Monday, May 6, 2019

No. 4 Plane Review: Part IV - Record Stay-Set 04 1⁄2

While this one isn't technically a No. 4, it does have a number four in it's name, so we'll go with it.
Record Stay-Set No. 041⁄2
This beautiful old plane came to me by everyone's favorite auction site in England again. It really wasn't in too bad of shape when I got it.
Before I "rehabbed" it.
There was one glaring issue that kept the price on this one down from what many collectible Stay-Set planes are going for these days:
Not pretty.
The seller mentioned in the description there was a chip on the sole that didn't affect the plane's use. I decided to take a gamble since the price was low.

The chip is pretty big, but it really doesn't affect the plane in use that I can find. Likely it is the result of a casting error that wasn't seen until much later when the plane was already in someone's hands.

From what I can tell, the only difference between a Stay-Set Record plane and a regular Record plane is the "SS" cast into the lever cap, and the two-part Stay-Set chip breaker. I hadn't ever seen a Stay-Set chip breaker up close, so I was looking forward to this one.
Stay-Set 2-piece chip breaker.
Theoretically the advantage of this chip breaker is the possibility to leave the upper part of the chip breaker firmly set on the iron, and the lower part can be removed. Thus once it is sharpened, the front of the lever cap can be replaced and the blade assembly is ready to go again with no adjustment required.

I think the idea is a little silly, given the way I work. Re-attaching a chip breaker to a freshly sharpened iron is really not hard. In fact, I would say it takes just about as much effort to attach a regular chip breaker as attaching the second piece of the Stay-Set chip breaker to the blade assembly.

In my opinion the real benefit of this chip breaker is in the increased mass of the chip breaker. I've long thought that the single best upgrade you can make to a vintage Bailey type plane is to add a heavier chip breaker. This one definitely has more mass.

There are some other differences between this plane and the previous Record No. 04 that I reviewed. Let's take a closer look:
The new to me Stay-Set No. 041⁄2 next to my other Record 04.
This Stay-Set No. 041⁄2 comes from an earlier vintage than the 04. From what I found, it was manufactured between 1935 and 1939, which puts it in the more desirable pre-war class.
A close up of the cap iron.
The fit and finish of the plane (other than the giant hork in the sole) are much finer than in the later model, which I date at late 1960s or early 1970s.
Much better attention to detail on the older plane.
It also has a nice, flat frog. Something which many people really like, but I have come to think doesn't really make a difference in the functioning of the plane.

I went a bit wild with the rehab of this plane. I don't really like to "brand-new-ify" really old or somewhat collectible planes, but this one isn't particularly rare, and it also has a giant defect in the casting that will never allow this plane to fetch top dollar. 

Brand-new-ifying it is.
As good as new.
I chose to take the rusty bits on this one to a gentle wire wheel to clean, then I lapped the frog and the casting on 80 grit sandpaper on a glass plate.
Before and after.
I'm surprised how much I liked this. It was quick and easy, and stripped everything back to brand-new. It even stripped the rust off of the lever cap while leaving the nickel plating that was stable where it was.

The knob and tote on this older plane were rosewood. I stripped them with a scraper and gently sanded them back. I finished them with some of my linseed oil followed by a coat of shellac and some paste wax.
I can fit it in my honing guide this way. Why? Because I can. That's why!
Once everything was fettled and tuned to my satisfaction, I turned my attention to the blade. I was pleased to see that the blade was practically brand new. In fact, I was able to lap the back like I would a brand-new blade. There was no need for the ruler trick on this one. Usually I just skip lapping and go right to the ruler trick because I don't like hours upon hours of lapping a blade flat.

The most difficult part was the chip breaker. It's usually a pretty simple thing to sharpen the underside of the leading edge to ensure a tight fit, but with this short cap iron, I found it difficult to hold for that purpose. I'll have to think about this and try something else. I did the best I could, but it isn't perfect.

Luckily, it seems to work just fine.
Beautiful wispy shavings.
The plane cleaned up and seems to work beautifully. I've never used a plane this size before, and I look forward to getting to know it.

My first impression is that I now know why many people really love the 41⁄2. It is a little longer than the No. 4, and has the same width as a No. 7. I think my favorite part about it is the extra mass in this plane. It feels very solid. I think it weighs about a pound more than the others:

Type 12:  1632 grams
Record 04: 1670 grams
English Stanley:  1680 grams
Record Stay-Set  041⁄2:  2272 grams

The extra weight is both a blessing and a curse. It's a nice, big, beefy plane that I'm sure will make you tired faster after a lot of use than a regular No. 4.

As far as the blade goes, I didn't get the same warm-fuzzy feeling with this steel that I got with the later Record blade. Perhaps I need to use it a bit more to get used to it. It's good, but not as fantastic as the one that is on my later model.

That's all pretty subjective. In the end, it seems to work just as perfectly on the wood as the others.
I think it is a beautiful plane.
So far I haven't run across a plane in my testing that isn't worth buying if you can do a little cleaning up to them. I'm thinking that much of the mysticism regarding Bailey style smoothing planes mostly runs down to personal preference.

Peter Schickele, the voice of P.D.Q. Bach said about music, "If it sounds good, it is good."

Perhaps we could change this saying a bit to suit smoothing planes:

If it works, it works.

Part I Type 11 Stanley
Part II English Stanley
Part III Record

More to come... (Sigh)


  1. For heavier planes, I find that putting a board underneath helps hold them up.

  2. That 'chip' looks like it was caused by a meteor striking it. Maybe you get it brazed and file it flat?

    1. I thought about that. If I ever have that plane around Jonas, I'll ask him if he would do that. Until then, I think I'll just leave it be. As long as I keep the plane on it's sole, I can't see that ugly gash.

    2. JB Weld or a steel filled epoxy will fill that without the distortion of braze.

      The edges of the crater might leave tracks since they go to the edge.

      That's a bit more than a chip. I would have complained to the seller to get a return or a bit of a rebate.

    3. Hey, Steve! Thanks for the comment.

      If the defect had any effect on the plane, I would do as you say. Perhaps I might even look for a new casting.

      But, I have so far noticed no ill effects to this big hole in the casting.

      I don't blame the seller. In fact, the seller documented the defect very clearly in the listing. As I said, that's likely the reason the plane went for so cheap.

      If worse comes to worst, I could part this plane out and make a profit.