These words donít
often go together. Good and cheap. Itís generally one or the other.
The time is coming when they wonít go together anymore but for this
present little window in time, you can still jump through.
I suspect we have
all seen the traditional Chinese planes being imported now. These
are the planes of thousands of years, still made and sold in the
modern world. Woodcraft and Japan woodworker have them and many
others as well.
Like western woodies,
they all look the same from the outside. Iím sure our western
planes all look alike to them too. But just like western
woodies, they arenít really the same at all, not by a long shot.
Some are more
carefully built and finished. The extra fine wood selection,
manufacture and finish is not always easy to find. Cutting
through the clutter to get down to a kernel of good is not always so
I happened to run
across a Texan, named Bob McRee, who had moved to China. He is
importing and distributing completely handmade and beautifully
finished violins and mandolins. These are major concert quality
instruments, individually carved with edge tools. The trade name on
them is Jade, if you want to look them up. They are built on an
island in the Pearl River, in case you wondered.
Seeing the shop
tools being used everyday by the instrument crew, Bob began to
wonder what they were using to produce such brilliant work.
And inquire if they were available. It turns out they were, at
least in limited quantities. So, he bought some, hand picking
for quality control, and tried to list them on eBay. Among all the
dross and confusion of the great endless market, hardly anyone
noticed. Nothing much to make them stick out, looking so
similar to all the others.
If you havenít tried
this style of plane there are some things about them you need to
know. The bed angle is at 55degrees. A high angle plane. You can
attack curly or figured wood in complete confidence. They can be
pushed or pulled and equally adept at either. You can remove the
cross handle and use them as you would a Japanese plane.
The blades are extra
thick for the small size of the two he sent me. One, about 5Ē: long
is the local rosewood relative. Bright and lovely, itís a solid
rosewood plane! The smaller at 4Ē is SE ebony. Do I need to repeat
myself? Ebony! A solid ebony plane for under 20 bucks, are you
The blades of both are 1/8Ē plus thick. They come
well ground and only needing honing. The steel appears to be
M2 high speed steel, the standard for these tools. M2 is not
the fastest to sharpen but it takes and holds a great edge that is
The bodies are
scraped or sanded velvety smooth. Delightfully smooth and without
any other finish. I have to tell you I was tempted to oil the
rosewood plane and see if it darkens up a little. Heh heh...
The throats are as tight as you can hope for any wooden plane. There
are brass throat plates set just ahead of the blade to ensure they
stay that way.