The #4 would be a smoothing plane. The #5 is "jack" plane, likely named from "jack-of-all-trades". Those who know better than I on this forum have regularly espoused getting the #5, since it can flatten (due to its longer length), smooth (not quite as well as a #4, but credible), joint edges (with reasonable accuracy), etc. In other words, a jack-of-all-trades.
My definition (your mileage may vary) is that flattening refers to larger scale wood removal, e.g. removing cup, warp, getting glued-up panels to the same thickness, etc. Smoothing refers to removing very small amounts of material to achieve a "smooth" surface, ready for finishing. Many believe, and many are capable of achieving (though I'm not that skilled yet), that the surface resulting from a smoothing plane needs no other work before finishing, e.g. no sanding. I can get that kind of a surface about 25% of the time. Its truly amazing how good wood can look when its surface has been properly prepared by a smoothing plane (and possibly scrapers).
Here's a "review" I did last summer after receiving my Clifton #4
I will start with the iron; it is a full 1/8" thick according to my vernier caliper and hand forged. As mentioned the iron was in no way, shape, or form ready to be used. I don't know if this is the case with all Clifton irons, but this one clearly had not gone beyond the initial grind.
I suspect that because this is a hand forged iron, the "grain" does not become noticeable until you lap the back of the iron and I recommend that this be done regardless of the condition of the cutting edge, especially on a Clifton smoothing plane, because it is quite pronounced. I started with 150 grit aluminum oxide (on the glass) and lapped down to 1200 grit silicon lubricated with oil.
The factory bezel is 25°, as this is how I sharpen all my plane irons, I sharpened it starting with 150 grit aluminum oxide and took it down to 600 grit silicon lubed with oil. I also hone all my irons at 30° and did the same, starting with 220 grit silicon lubed down to 1200 grit silicon lubed. I lightly radiused the corners of the iron to eliminate "tracking".
My first impression of the "Stay Set" cap iron was that it is kind of neat. But, mine does have to be loosened to the point where you might as well take it completely off to remove the lower portion. I also found that the two piece is not square to the cutting edge. I used a machinists square to check the iron and the cutting edge is a perfect 90° to the iron's side edges. The cap iron when aligned flush with the sides of the iron, is off by about 1/64, i.e. it slants down to the right. This is minor, IMO, I aligned the cap iron to be parallel with the cutting edge of the iron (1/32 back) and adjusted the lateral lever to square the iron to the mouth. I will say that there was no need to fettle the cap iron's leading edge (it was actually sharper than the iron).
The plane's sole was dead flat and square. I will, however, polish it using silicon paper down to 1500 grit (I like my smoothers to be shiny). The shipping weight was 7lbs, I estimate that the plane weighs just a little over 6lbs.
My Stanley #4, type 12, weighs about 4lbs and the cutting iron is 5/32 thick, according to the vernier caliper. I honed the iron on 1200 grit silicon lubricated with oil. The plane had been finely fettled.
The stock I used was a piece of Red Oak with a very small knot in it, a piece of pretty wild grained Cherry, and a piece of 25+ year old Western Red Cedar with a large knot in it. To keep this from going on and on, I set the planes up for identical cuts on all pieces and used a variety of settings for depth of cut. The lightest being less than .0015, where you could almost see through the shavings, to the heaviest being .007 which in my view is a cut one would never use while smoothing.
The only differerences that I noticed was the lack of "feed back" on the Clifton. When I use a bench plane I rest my index finger along the side of the iron. On the Clifton, there was almost a total lack of feed back except on the heaviest of cuts. Personally, I like the "feed back" I get with my Stanleys. The other difference again occurred only on the heaviest of cuts; because of the Clifton's weight the cuts were slightly easier to make. On all cuts performed, neither plane chattered.
