Wood River - Banana Planes

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Review by mcase posted 03-16-2010 05:00 AM 9407 views 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Wood River  -  Banana Planes No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I recently spent about an hour and half in Woodcraft examining Wood River planes. I went there to buy these planes. I went to purchase a #4, #5, and #6. The planes are very handsome and clearly copies of the Lie-Nielsen planes once carried at Woodcraft. They are very attractively packaged in nice wooden boxes. But before I went out the door I had the sales person (very helpful) open each box. I did this so I could examine each plane before I brought it home. Using a machinist straight edge to check the soles for flatness I was very disappointed to discover that each and every one was curved like a banana. The curves were concave and clearly visible. They looked to be around .005 out of true. May not sound like much but enough to mean that to get them to work right you would have to lap them flat. The planes were so attractive otherwise and the price was so great I almost gave in and purchased them. However the thought of the hours of lapping them, especially the 18” #6 fore plane, held me back. In the end, I thanked the sales help profusely and declined the purchase. Its a shame that they wasted time and money on fancy wooden boxes that no one will use and neglected to cure and lap the soles of the planes so they could be used.

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3902 days

20 comments so far

View Luke's profile


546 posts in 4066 days

#1 posted 03-16-2010 06:11 AM

Is 5/1000 of an inch a nightmare? They are not priced like Lie Neilsons so it’s really a good buy. When you said banana I was thinking A groz or buck bros. type banana. But man, that wouldn’t take hours and hours to remove ,would it? Weren’t they on sale for a real good price recently? I bought the #4 for my father in law recently and I can’t wait to give it a try. You’ll have to spend a lot more money to worry about 5/1000.

-- LAS,

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3810 days

#2 posted 03-16-2010 07:33 AM

I am confused as to where the parts were out of flat, and I’m also curious as to how you came up with the 0.005” value? That is a pretty pretty exact measurement! I have also looked at the WoodRiver planes pretty extensively, and never noticed this so I am very curious as to whether this is a quality control issue, or if I was looking at golden samples!

Can you be a little more specific as to where the soles were out of flat? I am assuming you were indicating front to back, so if that were the case was the bowed point at the the blade? Only 4 points of the sole need to be coplanar for the plane to work properly, and some would argue that there SHOULD be a slight concavity to the other parts of the plane, so I am very curious as to where exactly these planes were out of flat. Many Japanese planes intentionally make the soles slightly concave (I think to reduce drag, but I am by no means an expert on Japanese tools), and there is definitely a percentage of those who like corrugating the soles of planes to reduce drag, but I definitely understand the concern with the plane being out of flat.

Like I said, I have looked at these planes a great deal and am heavily leaning towards buying one for my next plane purchase, so any additional information you have would be greatly appreciated, especially since it doesn’t jive with what I have personally observed from that line of planes.

Finally, I am with Luke that 0.005 would be really easy to take out, but that is clearly not the point here! For a premium plane, I would expect it to be really flat out of the box. I wonder what the Lie-Nielson planes look like out of the box—never have measured those before. . .

Thanks for your review!

-- David from Indiana --

View ACP's profile


32 posts in 3984 days

#3 posted 03-16-2010 08:37 AM

I have the #3, 4, and 6. They are all perfectly flat, well made, and have had no issues with them. 3 for 3 and they were internet orders. I don’t see the quality control issue.

View skeeter's profile


233 posts in 4114 days

#4 posted 03-16-2010 01:29 PM

The sole was the best part of my purchase. I bought the number 3 and it is taking the most fantastic shavings. I did a thorough inspection of the blade, mouth, and sole. I made sure the blade was ground square and then asked for a screwdriver from the nice woodcraft salesguy but the thing was that after I got the blade projection I wanted, I discovered it was set up perfectly with a very tight mouth. I am not just going to throw out a number say, like .005 because I didn’t measure it but who does. Also I checked the sole on the nice shiny brand new unisaw. No light what so ever shined under. Maybe it had the same curvature. Who knows? All I know is the surface of my board is nice and shiny. Who cares about the chips? That is all everyone seems to care about. By the way they are light and fluffy.

-- My philosophy: Somewhere between Norm and Roy

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 4515 days

#5 posted 03-16-2010 01:42 PM

I also have the 4, 5, & 6 and found them to be spot on flat. Good planes for the price!

