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Forum topic by GBSteve posted 07-02-2019 12:32 PM 799 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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GBSteve

11 posts in 275 days


07-02-2019 12:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question plane mujingfang hnt gordon

Yes, I’ll open Pandora’s Box this morning…I’m looking for a smoothing plane. As this has been discussed ad nauseam both here at Lumberjocks and elsewhere on the internet, I’ve done plenty of research. Just looking for a few pointers or opinions on anything I missed.

The typical lumber species I work with are Burmese Teak, Black Walnut, and Rift White Oak. I also work with softwoods, mainly European Beech, CVG Douglas Fir, and Sitka Spruce.

I know having two (or more) dedicated planes, one for hardwood and another for softwood, is ideal. For what it’s worth, I primarily use hand tools in my shop, using the table saw, planer, and joiner only for breaking down rough sawn planks and rough material sizing. I do smallish boxes and storage pieces, up to the size of say a normal nightstand, so nothing very large.

I think a #4 smoother will be the ideal size for my work, though a #3 could easily work as well. My experience with hand planes is my wonderful LN 60 1/2 Block Plane, and several Japanese kanna. The Japanese versions are excellent in softwood, but they struggle with the Teak, hence my lean towards a Western-style push plane, or at least one with a higher angle. I’ve read 50º and even 60º will work fine with walnut and white oak. HNT Gordon’s website claims their 60º cutting angle is the same as a Stanley-style plane with the standard 45º plus chipbreaker/cap iron…

And while no offense to those who restore old planes, it’s not exactly my thing. I’m not looking to chance a purchase on eBay. I never get enough shop time outside of my day job anyway, and restoring old tools just doesn’t interest me (and if I’m not interested in something, I won’t give it the attention it demands).

I did not include the Veritas models of the LN planes below as the Veritas versions are not for me, aesthetically speaking. Very personal thoughts, I know. I like the Norris adjuster on the Veritas LA planes, opposed to no adjuster on the LN versions, but nothing else of the Veritas planes really appeal to me.

Lie-Nielsen #4 BU

Pros:
  • Reputability (Product and Brand)
  • High Angle Frog option
  • Bronze sole option
Cons:
  • Cost
  • Changing frogs isn’t difficult, but time consuming

Lie-Nielsen #164 LA

Pros:
  • Reputability
  • Changing blades, with different angles, is easier than changing frogs
  • LA design may/may not be best for tear out-prone woods
Cons:
  • Cost
  • Could be a bear to push through when using a high cutting angle.
  • LA design…good, bad, indifferent…

Mujingfang Hong Kong-style 60º smoothing plane

Pros:
  • Cost (~$90 USD)
  • Pull style I am more familiar with
  • Have not read one bad review
Cons:
  • No experience with brand
  • Poor resale value (if I ever decide to sell/upgrade/etc)
  • Fixed 60º angle

HNT Gordon Smoothing Plane

Pros:
  • Well regarded/reputability
  • Pull style
  • Other planes in catalogue would be useful as time goes on…
Cons:
  • Cost ($215 USD) when compared to above Mujingfang
  • Potentially poor resale value?
  • No experience with brand

Thanks again for your thoughts. Sorry also for muddying the waters regarding hand plane options, but I haven’t heard much input from owners of Mujingfang or HNT Gordon products, and hearing a comparison between their models vs traditional Bedrock or LA versions.


20 replies so far

View JayT's profile

JayT

6292 posts in 2715 days


#1 posted 07-02-2019 01:46 PM

I cannot speak to the pull style planes, as I’ve never used them. I will say that based on your stated needs I would drop the 164 from consideration. I’ve not had or seen consistently good results in tear out prone woods like your rift sawn oak with bevel up planes of any kind. A higher angle frog &/or closely set cap iron does help with tearout, though sharp trumps everything, as you know.

The smoothers I make have 50, 52.5 and 55 degree bed angles and I haven’t found a wood yet I can’t plane well with a sharp edge, even if they are a single iron. They also all work fine in softwoods, with the 50 degree being the best for a wide range of usage.

If you are used to pull style planes, I don’t know any reason to switch to western planes, unless you just want to. If that’s the case, the LN #4 with a higher angle frog would work well. If you want to stay with pull style, either you list would have reasons to buy. The Mujingfang isn’t a very large investment if it doesn’t work out and HNT Gordon has a tremendous reputation, so I personally wouldn’t hesitate to buy one of their products if it fit my needs.

