Friday, May 6, 2016

CTR 11: Mujingfang Rosewood 11" Jack Plane

This review is of a tool I really didn't expect to like, the Mujingfang 11" Jack Plane.  Based on their marketing information, Mujingfang basically went out and found people who were making decent tools locally, and brought them together in Hong Kong to make planes for the international market.  Is that true?  Who knows!  All I can do is review the tools.

Straight out of the box, no handlebars.

Where, and How Much?

I bought mine at WoodCraft, catching it on a 15% off sale.  The 11" Jack is usually priced at $51.00 everywhere I've seen it.

What do you get, and What's the construction like?

What you get is:
1) A plane body
2) A double iron (meaning an iron with a chipbreaker)
3) A wedge
4) A rod that's supposed to go through the body side to side.  It's not in the photo above, because I forgot about it when I was taking pictures.

Construction is remarkably good, given the cost.  The sole is flat to within the limits of my measurement, and the wedge is a pretty decent fit.  It could be better, but it's good enough.  The rod tapers slightly, so it only fits through one way, and sticks about halfway through.  I'll be honest... I'm not really sure what the value of the rod is.  It seems to make it slightly easier to grip when pulling, but that's about it, and I mostly don't pull a plane.  There is one oddity, which is in the iron.

You may be able to see, down near the sharp end, a line of bronze-colored metal.  The blade was made by welding a piece of A2 high speed steel (according to the advertisement) to a piece of softer metal.  It's not terribly unusual, and it's not bad, but it does look kind of strange.  The weld also wasn't cleaned up very well, and there are some "splatters" of something on the front of the blade.  They don't affect the function, so I'm not going to worry about them.

Fit is excellent, but finish is mixed.  The iron is well sharpened (shaving sharp, right out of the box in my case!) but shows marks from the grinder.  The surfaces where you'll handle the plane are smooth and cleanly finished, but the throat and wedge are fairly rough.  Again, none of it compromises the function of the plane, but it shows where corners were cut to save some money.  Since they clearly pass some of that savings on, I can't really complain.

 How does it work?

Very well.  To be honest, I'm quite surprised at how well it performed.  While I wasn't able to take a terribly thick shaving, which I'd like to be able to do with a jack, it's perfectly adequate for taking an edge from rough-cut to ready to finish.  I probably managed to get up around a 32nd in thickness before it clogged, so it's fine unless you're trying to reduce the width or thickness of a board substantially.  It's enough different from my metal planes that I'm going to assign most of my problems to inexperience:  I wasn't able to cut a perfectly square edge without a lot of care, and I also pretty thoroughly failed to make the edge straight.  Again, though, both of those are issues with the user, not the plane.

Here are the critical things:  The iron was sharp, adjusting it was relatively simple, and the wedge can be tapped in tight enough to keep the iron from shifting in a heavy cut while still backing out easily with some hammer taps at the heel.  Incidentally, don't use a metal hammer for that:  I use a cheap soft-face mallet I bought at Harbor Freight for hitting the heel or wedge, and a very light steel hammer to advance the iron.  Brass would probably better.

I tested it  in pine and red oak.  In both cases it left a smooth, clean surface.  I imagine it would work as well in just about any furniture wood.
Rough cut edge.
Finished edge.  (Ignore the face... I didn't touch that.)

Final Thoughts?

Absolutely worth it.  Learning to adjust a wooden plane can be an adventure, but this actually adjusts more easily than any other I've tried.  I'm actually considering buying the smoother, and putting these in a light-weight travelling tool kit.  It weighs dramatically less than the Stanley #5, although the blade is a bit narrower and the sole is a bit longer.

Would I buy another?

Absolutely.  I can recommend this one with a clear conscience.

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