Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Stanley 62: Better, But Not Yet Perfect

It looks like the folks in New Britain, Conn., want to get things right.

After Stanley’s first generation of the No. 62 low-angle jack plane had some problems,
including a fatal bed error and a mouth that wouldn’t close, the
company sent me a replacement. It had the same problems. And New Britain
fell silent for a while.

Then a box showed up unannounced filled
with more of the Stanley planes. I set up and started using the Stanley
No. 92 shoulder plane. I have found it to be a good user tool, once I
did a little tweaking to it. (Complete story here.)

During
the last few weeks I’ve been messing with the newest version of the No.
62. As always, there is good news and bad. Let’s begin with the good.

This
plane actually works. The bed of the tool is machined correctly so that
you can adjust the iron laterally and center it in the mouth. Also, the
mouth area has been reworked, so you can close up the mouth all the
way. The fit and finish on the metal and wood is greatly improved. This
one actually looks like a premium handplane instead of one of the tools
that the low-rent factories churn out.

The A2 iron (made in
England) is excellent, but then so was the iron on the first two No. 62s
I tried. The cutter is easy to set up, its hardness is within spec and
it holds an edge just fine.

Today I set to work with the newest
tool to give it a serious test-drive. I processed five boards for a
project I’m working on from a rough state all the way to their final
finish surface.

And that’s where I found a couple things about the tool that I wasn’t fond of.

In
use, the tool performed just fine. The sole is flat enough to take thin
shavings for smoothing. And the iron is bedded well enough that you can
hog off material without wrecking the tool’s setting. But after an hour
of planing, my right wrist became quite sore. The rear tote is thick,
wide and quite upright – very much like the Veritas bevel-up jack plane.

This style of rear tote has never suited me. I prefer the older
style that is thinner and rakes more forward. Perhaps I’ll get used to
this Stanley tool in time and I’ll adjust my grip and right arm to suit
the tool – that happens all the time. If you like the Veritas tote,
you’ll be pleased with this one. If you like the old-school Stanley
tote, you might end up with a sore wrist like I did.

I concede
that in all tools, the shape and position of the grip is fairly
subjective and that you can fix it somewhat with some rasps, so take my
criticism with a grain of salt.

My one major complaint with the
tool (and the other Stanley tools in this line) is with the lever cap. It’s
made from a super-lightweight material – the cap weighs only .12 lbs. –
and it just feels cheap. It will still tension the tool like it is
supposed it, but I just don’t care for it.

Conclusion
The
logical question at this point is where this tool, at $180, is compared
to its competitors. I think it’s still a notch below the Lie-Nielsen
($245) and Veritas ($220) versions, though only for aesthetic reasons.
The brass knobs aren’t as finished. The casting is a little rougher –
stuff like that.

With a couple changes, Stanley has made a fully
functional premium tool. Now it will be interesting to see if the
company continues to improve the line.

— Christopher Schwarz

Other Handplane Nerdiness
“Handplane Essentials”
is my personal geek-fest on this important tool. It’s 312 pages of
reviews, techniques and history. And it’s available in our store here. I
also have a companion DVD, “Handplane Basics,” that shows how to process lumber by hand with a plane.

• Have you been to Handplane Central (www.handplane.com)? It’s a great place to waste some time.

• Wkfinetools.com has a bunch of my reviews for free. These were written for The Fine Tool Journal. Check them out at http://wkfinetools.com/contrib/cSchwarz/cSchwarz-index.asp

9 thoughts on “New Stanley 62: Better, But Not Yet Perfect

  1. Bill Vittal

    Chris,
    I believe the reason your wrist was sore using the new Stanley plane is because of the height of your bench. Photographs of you and your bench show that you like a rather low bench relative to your height. I tested various bench heights, when I replaced my bench 3 years ago. Like you, I discovered that a low bench height and a Veritas bevel up plane equaled a sore wrist. Raising the bench height eliminated the problem for me. It put my wrist and back in a natural position. The downside is I cannot apply as much downward force. I started experimenting with a 31" bench height and ended up with a 34" bench height by testing.

    Regards,
    Bill V.

  2. DW

    What a horrid looking tote. They might as well just take a brick, drill through it lengthways and mount it as a tote on the plane.

    I am in the (probably large percentage of users) camp that gets a sore wrist using the LV jack plane. It can be resolved, though. At least after some reshaping, an LV tote will be pleasing to the eyes.

    Stanley needs to understand that if they make a product that is still subpar to something made north of the rio grande (where all of the little details are just right every time) that there had better be a discount.

    In my opinion, I see these being a short run before they go back to their bread and butter $1 made in china tools that sell for $20, where they can get retailers to take on big inventories, etc.

  3. David B

    Chris,

    Thanks for the review. I am pleased to see that Stanley has improved its product. Some time ago you mentioned that you would also review the improved version of the Wood River planes. Has that been published yet?
    David B

  4. Chris F

    John, my understanding is that the LV totes are designed for use on higher benches. Of course that begs the question of "Why?" since that means that you can’t get as much body weight over the plane.

    Chris S……you’ve talked with Rob Lee. Did this topic ever come up?

  5. John Cashman

    I’ve got to agree with Alfred here. I can see how a saw handle might take a lot of hand work, but a really good plane tote should be easy to make on modern machinery. I’m especially surprised at lee Valley. With all of the thought, engineering, and attention to detail they give their tools, and I own many, the plane totes are awful. Surely they can do better.

  6. Alfred Kraemer

    It is absolutely amazing how little consideration the plane handle receives. Among the three you mention, the Lie-Nielsen is good, but I just got a reminder of what a good handle on a plane should feel like: I finally found a good wooden jack plane (ohio tools) in superb condition. The handle has a good, effective forward angle, comfortable curve near the top. I also like the additional widening of the handle near the base. I don’t think it is as subjective as you think, I bet there are some good reasons why the older handles look simple but are actually pretty refined.

    Alfred

  7. John Cashman

    Thanks for the review. I know that the dollar savings can be a very big issue for some people. But for what I consider to be a small savings, I would much rather buy from Lie Nielsen or Lee Valley. Those guys have been serving our needs for much longer, after Stanley withdrew from the market. And in Lie Nielsen’s case, they are made right here in the US. That means quite a bit to me.

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