Amazing Plane for the Price

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Review by RaggedKerf posted 04-06-2013 12:34 PM 6437 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Amazing Plane for the Price No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Okay, I know there are an awful lot of you guys out there that sport the Lie-Nielsen and Veritas hand planes (drool) but I just cannot swing the budget that high right now.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t have quality!

I just picked up a brand new WoodRiver #5 (V3) and this jack is sweeeeeeet. It’s replacing the #4 Groz smoother (hissss) that I got last year. I spent hours and hours rehabbing the brand new Groz to get it to the point where I could plane pine (of all things) to make my workbench last summer. Well, working on a new project that involved walnut and maple and the Groz just could not hack it.

I gave up on the Groz, did my research and picked the WoodRiver. Got it at the local Woodcraft (Milwaukee) on Tuesday and could not be happier!

It was the floor model, as they had already sold the other. I looked it over and it seemed fine—-plus, they had already wiped off the shipping oil from the sole and visible parts, so when I got home, all I had to do clean the levercap and iron assembly. Like Rob Crosman says in his famous unboxing video, I checked the mouth and there was just a hint of rough edge on the lower surface (when resting the plane on it’s heel). Less than 3 seconds with a file and it’s smooth.

I tightened the screws in the tote and that was it. The frog retaining and adjustment screws were tight, the knob screw was tight. This plane is solid, heavy and very well machined. the cherry tote and knob feel great and are bigger (but not too big) than the Groz and are oh so comfortable to hold. That said, they are not slicked up with finish either, but have just enough of a sheen to make them look nice but not glossy. Just looking at it makes me want to attack wood.

I did some quick checks—-to pretend I know what the hell I’m talking about—-and according to my square, the sides of the sole were dead on 90 degrees to the sole all along the length. The sole itself was also dead flat—-or as flat as my meager assortment of measuring tools can indicate. Which is plenty good enough for me—-I spent a long time lapping the sole of the Groz.

The blade had a nice crisp bevel and was ground much nicer and smoother than the Groz (which looked like it had been ground with a jackhammer). The chipbreaker was likewise ground sharp and crisp and fit the iron perfectly (or as near as I can tell…there was no light coming through when I looked). Again, night and day from the Groz. Can you see the pattern—-and can you see the face-splitting grin I’ve been wearing since I bought this plane?

A quick honing with Scary Sharp (400, 600, 800 grit for me this time) just to get the ball rolling and the bevel was already starting to look like the mirror finish we all love.

The back was pretty darn flat—-as I went through the usual routine of trying to flatten it, I noticed it didn’t take much time at all.

In total, I think it was about ten minutes of sharpening (and admiring) from the time I first touched the iron to the sandpaper.

I’m not a tool expert or anything, but I can tell you that after spending the amount of time necessary to get and keep the Groz running smoothly—-in pine—-10 minutes was absolutely mind-blowingly short.

I got everything reassembled and put a little wax on the sole (just a block of paraffin—-canning—-wax I got at the grocery store) and tried some test cuts on a random piece of hickory laying around.

I slowly crept up on the first cut, turning the depth adjustment wheel 1/4 of a turn each pass until the iron finally kissed the wood. And when it did, I was rewarded with the thinnest shaving I’ve ever seen created by my hands. We’re not talking St. Roy’s infamous gossamer shavings here, but it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I mean, it was hickory for cryin’ out loud. The same wood that stopped the Groz dead in it’s tracks. I’m not talking chatter or rough shavings. I mean it just stopped.

What followed was an orgy of “let’s try this!”: scraps of maple, walnut, poplar, oak…everything I could get my hands on had a glass-smooth, dead flat surface in seconds. It’s hard to call this plane a tool when it’s so much fun. I keep thinking of it as a toy!

I do have one caveat for all you newbies out there like me. When you get a plane that’s quality—-or rescue an old workhorse from the 1900s—-and you get that baby running smooth…just be careful of the stuff you plane and how much you “play”. The wood can get some awfully sharp corners:

Yeah, that was right after the first test piece of hickory had been planed to a perfect 90* corner…I got so excited I went to grab the piece of wood and take a picture and in my haste, the corner sliced open my thumb! In my excitement, I ignored the wound and then thought, “If it can do that to hickory, what can it do to [insert wood species here]?”

Okay, so I’ve got nothing but glowing praise for this plane. Right?

Well, sorta.

