Limitation of Stanley #4.

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Forum topic by JohnChung posted 02-05-2014 04:50 PM 1598 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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422 posts in 3151 days

02-05-2014 04:50 PM

I have finally hit the limit with #4. I can’t seem to plane hard wood well. With soft wood it works really well. My problem started when I started to level the hardwoodResak with janka rating of 1450.

It also did not help when I used the standard irons with the plane. This is where an upgrade to A2 or PM-V11 would help a lot. I have no doubt with a sharp iron I can level that board but the weight does not help at all. I really need to push down the planea sign that the irons are dull.

The solution would be to get a jack plane. I do have the LV LAJ plane with A2 steel. It does work WELL on hard wood from leveling and dimensioning the board itself.

Kind of sad with #4, still a good plane but leveling wood I would pass when it is hard wood. Too much effort required.


12 replies so far

View JayT's profile


6424 posts in 3287 days

#1 posted 02-05-2014 05:01 PM

Hmm, the hardest woods I’ve planed are bloodwood and macacauba (granadillo), which both have a Janka rating of 2900, as well as bubinga (2450 Janka rating). The interlocked grain provided some challenges but I didn’t have any real issues. With a good, sharp #4 and very thin passes, it gave beautiful results.

Am I remembering correctly that your #4 is a new one, not a vintage?

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Armandhammer's profile


235 posts in 2702 days

#2 posted 02-05-2014 05:06 PM

No personal experience but it seems that there are more videos on youtube than I can watch in a day where folks are planning hardwood with a #4 plane with great results.

View JohnChung's profile


422 posts in 3151 days

#3 posted 02-05-2014 05:12 PM

Yup it is new. After many tunings it works well. The sole was off. With a fresh sharp iron it does work well. Problem with standard irons it does not remain sharp for long.

JayT – Can you level the board hardwood with the #4 without spending too much energy? What iron do you use for your #4?

View Don W's profile

Don W

20046 posts in 3644 days

#4 posted 02-05-2014 05:16 PM

To be clear, a #4 is a smoother, its really not meant to level. Its meant to smooth.

I’ve also found the never irons don’t hold an edge as well as the vintage (or the after market)

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

View JayT's profile


6424 posts in 3287 days

#5 posted 02-05-2014 05:24 PM

I have stock irons in all my planes, but most of them are pre-WWI, and all are pre-WWII, so that is why I was asking about yours. Don’s experience with the newer stock irons not holding a edge as well seems to be pretty common.

I only use the #4’s for smoothing or doing something like beveling an edge or making a raised panel. For dimensioning lumber, I mainly use a #6 size and a wooden jack plane that was received as part of the plane swap last fall, both with cambered irons. If what you are referring to as leveling a board is getting it to rough dimensions, then a #4 set up for smoothing would take forever. A #5 with a cambered iron would work much faster and you wouldn’t have to worry about keeping it as sharp as your smoother.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Loren's profile (online now)


11189 posts in 4724 days

#6 posted 02-05-2014 05:28 PM

What kind of sharpening stones are you using?

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4725 days

#7 posted 02-05-2014 05:34 PM

you should not be “leveling wood” with a #4… that’s what a jointer is for (#7). a #4 is meant to smooth an already leveled board/project.

doesn’t seem like a limitation of the #4, just not what it’s designed to do.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Andre's profile


4503 posts in 2882 days

#8 posted 02-05-2014 05:36 PM

Put the LV PMV-11 irons in my 60 1/2 and in a 5 1/4 Stanley’s, work great on Maple and some Doussie !

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View JohnChung's profile


422 posts in 3151 days

#9 posted 02-05-2014 05:39 PM

@JayT – That is why the irons don’t work that well. I will go for the upgrade. Thinking over what you said made sense. I am trying to us #4 for too many stuff. Need to fall back to LAJ for dimensioning.

@Loren – Shapton Pro stones. I go up to 8000 grit.

@Purplev – Lesson learnt. Need to drag LAJ out to play.

View Loren's profile (online now)


11189 posts in 4724 days

#10 posted 02-05-2014 06:14 PM

Ok. Well, you may not be getting the irons as sharp as you
think you are. I’ve fooled myself a lot polishing on fine
waterstones. It’s possible to not actually be polishing
right to the edge. I use the Burns system now and
it eliminates that problem because the finish stone
honing angle is just a hair higher than the coarser
stone sharpening angles. An iron honed to 1000 grit
will shave hair and is adequate for a lot of work. The
edges honed to finer grits seem to stay sharp longer.

Aside from that, the chrome vanadium irons don’t stay
real sharp super long. Heavy cuts blunt them faster.

I’ve used Hock irons and found them hard work to sharpen
but they do hold the edge well. I also have an IBC
iron and it’s not too tedious to sharpen.

View TerryDowning's profile


1149 posts in 3194 days

#11 posted 02-05-2014 10:02 PM

I’m pretty sure when it comes to flattening a board the size of plane to use is largely dictated by the size of the board.

Right now I’m working on some 10” long by 5”wide boards, no way my 22” jointer is going to work well on them so I’m used a jack plane for dimensioning, and I’m now using my smooth plane to finish up.

You also need to pay attention to grain direction. Try planing the other way, or skewing the plane, if that does not help you may want to investigate using a higher angle (I’m going to be grinding a back bevel on one of my smooth irons to get a higher effective angle as the grain on the plum wood I’m working now is proving difficult and prone to tear out) failing that a scraper may be required to achieve the desired final results. There is a reason the number of planes seems to grow, different planes get setup for different jobs.

It is also a fact that some hardwoods don’t plane as well as others. I have never heard of Resak.

-- - Terry

View JohnChung's profile


422 posts in 3151 days

#12 posted 02-06-2014 12:09 PM

Resak is a local Malaysian wood species. Hard wood. Usually under appreciated b’cos it’s tough to work with. Mostly used for roofing and wooden houses.

A well tune plane can work on the wood without much issue.

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