08 pm on June 3rd

Rennaissance_Man Rennaissance_Man writes: I don't know about you folks but I like feel of an old or Lie-Nielsen plane in my hand. Yes over the years I have purchased a tool or two from China, however It is the last resort when I could not find a well made USA substitute. It was not worth the pennies I saved when I did, the Blepen' tool sent me to the emergency room and cost more that a thousand dollars.
Posted: 11:51 am on June 3rd

starryNight starryNight writes: This is a subject that really gets my Irish up (and i'm not even Irish!) so exuse me in advance if I upset anyone's sensibilities. If you think for one minute that large American corporations are morally accountable to their workers then you are blinded by a misguided belief. Corporations are resposible to their SHAREHOLDERS. the very definition of capitalism is to profit from and idea or creation in anyway shape or form. Workers are there simply to meet that need. When the US pushed Canada and Mexico to sign the NAFTA agreement who's best interest do you think they were looking out for - definately not the American working men and women. So now not only do we have American corporations like Nike and Shell and GM (and many more) exploiting workers in the US, they can now exploit workers in other countries where regulations on labor laws and environmental control are not enforced for the sake of stuffing the shareholders pockets. This does double damage as you know because it leaves the US citizen at the unemployment line. The average joe like you and me are the loosers in this equation. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for excellence through health competition, but not when at the expense of people's lives, their children's education and the environment. Obviously no one wants to be under the control of a dictating government, but is having 10s of thousands of hard working people layed off or living as one of the "working poor" really that fair and ethically responsible? The irony is that as woodworkers we applaud hard work and attention to detail through mastery yet we want convenient, cheap tools that make woodworking easy and fast. And do we really need 20 different table saws to choose from?
Posted: 11:15 am on June 3rd

goodguy goodguy writes: To Tkarlman... I agree, a real review should include the information you asked for: squareness, type of steel both in the blade and in the body, and of course, how well the plane performs.

A friend bought three of them and asked me to check them out and sharpen them. Here's what I found out...

The blade is advertised as "high-carbon tool steel, RC 60-64" Don't believe it. First of all, the variance from RC 60 to 64 is too wide. Hardened and tempered steel is expected to have a variance of 2 points because of the method of testing and heat-treatment variables. But when they tout a four-point spread in an ad, be wary... it's probably hype. If a seller advertises a four-point hardness spread, that means he is full of BS or the manufacturing tolerances are too wide. So, I took a blade to another friend's machine-shop and tested it on a durometer in three places. The #5 blade was slightly harder near the edge (RC 60) and barely made it RC 59 at the middle and top. My machinist buddy said the slight extra-hardness near the blade could be from work-hardening during grinding and honing the bevel.

Squareness... The planes we looked at were fairly square, within a few thou per six inches... not quite up to LN or Veritas standards

Soles... nicely flat, but improved with some tuning. A few minutes with the old-granite block and some abrasives did the trick.

Sharpness... Not great, but not nearly as awful as the big-box store's planes. Here again, a few minutes on the honing stones brought it into good working condition.

I cannot tell whether the body is ductile ( stress-relieved) without breaking it, so I don't know about that.

New??? Just so-so... After tuning and sharpening... very good.
The adjustment mechanism has more "lash-back" and play than LN or Veritas or E.C. Emmerich Primus planes. That didn't bother me much because I am used to old Stanleys anyway. But the cut-quality (for at least a few minutes worth of testing) was as good as any well-adjusted plane of this type.

Just for fun, I stuck one of my Academy Saw Works HSS blades in the number 5. That made it purr like a kitten.

So... bottom line... Woodcraft is trying to sell a look-alike LN plane at half the price. LN had the dignity to say they copied Stanely, and made improvements. WR is copying the copies. Professionals can immediately feel the difference, and we know that without a great blade, the plane will not stay sharp very long. You can upgrade with an LN blade, or Hock Tools blade or make your own blade from Hitachi HSS. After you consider the time tuning, truing, adjusting, and the expense of retro-fitting a quality blade, the savings evaporate.

I'll let others make their decisions based on their needs, proclivities and budget. These are just the facts I know so far.

