Nice Ash Smoother

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Review by Don W posted 04-20-2013 12:31 AM 4711 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Nice Ash Smoother Nice Ash Smoother Nice Ash Smoother Click the pictures to enlarge them

I offered to do a review on the Nice Ash plane. Wood planes always intrigued me. I’ve restored a lot of them. They are stuck in corners, on shelves and above cabinets all over my house and shop. With a few exception, everyone has been made to work. The only ones I typically use though are a couple I made myself, but I normally use metal planes.

I gave this a 3 and would have gone to 3.5 if I could. I believe part of the reason for the lower score is this plane is one of the first 25 built. I think with some very minor improvements, it could hit 4 and maybe even a 5.

This plane is somewhat of a cross between a krenov style and a traditional wood bodied plane. It leans toward the krenov with a Kentucky style all of its own.

The biggest draw of this plane is the price point. These are very affordable and priced very well. The woodwork put into these is top notch.

So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, when my plane came I happen to be working on fitting the infills for a couple of infill planes I was making. The infills were made from some nice walnut I had. The Nice Ash came out of the package and went to work. The first few swipes were sweet. I used the plane to fit the infills and it worked wonderfully. I thought to myself, what a nice ash.

Now if that was the end of the story, we’d all be doing great, but I knew I had to put this plane through the paces. From here it got a little hairy.

If you’re planing some nice straight grain wood, this thing is SO nice. So I grabbed a piece of poplar with a big old knot right dead center. Now I didn’t really expect to plane it, but I did want to see how it would react. I also figured I better “touch up” the edge. I gave it a quick sharpening. I should note, the back of the iron was flat, and the hollow grind was square and true. It literal took less than a minute to make sure it was sharp.

It took a little work to get the iron to stay put. It wanted to slide around with the force of the knot and the difficult grain. I hit the bed with a rasp, and the underside of the cross pin with a file. I made sure the iron was clean.

The wedge just didn’t cut it. It was too thin and went too far toward the mouth to allow the shavings to escape. I quickly fashioned a new one out of a piece of oak scrap. This helped substantially.

I also didn’t care for the width of the iron in relation to the body. The iron was 1 ½” set in a full 1 ¾” plane. I also think the new wedge, which was wider, helped as well. I should note this is more of an ascetic thing, than a performance issue.

I spent some time on the phone and exchanged a few emails with Rhett. I believe he is making some modifications to future planes, but I’ll leave those comments to him. We had a great conversation about planes and Kentucky and woodworking in general. I really do wish these guys all the best.

There were some questions about the comfort of the plane on other threads. I find this plane very comfortable to use as is. It was small enough to allow my index finger to slide over the iron. My left hand ran over the front just like a krenov style. All that said, the plane could very easily be modified to fit anyone’s style.

All-in-all, the plane is well worth the asking price. The ash is beautiful and will last a life time. A good O-1 iron will run you a fair percentage of the asking price, and these seem to be good irons. All the pounding I did against that nasty poplar knot and it never asked for a re-sharpen.

You can also see from the picture I hit some oak with it to. It took the oak in stride once it was tuned for use.

So I guess the bottom line is this. If you want a plane that works wonders on any difficult wood, right out of the box, give Ron Brese or Phil Marcou a call. Of course you’ll also need to take your budgetary vision to a completely different ball park.

If you’re ok with a little work on your own, you like wood planes and you want to buy American made. Nice Ash is some Nice Ash. Just know what you’re buying and what you plan to do with it. I’ll keep this plane on my user shelf, and it will get used from time to time. It’s a little better than a large block, and a bit smaller than a #3 smoother.

I keep looking at the Nice Ash jack. I wonder if the wife would buy “I’m just trying it out”.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20095 posts in 3690 days

16 comments so far

View Woodknack's profile


13559 posts in 3503 days

#1 posted 04-20-2013 04:50 AM

“Nice” review!

-- Rick M,

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3979 days

#2 posted 04-20-2013 08:49 AM

Good review Don,sounds as though they are well worth the money
and they seem keen to get them up and running.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4790 days

#3 posted 04-20-2013 11:45 AM

Thank you Don for this review. Anyone who has seen Dons infills, will understand why his review and suggestions stand to be acknowledged. It isn’t our intention for people to have to “fix” anything, in order to use our planes. A bit of fettling is to be expected though, but not that much.