Just my 2 cents worth. No refunds given. :-)

-- https://www.jtplaneworks.com - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View GBSteve's profile

GBSteve

11 posts in 275 days


#2 posted 07-02-2019 02:22 PM

Thanks for the input. I included the LN #164 as an option not knowing exactly how it would work with the wood species I use. I’ve read tearout is an problem with LA planes, but I also wonder how they are so popular if they’re also not so good.

Side note, I had a look at your website…you make some wonderful planes! Works of art (and I’m sure they function even better than they look).

Yes, sharp trumps everything. It took me some time to learn how to tune a Japanese plane, but it was like a revelation when all the pieces came together. I would imagine the Mujingfang plane would also require some tuning, but to what extent I am not sure. I’ve never worked with that exact style, so the lower cost would be beneficial in that case. But like comparing Lie-Nielsen to a lower priced competitor, I would imagine the HNT Gordon smoother would be 99% set right out of the box.

I’m not married to the idea of a push-style plane, more of a curiosity thing than anything. I’ve had decent results using a sharp Japanese plane to finish smooth walnut and white oak (38º bed angle), but I know it could be better. I know my ability to make a dai for Japanese blades is beyond me right now, hence my interest in alternatives.

The HNT Gordon website is a dangerous place…every time my wife sees me on the page, she comments on the “tool porn” aesthetic, but she’s also the devil’s advocate and asks me if the prices are worth it…

View Robert's profile

Robert

3533 posts in 1985 days


#3 posted 07-02-2019 02:44 PM

You can’t go wrong with LN.

IMO you don’t need different planes for hard vs. soft wood. I think its more about maintaing a well honed edge.

LN does offer high angle frogs quite reasonably.

I do keep a couple irons, one flat and one with a very slight camber.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Andre's profile

Andre

2784 posts in 2310 days


#4 posted 07-02-2019 02:59 PM

There is a reason they make so many different planes, IMHO unless you have access to and only use Perfect straight grained woods all the time you will most likely use a couple of planes on most projects. Or depend on Sand paper for final finish? LOL!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View SMP's profile

SMP

1387 posts in 410 days


#5 posted 07-02-2019 04:45 PM

I’ve always wanted the LN bronze 4 and may some day get one. I just can’t realistically justify the cost since my old Stanley works perfectly. It seems no matter what I have tried I still need to use a scraper afterwards though, especially on certain grain. So I would say most important is pick whatever smoother you want, keep it super sharp, and get a good cabinet scraper or card scraper and keep that sharp as well. Here is Paul Sellers’ thoughts on various frogs, York pitch and scrapers, worth the read for your scenario: https://paulsellers.com/2012/08/on-the-frog-in-your-throat/

View tywalt's profile

tywalt

83 posts in 668 days


#6 posted 07-02-2019 10:12 PM

If you don’t already own a #4 hand plane, then you should definitely get one. I have a #3 and for me, it is rarely used. Not to over complicate your decision making process but the Wood River line from Woodcraft is decently nice. I bought a #4 1/2 on a whim when they were on sale and was impressed with the quality. I am one of those guys that enjoys restoring old planes and did notice that the sole needed some flattening but YMMV.

Regarding bevel angles, JayT nailed it. Sharp is the key. I’ve never really noticed a significant difference in bevel angles… But a sharp edge will change your life.

Regarding soft/hard wood, I have too many planes… Like waaay too many. That being said, I do not have any “for hardwood.” All my planes are fettled and sharp and ready to go for any project. Hard, soft or ply (hold for gasps).

If you can afford the LN #4 Bronze body, I recommend it. You’ll hand that tank down to your grand kids. It may sound silly, but the biggest downside to it for me is the weight. It is significantly heavier than a stanley.

-- Tyler - Central TX

View sansoo22's profile

sansoo22

152 posts in 159 days


#7 posted 07-03-2019 12:58 AM


Hard, soft or ply (hold for gasps).

This part made me laugh. I have an ugly and a pretty version of my most used planes. I’ve grabbed a pretty plane and went to use it on ply and thought to myself…nah…you’ve got an ugly cousin for this job.