My feeling is that I would not buy them for personal use. (The three planes we tested belong to a friend.) If I need a less-expensive plane for field work, I carry the Swiss Rali planes with replaceable blades. I keep the LN, Veritas, ECE and other high-end stuff at home, locked in the shop with RFID and GPS devices. Screw the dog, beware of the owner! I've had my fancy tools stolen before and don't want that hassle again.

Some people will buy these planes though because of price. With some tune-up and sharpening, they will get 80 percent of the high-priced spread for half the dough. It is unlikely that a part time user would notice much difference unless he used it everyday and had a great plane to compare it to. I doubt that many pros will embrace them, especially if they hail from Maine.

Posted: 11:05 am on June 3rd

yankeewoodworker yankeewoodworker writes: Sort of ironic that a bunch of luddites are arguing about which hand tool is the most authentic, works best, designed best, feels best, looks best, made from best stuff.
I purchase antique users all the time- just found a great set of spar planes from MJ Donnelly auction. The amount of time it takes me to make an old user user-friendly is pretty tough to swallow. Normally it makes a whole lot more sense to purchase a LN new if the same plane is offered.
Truth is it's comforting for me to see the support for Lie Nielsen. I've been to the factory many times, not always to buy but always to see what's new, learn something different, play. I've made a practice of giving gifts of LN hand planes. I see those same hand planes being used every day and I know with satisfaction I've given my friends something beyond dollars and cents. I'm not sure the same could be said for the chinese version. I can't be certain because I've never held one or used one. One thing I can say is that it frightens me each time i open a box containing an item made in China and smell that cutting oil/ degreaser smell. I was told once by an engineer who used to make bicycle parts in Taiwan what that smell is and how that same cutting oil/ degreaser is forbidden here in the US. Could be I am wrongly informed and merely paranoid, dunno.
This world is struggling to learn valuable lessons about consumerism run amuck; cheaper, faster is the name of the game; seems like cheaper faster makes it into the garbage can/ landfill faster too.
I like good tools. I like reaching for a tool that works great every time I reach for it. I like tools designed to do what they do well. I also like knowing that each time i've dropped a LN plane they've been willing to fix my mistake free of charge. I like knowing that the same fellow who's been sharpening plane blades at the factory store is there each time I go. So my choice? Not even close....LN all the way.
Posted: 10:58 am on June 3rd

scicdad scicdad writes: I appreciate FW's continued attention to the selection, use, and quality of handtools. I began my own journey with handtools only about 6 years ago. Since that time I have managed to purchase several new and old and even rare planes, chisels, marking tools, etc from US, UK, German, Japanese, and Asian suppliers. FW's how-to articles have been instrumental in helping me sort out good techniques from bad ones; good buys from not-so-good ones.

As for the "new crop" of planes, I must say that I am happy to think that handtool usage has increased enough for the foreign manufacturers to "take notice" and help bring costs down. I trust intellectual property is NOT being stolen by Wood River or anyone who attempts to market "knock offs" here in the US. I would want to know about that.

I've had the pleasure of working with Asian manufacturers (but in the electronics industry) for many years now. My experience there tells me that product quality does not have to suffer just because something is "made in China". The people I worked with there were extremely conscientious and capable of doing a very good job. Again, apart from "knock-off ethics", I appreciate being armed with information that helps me objectively evaluate the quality of a tool irrespective of its country of origin.

The real joy of woodworking comes from using a well-designed tool that's in good working order. Unfortunately most of us don't have endless supplies of money allowing us to always pick No. 1 on the list of "best tools". Getting the best from "good enough" is sometimes the best any of us can do. A little bit of "tool theory" coupled with lots of focused practice (and mistakes) can yield good results from old & worn-out tools and also from "bargains". And then again, some "bargains" are not worth it at any price. But this is where FW can continue to be very helpful.

Finally, I found it curious that this article coincides with
a similar one written by Chris Schwarz in the June issue of Popular Woodworking. Happy coincidence?

