There’s one question that I’m asked almost every week that I cannot answer. And here it is: What brand handplane should I buy if I don’t want to fix up a vintage plane, I don’t like the quality of the Stanley planes and I cannot afford the price of a Lie-Nielsen, Clifton or Veritas plane.
In other words, is there a middle-priced plane?
Until today, the answer was: No. But now Robert Larson Co. of San Fransisco, a large wholesaler of woodworking hand tools, has introduced a new line of planes made in India by Anant that just may be the plane that becomes the middle ground.
As many of you know, Anant already makes a line of bench planes. I’ve personally tested a jack plane and found that it was the same quality of a new Stanley U.K. plane. In other words, it was OK for coarse work or work in softwoods, but it just wasn’t up to par for really demanding work in hardwoods in a woodworking shop.
(In the interests of full disclosure, several people have written on message boards that they have had great success at tuning their basic Anant planes to a very high level. They must be better at it than I am.)
All that aside, the new Premier line of Anant is different and will be available this fall for all of us to inspect. The company graciously allowed me to inspect a stock Anant No. 4 plane and compare it to the new blue Premier Anant No. 4 this afternoon at their booth at the International Woodworking Fair.
And while I wasn’t able to work with the tool, I did get a close look. Here are my first impressions. The Premiere is probably a pound heavier. The sole and sidewalls of the Premiere appear to be machined, unlike the linished surfaces of the standard Anant. The blade and chipbreaker of the Premier were considerably thicker than in the basic model. The frog had more bearing surface to support the blade assembly, and the areas where the frog met the base casting were actually machined (and quite sizable). However, it was not a fully machined mating surface, like those planes in the Bed Rock vein.
There are some small stylistic differences: paint, a couple brass accents and knobs that are a different wood. When all the parts were assembled things seemed to be moving well, though the lateral adjust lever was a bit stiff. The plane’s yoke is stamped steel and not cast, and there was very little backlash in the mechanism.
And the price for the Premier No 4? Larson says it should be about $50 or so.
In addition to a smoothing plane, there will be a jack plane, two block planes (a No. 9-1/2 style and a 60-1/2 style) and a rabbet plane based on the Stanley No. 78 in the Premier line.
I should have one in for testing soon and will keep you updated.