Stanley Sweetheart Low Angle Jack Plane | Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement

If you're willing to put up with a few idiosyncrasies, this value priced plane just might be the one for you.

Stanley Sweetheart Low Angle Jack Plane

Stanley Sweetheart Low Angle Jack Plane

MANUFACTURER:Stanley Black & Decker
SOURCE:Find a Retailer
Dimensions:2-1/2" W x 2" H x 14" L
Weight:2 lbs 1 oz
BladeA2, 3/16" thick, 2" wide
Blade Angle:25°
Body:Ductile cast iron
Blade Adjuster:Norris type
Bed Angle:12°
Warranty:1 year limited warranty

A Jack plane is a general purpose bench plane - it has the heft and length to take heavy cuts when you want to remove a lot of wood quickly, or you can back out the blade, close up the mouth, and make fine finishing cuts. They're available in two styles: with a bevel-down blade set at 45-degrees (often referred to as a 'standard' Jack plane), and with a bevel-up blade set at 12-degrees (referred to as a 'low angle' Jack plane).

Low angle planes, like the Stanley 12-137, are particularly versatile as the cutting angle can be altered simply by grinding a micro-bevel on the blade, or substituting a blade with a different bevel angle. Most low-angle Jack planes (including the Stanley 12-137) come with a blade ground at 25-degrees. Coupled with the 12-degree plane bed, the resulting effective cutting angle is 37-degrees. This makes the plane ideal for working end-grain work and for use on a shooting board. Substituting a blade with a 33-degree bevel will result in a 45-degree cutting angle - much more effective for flattening and straightening work. An even more aggressive blade angle can be used when dealing with with highly figured wood.

Low-angle Jack planes can either have a Bailey-type blade adjuster (which uses a wheel and lever for blade projection and lateral adjustment) or, as on the Stanley 12-137, a Norris-type adjuster (which has a single knob for both blade projection and lateral blade movement). If properly machined, neither is a better mechanism - it's really a matter of personal preference.

As for me, I like the Norris adjuster, and on the Stanley it works well. Once the blade projection is set, I've not experienced any backlash when using the plane (backlash is when the blade suddenly backs up and stops cutting while you are planing). However, setting the blade projection is a bit finicky. The pivot pin on the adjuster doesn't fit snugly into the receiving hole in the frog (the base of the plane). The result is that when fine-tuning the blade projection, the adjuster can inadvertently move slightly forward or backward. I deal with this by keeping my thumb pressed against the end of the adjustment knob when setting the blade projection. Initially it can be quite frustrating, but with a bit of practice it becomes tolerable. Lateral blade movement isn't an issue, as there is about 3/32" of adjustment room on either side of the blade.

The adjustable mouth works very well indeed – just turn the knob to loosen the brass adjustment lever, set the mouth as close to the blade as you wish, then tighten the knob.

The Stanley 12-137 comes with a massive, 3/16" thick A2 steel blade that is ready to use out of the box. Most of the blades I own are O1 steel, but I don't mind this A2 blade. It's supposed to hold an edge longer than O1 but take a bit longer to sharpen or hone. Dosen't bother me as I use a Tormek T-8 that takes all the pain out of sharpening. The cutting edge of the blade has perfectly square shoulders. I'll eventually round them over slightly, which makes the plane more suitable for jointing and surfacing work – rounded corners won't leave plane tracks on the wood surface. Another thing I'll do is easy the edges of the base – as is they're sharp enough to cut skin.

LIke its sibling, the Stanley 12-139 low-angle block plane, the Stanley 12-137 has an aluminum lever cap. I don't see any disadvantage over a steel or iron lever cap.

The sole is, of course, crucial to performance. On this plane the sole is dead flat along it's entire length and laterally just ahead of the mouth. About 1-1/2" back of the mouth and extending to the rear of the sole there is a slight hollow, about .003". Not enough for me to break out the flattening stones.

The greatest disappointment I found is that the sides are not parallel to the base, being off about 3/32". I can still use the plane with a shooting board, but it means that I have to adjust the blade to where its cutting edge square to the shooting board. Readjusting the blade isn't the end of the world, but it does add another layer of irritation.

Notwithstanding the issue with the out-of-alignment sides and the less than perfect fit of the Norris adjuster, the Stanley 12-137 is a decent Jack plane at a pretty good price. It looks good, is comfortable to hold, feels solid and balanced in use, and most importantly, it does the job. Set up properly you'll be able to take heavy cuts for initial stock preparation, and fine shavings with minimal tearout for final smoothing.

The Norris style blade adjuster works smoothly, but adjusting the depth of cut is a tad finicky.

The pivot pin on the adjuster doesn't fit snugly into the receiving hole in the frog.

There's ample room for lateral blade movement.

Comfortable tote with brass mouth adjustment lever.

Adjustable mouth plate fits flush to the sole and closes up tightly.

Aluminum lever cap with 3/16" thick A2 steel blade.

Plane blade is ready to use out of the box.

Sole is flat just ahead of the mouth.

Sole is flat along its entire length.

Side are not parallel to the sole - off about 3/32".

A nicely weighted and balanced plane that is a pleasure to use.

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