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WoodRiver Bench Plane #4 Reviewed by Robert Howard.

"At last a tool made in China which is not only cheap but also good. And at $185 it is remarkably good value. Woodcraft Supply, the big US woodworking tool chain which is behind the WoodRiver planes, has been smart enough to make the most of China's manufacturing capabilities. This is the Mark 3 version - after each production run, improvements have been made.

Comparing this plane with similar value hardware store planes (Stanley and Record-Irwin for example) is like comparing a BMW M3 sedan with an old Malvern Star bicycle. To get a meaningful comparison, I had to compare it with my Lie-Nielsen No.4. That is the company in which it belongs.

In every major way the plane cannot be faulted. The sole is acceptably flat, with a fine finish, and the body is cast from ductile iron. The frog is fully machined, with flat surfaces, and incorporates the Stanley Bedrock design improvements. The two pins that secure the frog even have the dimples in the top to tell you which way they should be facing during assembly.

The A2 steel blade is thick and flat. The chipbreaker is as heavy as the Lie-Nielsen.

The lateral lever is a beautifully made (in the old way) assembly and now includes the little roller at the end. The handles are made of lightly finished Bubinga (no toffee apple lacquer coating).

In AWR#64 I reviewed the WoodRiver block plane and said that what you get when you buy a Lie-Nielsen is finesse, and to some extent, peace of mind. When you buy a Lie-Nielsen, you know what you are going to get, but I think it is a simple reality that it will take time for buyers to be confident about a plane made in China.

Both the WoodRiver frog and blade have about twice the sideways movement of the Lie-Nielsen (lmm versus 0.5mm).

Care needs to be taken when securing the WoodRiver frog to ensure it sits square in the plane body. The WoodRiver chip- breaker was not as well finished as the Lie- Nielsen, and needed to be squared off at the front and honed a little to properly seat it. This only took a couple of minutes.

The locking lever on the lever cap of the WoodRiver is a looser fit than the Lie- Nielsen, but still works perfectly well.

There are two little things that I would change. I would take some wood off the bottom of the rear tote to make some more room for my admittedly large hand.

Secondly I would cut about l0mm off the threaded rod carrying the depth adjuster knob. It is unnecessarily long and just doesn't look right.

None of these issues affect the essential working potential of the plane. The blade was ready to work after a quick hone, and except for the rear grip, the plane worked beautifully. This WoodRiver No.4 is a seriously good plane."

Reviewed to Robert Howard

Australian Wood Review www.woodreview.com.au

February 2011: Excellent review from Fine Woodworking magazine -
"WoodRiver rebounds with high-quality block planes

10th Feb 2011


"When I first reviewed WoodRiver's new handplanes, (Tools & Materials, FWW #206), I was disappointed with the initial fit and finish of the tools. They required a good amount of tuning to perform adequately for fine work.

But it looks like the company raised its game with these new block planes (low angle and standard angle), creating a pair of flawlessly made tools with fine machining and great performance.

The two planes are virtually identical, except for the bed angle. The low-angle plane, modeled after the Stanley No. 65, has the blade bedded at 12°, making it ideal for end-grain and cross-grain work, such as cleaning up dovetail joints after assembly. The standard-angle plane is similar to Stanley’s No. 18 (see extra note below) and has the blade bedded at 20°. This makes it a great general-purpose plane, ideal for trimming tasks, such as fitting drawers and doors.

The first thing I noticed about the planes was their heft. My vintage Stanley No. 65 weighs 1 lb. 4 oz., while each WoodRiver is 1 lb. 14 oz., more than a half-pound of extra inertia that can see the plane through rigorous use.

The WoodRiver block planes are the only ones on the market that incorporate a knuckle-joint lever cap. The design means blade changes are quick and easy, and the blade is held rock solid with a spring tension that closes with a snap. The beautiful nickel-plated lever cap fills the palm of your hand with great comfort.

The blades are made of high-carbon steel and are a stout 1/8 in. thick. They give a solid feel to the planes and eliminate chatter. The plane bodies are cast from durable ductile iron. Each plane has an adjustable mouth, and the finely ground sole stays dead-flat when an adjustment is made.

The backs of the blades were also flat out of the box. After just a couple of minutes honing, each plane was ready to go to work.

I was impressed with the planes’ performance. The blades took a keen edge, and they performed right on a par with other premium block planes, for less money, making them a great buy." - Quote from Fine Woodworking magazine.

Note: The Standard angle is similar to the old  Stanley #19, not #18 as reported by Woodcraft.  The #19 was 7"/175mm long, the #18 was 6"/150mm. - J.D.

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