An updated Wood River Commentary for 2013.
I purchased a #3, #4, #5, and #6 when they were on a -20% sale in the fall 2012. I now have about 4 months using them mostly in white oak, red oak, cherry, and poplar. I have some high-end planes, but sometime have "low-end" users as guests in my shop. I weighed restoring a set of Stanley Bedrocks vs. buying new Wood Rivers and thought I'd take a chance on the new planes. I haven't been disappointed.
I'm generally pleased, but returned the #4 as the tote didn't fit my hand well. The other sizes were fine, so what's up with the #4? Go figure. I didn't want to replace or customize the #4's tote as I have other #4 planes which are perfectly serviceable or actually really quite nice being the Canadian and US premium brands.
I'll lead off by saying I have NOT had any fit or finish problems. Soles are dead flat. I did take a mill file to the throats to de-burr them, but I did that to all my Stanleys too. I did not experience any squareness problems with any of my planes in side-to-sole or blade parallelism. I did carefully align the frog, iron, and chip-breaker after cleaning each plane throughly as they are WELL oiled in their packaging. I did not experience any out-of-square issues with any of the chip breakers' grinds.
The blades seem to be the hardness typical of an O1 steel. Easy to sharpen with average edge retention (I use diamond and ceramic water stones). I easily flattened the backs of all three plane irons, with one of them needing about 10 mins work an the other two about 5 mins each. They honed up easily, and I kept the factory 25 degree grind with an approximately 4 degree micro bevel and a 3 degree or so tertiary bevel for approximately a 32 degree total bevel. I can confirm my Veritas bevel gauge indicates the total bevel is more than 30 degrees and less than 35. So there. for what ever that's worth.
I find the 3 "keepers" an excellent replacement for the Stanley Bedrock series which when purchasd used can come in any imaginable condition of neglect or disrepair. In brief the Wood Rivers are similar in performance the my two Bedrocks, needing about the same tuning, but with a much improved chip breaker, which on my Bedrocks are still the originals.
Since my initial purchase and subsequent return of the #4, I purchased two more, a #4 and #6 for gifts to family members for Christmas, making a total of six Wood Rivers I've unpacked and tuned. These series 3 models seem to be very consistant with the exception of the #4s having a misshapened tote for my comfort. The second #4 ( I should have kept the 1st one I purchased as someone got a completely tuned plane...) went to my son-in-law, who has smaller hands then I do, but then again I'm 6" + and over 250, and have the hands of a farmer, and wear size XL gloves. He wears size medium gloves and thinks the #4's tote is just dandy. My experiencing teaching my sons-in-laws the ins and outs of new plane ownership and preperation reflected my experiences with the 4 I purchased for myself.
Bottom line: My favorite of the bunch is the #6, and it has become my new "super Jack" class plane. The # 6 is VERY hefty. Cuts true and smooth as can be. I use it frequently instead of my #5 or #7. I could have very likely gotten along without the #5, as I have a low-angle Jack & 1/2 and low-angle #7 Jointer but I'm sure my guest will appreciate having the lighter weight #5 plane.
The Wood River planes are NOT Lie-Nielson's out of the box, but they REALLY tuned up nice for the price. I just wished from the bottom of my sentimental heart they were made in the good old USA. I'd pay 20% more for the exact same planes made "locally". That would give woodworkers a great "working class" quality plane family if they don't want to or can't afford or justify the stratosphere-priced hand planes.
My last $.02 worth, which is worth every cent: Every dedicated woodworker SHOULD save up and buy at least ONE high-end hand plane for the experience, user satisfaction, and pride of ownership. I highly recommend investing BIG in YOUR "money" plane. That's THE hand plane you'll use the most OR THE one on which you'll expect and REQUIRE the absolutely best finished cut you can get. For most of us that's a #4 smoother or #5 Jack, but YOUR milage may vary. IF you're loaded, buy a full $et of the caviar level plane$. It will impre$$ your friends and you'll never be sorry. BUT for the rest of us: Get smart. Be informed. Get educated by getting and watching DVDs or take a class. BUT, MOST importantly, take what you read in these reviews with a grain of salt.
Making firewood in 12 or more exotic species since 1962...