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View FunnelStudio's profile


30 posts in 4091 days

#6 posted 03-16-2010 03:19 PM

My #4 is spot on! Since I can’t fathom paying for a Nielson at this point, I just went with this, and in comparison to my previous planes (vintage guys I restored), it works like a dream. I dont have a machinist straight edge, but it’s pretty good on my starrett.

The only thing I will say is that when I bought my plane at the Woodcraft in Delaware, I asked the salesman what he knew about the plane. I said something like “I know it’s no Lee Nielson, but is it more comprable to one of those than a Avanti or Kunz” and all he said was “well a Lee Neilson is a Cadillac”. And the conversation was over.

I also keep my plane in my box…!

-- -Shaun M. Baer,

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4005 days

#7 posted 03-16-2010 04:15 PM

I have the Groz #4. and I can believe .005 concave on that. I still wouldn’t call that measurement a lot. Yes I had to lap it, big deal.

I looked at the Wood River planes you mention, dead flat, at least on the #4 I looked at. Much less expensive than the Lie Nielsen, or Veritas for sure.

I guess if not having to tune a plane is more important to you than the difference in funds, then sure, grab an LN, or Veritas… Even then I would double check it…

Comparing the vehicle analogy through to planes…

The Groz and similar planes is somewhat like a base model Chevy Colorado. Useful, inexpensive, lacking features of the higher end models. The Wood River is like a Chevy Avalanche. Better, smoother, more refined, but still offers the same function. The LN / Veritas is like an Escalade, MUCH more refined, smoother, and prettier to look at, but provides the same basic function, and costs a whole lot more…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3810 days

#8 posted 03-16-2010 04:34 PM

Glad to know that there seem to be many more examples of flat WoodRiver planes than slightly curved ones. Thanks for all of the additional comments from owners of these planes!

-- David from Indiana --

View ChrisG's profile


18 posts in 3806 days

#9 posted 03-16-2010 04:55 PM

I got the no 6 on sale a couple weeks ago, and LOVE it! I checked it extensively and as far as I can tell it is flat and square. However, one of the biggest things to look out for in mid-range priced to tools is consistency in quality control, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some are less then perfect. Nonetheless, I will happily purchase more WoodRiver planes. If I happen to get one that isn’t flat and square (which I don’t think is too likely) I will simply exchange it for another. It would be a bit of a hassle, but given that Woodcraft will reimburse you for return shipping it really would not be a big deal. I am sold on the quality and value of these planes.

-- Christopher Griggs, New Orleans, [email protected],

View bobdurnell's profile


317 posts in 4670 days

#10 posted 03-16-2010 05:44 PM

I just read the review and I just went out and checked out my no.3 and no.5 Wood River plane and using my L.S. Starrett combination square and damn I found the sole of my no.3 to be about .001 out of flat. I think that’s about the thickness of half a hair. I still think that the Wood River planes are worth the money. I can still get a gossamer shaving with it.

-- bobdurnell, Santa Ana California.

View Tony's profile


994 posts in 4803 days

#11 posted 03-16-2010 07:26 PM

I have some of these planes from the same manufacturer (not called wood river) – Yes the soles of the planes are not perfect, but there again even the LN are not perfect when you buy them.

Mine took about 10 minutes the flatten the bottom, starting with some 220 grit wet and dry, working through 400 and finally 1000 grit – at a saving of some $300 per plane, it is worth the 10 minutes of work. They work like a dream now

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View b2rtch's profile


4920 posts in 3821 days

#12 posted 03-16-2010 07:28 PM

The one I bought is perfectly flat, checked with a dial indicator.
I love mine.
It is a dream to use.

-- Bert

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3810 days

#13 posted 03-16-2010 08:00 PM

Tony, what brand were the ones you bought?

Oh, and Bobdurnell, none of my measurement equipment in my wood shop is reliable past 0.001”, so if my planes are flat to that tolerance, figure it is completely acceptable! :)

-- David from Indiana --

View Tony's profile


994 posts in 4803 days

#14 posted 03-16-2010 11:33 PM


I bought mine in Finland (where I live), you can find out my review details and the manufacturers name from the following link (PDF file down load) – they are from the same manufacturer and the same quality, but like the wood river brand, these are unbranded, to keep the cost down

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View acanthuscarver's profile


268 posts in 4485 days

#15 posted 03-17-2010 01:17 PM

I’ve had a bunch of students come through the school with Wood River planes. Unlike the Groz, all the WR planes have been flat and, with a little sharpening, ready to go. You certainly can’t beat the price.

-- Chuck Bender, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

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