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Thread: Tool Review: Wood River #3, Version 3 Hand Plane

  1. #1

    Tool Review: Wood River #3, Version 3 Hand Plane

    About me. I use hand tools to supplement power tools in my shop. I am not “full Neander” and I’m only about 15 months into hand tools. So I may have different needs/expectations than some more experienced users. I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this review.

    Bottom Line: I bought a Woodriver #3 at one of Woodcraft’s 20% off sales, paying just over $100 for it. For my needs, I found this to be a surprisingly well-made tool that performed very well in the few days I’ve had it. Aside from prepping the blade, it really did require only a minimum of tuning. (The back of the blade needed a fair bit of flattening.) I feel confident and satisfied using it and I recommend the Woodriver #3 to anyone who doesn’t feel that their application warrants the additional cost of a high-end brand.

    First impressions.

    • I pulled it out of the box, wiped off the light coating of oil, and looked it over. The plane is nicely machined and it looks like care was taken in doing so. The black paint looks nicely applied without overspray or drips. The plane is heavy and feels rock solid in my hand. The knob and tote are nicely-finished Bubinga. The tote feels a little small for my hand, but I can live with that.
    • Without honing, I made a few passes on pine. My dial caliper says the shavings are 0.003” thick. Not a bad start.


    Detailed examination.

    • I HATE lapping planes so I started by checking the flatness of the sole, hoping that I wouldn’t have to lap it. I laid a quality straight edge down the center of the sole, lengthwise. I didn’t see any light coming underneath. To be thorough, I checked with a 0.002” feeler gauge – I’d have preferred a 0.001 but this is the thinnest I have. Again, I couldn’t detect a gap anywhere along the centerline. I tried again on either side of the centerline and got the same results. So, any gap that might be there is less than 0.002” (and remember – I could see no light under the straightedge). Then, I turned the straight edge 90 degrees and checked flatness across the width at several places. Again, no light and less than 0.002" gap.
    • Next I checked the sides for square with the sole using said feeler gauges and a good engineering square. I checked at multiple points all down the length of the tool. Here I found some variance – the sides were as much as 0.003” out of square with the sole. Will this matter? Maybe, if I’m going to use it on a shooting board. But it’s something to be aware of.
    • Next, I measured the length and width of the mouth. The front and back were square, consistent and parallel all the way across. I used a mill file to gently remove some very slight burrs. While I had the file out, I broke the sharp edges where the sides meet the sole because I noticed a small burr on the front right corner.
    • The knob was rock solid but I’d noticed that the tote moved slightly when I tried planing that pine right out of the box. Tightening the screws did not solve it. I had to shim it slightly.
    • The blade and cap iron are thick – 1/8” each. The cap iron met the blade cleanly, but its front edge wasn’t polished. As part of my tuning process, I polished that to 1200 grit and did the underside as well. (The bottom side came underlapped as Hack’s book suggests – which was nice – all it needed was some polishing.)
    • I took out the frog. I found it hard to access the adjusting screw and frog pin-securing screws. The elevated tote and large brass adjusting knob are definitely in the way. But I got the frog off and confirmed that the mating surfaces were nicely machined and very flat. I’d like to point out two things about this frog that may matter to some of you. First, the mating surfaces are flat; i.e., there are no grooves or tracks like I’ve heard described for Stanley Bedrocks. The two surfaces mate fully flush, but there’s nothing to prevent the frog from twisting. Second, the frog stops about 1/16” from the sole. Neither of these impacted me – it was like a hybrid version of a normal Bailey frog in this sense, but it isn’t a full-up Bedrock frog as I understand those to be.


    Sharpening.

    • The blade has no name on it. I was rather expecting it to say Rob Cosman or Pinnacle.
    • The blade's backside was not as flat as I’m used to with a Veritas or LN blade. But it was comparable to what I’ve seen on old Stanleys and the like. It took a while, but it polished-up nicely.
    • The bevel measured 25 degrees. I added a 5 degree secondary bevel and polished to 6000 grit. They advertise the blade as A2 steel. But the edge seemed brittle and very tiny chips kept appearing. I had to sharpen it several times to get rid of those completely. For now, I’ll attribute that to my Journeyman sharpening skills but if it continues I’ll buy a harder steel replacement blade from another manufacturer.