Now on to more serious things. I might be the weirdo in the group. I would prefer, if buying new, to go with the Wood River series even if i have to flatten and true it up a bit. Out of the box they are still solid users and I saved some coin. If you want to really learn how to make these things work then you can learn to flatten and tune it yourself. Too me that is half the fun of using planes. Same logic goes for table saws. Just about anyone can buy one and cut wood or fingers with it. But if you really want to learn how to be accurate you have to learn to tune it.

All that being said if i could justify the LN #4 Bronze I would have one. Then again I’m a weirdo who owns a Stanley No 2 with an original orange frog…because reasons.

View OleGrump's profile

OleGrump

496 posts in 849 days


#8 posted 07-03-2019 11:58 AM

What’s wrong with a good old Stanley? Again, SHARP is the key, not any “Brand Name”. My grandfather worked in Black walnut, regular walnut, cherry and a host of other woods constantly, and he used ONLY Stanley planes. (“Never buy anything but Stanley hand tools, Boy!” I was often told back then) Those same planes still see duty in the shop.

-- OleGrump

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

2401 posts in 2494 days


#9 posted 07-03-2019 12:10 PM

My bevel up planes work wonderfully for whatever type of wood, as long as I use the appropriate bevel angle. I have irons at 27, 38, and 50 deg, just depends on the need.

Too bad you have written off LV. Their custom #4 would be my recommendation, with multiple frogs for different jobs. If you havent looked at their custom line you should do so.

I have a 63 deg Mujingfang 2” smoother that works great, but I only use it when required (gnarly grain) because its a workout. I use a lower angle if possible, easier to move through the cut.

View Andre's profile

Andre

2784 posts in 2310 days


#10 posted 07-03-2019 12:24 PM


I ve always wanted the LN bronze 4 and may some day get one. I just can t realistically justify the cost since my old Stanley works perfectly. It seems no matter what I have tried I still need to use a scraper afterwards though, especially on certain grain. So I would say most important is pick whatever smoother you want, keep it super sharp, and get a good cabinet scraper or card scraper and keep that sharp as well. Here is Paul Sellers thoughts on various frogs, York pitch and scrapers, worth the read for your scenario: https://paulsellers.com/2012/08/on-the-frog-in-your-throat/

- SMP
</blockquote

While I love the look of the LN went with the Veritas L.A. then the H.A then a scrapper plane all in PMV-11,
funny how often the old Stanley #4(PMV-11 iron) still gets used as well as a #61 cabinet scrapper!
Also did pick up a bronze 212 LN which actually is quite nice ?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

671 posts in 1253 days


#11 posted 07-03-2019 01:33 PM

I’m lucky enough to have a bronze LN #4, and I like it a lot. That said, I prefer using my LV bevel up #4 on Walnut, Cherry, Pine, and Oak. I’ve never tried either plane on more difficult woods. Other planes I get some use out of are an old Stanley 4 1/2 and a new (5 years old) Stanley #4, and my Grandfather’s old #3. They all work fine once set up properly, and I consider a proper setup to include a new Hock blade and a good sharpening.

So, the big question might be “will the Stanley plane (with the Hock blade) work as well as the bronze LN or the LV bevel up”. The answer is “close, but not quite as well”. But that’s just my opinion. I think a fellow could buy a new Stanley, put a sharp Hock blade in it, and be perfectly happy using it.

Note that I’d have bought PMV-11 irons over Hock, but they weren’t an option at that time.

View Derek Cohen's profile

Derek Cohen

470 posts in 4473 days


#12 posted 07-03-2019 04:43 PM

GB, you have three choices when it comes to smoothers:

1. Bailey style bevel down, common angle (45 degrees): forget the high angle frogs. They will feel like a dog in this type of plane. If you like the LN, then get only the common angle frog … and learn to use the chipbreaker to control tear out. If you do not know about this, do a little research. A Stanley #3 or #4 can perform just as well with a closed chipbreaker. And this format will totally outperform a LN with a high angle frog.

Incidentally, I prefer the Veritas Custom #4, which I use with a 42 degree frog and closed chipbreaker. The low cutting angle leaves a cleaner surface.

2. High Angle on a BD woodie, such as the HNT Gordon smoother (the one without the adjuster). The high angle Mujingfang also has a 60 degree bed. These are superb planes. (I am speaking from experience here – I have all these planes and have used them for a very long time). The only downside of the Gordon is that you need to learn to set the blade with a hammer. That should take … oh … 60 seconds.

