In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes

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Need to clean up the corners of really wide rabbets? Then I have the plane for you.

This Stanley plane is so rare it doesn’t even show up in John Walter’s “Stanley Tools Guide to Identity & Value.” You won’t find it at Patrick Leach’s Blood & Gore web site. Heck, I don’t even think John Sindelar , tool collector extraordinaire , has one.

That’s because it doesn’t exist. These oddball planes show on eBay sometimes with breathless verbiage about how the tool is super rare. Truth is, it’s a bench plane with a broken casting.

I know this for a fact because I broke it myself on Friday while we were shooting a short video that demonstrates the difference between gray iron (which the Stanley plane is made out of) ductile iron (which Lie-Nielsen and Veritas planes are made from) and cast steel.

So I took handplanes made from these three materials, put them on an anvil and went Old Testament John Henry on them. The Stanley plane shattered like rock candy. As for the other two, you’ll have to wait until we get the video edited.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 7 comments
  • Jonas H. Jensen

    Hi Chris.

    Its OK.

    I am sorry for getting a little carried away.

    Actually now I come to think about it, it reminds me of one time when I decided that I would like to see if a bb pellet could make a dent in a car, so I shot my van using an air rifle.

    By the way, its a great blog and a great magazine.

    PS the bb pellet made a nice sharp dent in the back door of the van…

  • Christopher Schwarz


    The No. 3 was a near-hopeless case (except as maybe a scrub plane) due to a casting that moved.

    We all know that gray iron can shatter from falling from bench height, and that a ductile or cast steel one won’t. So we wondered: What are the materials’ limits?

    We’re not a scientific journal. We’re basically a bunch of curious, overgrown boys.


  • Jonas H. Jensen

    I can’t really understand the big idea in smashing up some probably OK tools with a hammer to compare the structure of the iron in them.
    If It is a question of rigidity in case they were dropped to the floor, then it should be tested in that way.
    If the planes all perform equally well doing what they are supposed to do, then I can only see the interest in if they will shatter if they are accidently dropped to the floor.
    Large metal lathes used to be made out of SG (Spherical Graphite) cast iron, since it is doesn’t transfer vibrations very good, but I don’t assume that is an issue when it comes to a hand plane.

    So which test is up next? to see if a rosewood bodied plane burns with a brighter flame than a beech wood plane?

  • Bob Lang

    It’s always worth an investigation when we investigate with hammers and anvils.


  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’ll have to ask on that (we don’t have the Cliftons here anymore). I had one that cracked behind the mouth.

    Good point, and one worth investigating.


  • Jay

    Just a quicky, you’ve mentioned in the past that Clifton make their planes from grey iron, which I understand isn’t strictly speaking the whole of the story – they use a malleable process to treat the iron – the same thing that Norris used to do and label ‘unbreakable’. Its not brittle like grey iron and shouldn’t ding like ductile. It might be fun to give one of your Cliftons a bash for the sake of fairness.

  • Gene

    Wow. The experiment is cool, but I think I’m more impressed by how much willpower it must have taken to deliberately abuse those tools. And the social dynamics are intriguing – after the first few whacks, did someone rise to their defense, or did a mob mentality take over?



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