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Smoothing Plane or A55 Smoothing Plane?

The difference between the two smoothers largely comes down to the handle style you like and whether you want the screw adjuster. For big surfaces I personally like the old wedge style smoother as I can push or pull the plane easily and don't have to walk with the plane when doing a long table. The A55 is awkward to pull so you have to walk with the plane by pushing it on big surfaces. The old style smoother has a slightly higher (60 deg) blade angle as opposed to 55 degrees on the A55 smoother.  This will help on some cranky woods, but you can use both as a scraper if you are getting tearout - so that is not a big issue.

What is Gidgee? How different is it from Ironwood?

All timbers used for the plane body are very suitable for this purpose and will provide good serviceability and long life. It really comes down to your budget and personal preference based on the look of the wood. However, here are some points to consider: Cooktown Ironwood has more of a natural oily feel to it than gidgee. Its texture is not quite as fine as the gidgee and is generally is not as beautiful. Red - brown colouring.
Gidgee is an Acacias and has a very fine texture and is generally very nice. Rich brown colourings. It is slightly more dense than the ironwood and is my favourite wood for making planes.

Why don't HNT Gordon planes have a chip breaker?

A chip breaker's purpose is to break off the wood shaving before it has the potential to tear the grain prior to the blade cutting it cleanly to leave a smooth surface. To achieve this the chip breaker is designed to increase the angle at which the shaving is bent up against the front of the blade. On a Stanley plane this is about 60 - 70 degrees. Therefore, a plane with a 60 degree blade angle achieves the desired effect of a chip breaker. Another point here is also the fact that a 60 degree cutting angle has an element of scraping which decreases the strength of the shaving lessening the requirement to break the shaving off before it tears the grain. 
Aren't wooden planes without a mechanical adjustment difficult to set to the right depth?

A correctly fitted wedge will allow for easy adjustment of the blade depth by tapping with a small hammer. This is only made difficult if you have an ill fitting wedge. The use of a blade setting block will also simplify this process which is fully explained in the instructions with each plane and on this website at bladesetting.

Will the wood body crack or warp?

All timber used in HNT Gordon planes is kiln dried down to 6 - 8 % moisture content which is a good average for most workshop conditions. The timbers used are also selected based on their excellent stability qualities. Of course if these planes are exposed to extremes of dryness for extended period you may get some surface checks or minor cracks, but they are very unlikely to warp or cause problems with the fitment of the wedge. If you intend to store a plane for extended periods, and you are not sure of the conditions, place the plane in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from the elements. If you have any of these problems you will need to reconsider where you are doing your woodwork as these problems will also be present in the timber being used for your woodworking project.

What is the difference in the wood sole of the rebate plane and the brass sole of the shoulder planes?

The shoulder plane is designed for cleaning up end grain shoulders of wood which can be quite harsh on the sole, hence a brass sole was used to protect the base of the plane, but it tends to have more friction making it slightly harder to push. The rebate plane is primarily used for cleaning up a rebate along the grain where damage to the sole is less of an issue and allows for a smoother easier action to reduce the work load. Either plane can be successfully used for both purposes but care should be exercised when using the rebate plane to clean up a hardwood shoulder.

Why don't HNT Gordon planes have a strike button to adjust or remove the blade?

A strike button limits the place you can tap the plane to adjust the blade. A person with expertise in adjusting these types of plane will strike the plane in different places to move the blade precisely where they want it. E.g. striking the plane at the left side of the heel will only reduce the depth of cut on the left side of the plane. This could not be achieved if the plane had a strike button in the centre of the heel. Also the timber used is very tough and very little damage is done to the plane when striking it lightly with a small hammer. A small wooden mallet is the best option if you are concerned about damaging the plane body with a steel hammer.

What is the best wood to use in the plane body?

All timbers used for the plane body are very suitable for this purpose and will provide good serviceability and long life. It really comes down to your budget and personal preference based on the look of the wood. However, here are some points to consider:
Cooktown Ironwood has more of a natural oily feel to it than other timbers. Its texture is not quite as fine as the acacias or ebony and is generally is not as beautiful.
Acacias ( Gidgee, mulga and Desert Rosewood) have a very fine texture and are generally very beautiful.
Macassar Ebony has a romance because of its beauty, but generally it is not quite as dense as Ironwood or the acacias.

Will the sole of the wooden planes wear?

Yes, the sole of any plane be it wood or metal will wear because of the friction created when planing wood. However, the hard dense timbers used in the sole will wear very little over the life of the tool. Wood on wood has very little friction hence wear is minimal.

Which blade should I choose, High Speed Steel (HSS 18% Tungsten) or High Carbon Tool Steel (TS)?

In the smoothing and trying planes where you have a choice of HSS or TS, your choice should be based on the intended use of the plane. If you intend to do a lot of scraping a HSS blade will hold its edge much longer due to this metal being designed to hold an edge under high heat. If your main use for the plane is just planing then the TS blade will be just as good as the HSS blade. The wood you are using will dictate if you will do a lot of scraping. Wood like red gum, ironbark eg a lot of our dense eucalypts require scraping. Wood like cedar, silky oak and blackwood will only ever require planing. Both blades can be sharpened to a very fine edge with good sharpening equipment but the HSS blade will usually take a bit longer to sharpen. Also cost is a factor here.

What do you recommend for sharpening blades?

Please refer to this guide on sharpening:  

What is the advantage of a HNT Gordon Plane over a common metal plane?

HNT Gordon Planes are designed with a higher blade angle for use on cranky/interlocking grain timber which would normally tear when a standard metal plane is used. These planes give you the option to plane or scrape the wood as required to give a smooth finish. Also the smoothing and trying plane's handle design allows you to push or pull the plane which is very handy when planing large flat surfaces such as planing a table top.

Why do you use such thick blades?

Thick blades eliminate chatter. Chatter can leave unwanted marks on the timber and will help induce the dreaded tear out. Also a thick blade eliminates the requirement for a backing iron which can cause problems if not fitted just right.  There are exceptions to this and if a thin blade is held securely enough with enough mass around the blade you can also eliminate chatter.

Why didn't Stanley or Record make a plane with a 60 degree blade angle?

For the exact answer you probably have to ask these companies, but here is my opinion: 45 degrees is the optimum cutting angle for wood in its pure form. E.g. with straight grain. Plus cutting at 45 degrees also has less of a blunting effect on the blade edge (hence less quality of steel required), so for these 2 reasons in theory this would seem the best angle to use to mass produce a plane. However, in practice this angle is not so effective because timber is rarely the straight grained medium a 45 degree plane was designed to smooth. A higher blade pitch will start to induce an element of scraping which will reduce the likelihood of inducing tear out, but if you increase the blade pitch to 60 degrees in any plane you also increase the effort required to push the plane through the wood, so combined with the additional friction of a metal plane sole it would have made using the plane very hard work.  There are always compromises when making planes but when you mass produce them you cover less of the challenges wood will present to you.   For me, it is obvious that economics in the end dictated terms for stanely planes.


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