Posted: 10:54 am on June 3rd

swannyww swannyww writes: Think of it this way in the world of woodworking Sam Maloof (rest in peace) designed furniture his way and made a name for himself because of it. It took him many many years to be recognized and even more to make money at it. Now say China comes along and makes cheap copies of his work and sells them by the thousands. All that hard work my Maloof has been stolen by those never put in the time to or risk, to design their own furniture. Maloopf's long line of awaiting customers isn't so long anymore, and for what could have been a long career for generations will be cut short. It's kind of like Elvis impersonators, cheap but still not the same. I have had other woodworkers copy my ideas and in some way I am flattered, but when I see the work they have attempted to copy I see things I never would do and that cheapens my whole concept, and undermines my future work. If the copy fails in some way it reflects on my work because of the resemblance.
Posted: 10:54 am on June 3rd

seatoe seatoe writes: LN is fortunate to survive. It has carved out a niche for those few who can afford their tools. It is staffed by dedicated people frrom the area who appreciate good tools. I'm guessing that they don't belong to any union and their wages are not consistant with similar workers in other tool companies. They are also located in an out of the way area in Maine. (no state tax, I believe). If it were located in a more accessible part of the country, I don't think they would survive. They probably know that if they go offshore, they will lose any patrons they have.
I compare LN to the companies who make designer clothes and jewelry for pets. They are of the best quality and expensive but they cater to the rich. I wish LN well and hope they can continue their quest for quality, but I'm a bit skeptical about their survival.
Posted: 10:50 am on June 3rd

Emeralds Emeralds writes: I find it interesting that while many professionals taught the virtues of purchasing the "best" one afford, most true artisans rarely seem to care and employ a wide assortment of tools which are only rarely of high-end manufacture.

I've seen incredibly inspired work done with a seven dollar chisel a homemade mallet and an inexpensive set of bench top tools. The real differential here appears to be time spent.

While most professionals are seemingly driven by the "time is money adage", (something I believe many people tell themselves so they can feel better about an extravagant purchase or a less than precise joint fit) the artisan appears to relish the work and embrace time taken to make the tool serve the objective.

Perhaps rather than expounding the virtues of "buying the best one can afford" more useful advice might be to make the best out of what you've been blessed with.
Posted: 10:47 am on June 3rd

onwis onwis writes: Mr Fred West
I answer all correspondence that I receive. I am not sure what email address you used, however it is obvious it did not work. Feel free to call Woodcraft 304-422-5412 if you would like to discuss this or anything else pertaining to Woodcraft with me. If I am not immediately available I assure you I will return a call.

Jeff Forbes
Posted: 10:35 am on June 3rd

BobEwart BobEwart writes: I've found that it doesn't pay to buy cheap tools. They usually don't pass the bounce test (that's when I get frustrated and bounce them off the nearest wall.) On the other hand, there is the law of diminishing returns. It costs a lot more to get a little little more quality.

The real question is yet to be answered by Chris G; how well do they perform? Whether the difference is worth it depends on the individual. WHirsch probably needs the best he can get. I'm not sure I do.

The question of where the tool was made is difficult to tell. Many American companies have their products made outside the US. All car companies are international. My last Ford was built outside the US. Many Japanese cars are built here.
Posted: 9:56 am on June 3rd

scooteruk scooteruk writes: Wow! Marketing Econ 101. There are lots of reasons all of us by tools: price, availability, specific use, durability, design/function and even origin. First off, there is no such thing as a 'free market' and there never really has been. Patents, trademarks, tariffs, duties (and countervailing duties), NAFTA are just some of the tools governments use to reward innovation and increase competition/protection. Living in Detroit for the past 4 years has made this painfully clear. You can stop stomping on Detroit, we are way ahead of the curve on self-loathing at this point, but I will point out that one of the bigger reasons the Big Three got caught with their collective pants down around the ankles was, well, ah, you guys. The number one selling vehicle in the world for many recent years was-the Ford 150. Not to mention SUV's and pickups in general. Demand was so high and the profits so great it would have been criminal from a business point of view not to make 'em. Now really, did you need it? Was it stupid for Big3 to build them ad infinitum? I don't know, why don't you ask Nissan and Toyota and Honda how their pickup and SUV sales have been after sinking billions into the US market based on perceived demand. The vaunted Japanese carmakers thought they were clever and stole the great idea for the great automotive icon-the truck and make it better. High gas prices, low credit availability dashed many 'big ride' egos.

