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Thread: Mini Plane review, Mujingfang Smoother??

  1. #1
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    Mini Plane review, Mujingfang Smoother??

    The real deal in planes is this one. I was influenced into buying one of these by the results listed in Lyn Mangiameliís excellent study on hi angle smooth planes. The plane in the picture is known as a Mujingfang smooth plane AKA as a Hong Kong Style hi angle smooth plane AKA as a SHUN-GEE LG polishing plane as marked on the box from Lee Valley. This was all at least partially clarified by Derek Cohen who told me that Rob Lee confirmed it is a Mujingfang smooth plane. Still not sure what I have but Iím settling on Mujingfang. It is available from Lee valley as their part number 07P1270. The price is $42.50 and includes a 1/8Ē thick hi speed tool steel blade.

    Upon opening the box I find that the plane body is a fairly straight grained piece of Chinese rosewood, something that other plane manufacturers of this type may charge extra for, a nice chunk of wood. The plane is one piece and not built up construction. The wedge is of course also rosewood as well as the removable wooden cross handle used for additional hand positions as well as pulling. The first step was to inspect it to determine what kind of fettling it would need to bring it into first class usable condition. Upon checking the sole on my surface plate I was able to rock it slightly finding it decidedly out of flat. I clamped the body lightly in my vise and flattened the sole with my jack plane finishing the job on my surface plate with fine sandpaper. After final flattening I find when I pick it up I feel a slight vacuum. It was now flat and ready to test; the plane had been in three different countries, not finding it dead flat I would call normal considering the circumstances. The iron as received was in usable sharp condition but not as sharp as I would hone it myself. After blade installation I measured the mouth opening with a feeler gauge, the throat opening was a mere .005, a nice tight mouth. The blade on this plane is set at 60 degrees, a very steep angle when combined with the tight mouth should prove ideal for working with woods prone to tear out like white oak. This plane is very similar in performance and specifications to HNT Gordon smooth planes which I also have.

    I set the iron using a setting block, tightened the wedge with a hammer, it was taking too big of a bite. A couple of light taps on the back of the plane body and I was there, pretty easy adjustment. The plane worked beautifully taking a type 2 chip. This type of plane is most effectively used behind a jack plane. Another side benefit of this plane is that the iron when reversed makes it into a scraper plane, a good one! Infact I have had better results with my HNT Gordon with the blade reversed than my dedicated scraper plane which has always seemed kind of iffy.

    Now to my only complaint. The iron is as hard as I have ever seen, I was forced to do the initial bevel with diamond stones and finish it up very slowly with conventional waterstones. A 1000 grit Shapton had little effect as far as sharpening. I used a Norton 1000/4000 and a Shapton 5000. The final edge has not deteriorated in an hour or so of planing. For final fettling, I wet sanded the plane body with Velvitoil, overall, I am well pleased and a bit overwhelmed at how good this turned out at this price point. Derek Cohen tells me it is rated as one of the 6 best planes in the world in performance I assume for woods prone to tearout. Either way, the performance is pretty amazing.

    Gene
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    Last edited by Gene Collison; 04-24-2005 at 8:37 PM.

  2. #2
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    Gene,

    That is impressive. I have discssed this one with Derek also...I know he really loves it. It sounds like the plane is taking a chip rather than a shaving because of the stepness of the iron . The scraping planes will do this since you are not slicing the wood. This is similar tocertain card scraper shavings depending on wood, angle and burr. Are you pushing or pulling the plane? Gene great review...I am sure Lee Valley will enjoy a few orders including yours truly..
    "All great work starts with love .... then it is no longer work"

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Singer
    Gene,

    That is impressive. I have discssed this one with Derek also...I know he really loves it. It sounds like the plane is taking a chip rather than a shaving because of the stepness of the iron . The scraping planes will do this since you are not slicing the wood. This is similar tocertain card scraper shavings depending on wood, angle and burr. Are you pushing or pulling the plane? Gene great review...I am sure Lee Valley will enjoy a few orders including yours truly..
    Mark,

    You can push or pull, it works great both ways. The chip from the steep angle is definitely type 2 and is folded as it exits the mouth much like a bellows. It is definitely a chip and not a shaving. The thing that I notice about these high angled planes is that the blade sharpness is not all that important. It worked well with the iron as delivered and not a lot better after I honed it. About the only difference was the surface from the honed iron is a bit smoother. It is getting into the area where it is almost a scraper but much better.

    Gene

  4. #4
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    Gene---Thanks much for this timely review. I have been considering that smoother myself, almost asked about it in my post last night about scraping planes in fact. I will be including one in my order. Will the scary sharp system work with this blade, or will it's hardness requires something more stout?

    Dan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Forman
    Gene---Thanks much for this timely review. I have been considering that smoother myself, almost asked about it in my post last night about scraping planes in fact. I will be including one in my order. Will the scary sharp system work with this blade, or will it's hardness requires something more stout?

    Dan
    Dan,

    I would say scary sharp would work considering that waterstones did. The abrasive qualities should be similar. You may have to increase your supply of sandpaper a bit though.

    gene

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Collison
    Now to my only complaint. The iron is as hard as I have ever seen
    Gene, dont complain!! This is a highly kept secret. Shhh. These blades are, I believe, HSS and once you put an edge on them (yes, it is hard work), they will last forever!