3. High cutting angle on a bevel up plane. The absolute best BU smoother – and an absolute bargain – is the Veritas BU Smoother. Use with a 50 degree blade (no, not the one sold by Veritas with 50 degrees, but a 25 degree primary bevel with a 50 degree secondary. Ask me why if you want to go down this path). The advantage of this plane is that it will plane everything you throw at it. And it is so simple to set up. Highly reliable.

Get Veritas PM-V11 steel where you can. It is worth it. I also use it in a LN #3.

Regards from Perth

Derek

-- Buildiing furniture, and reviewing and building tools at http://www.inthewoodshop.com

View MrWolfe's profile

MrWolfe

336 posts in 628 days


#13 posted 07-03-2019 04:57 PM

Hello Everyone,
I’m following this thread with some interest.

Derek,
I’ve been reading your posts all over the internet and have visited your site a few times. Thanks for all the info you have shared.

Can you explain this a bit more?

”Use with a 50 degree blade (no, not the one sold by Veritas with 50 degrees, but a 25 degree primary bevel with a 50 degree secondary. Ask me why if you want to go down this path).”

Since I am new to planes and have the L.V. BU smoother I’m very curious about that 50 degree secondary bevel.
Why not the 50 degree blade that L.V. sells?

Thanks
Jon

View Derek Cohen's profile

Derek Cohen

470 posts in 4473 days


#14 posted 07-03-2019 11:29 PM

Jon, I warn everyone NOT to buy the 50 degree blades. The reason is that these cannot be cambered, and every blade (especially smoothers) need to be cambered. The camber in a smoother is just enough to prevent track lines. A blade with a 50 degree bevel is very thick, and there is too much steel to remove to camber it … and the camber for BU blade needs to be about double that of a BD blade. I recommend only getting 25 degree bevels and adding the 50 degree angle as a secondary bevel, and the camber at the same time. This is done with a honing guide. The bevel is then thin and easy to camber. If you have an existing 50 degree blade, I would grind it to 25 degrees, and start again

Article: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/WoodworkTechniques/TheSecretToCamberinBUPlaneBlades.html

Regards from Perth

Derek

-- Buildiing furniture, and reviewing and building tools at http://www.inthewoodshop.com

View GBSteve's profile

GBSteve

11 posts in 275 days


#15 posted 07-05-2019 03:35 PM


2. High Angle on a BD woodie, such as the HNT Gordon smoother (the one without the adjuster). The high angle Mujingfang also has a 60 degree bed. These are superb planes. (I am speaking from experience here – I have all these planes and have used them for a very long time). The only downside of the Gordon is that you need to learn to set the blade with a hammer. That should take … oh … 60 seconds.

3. High cutting angle on a bevel up plane. The absolute best BU smoother – and an absolute bargain – is the Veritas BU Smoother. Use with a 50 degree blade (no, not the one sold by Veritas with 50 degrees, but a 25 degree primary bevel with a 50 degree secondary. Ask me why if you want to go down this path). The advantage of this plane is that it will plane everything you throw at it. And it is so simple to set up. Highly reliable.

Get Veritas PM-V11 steel where you can. It is worth it. I also use it in a LN #3.

Sorry for the late reply, holiday festivities this week curtail any free time…

No worries on setting a plane with a hammer…I’ve been using Japanese planes for a while. Terry Gordon has some good videos also on using their planes, or at least I assume they are good without having that plane in front of me to follow along.

Between the HNT Gordon and Mujingfang smoothers, do you feel one is overall better than the other? Any strengths or weaknesses one has over the other? As they have wooden bodies, do they require ongoing tuning of the sole, like Japanese planes?

Interesting thought on using a BU smoother with 50º secondary bevel. I wasn’t aware the Veritas PM-V11 irons fit in a LN plane. The BU designs have my interest, mostly because my LN 60 1/2 block plane is “old reliable”...it just always works. I’ve fiddled around with a friend’s BD #4 smoothers before (Stanley and Wood River) and never felt I was getting the hang of it. They worked well enough, I suppose, but I know I didn’t have them set as best as possible, plus the multitude of settings and adjustments seemed overkill (especially considering I primarily use Japanese planes).

After reading some comments, I’ll say I won’t totally write off the LV #4 BD smoother. I appreciate their custom line, allowing me to build exactly what I want. Given the modular assembly and minimal work involved, it seems like LN could do better in offering a similar service…

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