And so it goes with planes. You are the demand. Go on eBay and tell me why used L-N planes sell for as much or more than their new ones (especially if you buy them from Clarence Blanchard at FineTool Journal)? I've been buying LN planes and paraphenalia since the '80's. You know, Thomas LN could have made a lesser quality plane when he started, but he didn't. I'm guessing he geared his business plan towards an ill defined market that wanted the best product he could produce and let the chips fall. Go to his store in Warren, Maine and see what years of constant attention to detail and demand by fine woodworkers has lead to... Ask yourself who else was willing to provide 'floats' for planemakers? Who invested heavily in a new on-site casting facility to control quality and cost? Recently, on a Sunday afternoon, I sent an email to LN customer service with a question about the vintage of an LN beading tool I picked up. Within minutes I got a response Based on the information I supplied. I was told it was an early model without A2 steel but would be perfectly fine for my applications. The note was signed 'Thomas'.
To me, there is great value in that and all the other amenities that come with the purchase of a LN product. I don't have to compare, I know what's good enough for me. It's not a charity buy by any means. There's lots of people who have more dollars than sense who use 'price' as their only guide. What Thomas LN makes is perfect for his market and great for his community and employees. A nice bit of busniness stewardship that adds great value to my pride of ownership. They will always have a 'leg-up' on any competition as far as I'm concerned.
Posted: 9:24 am on June 3rd

JustAbout JustAbout writes: Don't think I can add much to this debate. Since I already have a set of planes, carefully tuned and sharpened, the discussion seems just a bit remote. What has always annoyed me was that I have had to tune-up so many of my tools purchased out of the box, and old tools all needed rehabilitation. This requires many hours of effort.

Is the Wood River sole dead flat? Are the sides dead square? Will the iron stay sharp? Is the wood in the handles going to break the first time you put pressure on them? How well do they adjust?

When I get a hankering for a new tool, I hanker for the best, and LV and LN currently hold that position in my mind. I justify the cost by knowing that the little things, like a dead-flat sole and square sides make a significant difference to my joy and to the quality of my work. I would rather work with wood than with cast iron any day of the week. Sending back a tool that does not meet my specs is a great feeling.

And the folks that are willing to settle for a tool that does not measure up will probably do the same with their own work.

And that says a lot about my handle (screen name, alter-ego,...). :)
Posted: 9:21 am on June 3rd

erenaud erenaud writes: Like others I could not afford LN planes when I started out. Rather than buy junk, I scoured flee markets and auctions for old dusty Stanleys (usually type 11 or 12) that were serviceable. With a little cleaning, buffing and lapping they are every bit the equal of the LN planes, usually at a cost of less than $20 and some prep time. I now have a wide range of perfectly tuned stanleys, both plain and corrugated sole, for what ONE LN would have cost me. While the high end planes are nice to look at, they make no sense financially. In regards to all the China bashing, how many posters complaining about supporting American products are driving Japanese cars? Hmmm?

Posted: 8:49 am on June 3rd

Mike92 Mike92 writes: I have been a spare time wood worker for over a decade now. I started buying second hand cheap tools. Many of these were made cheaply (does not matter in which country they were manufactured) and I ended up buying better. This not only decreased frustration but decreased the amount of wood I had for weekend fires with my neighbors. In the last few years I have started using hand tools. I have found many older Stanley planes that with a little work are fine workers and for the amount I use them are perfect. I also own a LN and sveral Lee Valley tools. Yes you pay for the quality but it is worth it. I also found that when shopping on the net for old Stanley stuff that was not complete rust you were looking at paying nearly as much for what you could buy a Lee Valley tool for. Why not go new?

On a completely different note, due to my employment, I have taken a closer look at manufacturing practices. I have seen reports on Chinese manufacturing that in those industries where nickel-cadmium batteries were produced there was a very high cost to the workers (premature death) due to heavy metal poisoning. My choice to buy from other manufacturers is due to human cost and not quality.
Posted: 8:36 am on June 3rd

jgwpat jgwpat writes: As most of the other postings have implied, there are many more differences than simple physical measurements of these planes. Steel quality of the castings and irons are two main things that determine quality and neither of these were mentioned in the FW article ! However, I find it most disappointing to see the absence of any mention of Lee Valley, when someone writes an article about quality tools. To me the FW article lacks credibility ! Although I do have some off shore tools, I try to buy North American Quality wherever possible, just as I try to patronize my local/regional food and wine producers and restaurants. I have never been disappointed with an owner operated restaurant of an owner operated tool source - (read Lee Nielsen - Lee Valley). One of the reasons we work with wood is for the pride and satisfaction we obtain from a finished product. Part of the satisfaction comes from using tools you are proud to own.
Posted: 8:33 am on June 3rd

j1r2 j1r2 writes: Old habits (as a former school teacher) die hard. It should be: Who be begot Whom? Now I feel better.
Posted: 8:29 am on June 3rd

Bowis Bowis writes: I think there is a little too much emphasis on copy-catting here. Most handplane manufacturers (Lee Valley excluded) make no bones about basing their designs on the Stanley patterns. The patents on those planes expired long ago, and many woodworkers look for tools that are familiar to them, that they know how to tune and use. There is no harm in that strategy, nor infringement on any patents.