See, I’m about 6’2”, which puts me in the above-average for a human male category. Granted, not by much, but due to my size, my hands are also bigger than the average male. I guess. Because just about every tool I’ve ever owned with the exception of the circular saw, has a handle that’s just a hair too small for me to grip it comfortably using my whole hand.

This plane is no exception. I can hear a chorus of “But you said the tote is larger than the Groz!” Yes. Yes, I did. But it’s still just a tad bit uncomfortable to use 3 fingers on the tote and rest the pointer on the side of the plane. It’s certainly more comfortable than it’s predecessor, by a country mile. But…for it to be perfect, that tote would have to be bigger.

Also, the only other…I hesitate to use the word complaint, because I’m too new to the art of working wood to know any better…is that when the chipbreaker/iron/lever cap assembly is fully seated in the plane, the depth adjust has what feels like 1/4 to 1/2 a turn of play in it before it engages. When it engages, it is significantly harder to turn than when the iron assembly is removed for cleaning.

When there’s no blade in the plane, that depth adjuster spins like it’s greased with angel tears. In Rob Crosman’s unboxing video, he adjusts it quickly using only his index finger after installing the iron, chipbreaker and lever cap.

So! Either (A) I’m doing something wrong—-entirely possible, as I am a bumbling rookie, (B) something is wrong with the plane—-not nearly as likely given the high quality of every other part on this plane, or© Rob Crosman has freakishly strong fingers. Discuss.

Personally, I think it’s (A). But I’ve got time to figure that out when I’m done playing with it…maybe next year.

Seriously though, in the end (this is the end, right?), does the depth wheel bother me enough to write a bad review, throw it across the room or return it? Not a chance. Does the tote size make we want to cry or strap a grenade to it? Nope. I can very easily turn a blind eye to these two minor “issues” and easily have so much fun planing that I forget to eat.

While this review obviously wasn’t written by an expert reviewer or even a competent woodworker, hopefully it’ll help some other poor slob like me who’s just getting started and is tired of wiping drool off his keyboard because he loves looking at Lie-Nielsen planes.

But Lie-Nielsen planes are just so pretty! And they’re made in a America (WoodRiver is produced in China…I know, I know…but I bet you said the same thing about Japan in ‘70s, right?)!

Trust me, when you pick up this oriental baby and cradle it in your hands the only thing you’ll be thinking about his how sharp you can make the corners on a piece of [insert wood species here]. Unless your’e one of those guys who already owns a L-N plane and it’s sitting there, all gleaming and glossy in the cabinet watching you with jealous eyes as you play with a “lower class” girl.

Ultimately, this is my first “real” plane. It is my first WoodRiver. But I can tell you right now, it sure won’t be my last!

Wow…this was supposed to be just a simple “guys! Lookie what I got!” tool gloat because my family and friends—-well, you all know what I’m talking about. I haven’t even used it on a project yet but I just couldn’t wait to tell everyone everything I could about this plane. If I can help one person decide on whether or not to buy this plane, I guess it was worth doing.

Now, excuse me, I’m going to go make a pile of maple shavings on the shop floor.


Almost forgot—-we can only use 3 photos on the review, so to see the other photos I took click here to see my blog.

-- Steve

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 2967 days

13 comments so far

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 3449 days

#1 posted 04-06-2013 01:03 PM

Sounds like your having fun and enjoying your plane!

When it comes to planes I have found for myself that if you can get to your local auction, get yourself a Stanley #5 jack plane, make sure everything is complete. You should haggle for about $25 bucks if its in decent to half rusty shape. Take her home and seriously… the Paul Sellers sharpening method using diamond stones… will not believe the results you will get.
Those old Stanley irons will soak up good sharpening methods and make that plane a nice user.

If no diamond stones use what you have…..and strop! A strop is an old piece of leather. Cut a piece off an old belt (about 6-8 inches worth) tac or glue it to an old slab of pine, get some green rubbing compound. Rub it on the leather and make sure after your session of sharpening is complete to hit both sides of the blade on that strop. If you can shave hair from your arm…..your ready.

Sharpening to me was very intimidating and confusing at first…I think it is because if you take 5 woodworkers…they all may have a different But for cutting out the hassle..this method makes my spokeshaves, plane blades, turning tools, chisels and knives work wonderfully.

Love the looks of the new plane, and hope you have a great time making shaves!

Have a great day!