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

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    Nice review and writeup Gene! Hey, for that kind of money, one can hardly go wrong! What's this "setting block" you refer to? I've heard you say something about that before and, seeing as to how I'm expecting a "woodie" any day now, it may prove helpful! Thanks again for great rundown on the plane!
    Cheers,
    John K. Miliunas

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  8. #8
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    I have used one of these for about a year.I am impressed.And you can't beat the price.The set up block is a very flat piece of hardwood that you set the plane on when you install the blade and wedge.This plane gives a very smooth finish.
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    Last edited by Bruce Branson; 04-25-2005 at 1:29 PM.

  9. #9
    Thanks for the thoughtful and well written review, Gene. I too have long suspected the connection between the Mujingfang smoother mentioned in Lynn Mangiameli's 2001 HA smoother comparo and Lee Valley's "Hong Kong" style smoother with the 60 deg bed angle. Thank you for confirming that suspicion.

    For those who haven't read it (http://www.estimatortools.us/LJM/hiangle.htm), Lynn's roundup had this $43 plane essentially tied for second place in performance, just behind a $2700 Stephen Thomas custom Cocobolo Infill plane. Now that's what I call a bargain!

    I think at least one of the reasons why this has been such a well-kept secret is because it appears that at the time of Lynn Mangiameli's review, he didn't know what the Mujingfang smoother was going to retail for, so he didn't include the plane in his final, overall standings, which were based on performance for the dollar.
    Last edited by Marc Hills; 04-26-2005 at 1:38 PM.
    Marc

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marc Hills
    Thanks for the thoughtful and well written review, Gene. I too have long suspected the connection between the Mujingfang smoother mentioned in Lynn Mangiameli 2001 HA smoother comparo and Lee Valley's "Hong Kong" style smoother with the 60 deg bed angle. Thank you for confirming that suspicion.

    For those who haven't read it (http://www.estimatortools.us/LJM/hiangle.htm), Lynn's roundup had this $43 plane essentially tied for second place in performance, just behind a $2700 Stephen Thomas custom Cocobolo Infill plane. Now that's what I call a bargain!

    I think at least one of the reasons why this has been such a well-kept secret is because it appears that at the time of Lynn Mangiameli's review, he didn't know what the Mujingfang smoother was going to retail for, so he didn't include the plane in his final, overall standings, which were based on performance for the dollar.
    Marc,

    Interesting this plane is! We go from $2700 to $42.50 in one hop and to think what competitive planes cost that do a similar job. I can think of about 4 planes that I have now that this one will replace at a mere fraction in cost.

    Gene

  11. #11
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    Another one of the must-have Mujingfang planes is their "mini smoother", which is about 4" long and has a 1/8" thick blade at 60 degrees. In Perth this sells for $29 (AUD - about $20 USD).

    This is fantastic for very small areas of tear out, such as knotty areas, or very narrow edges (1" or less).

    A bit more finicky to set up that the bigger planes. Can't lose at that price!

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Cohen
    Another one of the must-have Mujingfang planes is their "mini smoother", which is about 4" long and has a 1/8" thick blade at 60 degrees. In Perth this sells for $29 (AUD - about $20 USD).

    This is fantastic for very small areas of tear out, such as knotty areas, or very narrow edges (1" or less).

    A bit more finicky to set up that the bigger planes. Can't lose at that price!

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Derek,

    It appears that LV has a pair of these planes available for $31.50 USD. Not sure if my pocketbook can stand it.

    Gene

  13. #13
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    I would also like to add to this review by saying that I have one of these wonderful smoothing (polishing) planes purchased from Lee Valley. When I got it 3 or 4 years ago I sharpened it with my Norton stones (4000/8000) and finished the micro-bevel with green compound on a piece of MDF. It was a 10 minute process but the blade was very sharp and stayed that way for an incredibly long time compared to my "usual" O1 or A2. This probably correlates to the sharpening capabilities available to most of the folks on this forum.

    I mention this only to note that I recently sharpened this HSS iron again using the new Sigma II stones that have supplanted my old system. 10-12 strokes on the 3,000 grit and 10-12 on the 10,000 grit...DONE!! Great stones, especially for this type of steel. I also have the little 4" smoothers and think just as highly of it as I do it's big brother. These planes are still available at unbelievably low prices compared to any other plane that works as well. My advice is to look into the Mujingfang line of planes if you're into hand work and also have a parsimonious streak! The price has gone up about 50% (~ $60 now from Lee Valley) and it's still worth every penny. I would also mention that the replacement irons are a great value on their own and you might want to keep it in mind if you build your own planes.

    Regards,

    Ron
    Last edited by Ron Kellison; 02-10-2012 at 10:19 PM. Reason: Additional information

  14. #14
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    Use it bevel up and they are very good scrapers. I bought the regular and mini smoothers. They are excellent value planes.

    Mujingfang planes are honest hardworking planes. You can't go wrong for the price.

    Cheers,

    Gunn
    Last edited by Pohgunn Ooi; 02-11-2012 at 1:56 AM.

  15. #15
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    I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE.

    These are also available at Japanwoodworker.com
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