That being said, I take exception to the folks condemning the purchase of non-US tools. It is that exact mentality that got the US auto industry in hot water. That sort of anti-competitive behavior leads to a stifling of innovation and quality over time. Buying a product simply because of it's country of origin is fine, as long as you think of it as a charitable donation, not a sound purchase.

I would submit that Canadian Lee Valley has thought outside the box, and developed higher quality tools of their own design, that are even better value for the money. Ever use a Stanley or LV shoulder plane? LV revolutionized the design by adding a swiveling knob to save your knuckles from shredding on the tenon shoulder with each stroke. Just because they are made in Canada, I'm not going to deprive my shop of a higher quality, higher-value tool. But if you consider your bloody knuckles a badge of patriotism, then more power to you.
Posted: 8:02 am on June 3rd

Jammit Jammit writes:
Innovation and lowering costs and mass production has been on the go since year dot.

While I really appreciate excellent tools, I am also prepared to get something that is near, close or identical to the high priced item, for substantially less.

While all the luddites decry the knock off's of knock off's from people who make them in China or India etc., they also have failed to cite all the instances of every purchase they have made, purely or nearly so, on the basis of cost.

And they also have failed to cite all the times and instances, that they have gone to make things themselves, rather than pay big $$$ from their own pocket.

Irrespective of this, the issue is the balance of the out of the factory door price, how much marking up across how many ever stages; including the final sale price - that the market is willing to pay for the said devices.

When all is said and done the consumer will balance out the value of any item based upon perceived value and word of mouth.

Does the very high price really justify the quality of the product? Would the fact that product A is five times as expensive as product B, mean that the accuracy, build quality or need to resharpen also change by a factor of five?

For my tastes, one of my priorities is to have support, run by English speaking people in my own country - not outsourced barely literate script monkeys who have never seen or even dismantled and serviced the said product.

By the sounds of it, if I wanted spares and service from people who had their act together, I'd go with the LN planes; if I didn't particularly care for that and or I either could not justify the outlay for a very expensive product in light of a very similar model that had only a marginal amount of difference, then I'd buy the substantially cheaper model.

Posted: 7:57 am on June 3rd

wscrivens wscrivens writes: I've been working in wood as an amateur for well over a half-century. Many of my tools were my father's, and like him, most of my woodworking has something to do with wooden boats.

I've been terribly dismayed over the past decade or so to see what I have to call the "Yuppifying" of woodworking, and Woodcraft has been leading the charge. It has become almost impossible to find reasonably priced, good quality tools for the amateur woodworker. I've learned first-hand over the years (since I didn't listen to my father) that it doesn't pay to buy "cheap" tools - they don't produce consistent, accurate work, and they don't stay sharp. OTOH, there is no way I could justify paying $400 for a plane or $300 for a shop vacuum. Professional woodworkers need to evaluate the cost of a tool over its lifetime; frequently it makes sense to pay twice as much for a given tool if it will last three times as long in the shop, or will allow them to produce better work more easily. Most amateurs don't face that dilemma, since we don't use tools enough to wear them out and we aren't getting paid for our time.

If Woodcraft is offering good quality plans at reasonable prices, more power to them. I look forward to an in-depth review; just glancing at the catalog it looks like Wood River is a good compromise price-wise. I'm always skeptical about Chinese quality, but face it, nearly all of today's computers are manufactured there, and while I wouldn't have looked twice at a Honda car in 1970, today I wouldn't buy anything else.

From what I've read, companies like Lie-Nielsen and Veritas are targeting the high-end, wealthy, amateur woodworker. Sadly the result has been to erect insurmountable price barriers for the less well-to-do beginner.

