This post is the result of three different desires coming together at one time. First, I had long wanted to make a wooden hand plane. My sometimes obsessive research of the subject led me to David Finck’s book on the subject. As a result of this, I prepared to make a Krenov-style smoothing plane. I saw that two different suppliers were listed in the book for this style of iron – Finck himself and Ron Hock.
This led me to my second desire – to try a Hock iron. I had heard all the great things, but had never gotten around to replacing any of my stock irons. As I was ordering a high-carbon 2″ Krenov iron in the long style, I noticed that Ron had $10 flat-rate shipping. The veteran online shopper immediately wanted to bundle multiple items. On to desire number three:
I bought a new Stanley 60 1/2 low-angle block plane a few years back. It was a decent enough plane after I spent half a day flattening the sole and fettling the bed, but the iron wouldn’t hold an edge for beans. No brainer. I added a matching block plane iron to the order. Three desires, one order, a good day!
The planes arrived in the mail last week. Each was individually wrapped in a sheet of sharpening instructions, and arrived razor-sharp. Literally. I have never before seen plane irons that were truly able to shave my arm right out of the package. Of course, I would further refine the edges before I put them to use.
The 2″ smoothing plane iron and chipbreaker were massive, and were beautifully machined. The iron’s edge was hollow-ground to Krenov’s specification of 30 degrees, and mated perfectly with the chipbreaker. I couldn’t even begin to imagine this combo chattering in use. However, since I had yet to make the plane, this would have to be tested later
The block plane iron was a perfectly-matched replacement for my stock Stanley iron. The slots and center hole all matched up perfectly, and it dropped right into place in the plane. However, there the similarity ended.
As you can see in the picture above, the Stanley’s machining (lower) leaves much to be desired. Milling marks are clearly evident, and the sides of the blade and the openings are not cleanly finished. Close examination of the upper and lower side edges will reveal some of these irregularities. The back has similar problems, and getting a flat surface near the edge took a lot of work.
The Hock, on the other hand, is satiny smooth on all surfaces, and all the edges are crisp and clean. While made to the same dimensions as the Stanley, it has a bit more heft in the hand. Measurements confirmed this: The Stanley is 0.081 in. thick and weighs 44gm. The Hock is 0.095 in. thick and weighs 55gm.
Like the Stanley, the Hock bevel is ground at 25 degrees. I added a 27 degree secondary bevel finished on a black hard Arkansas stone and went to work. After a bit of adjustment and a few preliminary cuts I went straight to the heart of the matter – end grain.
This is supposed to be the low-angle block plane’s forte, but the Stanley has never failed to impress. No matter what, the cuts were always a bit ragged, and the resulting surface was fuzzy. Not so with the Hock. It was like I had a whole new plane! I first tried oak, and then finished with pine. In both cases the cuts were effortless, made continuous shavings, and left a smooth surface behind. I purposefully did the oak first as a way to check edge retention. When I got to the pine, it was as if the iron had just been sharpened. The photo below gives a better look at the shavings I was getting in end-grain pine after planing oak:
Conclusion? Hock irons are in a league of their own, and definitely worth the money. Adding one to my 60 1/2 was almost the equivalent of buying a whole new plane, for a much lower cost. I’m a fan of O1 steel as opposed to A2, since I feel that it takes a slightly finer edge. As a result, I can give no insight into their A2 blades. Additionally, I won’t have a chance to evaluate the Krenov iron until the plane is built, but I have no doubts that performance will be as stellar as the one for the block plane.