For the past week now, I’ve been in possession of a rebate block plane with Chinese origins; branded ‘Quangsheng‘, supplied by Workshop Heaven (identical planes, with no branding, are also available from other UK suppliers). As this is my turn in the latest Workshop Heaven ‘passaround‘ on the UKworkshop forums [another incentive to join!], I don’t get to keep it for long. So, without purchasing a plane of my very own, I can only give my first impressions.
These kind of reviews aren’t always ideal, as any faults and flaws may be not be evident for several months, even a year or two. That’s certainly my experience of machinery and power tools with a ‘budget’ price-tag. Hand tools aren’t always exempt from this, either. So, if the Chinese can produce a tool that sells for almost one-third the cost of the Lie-Nielsen equivalent (and in the current economic climate), you’ve got to ask; where are they cutting corners???
Sadly, I didn’t have one of the renown North American planes to hand so, I’m unable to offer a direct comparison. If you study the various images of the L-N model against this Quangsheng though, you can tell they look very much alike; polished brass [I assume?] and all. There are a couple of ‘rough’ areas though – most notably, the 25° primary bevel on the iron, which almost resembles a blade from a toothing plane! Some may decide that the ‘bed’ (?) of the plane (where the back of the blade sits) could have received more attention, when compared with some top-end models.
Below the blade.
Coarse grinding on plane iron.
Do either these factors affect the workings or performance of the tool?
My short answer is: no.
You could always grind those marks away on the iron, if it really bothers you. Personally, I would not expect any plane in this price bracket to be deadly-sharp straight out of the box (though Veritas have surprised me, in the past…). Otherwise, this iron is still capable of taking a sharp edge and, as far as I can tell, it will also maintain it. If a plane can take fine end-grain shavings from a hardwood like beech then, that’s a very good sign, to me (my old Stanleys won’t cut it).
Shaving end-grain British beech.
Planing 27mm thick beech.
Andy King (of Good Woodworking magazine) has a habit of shaving the hairs from his arms in order to demonstrate just how sharp your edges can be. While Phil Edwards (maker of Philly Planes) produces shavings so thin that you can clearly read newspaper print through them. As the next two photos show, this plane passes both tests with flying colours. I would like to point out though (as others have already, on the UKW forum) that the adjustment for exposing the blade isn’t as fine as what you would expect from Lie-Nielsen and co. Getting a blade to produce shavings of this pedigree is not easy… It requires a lot of patience, winding the screw back and forth (if you really need to produce wafer-thin shavings, that is…). I also found that there’s a lot of travel in the thread of the locking knob – it takes a good number of turns before the blade feels anything like secure. Something you wouldn’t normally find on a higher model.
Can you read it? Yes, you certainly can!
...Perhaps, a little too sharp!!
So, while I’ve found it takes a keen edge and is capable of cutting one of the toughest of hardwoods grown locally, the biggest let-down has to be in the ease of removal of the blade when you need to re-sharpen. With most other planes (including shoulder and larger rebates), the blade will pop out quite easily, once the lever-cap has been removed. With the Quangsheng, you have no option but to remove the main central screw. It’s too thick to slide out through the mouth and there’s insufficient clearance otherwise. It is a bit of a faff and there’s then the risk you may drop and lose the screw amongst that fresh pile of shavings! I wonder what the Lie-Nielsen is like? Another thing I’ve found surprising is the width of the overall iron. On a shoulder plane you’ll find the blade is deliberately wider than the sole so that it protrudes enough to cut a clean corner inside a rebate. This is not the case on this model. Perhaps all rebate planes (block and bench) are like this?
A hollow like this is no bad thing.
One of woodwork's great puzzles...
One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to try this plane was because I was curious to find out for myself just what these rebate planes can be used for… A standard low-angle block plane with an adjustable mouth has obvious advantages over one of these – more to come on all that in part two, when I get the chance to make a raised and fielded panel with this plane! For now, I’ll leave you with my initial thoughts having basically taken the plane out of the box, sharpened it and played with several different bits of wood…
I hope you’ve found this first part useful. More to come, soon!
Note how the blade is narrower than the sole.