    Using it.

    • When I re-installed the blade, I noticed that the lateral adjusting lever was hard to move. This is my first brand new plane, so I don’t know if that’s normal. (All my other bench planes are used.) This stiffness made it harder to get a shaving that was the same thickness all the way across, so I may try to loosen it somehow. We’ll see.
    • I took (lots) more pine shavings, constantly adjusting the depth of cut and blade angle. This time, most of the shavings were 0.0015 (about half the thickness of the “right out-of-the box” shavings), with some as low as 0.001”. I suspect that a more experienced hand tool guy can do better.


    Observations and opinions

    • I like the feel of this tool. It seems well made. The sale price ($104) makes it a clear bargain compared to its LN counterpart ($265) for the kind of hobbyist work that I do. (Veritas doesn’t sell a #3.) I speculate/assume that the rest of the V3 planes from Woodriver are equally well-made but have not checked them out.
    • But most of the rest of the Woodriver family of planes aren’t this cheap, relative to established brands. Here’s a comparison against their Veritas counterparts: WR #4 - $140 (regular) and $112 (on sale), Veritas #4 - $199; WR #4 ½ - $170 (regular), Veritas #4 ½ - $230; WR #6 - $190 (regular) and $152 (sale), Veritas #6 - $265. So, if I could afford the Veritas, I’d probably buy them. Personally, I like the engineering that goes into Veritas products. But if I was tight on funds or was buying something I’d only use occasionally, I think the Woodriver will serve just fine. Heck, I might be acting like a tool snob here – chances are the Woodriver will serve all but the most demanding users just fine. Try one out and see what you think. But definitely try one out. These are nice tools.

    Fred
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 11-02-2013 at 11:54 PM. Reason: correct typos

  2. #2
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    Wow !
    Nice review. I don't need any more planes, except of the molding variety, but I appreciate how well put together and presented are your findings.

    I hope those who benifit by it realize what all you have done for them.
    Keep up the good work.
    cheers,
    Winton
    Sharpening is Facetating.
    Good enough is good enough
    But
    Better is Better.

  3. #3
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    Great review Fred. I don't think the squareness of the sides to the sole is of any significance. I think a stiffer lateral adjuster is better as it's less likely to be accidentally moved.
    "If you have all your fingers, you can convert to Metric"

  4. #4
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    Thanks for taking the time to share this with us. With the tags people will be able to find it in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Here I found some variance – the sides were as much as 0.003” out of square with the sole. Will this matter? Maybe, if I’m going to use it on a shooting board. But it’s something to be aware of.
    For shooting what matters is how it lays on its side. If it is stable, any little bit off can be taken care of with the lateral adjustment. If the side is such that the plane rocks, then that is not so good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    They advertise the blade as A2 steel. But the edge seemed brittle and very tiny chips kept appearing. I had to sharpen it several times to get rid of those completely. For now, I’ll attribute that to my Journeyman sharpening skills but if it continues I’ll buy a harder steel replacement blade from another manufacturer.
    Some blades require a few times honing to get past a brittle edge. My A2 blades seem to be a bit more likely to chip than my HC blades. It is nice not having to sharpen as much.


    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    When I re-installed the blade, I noticed that the lateral adjusting lever was hard to move. This is my first brand new plane, so I don’t know if that’s normal. (All my other bench planes are used.) This stiffness made it harder to get a shaving that was the same thickness all the way across, so I may try to loosen it somehow. We’ll see.
    If the lateral lever is stiff without the blade installed, try a drop of silicon oil if you have some. If it is only with the blade in the lever cap screw may be a bit tight.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    I took (lots) more pine shavings, constantly adjusting the depth of cut and blade angle. This time, most of the shavings were 0.0015 (about half the thickness of the “right out-of-the box” shavings), with some as low as 0.001”. I suspect that a more experienced hand tool guy can do better.
    A shaving at 0.001" is pretty darn good. Don't worry about the shavings as much as the surface. Hopefully people will be admiring the surface long after the shavings have returned to nature.