-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 2967 days

#2 posted 04-06-2013 02:48 PM

Thanks Joe!

Funny you should mention the old Stanleys….garage sale/flea market season is starting and I am itching to go rust hunting!

Thanks for the reminder re. Paul Sellers…I’m going to redo my strop (forgot to mention that in the review).

-- Steve

View Wally331's profile


350 posts in 2871 days

#3 posted 04-06-2013 03:42 PM

I too, love my woodriver planes- I bought the no.6, no.4 and a low angle block plane in a package deal for like 360$, so 3 of these puppies for the price of one lie-nielsen. Of course I wish I could’ve gone with the lie-nielsens, but I just don’t have the budget. These are a great alternative.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3321 days

#4 posted 04-06-2013 04:06 PM

When it engages, it is significantly harder to turn than when the iron assembly is removed for cleaning.

Loosen the screw that holds everything together to the plane, it should allow you to turn the adjusting wheel

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Nicky's profile


698 posts in 4938 days

#5 posted 04-06-2013 04:44 PM

Can’t decide what I like more, the review of your plane, or the the review about the revelation of owing a nice plane. Loved the write-up.

Learning about the proper way to tune and use a hand plane was a turning point for me.

Enjoy your new plane. It will serve you faithfully for a lifetime.

-- Nicky

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 4205 days

#6 posted 04-06-2013 07:37 PM

As Jorge suggested, you need to loosen the screw that the lever cap rests on, but only a very, very little bit. You should be able to easily engage or disengage the lever cap with just your thumb. As for the slop in the depth adjuster, that’s just the cost of doing business. :)) Yes, the LN planes don’t have anywhere near that much slop, but they cost a bit more. Also, if you’re having fun with it sharpening to an 800 grit, wait until you take it to 6000 or 8000.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2840 days

#7 posted 04-07-2013 01:16 AM

Congratulations on your new plane.

BTW, did you get the grits right? I use 15 micron, 5 micron, and 1 micron paper. The 15 micron is 1000-1200 grit. I can’t imagine doing the plane with 800 grit.

View woodzy's profile


418 posts in 3525 days

#8 posted 04-07-2013 01:48 PM

Great review. It was a hell of a read.


-- Anthony

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 2967 days

#9 posted 04-07-2013 05:17 PM

Thanks for the comments guys!

Jorge, I will try to loosen the lever cap as you suggest, ever so slightly to try and get the depth adjuster to be a little more user friendly. Thanks! I kept it a little tighter than normal I guess because I was nervous.

Nicky Thanks! I will!

sikrap and DavidNJ yes, you read right, I only sharpened it to 800 grit. Since then I have acquired up to 2000 grit and a strop which is loaded with Mother’s Mag and Wheel Polish (whch I think I read somewhere gives the equivalent of about 5,000-6,000 grit). Hooooweeee that blade looks more like a 2” lightsaber than a hunk of steel!

woodzy Thanks! Glad you liked it.

-- Steve

View b2rtch's profile


4920 posts in 3895 days

#10 posted 04-08-2013 07:24 PM

Good review and good reading.
I to have a Woodriver #4 that I like very much

-- Bert

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3331 days

#11 posted 04-09-2013 04:15 PM

Steve, nice writeup. Also glad to see that you’re sharpening to a higher grit than you originally mentioned. There’s nothing quite like mirror polished steel.

-- Brian Timmons -

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 2967 days

#12 posted 04-09-2013 09:45 PM

You can say that again—-first time I went to 2000…never seen such fine shavings before (in maple!). I was floored. Everything finally clicked! Planing is a JOY now

-- Steve

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3975 days

#13 posted 04-30-2013 05:27 PM

I have four of these and Lie-Nielsen as well. I ave also restored guite few older Stanleys. Imo, the Stanleys are over rated . Its nostalgia. They were a mass market plane. They were almost never flat. They were like the Microsft of the tool world. They buried competion ruthlessly and created a near monopoly. Think of those crappy thin blades they got away wth peddling along with curved soles. The WoodRiver v3s are better than stanleys ever were. They are dead flat and heavily cast. They also have heavey thick blades. The Lie-Nielsens are nicer. The depth adjuster is bit smoother and they have the fully flaired tote which was one of the nicer features of the o.d Stanleys, but dontlet thetool snobs fool you. The v3 woodrivers are fine planes as you found out for yourself.

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