Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 27

Popular Woodworking 2003-04 № 133, страница 27

Endurance Test

Clifton Bench Planes

These premium British handplanes hit our shores in 2001 with much fanfare. Find out how they've held up on the job.

Most woodworkers who have shopped for a premium handplane have undoubtedly considered buying an English-made Clifton plane but wondered how they compare to the U.S.-made Lie-Nielsens.

It's a reasonable question. Both brands are based on the venerated Bed Rock line of Stanley planes that have been out of production since the mid-20th century. But the Clifton planes are $30 to $80 less expensive, depending on the size of the plane.

As far as bottom-line performance goes, these planes can be tuned to a high level, much like a Lie-Nielsen, some vintage Stanleys, Veritas planes, infills and choice wooden planes. In my opinion, the final performance of any plane depends a lot on the user.

So here's a close look at how the Cliftons arrived from the factory and what it took for me to get them cutting perfectly.

The Cliftons are made from grey iron with brass fittings and bubinga handles. The heart of the tool is where the iron, frog and plane body meet. How well all three of these things fit together is the most important factor in determining how well the plane will slice wood without chattering.

The four different Cliftons I've used were machined very well at the frog, with an excellent fit between the frog, iron and body. I especially like the Clifton iron and its unique two-piece chipbreaker. With this heavy-duty chipbreaker you can easily pop its front edge off to sharpen the iron without removing the entire chipbreaker. This speeds sharpening and is a nice convenience.

My one complaint has been with the blade adjustment mechanism on the #4 I've tested. The yoke, which controls the blade's projection from the sole, and cap iron were a little off. As a result, the iron needed to be retracted almost all the way back for smoothing. The chipbreaker was cheerfully replaced

by the distributor. The other three planes were perfect on this point.

The soles of the planes I've examined have varied from the dead-flat sole of the #3 smoothing plane to the slightly less than perfect #5 jack plane. The sole had gaps of .005" in places, according to my feeler gauge. None of the planes has been unacceptable in sole flatness, and all could be trued in far less time than it takes to flatten the sole of a typical vintage flea-market special.

Besides truing the soles, the one other modification I've had to make to the Cliftons is grinding off a bit of the rod that holds the tote. It looks like the bubinga handles on two of the planes have shrunk a bit and they wobbled a bit during use.

All of these have been minor inconveniences. The planes do perform beautifully when tuned. In fact, the #3 smoothing plane performs exceptionally well.

To get to this point, the Cliftons needed a lot less work than a vintage Stanley plane and hours and hours less work than the new Stanley and Record planes I've encountered. On average, you can expect an hour or two of tuning your new Clifton. The Lie-Nielsen planes I've tuned have required less work and also use different materials (unbreakable ductile iron bodies, rust-proof bronze frog castings and cryogenically treated A2 irons). These refinements are likely the difference in price between the two brands.

So is the Clifton a worthwhile plane? I think so. If you want to save a little money, are willing to put a bit more work into fettling the tool and aren't bothered by the differences in materials, then the Cliftons are

SPECIFICATIONS

Clifton Bench Planes Street price:

• #3 smoothing plane: $220

• #4 smoothing plane: $220

• #5 jack plane: $220

• #6 fore plane: $300

• #7 jointer plane: $350 Iron thickness: 1/s" Blade material: 01 steel

Nice features: Excellent planes for the serious woodworker. Iron, frog and plane body are well bedded.

Recommended modifications: Some have needed more fettling than others, though much less than a Record or Stanley.

For more information: Contact Robert Larson at 800-356-2195, or rlarson.com. Or the Museum of Woodworking Tools (toolsfor-workingwood.com or 800-426-4613).

ABOUT OUR ENDURANCE TESTS Every tool featured in our Endurance Test column has survived at least two years of heavy use in our shop here at Popular Woodworking.

a good choice for you. However I recommend you get your hands on both brands at a woodworking show and make some serious shavings before you make the call. PW — Christopher Schwarz

28 Popular Woodworking April 2003

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