I don't bear any animosity for the high-end manufacturers, but I am glad to see some (hopefully good quality) tools available for "the rest of us"


Posted: 7:47 am on June 3rd

MotorT MotorT writes: Chabber, 1/1000 of an inch eh ? Hehehe...

The implication is that Woodcraft took proprietery information and created a cheaper look-a-like plane. In most states that is a serious Offense, with jail time attached. When I worked for E.W.Bliss, all our drawings had a proprietery statement stamped right on the drawings. At one International Trade Show in Chicago, at McCormack Place, the standing rule was nobody took pictures of the other guys machines, etc, out of courtesey to that company and to the ethics of the trade. There were a lot of 'Asians'(there were probably others but the Asians were the most blatant about it) running around with cameras, and even sketch pads trying to get an edge on their competition.

There's an old saying, 'You get what you pay for', but where is that fine line where you are getting your money's worth and actually getting 'ripped-off' for what you're paying. I guess if I were a professional Woodworker I might consider paying $1000 dollars for two planes, but if you are just out of trade school and starting your own business, that's an awful steep price.

As far as China goes get use to it. They just about own this country, and if they decide to get rid of US as a financial burden we will be in really bad shape. America use to be a great competitor until the Government realized they couldn't pay for all it's social programs without first taxing the socks off Big companies that made quality products, hence they moved over seas.

Lee-Nielsen is one of the last quality company's and it shows but I can't afford his prices and buy wood at the same time. And soon it will cost about $1.50 everytime I start my tablesaw.

Posted: 7:40 am on June 3rd

chabber chabber writes: MotorT -

I can adjust my LN planes by .001 of an inch. Planing titanium is another issue.

- J
Posted: 3:18 am on June 3rd

WHirsch WHirsch writes: As a professional instrument builder, I depend on my hand tools a lot. Without a doubt, one of the best purchases I've ever made was a Lie-Nielson block plane. While it is small, it fits the hand perfectly and is really hefty. I get zero chatter on end grain. The speed with which I can accomplish planing tasks with this tool more than offsets the initially high price. I don't look at it as a cost, I look at it as an investment. I know that the tool was made with pride and that if anything ever goes wrong, I'll be able to get it serviced by people who actually give a damn about what they make and not just profit. I don't think the same can be said for the WR planes. I also get a kick out of knowing that this is a tool that will probably be given to a grandchild at some point.
Posted: 1:51 am on June 3rd

woodshaver woodshaver writes:
I make my living working wood using some tools my great grandfather used,all I have to say is buy the best tools you can afford.for me that would be the lie neilson, a tool made
to last.
Posted: 10:53 pm on June 2nd

Tailspin Tailspin writes: Shame on Woodcraft for making direct molds from the Lie-Nielsen product. At least when LN make their products, they do not steal shapes, rather recreate and enhance based on performance issues. Yes, their planes are a bit expensive, but with that you get quality, full customer support and a product you know will last beyond your grandsons, grandsons life times. Veritas, on the other hand, is a true competitor since their product has originality and quality. Go ahead buy that Chinese crap. The stuff with steel that has air pockets in it. The stuff that has threaded items that do not match SAE, metric or any other standard known to man. The stuff that's made by a country that never learned from our mistakes and doesn't give a rats ass about their people they are killing from all the pollution they have created. All people want is a lot of stuff that's cheap. Wow, how far we've advanced.
Posted: 8:08 pm on June 2nd

MotorT MotorT writes: Can anyone explain why Lee-Nielsen's are so much better than the original Stanley No. 7 or whatever the number is. I know better steel, but at what point are you paying for the name rather than a quality product.

Do the more expensive, (like 500% more that the normal price), Lee-Nielsen ever need to be sharpened ? Or do they last forever, Never Needs Sharpening...But there isn't a piece of steel made that is used for a cutting tool that doesn't need to be sharpened.

So how does anyone justify a $500 dollar bill for a number 7 Jointer or 150 bucks for a simple block plane. We are talking hand tools here and planing wood, not a CNC precision tool machining titanium Airplane parts with a tolerance of +/- .005 of an inch or better.

Another thing is parts ever since Henry Ford most tools and machines with more than one part have replacement parts readily available. If you break a trunion on your table saw do you go out and buy another table saw ? No of course not you buy another trunion.

