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My first Stanley shoulder plane (a No. 93) was the worst plane I ever bought. The sole was more than 1/8″ out of alignment, and it took me a couple hours on a belt sander to even get the tool working.

That dog of a tool was built during the sunset days of Stanley’s U.K. plane production, and I’ve always imagined that my plane had been made by someone who was drunk, hungover or having a stroke.

So when the new Stanley Sweet Heart No. 92 showed up on my desk last week, I was skeptical. (Note: This tool is a loaner, so it will go back to Stanley after it has had a workout at Woodworking in America.) I took the tool out of its sealed box and checked the sole with a machinist square.

Ah-ha! The sole was out of truth. Probably by a couple thousandths of an inch. Maybe more.

This morning I decided to look at all the shoulder planes in our shop, and compare them to the Stanley. And here’s the funny thing: Almost all of them have some problems with their soles. (The exception was the Veritas Large Shoulder, which was dead square. I didn’t get to check my Lie-Nielsen 073 because it’s at home.)

Most of these planes have performed fairly well, but they all have problems when you try to do persnickety work. You have to massage the position of the cutter to get the results you want. (The exceptions being the Veritas, which is always dead on, and my Lie-Nielsen at home, which is also always bang-on.)

So I decided to true up the soles of several shoulder planes today and see if it improved their performance. I’m sure there are better ways to true up a sole than what I am about to describe, but this following procedure works.

I took a 2×4 and trued it up on the jointer. Then I stuck a piece of 40-micron sharpening sandpaper to the face of the 2×4 and secured this to my benchtop with holdfasts.

Next I took a piece of plywood and set it on my bench in front of the sandpaper. I rested the shoulder plane on the plywood, hung its sole off the edge and stroked it back and forth over the sandpaper. After about a minute of work I checked my result. The sole was improving. About three minutes later, the sole read dead flat to my square.

Then I sharpened up the A2 iron. The unbeveled face of the iron was dead flat, which is always a nice surprise to see. It polished up quickly. Perhaps too quickly for A2 , I’ll have to get this iron tested to see how soft it is. In any case, I’m not complaining.

I checked the plane for bed errors (it had none) and put it to work.

I quite like the tool, but I like rhino-horn-style shoulder planes (the horn is the proboscis at its toe). Megan Fitzpatrick reported that the plane had too many sharp arrises. I agreed and knocked them down with some sandpaper. Robert Lang didn’t like the way the tool fit his hand when he pulled the plane toward him , the horn dug right into his palm.

He also wished that the rear curve on the top of the plane was 1/4″ shorter. And actually, after looking at photos of the original No. 92 and 93, the rear curve used to be shorter.

I hold my shoulder planes differently , I didn’t have a problem and found it comfortable.

So here’s the bottom line: I’m going to make this plane my primary user until I have to give it back to Stanley. It’s worthy of a hard workout.

Shoulder planes are difficult tools to make (ask any toolmaker), so the fact that Stanley’s is so close is a good sign about what I might find as I set up the rest of the tools in the line.

The No. 92 is available from a wide variety of retailers for about $110 to 120, including Woodcraft and Amazon (which has the right model number but an outdated photo).

Other Shoulder Plane Resourses

– Read (for free) the article I wrote about premium shoulder planes for the Fine Tool Journal. It’s now available on When you are really bored, check out all my articles on here.

– I wrote a good deal about shoulder planes in my book “Handplane Essentials,” which is available in our store. It’s a nice, big, made-in-the-USA trip into the world of planes.

– David Charlesworth knows more about setting up shoulder planes than anyone I know. His Lie-Nielsen DVD “Furniture Making Techniques: Five Topics” contains an excellent section on shoulder planes.

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Showing 8 comments
  • Manuel Cardoso-Lopes

    Hi Chris,
    I have the set of Veritas shoulder planes which really do the job & I particularly like the little set screws which work for me.
    Because I am a bit of a collector (don’t tell anyone) and am intrigued by the history, I ended up with an earlier Stanley 90 plus very late model UK made 93 & 92 which when compared to the earlier 90 really highlight how low Stanley quality had slid.
    Because I really enjoyed the ergonomics of the Stanley’s for some applications, I spent a few hours on each plane & got them to really work well even though they look rough.
    When our local store started stocking the new range of "Sweetheart" planes (the local South African agents had not even heard of them until I told them) I was Disappointed with the 62 & the block plane, haven’t seen the smoother yet, my perception being that once again the accountants had had too much influence and Stanley still had not quite grasped the fact that the market was not going to tolerate mediocrity.
    When the new 92 arrived however, I bought one & really like the plane, again the ergonomics are great. The plane fettled quickly & works superbly however, the following are disappointments which again point to accountants influence.
    1) The main brass screw on the plane I bought does not have a screw slot as shown in the picture of the plane you have, this makes it almost impossible to undo with your fingers & I have had my machinist cut one in.
    2) Why on earth couldn’t Stanley have put the Blade Cap brass screw in the center on the cap instead of off to the left
    3) Why did Stanley not include the little hidden screw on the original design that allowed one to control mouth opening
    4) Why did Stanley not cast/engrave/stamp "Sweetheart" anywhere on the plane or blade
    5) Why is the Stanley branding & model No. hidden on bottom right of the plane instead of on a proud & prominent place
    6) Why is the branding on the plane & blade of the cheap & nasty "acid etch " type instead of engraving/casting/stamped.
    7) The rear edge the top is extremely sharp (perhaps also a tad long, the shape of the old 92 was better) and cut into my palm, a little work with a file & some fine water paper sorted this out.

    Overall though, great plane & a great comeback at last, they must just up the game on the detail as the market has become more discerning, especially at the level of the "Sweetheart" brand or the market will be ruthless & their come back will be short-lived.


  • Gordon Conrad

    Did you check the blade protusion at the sides? Should be about 2 mils. You can get it down to 2 mils by placing the plane on it’s side on sheets of paper separated by 400 grit paper and moving the blade edge back and forth over the 400 grit paper. By the way, I had to true up the sole of my stanley sweatheart #92. Except for Veritas and LN, I expect this for every plane until the manufactures get the message.
    R/ Gordon

  • Christopher Schwarz

    The blade is installed and retracted. And the lever cap is under working pressure in that photo. In other words, I agree entirely with David.

  • adrian

    It looks like you’re flattening the sole without the blade installed. Charlesworth goes on at length about how you have to have the blade installed when flattening because the tension created by installing the blade deforms the sole and makes a hump at the mouth. Do you disagree?

  • Carl Stammerjohn

    I’m glad to hear you like this plane. I’ve always liked the ergonomics of the old Stanley 92. It’s not perfect, but it fits comfortably in my hand and is easy to control. The Veritas has that funky adjustable knob that sits right where my palm wants to go and the plane is just too top heavy. The Lie-Nielsen is just plain awkward to hold.

    I’m looking forward to trying out this new #92. Looks like they got it right (assuming the quality control is consistent).

  • Stephen

    Some one help answer this question. Why would I want a plane that opened up into a chisel plane, i.e. this one as opposed to the Veritas Medium Shoulder, if adding a dedicated chisel plane? Obviously cost, but is there a more compelling reason?

  • Dusty Lenscap

    I had the same problem with my Clifton 3110.

    The bottom was not quite flat. But a little elbow grease and all was well.

    Other than that, its been a good hand plane.

  • TSJones99

    I don’t understand why it so hard to manufacture a plane with a dead flat sole and if you do manage to make one, it is very expensive. Some how, this does not compute.


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