|L to R - Fulton 3708 BB, 3708 BL, Sargent VBM 407, and Sargent 409|
I would like to first examine the above photo, a head on look at all four planes together. Please ignore the sawdust on #4 size 409 on the right - I use this plane. I rehabbed it a while back with the intention of practicing fixing an old plane up before I did it to a more valuable Stanley type 11. This plane works so well, I have yet to get to that type 11, it sits sadly in a corner of my shop while this Sargent gets the snot used out of it. I probably should have cleaned it up a bit for this photo shoot, but I didn't have much time on my lunch hour that day. :o)
Anyway, what you can see with the castings in this photo pretty much sums up my entire impressions of these planes. Starting from the right, the 409 has a nice, heavy casting which is even, but a bit on the rough side. I can attest that in use this plane isn't lacking anything other than aesthetics.
|The 409. The casting has a grey tinge partly because I de-rusted it in citric acid.|
|The VBM 407. At some point, someone "polished" up the lever cap grinding down the letters a bit. I imagine new the printing here was a bit crisper looking.|
You can see in the first picture, that compared to the others this plane has the thinnest casting. It is also a bit uneven - some parts of the casting are visibly thicker than others. My impression is that this is cosmetic, and only shows that this plane went through the assembly line a little faster than the rest of the planes in this test. We will see, but so far I haven't found anything on this casting that will prevent the plane from functioning well. It's just a bit ugly.
|3708 BL - in this photo the uneven tapering of the thickness of the casting can be seen.|
|Proportions on the 3708 BB look perfect to my eye.|
|The dust isn't original to this plane.|
|A close up of the bed.|
|Underside of frog.|
|Also, in this photo the yoke is one solid piece.|
|A nice, old-style frog.|
|Is this a different picture?|
|One piece yoke, small knob with "backwards" threads.|
|407 once again stamped on the underside of the frog. Strangely, it is upside down as compared to how the 409 is stamped. I wonder why?|
|Same picture again?|
The guts of this plane look awfully close to the same as the VBM 407. The frog looks very, VERY similar. It wouldn't surprise me if the frog was cast in the exact same form.
|This one just looks newer.|
|Two piece yoke and stainless knob.|
|Here is the 3708 BL before rehab.|
Finally, the Fulton 3708 BB made by Millers Falls:
|I've only noticed this on Millers Falls planes.|
The frog on this plane once again has a lot of bearing surface to support the blade, but the design is obviously different.
|What is going on down by the mouth?|
It's a good theory in my mind, we'll have to wait to see if it works as I think it will.
|By the way, if you haven't noticed, I got a new pair of Crocs in the mail and am using the wrapper to protect my dining table.|
|"2." Not sure what that means. Maybe because the Stanley equivalent is a #2? I doubt it.|
|Solid front knob.|
I don't know about you, but what I am seeing is making me think the Millers Falls designed Fulton 3708 BB might be the best of the bunch. I am seeing enough little details that are in there not to be noticed, but with a function that this plane is setting itself up to be a great little user.
In my mind, the Sargent 409 works so well that it will be tough to beat in performance, so we will have to see during the test coming up in Part IV.
Before that, though, we need to look at blades, chipbreakers and levercaps in the upcoming Part III of this series.