We are doing the same job our Grand-fathers did 100 years ago planing wood, He made some really nice furniture with the tools he had available and he knew how to take care of them and keep them sharp, regardless who made them.
Posted: 8:01 pm on June 2nd

w8nay w8nay writes: I belive these planes are from India not China.. Does not make a lot of difference. Chev. Saturn comes from Mexico and my Subaru was mfg. in Indiana. So there are no ALL American products.
Posted: 7:30 pm on June 2nd

BigBrett58 BigBrett58 writes: I prefer more options to less options. Woodcraft is providing a less expensive alternative. No one is going to debate that the LN is a better plane out of the box with superior customer service, but it comes with a difference in price. If you want to spend your money on the best, LN and LV are there for you. I'm excited that there is another tier of planes for the cost conscious that don't want complete junk nor want to spend the time truing up an old Stanley. Let's not pretend that this is anything like stealing Col. Sander's secret recipe. Planes are not exactly rocket science. The qualities that make LN planes some of the best are quality of materials and quality of craftsmanship. Those qualities do not come cheap and usually are not found in China. Buy what makes you happy and celebrate your freedom of choice.
Posted: 6:55 pm on June 2nd

GEide GEide writes: Hi tkarlmann,

Stay tuned, a review of the Wood River planes by Chris Gochnour will be online soon. By Thursday I believe.

Posted: 6:30 pm on June 2nd

FredWest FredWest writes: To my mind there are several fairly serious issues here. First and foremost is that Woodcraft is using Chinese labor and potentially taking American jobs. Secondly, not only do you have a cheaper plane that looks so similar to Lie-Nielsen but Woodcraft is also a distributor of Lie-Nielsen. Why would you undercut a family of planes that you are already carrying? I have emailed Jeff Forbes, the President of Woodcraft, but never received a reply. On the other hand Tom Lie-Nielsen is always available by email.

I must admit that I now will look much more closely as to whether I may purchase something I need from another vendor rather than Woodcraft. Do not get me wrong, I am a peon and this will mean nothing to Woodcraft but it does to me. Fred
Posted: 5:16 pm on June 2nd

Paratrooper34 Paratrooper34 writes: I was seriously thinking of buying a WR plane, but I am not a big fan of purchasing chinese made products. Guess I will save up for a LN. Being a native Mainer, it only makes sense to support a home-state business. I would have liked to have seen more data on a head-to-head test, but I guess that is coming in the future issue.
Posted: 3:18 pm on June 2nd

ptjl ptjl writes: I had a misstep with my LN 102 block plane. It fell from the bench and landed on the adjuster bending the brass rod. On a trip to Maine I stopped in to Lie-Nielsen and while playing in the demo room my plane was restored to its functional glory. Servicing my favorite tools is a feature outsourced manufacturing will have trouble delivering. Global sourcing may make the product at less cost but try to get parts a few years down the road.
Posted: 12:33 pm on June 2nd

tkarlmann tkarlmann writes: I was thinking that a real comparison of the three would involve more than mere Physical measurements!

A few choices might be:
1) Flatness of plane body: bottom and sides
2) type of steel (hardness, etc) used for blade
3) Performance in actual use.

I do not know if this article is an abbreviation or whetting an appetite for more to come, but what is here is simply not enough. A real side-by-side would include other manufaturers too -- like Veritas.

I, too, prefer to stay away from Chinese manufacturing.

Posted: 2:31 am on June 2nd

danmart danmart writes: Tom
I guess you didn't want to get too technical and steal Chris G's thunder in the upcoming article. I was wondering about the measurements and the tolerances they adhere to with the construction?
Truthfully, if you told me they were the same front to rear between the LN and the WR, I would not buy the WR. That's just me. When I bought my Martin D-28 35 years ago, I planned to give it to my son when I croaked. There were some really nice Japanese look-alikes and they were cheaper. Today, I have a guitar that rings like a bell and its a genuine made in the US Martin. I would rather support the efforts of the guys in Maine or the gang in Canada who are trying to innovate at the same time that they are producing to keep the lights on. If LN or LV goes off-shore to make their parts cheaper, I'll have to re-evaluate. Till then the WR can stay on the shelf.
Posted: 6:31 pm on June 1st

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker

About This Blog

Get the latest from the hand tool world with tips, techniques, reviews and more.

Blog edited by Fine Woodworking associate editor Matt Kenney.