My personal feelings are that the Clifton is better machined and crafted than any of my Stanleys. In comparing it to my Stanley #4, the heft of the Clifton "feels" good. But, from a practical point of view; using it as a smoother which means taking light cuts, there is no difference what so ever in performance. My suspicions are that in terms of performance, Clifton would have a slight edge over the Stanely #5 when used to thickness stock by hand. Here, one is taking heavier cuts and I can see where the weight gives Clifton the edge. In using a #6 or #7 for jointing, I don't see where Clifton would have a performance advantage since, again, light cuts are being made.
In the final anylisis, I think the "Stay Set" cap iron is way over hyped. I don't think the 4 and a half months wait was worth it. I do believe the $189.00 price tag reflects the quality of the tool, it is not a good reflection on it's performance. I don't regret my decision to buy this plane but, I do feel that it was a rather frivolous expenditure. How much use this tool gets used remains to be seen. While it does feel very good in my hands, I like the way my Stanleys "talk" back to me more.
This would have been back around June or July of last year. I would add that I prefer highly polished sole and cheeks on my smoothers so I spent about an hour taking it down to 1500 grit silicon carbide and "rubbing out" with Simichrome.
Which one to buy depends a lot on what you have now, The Museum of Woodworking Tools has the best price for Clifton planes that I've seen; that's where I got mine. Here's their link: [link:www.toolsforworkingwood.com|click here]. All my bench planes are Pre War Stanleys (#3-#7). I bought the Clifton #4 primarily to compare it with my Stanley #4 and while I do reach for it more often than the Stanley, there is virtually no difference in the quality of cut. FWIW.
Great information on these tools. If I may ask, what did you pay for the Stanleys? I was wondering how many Stanley could be purchased for the price of the Clifton. Many beginners may want to equip their shops with the Pre-war Stanleys if it is cost effective to do so.
Thanks. I should have made the clarification that my #6 is not Pre War, it's circa 1980 and was made in England.
My feeling is that one shouldn't pay too much over $25 for a Pre War Stanley, depending on condition and type. While EBay is chock full of Stanley planes, you will be paying a premium, in most cases, because you are in a bid situation. I believe the best sources are antique stores, estate sales, and swap meets.
Prices vary quite a bit from $7 for my #4 to $50 for the #3 type 11. The #5 type 12 and the #7 type 9 were somewhere around $20 as I recall. The #6 was "new" in the box and I think I paid around $60 for it.
Thanks for the information...
if I were starting to upgrade my planes, I would not only listen to your advice, I would also do the math and think of the number of tools that could be purchased for the price of one Clifton. I hope this helps steer people in the right (or a good) direction.
You're welcome and thank you for the kind words. Hand tools and, in particular, handplanes are pretty personal, what brands one chooses and why are really of no concern to me. Pre War Stanleys, Keen Kutters, Sargents, and Miller Falls are all good planes, IMO. Once properly fettled, the end result will be identical to a Lie-Nielsen or Clifton. I prefer Stanleys simply because I "grew up" with them...
I agree the pre-war planes from almost any maker are good tools. I the problem I have is finding them. For people back east where there has been a history and all sorts of things show up in garage sales and the like, it works fine if you know what to look for.
Here in Silicon Valley, things are concidered antique if they weren't stamped out this am.
My options when I started to get hand planes were to buy good not great Japanese planes or go for the LN planes. Since I could get good Japanese planes for 1/3 of what a LN went for that is the direction I went.
When I need a LA Block plane I went LN. Great tool and the price was not that bad. I was able to put it to work 15 min's after it hit the doorway. I normally expect to spend a good part of a day tuning and sharpening a plane. If you are talking about a pre-war plane that might be longer depending on condition. It helps to know a bit about planes before you start as well. I took a 50's stanley of my Dad's and tuned it up and it cuts ok but not as nice as my others. I have a new Stanley rabbit plane and it is just OK. Fit and finish are not what I expected for the price. Next time I will go back to LN for new stuff. The cost difference is not that great when you get such a good tool in the end.
Now if I could get my hands on reasonable old tools That would make a difference.