Stanley Sweetheart #4 Smoothing Plane review

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I purchased this plane back in December 2011. I picked it up on Amazon for a great discount…I think it may be on sale now as well. For about $135 you can’t beat the value here.

I have been using it here and there on a couple of small projects. I really haven’t given it much use yet..I want to make sure to shape and hone the blade before I put it to a full workout. As a result, I have been using this plane directly out of the box.

So, from limited use, here are my two cents…

I really like packaging when it is done right. The box that the plane arrived in has that great Stanley old-fashioned look. I saved the box because it just looks cool to me. Perhaps 50-75 years from now it, along with the plane will be worth something…or not. I just can’t bear to toss it.

My first impression of the plane has to do with its weight. This little puppy is heavy…somewhere in the neighborhood of 5lbs…just what you need for a smoothing plane. The sole of the plane and both sides were dead flat and square to each other…this releaved one of the concerns that I had before purchase. The blade from what I can tell looks good…it’s A-2 steel and reminds me very much of the Lie-Nielsen blades that I have come to trust. I say, ‘from what I can tell”, because I have yet to shape and hone this blade. Hopefully the back won’t require too much work to flatten and the A-2 steel will hold it’s edge well. Only time will tell. Lie-Nielsen has that ‘cryogenically frozen’ process for their blades, so this will be a good comparison for me.

The only issue I had out of the box was that the rear tote was a little loose. However, I had no problem getting it where it should be. I would guess this was just from the natural movement of the wood, because I experience this on my other Lie Nielsen planes from time to time as well.

I had some difficult figuring out the adjustment mechanism for the blade. I use block planes, or bevel up planes mostly, so this is a big adjustment for me. The bevel ups are so easy to adjust and swap blades in and out. It was a big decision for me to go down this road. The mechanism that this plane uses is based on the Norris style adjuster. It allows you to make the depth of cut and lateral adjustment from the same mechanism.

The Norris style adjuster takes some practice, and I imagine with time I will be able to do with my eyes closed. Some woodworkers have complained that there is a lot of backlash in this adjuster which makes it difficult to hone in on the final setting. I don’t have this as an issue because I like to sneak up on the thickness. I’ll start where the plane takes no shaving at all and increase a 1/4 turn and try to the wood again. I just repeat until I get the perfect shaving I’m looking for…I rarely overshoot this way. I’ve tried it the other way and experienced the back and forth where the backlash would drive me crazy…it’s much faster to sneak up on it. You could always leave the plane set if your going to be using it for a block of time and lay it on its side.

The result of the planing that I have done with this tool has been excellent. I am able to get those 0.001″ shavings that everyone is looking for. In use the plane is solid…there is no chatter…most likely do to the frog and the base all being one piece. Due to the fact that the frog is molded into the base, the mouth adjustment is made by a sliding mouth mechanism. This is awesome and what I have come to love on my block planes. It is so easy to adjust with just a turn of the front knob…it kind of makes up for the Norris adjuster. The mouth adjustment is really good too…you can close the thing down to produce the finest shaving.

This plane resulted in the best finished board I have seen, except for one thing…plane tracks. The blade comes from the factory ground flat across. You need to nick off the corners of the blade to eliminate the plane tracks, and ever so slightly round the blade…otherwise you defeat the entire purpose of the tool. This will be one of the first orders of business when I work on shaping and honing the blade.

For more than half the price of most premium planes on the market, this tool is totally worth the purchase. Check out other reviews and see for yourself…this plane has been run through the mill by just about everyone.

-JR

***update***

It’s been almost a year since getting this plane. I did eventually reshape the blade to remove plane tracks. I also spent a good deal of time on the level cap. I kept getting shavings caught between the blade and cap. Once I removed the gap, shavings stopped getting caught. I worked on sharpening the blade only a little. The back of the blade was flat and I had no issues getting a sharp edge. The edge retention seems to be pretty good. I find myself honing about the same frequency as my Lie Nielsen blades. As far as adapting to the adjustment mechanism on this plane…it’s a non-issue now. Once you learn how the tool responds, it’s easy to adjust accordingly. We are now in sync with each other…Stanley and I. I really like this plane. It’s giving me great results on face grain and end grain…yes, it has replaced my Lie Nielsen low angle jack for cleaning up end grain.

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