Review By Dean Bielanowski  HNT Gordon Website - http://www.hntgordon.com.au

 


Block Plane & 3/4" Shoulder Plane
 Review

 

Is it by chance or by tradition that when one first thought of a woodworker - perhaps in their youth - they imagined the middle-aged man, hidden deep in his workshop, wood dust and shavings covering the floor and the sound of a wood plane scraping its way over a fine piece of hardened timber?

Perhaps this is not what you may have imagined in your past, but there is no denying that the wood plane is almost an icon when it comes to the art of woodworking... the tool which is commonly associated with the profession. Enter any dedicated woodsmith's workshop and you are bound to find a collection of these adorning the walls or shelves of their domain.

Traditionally, names like Stanley, Lie Nielsen or Record have dominated the market, but planemaker and owner of HNT Gordon, Terry Gordon is certainly making an impact into the arena with the growing range of HNT Gordon wooden hand planes. Today we will take a look at their Block plane and 3/4" Shoulder Plane.

Packaging
Our HNT Gordon planes arrived safely in the mail. Well packaged and damaged free. Each plane ships in its own cardboard box, although you can order nice wooden boxes to house your plane if desired. Each box was labeled and rubber stamped indicating the type of wood the plane inside was conceived from. Each plane ships unassembled, however, this better protects the components during the shipping process. The components of the plane include the plane body itself, the blade (pre-sharpened ready for use, a small wooden wedge which you will use to secure your blade in place) and a blade setting block. Instructions are provided with each plane and I need not tell you that it did not take long to start ripping away the packaging to begin assembling the new tool.

Assembly
Assembly is a relatively simple process and does not require a terrible amount of time, or heartache for that matter. Each plane ships with its own blade setting block, which is essentially a small piece of hardwood, squared and flattened on it's surfaces. Simply place the body of your plane
onto the blade setting block. Next you insert the blade so it sits correctly in its housing (this may be different for different planes). Allowing the blade to settle nicely onto the blade setting block now underneath squares the blade to the plane body. Next you use the wooden wedge provided to secure the blade in the correct position. Insert the wedge and a few taps of a small hammer/mallet later onto the wedge and your blade is secure. A quick sight down the line of the plane's sole to check everything looks good and you are ready to plane away. Very easy indeed.

The shoulder plane is assembled in a similar manner, however you must make sure that the sides of the shoulder plane blade are sitting flush with the sides of the plane for this particular model.

A Quick Note on Finish
Both planes exhibited an exceptional finish that truly shows the craftsmanship and effort put into producing them. Nice smooth surfaces and contoured feel make you almost feel ashamed to use them! HNT Gordon ensure that every plane is free from defect. They will not sell a plane for full retail price unless it is absolutely perfect in their eyes. Sure they do sometimes have planes that, for one reason or another, have a tiny defect (not affecting actual function of the plane) and you can often pick these up on ebay.com for a lower price - a good deal actually.

Ok, on to the planes themselves...

Block Plane
As you can see in the pictures to the right, the block plane we received was crafted from Australian Ironwood. These are also available in Ebony or Gidgee if desired. The block plane is a multi-purpose tool and can be used for general purpose planing, to trim down a specific part of a joint, perhaps a large/wide tenon for example and is particularly useful on end grains of hardwood species. Weight of the plane was around 870 grams which was comfortable to use and didn't require a huge effort to drive it across grain in testing.

The block plane is comfortable to use in one hand, however, you may find that the extra power from a second hand is beneficial in some circumstances. I won't go into the various hand positions that could be used to hold this plane as there are literally hundreds of possible ways you could think of, however, we found it comfortable enough for single-hand planing with good balance for accurate work.

The block plane features a wooden mouth and brass abutment with a 3mm thick tool steel blade, nicely sharpened and ready to go. Unlike your standard No.4 planes, for example, HNT Gordon planes do not features an adjustable blade depth mechanism. To achieve this, you must loosen the wedge holding the blade in place, reset the depth of the blade and then tap your wedge back in. It is a relatively simple task and can be achieved quite accurately with practice. The sole of the block plane is also perfectly smooth across its base, as tested with a known straight-edge, so it can also be used to ensure your blade is set squarely to the sole.

With a pitch blade angle of 55 degrees, one may question why this angle is so high. This question is soon answered after you work some hardwood end grain. The block plane makes light work of it with very little chip-out or damage to the grain itself, unlike other planes with more acute blade pitch angles. The results are quite pleasing to say the least with nice fine almost transparent shavings resulting. Obviously, plenty of homework has gone into choosing these blade angles for optimum performance over the widest range of uses. The blade on the block plane can also be reversed to give an 85-degree approach for use as a cabinet scraper. An added bonus no doubt! Whether it was planing some pine with the grain, or smoothing out hardwood end grain, and yes we even tried it on some Ipe, the block plane flexed its muscle to give satisfactory results all around.

