Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stanley 62 low angle jack plane

     The Stanley 62 has to be one of the most discussed and often confused planes out there yet everyone appears to want one, look at the prices on eBay. Once and for all I am going to write down my experience with this mythical creature.

     The first 62 I had came from an estate sale, I paid something like $80 for it so it was certainly a bargain compared to the going rates I had seen. Boy did I think I landed a HUGE winner... This one was a sweetheart era plane, circa 1928 or so, and was in excellent condition. In fact, that one had close to 100% of the original japanning left on it. And so I commenced using it and started what is now the worst relationship I have ever had with a tool. If there is one item that is my arch nemesis, it's the Stanley 62.

     The first thing I noticed was the weight, it's a really light plane considering the length. I'm guessing the lack of a "real" frog has something to do with that. Now, I prefer heavier planes, so this was an immediate turnoff to me. if light is your thing you'll like this but personally I have found I can control more steel better than I can less steel. -1 for this this aspect. The light weight is likely also due to the thickness of the casting, it's dramatically thinner than even other Stanley planes of the same era. I'll add another -1 for it feeling like a tinker toy. Heck, I'm going to add -2 just for that reason alone.

     The next part that immediately stuck out was the handle (hah, stuck out), it's small. So small that my entire hand wouldn't fit on it, my thumb hung over begging for somewhere to sit. For the same reason I put an extended magazine on my carry weapon (the pinky problem) I don't like this handle. At all. -1 for this.

Now that we are done with the aesthetic portions let's get to the meat of it...

     One of the main selling points of this plane is the adjustable mouth, you should be able to open it up for thick work or close it up for fine work. In theory that is. I think at the time the machining capabilities at Stanley just weren't up to snuff yet because the adjustable part of the mouth flopped around in the opening with 1/32" to spare on either side. Here's a -1. Couple with that the fact that the mouth just DOES NOT close up very tight and you have one more waste of time and money. -2 for this one since a tight mouth is essential for a smooth finish.

     The iron is basically a thin piece of cheap O-1 tool steel, I don't even think you can use the term "iron" on this, it's a shaving implement for rocks. -1 please.

     Now for the "frog", if you want to call it that. It's a couple pieces of cast metal that holds the blade in position and doesn't really do that well. The blade slops from side to side laterally a whole lot due to the lack of tolerances in the casting as well as due to the poor lever cap design. The depth adjuster isn't fine enough to be able to take really thin shavings for smoothing operations, I guess that's what the $800 Stanley 64 is for! Since there are so many things wrong here I'm going to ding it -5 because by this point I'm sick of this plane.

     Ok, enough bitching, time for functionality, the real meat and potatoes of a hand plane right? It could have all of these dings against it and still produce exceptional results right? Yes, it could but it doesn't. You can't close the mouth enough to be a good large smooth plane. You can never get the depth adjustment good enough for shooting and at a thick setting it's not even a good fore plane. Return to sender.

     Now wait, I know what you're thinking, I got a bum plane right? Remember my comment above about this being my first one? Guess what, lightning does strike twice. About a year after obtaining the first one I ran across another one at a garage sale for like $40 so I bought it. I thought, hmm, that one I have at home HAS to just be a bad plane right? I mean, all of those people on eBay buying them for $300 and up can't be wrong can they? The answer is yes, they're all wrong. This one was of the same vintages as the first one and had all of the same problems PLUS an even worse blade. I'll give Stanley a -2 just for fact they produced 2 of them at all.

     Where am I, -13 or so by now? Even at -1 each I've given you at least 5-6 reasons why you should NOT buy this plane to use. Fill a hole in a collection on the wall with it please. Really, please, so the rest of us don't get stuck thinking we should buy one.

     Overall the idea behind this plane is absolutely fantastic. Low angle, bevel up, good length and an adjustable mouth. It's essentially a large block plane which is really handy to have around. The problem here is execution, Stanley just didn't have the mojo in them to do it. My advice? Let the collectors pay $300+ for these things so they're not on the market anymore then take your money and buy the LN version of it. Now THAT is a good plane. I have since sold both of my vintage 62's (at a profit I might add) and used that cash to fund an LN 62 and 2 spare Hock irons for it.

     Note that I did NOT get into the relative pros and cons of the low angle vs the standard or other angles, I'll save that for another crappy week when I want to rant.

Helpful? I hope so. Now go buy an LN 62!

Wait, you're still here? I said buy the LN!

Here's a few pictures of the 62 cause it *is* a cool looking plane...