After talking with Don the the phone, I discovered he was experiencing blade creep. It was the perfect storm for suck. The bed was too smooth, the wedge was too thin and in an effort to make the plane look nice for review, it got too much wax in the mouth. Please do not think I am trying to make excuses, as when these problems were addresses, it all but took care of the issue.

Here are the changes which have been made to our Nice Ash Planes, since speaking with Don.
- The wedge is no longer cherry and is made from ash
- The wedge no longer gets any sanding past 80 grit either side
- The wedge is no longer finished
- The bed is now left rough, stopping at the medium Iwasaki file, to give it more tooth.
- Our machinery has been reset to tighten the mouth, since this has been mentioned multiple times. I have no more wide mouths in stock, so anyone ordering from this date forward will get the narrower hand plane.

As a side note, the dimensions chosen for the mouth and wedge geometry were not pulled from the sky, so to speak. They are the dims given by a well respected book on wooden planes.

We stand behind our product 100% and want to provide the best possible plane we can. We also listen to our patrons, since they are woodworkers too. If you got a plane with a cherry wedge and would like a free replacement, even if you don’t think you need it, PM me and I will get one sent to you.

Thanks again Don, these are exactly the types of things we NEED to hear, even if we don’t WANT to. All the better coming from an experienced plane maker.

93% of all business fails in the first year. That is probably a low number, for a woodworking business. Especially one selling American based, hand crafted products. We are confident in what we offer and are determined to beat the odds. Taking care of our end user, is the biggest part of that.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View woodklutz's profile


221 posts in 3891 days

#4 posted 04-20-2013 12:31 PM

Rhett, you are to be applauded for your honesty and desire to make your company great. If only other companies followed your example they would not look like fools to their stock holders. e.g. JC Penny, to cite an example.
I don’t use a plane a lot, but if I did it would be from you.
May you live long and prosper!

-- honing my craft one mistake at a time.

View poopiekat's profile


4946 posts in 4857 days

#5 posted 04-20-2013 02:24 PM

Nice work, Don! You’re an inspiration to us all.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Woodknack's profile


13559 posts in 3503 days

#6 posted 04-20-2013 05:07 PM

Thanks for the response Rhett, if only all businesses were so responsive, open and honest. I don’t have any immediate plans to buy a wood plane but if or when I do, these will be on the list.

-- Rick M,

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4587 days

#7 posted 04-20-2013 07:23 PM

thanks very much for the review and rhett for helpful comments. On something as finicky as wood I wouldn’t even consider bed friction to be an issue – i’d just do as Don did and roughen it up a bit.

View AnthonyReed's profile


10175 posts in 3563 days

#8 posted 04-22-2013 03:11 PM

Thanks Don.

-- ~Tony

View Don W's profile

Don W

20095 posts in 3690 days

#9 posted 04-22-2013 11:33 PM

Its residing in good company.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3721 days

#10 posted 04-22-2013 11:59 PM

Good info Don. Sounds like things are well on there way to improving. Kudos to Rhett for being open to feedback and striving to make top notch products.

View Mauricio's profile


7166 posts in 4274 days

#11 posted 04-26-2013 10:25 PM

Don was your plane darker than mine or are your mitts that grubby from all that metal working?

Rhett, have you guys given any thought to increasing the bedding angle on your smoothers?

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Don W's profile

Don W

20095 posts in 3690 days

#12 posted 04-26-2013 10:33 PM

My mitts were dirty from the metal work. The first time I used it was fitting infills. I thought about giving it a coat of blo first, but I was into the moment. I like the patina.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View rhett's profile


743 posts in 4790 days

#13 posted 04-27-2013 02:34 PM

Mauricio, yes, that is the future plan. As it stands now, all the beds are at a 45, once again for simplicity of production. The jigs we are using are quite indepth to make, with the only adjustment being the width between sides.

We want to see how things progress before offering too many options

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View mafe's profile


13202 posts in 4212 days

#14 posted 05-07-2013 11:55 AM

Thank you for a fine review and some good answers from rhett.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20095 posts in 3690 days

#15 posted 06-08-2013 09:11 PM

some time ago Rhett sent me a new wedge. It had a bolt but it wasn’t quit long enough, probably due to the fussing around I had done earlier. But no fear, we have the technology. Stronger, better and a touch of brass.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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