3/4" Shoulder Plane

The HNT Gordon 3/4" Shoulder plane is crafted out of Macassar Ebony with a full brass sole. It weighs roughly 600 grams but feels solid and substantial in the hand. The same principle applies to setting the blade which when set correctly, should give a 60 degree pitch angle. The blade on the shoulder plane can also be reversed for scraping to give a 90 degree angle. The shoulder plane is, naturally, 3/4" wide and useful for those small tasks where you need to plane in tight spaces where a larger plane may not be suitable or may become unbalanced during the planing movement. The best example for use of this plane is with fine-tuning pre-cut tenons. You could be deemed a master woodworker if your tenon joint fit its mortise perfectly first time, every time. Often you will find the need to plane perhaps a millimeter or less off your tenon to ensure a nice snug fit, allowing a tiny bit of room for the glue to perform its task. The HNT Gordon 3/4" shoulder plane is ideal for this purpose. In most tenons, the wider section of the joint will be cross-grain, which perfectly suits the higher blade angle found on this plane. Good results were achieved with very little chip-out or damage to the joint itself. Of course, the plane performed equally well along the grain and it also a useful tool in this capacity for smoothing longer rebates following the grain.

It should be noted that the blades on all HNT Gordon planes are probably thicker than most. The blade on the shoulder plane measures 3/16" whereas the block plane blade is 1/8" think. The thickness helps reduce "chatter" on the blade when in motion, providing cleaner cuts with less tear-out. This was well reflected in our testing, however, we did suffer what we believed to be blade chatter during one particular cut, but before you turn your nose up at the matter, this was caused by the blade coming loose. We didn't secure it well enough in the beginning and after re-seating the blade and tapping in the wedge to hold it a little harder the second time around, the problem has not re-surfaced again since... so a minor error on our part there.

Again, we tested the plane on various types of soft and hardwood. Good results were achieved all round with some nice fine-tuned shavings for proof and well finished, smooth surfaces as a result. There isn't really much to describe about the end results of testing this type of tool. It is designed to trim, shave, smooth and flatten a workpiece. If it does this successfully and is easy to use without additional effort over and above what you expect, then you can only sing praises for the item. Durability of the planes are an issue of course, and since we have a designated time frame to complete a review, we cannot describe their durability over a 3 or 4 year period for example. HNT Gordon's website does address the durability issue in their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page and this is what they have to say on the matter:

"Will the sole of the wooden planes wear?

Yes, the sole of any plane be it wood or metal will wear because of the friction created when planing wood.   However, the hard dense timbers used in the sole will wear very little over the life of the tool.   Wood on wood has very little friction hence wear is minimized."

 

Conclusion
It is hard to say a bad word about these planes. The finish, the accuracy and the performance of the planes are way above average and quite well priced. The block plane will set you back around AUD$140 and the 3/4" shoulder plane is slightly less. We had wondered if adjusting the depth of cut on the planes would be a difficult task, given the lack of a mechanical adjuster, but provided you seat your wedge accurately, resetting blade depth is quite a simple process with practice. The instructions provided are clear and concise which means you can be up and running in minimal time, with minimal confusion. Overall, I would have to say the HNT Gordon planes exceeded my expectations and I look forward to acquiring more in the future. Planemaker Terry Gordon certainly has delivered some masterpieces with these planes and it is almost a shame to spoil them with wood shavings and dust... ALMOST!

Visit HNT Gordon's website at www.hntgordon.com.au to find a retailer near you that stocks these fine planes.
 

Block and Shoulder Plane Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


Here they are, ready to be unwrapped.


Well packaged for transport, the plane arrived damage-free and ready to be assembled.


The contents of our block plane on  display. The rich color of the Ironwood contrasting with the brass abutment is almost magical!


Although a little hard to see on the shoulder plane, the HNT Gordon branding is highlighted on the
block plane.


The blades ship relatively sharp and will cut well out of the box. Notice the micro-bevels. A little honing with a 600-1200 grit stone and they will be razor sharp.


Here we see the brass abutment, wooden wedge and blade assembled in the block plane.


Good results can be achieved by planing on a 30-45 degree angle.


If only it was this easy to shave my own face! The block plane easily shaves and flattens soft pine.


Here we are shaving our way through dense Ipe hardwood. A real test of planing power. The block plane makes light work of it and produces an excellent and smooth surface.


The 3/4" Shoulder plane about to trim the join of some pine lining material.


The shoulder plane is also ideal for rebates and all other types of short-width planing.

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