    My personal preference is to save money and do a little work restoring old Stanley/Bailey planes. Also prefer the models from before the 1930s.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 11-03-2013 at 3:41 PM. Reason: My personal preference
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  5. #5
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    Nice write-up Frederick. I too have had a good experience with my WR plane.
    Woodworking is terrific for keeping in shape, but it's also a deadly serious killing system...

  6. #6
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    I don't need any other planes either, but that is a nice review. It took some effort to compile all of the data points into an easy to read format and I'm sure many will benefit from it.

  7. #7
    Just a note: LV does sell a #3 sized plane - but it is a bevel up. (I have one and it sweet. I also have a Stanley and it, too, is sweet)

    After the dust up with LN - there are those who believe that Woodcraft behaved poorly and will, therefore, not buy their planes.

  8. #8
    We need to thank all the woodworkers who refused to live with the WR quality of V1 and V2.

  9. #9
    Thanks for all the kind words and additional insights guys!
    Fred
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 11-04-2013 at 7:43 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilton Ralphs View Post
    Great review Fred. I don't think the squareness of the sides to the sole is of any significance. I think a stiffer lateral adjuster is better as it's less likely to be accidentally moved.
    I use my (WR) #4 on a shooting board. If the sides are not square to the sole, it's tough to get a square edge. The #4 is small for shooting, the #3 even more so it may not matter in a practical sense.
    -- Dan Rode

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Putnam View Post
    After the dust up with LN - there are those who believe that Woodcraft behaved poorly and will, therefore, not buy their planes.
    I couldn't care less about how one company treated another in a business deal. It has no direct bearing on my too buying decisions. I'll gladly buy from either or both. What it does do is prevent me from going down to the local Woodcraft and examining and comparing a LN product first hand and that does have an effect.

    Whatever went on between LN and Woodcraft, the result is that it's now harder for me to test-drive and buy LN products. I bough a WR #4 in large part because I could pick it up and examine it in person (and it was on sale )
    -- Dan Rode

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Rode View Post
    The #4 is small for shooting, the #3 even more so it may not matter in a practical sense.
    I agree. My point was specifically directed at the No.3 he has.
    "If you have all your fingers, you can convert to Metric"

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Rode View Post
    I couldn't care less about how one company treated another in a business deal. It has no direct bearing on my too buying decisions. I'll gladly buy from either or both. What it does do is prevent me from going down to the local Woodcraft and examining and comparing a LN product first hand and that does have an effect.

    Whatever went on between LN and Woodcraft, the result is that it's now harder for me to test-drive and buy LN products. I bough a WR #4 in large part because I could pick it up and examine it in person (and it was on sale )
    Some care because of the result you experienced.

    Some care because part of what happened is one large retailer decided to "offshore" production of the tools they sell.

    To each their own choices.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Rode View Post
    I couldn't care less about how one company treated another in a business deal. It has no direct bearing on my too buying decisions. I'll gladly buy from either or both. What it does do is prevent me from going down to the local Woodcraft and examining and comparing a LN product first hand and that does have an effect.

    Whatever went on between LN and Woodcraft, the result is that it's now harder for me to test-drive and buy LN products. I bough a WR #4 in large part because I could pick it up and examine it in person (and it was on sale )
    I teach at my local Woodcraft and remember the time when LN and Woodcraft parted ways. It had nothing to do the the Wood River planes. LN wanted each Woodcraft store to have a demonstration area for the LN planes, where people could come in and try the planes. But Woodcraft stores are franchised and most couldn't afford the space for a dedicated demo area, nor the cost of having a person there to monitor the tools.

    It turns out that the Woodcraft where I teach still sells LN planes and they don't have a demo area (all planes are in a locked glass front cabinet, but a customer can handle them with the help of a store employee). Apparently, the owner had a good relationship with LN and he was allowed to keep selling the planes. I think there are a few other local Woodcraft stores that have a similar arrangement.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  15. #15
    Thanks for the info, but I'm not impressed as much as you were with wood river v3!

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