WoodRiver #92 Medium Shoulder Plane Review

A rock solid performer at a competitive price.

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WoodRiver #92 Medium Shoulder Plane



Every woodworker should have at least one shoulder plane in their tool kit. Shoulder planes are indispensable for trimming dados, grooves, rabbets, tenons, and shoulders. If you cut the majority of your joinery on a table saw, or by hand, a shoulder plane is one of the quickest ways to eliminate the marks left by a saw blade, and to fine-tune your joints. In a pinch you can even use one to form a shallow rabbet. Contrary to what you might think, a shoulder plane is just as easy to set-up and use as any other hand plane.

Shoulder planes come in a variety of sizes, from 1/4" up to 1-1/2". The 3/4" (or medium) size is a good all-round choice for anyone looking for a first shoulder plane, and it's easy to use one-handed.

Woodcraft recently added a 3/4" shoulder plane to their 'Wood River' line of hand planes. As you can see in the photo line-up below, the Wood River #92 is most similar in appearance to the Clifton and Lie-Nielsen shoulder planes. All three share similar design features and look to be heavily influenced by the Preston #1368 shoulder plane.

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Comparable Medium Shoulder Planes
 

 Wood RiverLie-NielsenCliftonVeritasStanley
Width3/4"3/4"3/4"11/16"3/4"
Length8-13/16"7-3/4"8"7"6-1/8"
Weight2.3 lbs2.35 lbs2.5 lbs2 lbs1.3 lbs
Bed Angle15°18°18.5°15°15°
ECA40°43°43°40°40°
BodyDuctile
Steel
Ductile SteelDuctile SteelDuctile SteelDuctile Steel
SourceChinaUSAUKCAMexico
Price$150$195$250$189$135
ECA: Effective Cutting Angle

The Wood River is cast from Cr40 ductile iron, a strong, durable alloy with good wear resistance. After casting, the body is stress-relieved to minimize the likliehood of warping, ensuring that the sole remains flat. The plane bed has a 15-degree angle, while the blade is ground at a 25-degree angle, giving an effective cutting angle of 40-degrees. It's a good compromise angle for working with either long, cross, or end grain. Of course, you can easily change the effective cutting angle by regrinding the blade bevel, or better yet, purchasing a replacement blade (about $14) and regrinding the bevel.
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Controls on the Wood River are quite simple. Turn a spinwheel to remove, the lever cap; turn an adjuster at the back of the plane to advance or retract the blade; and, loosen a screw on the top of the plane to move the shoe that controls the throat opening. Certainly nothing new here, but everything works smoothly, like butter on toast.

Not only is the fit and finish on the plane superb, but the decorative detailing harkens back to the glory days of plane making. The plane not only looks appealing, it feels great in the hand. The rounded over edges and the textured recesses milled into the sides make it easy to grip and comfortable to hold.

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Comfortable to hold when pushing
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Easy to grip when pulling
There's a gentle curve on the top of the plane, just behind the mouth plate retaining screw, which makes a natural resting place for the forefinger when pushing the plane. The palm of your hand is then supported by the long swooping lever cap. Sometimes you might want to pull the plane into your work, in which case your forefinger can rest on the lever cap and the palm of your hand will sit nicely in that curve near the retaining screw.

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Lever Cap, with perfectly flat toe
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Toe applies firm, even pressure on the blade
The lever cap is made from SUS 304 stainless steel, which has nickel and chromium added for superior corrosion resistance. The lever is nicely proportioned in relation to the overall length of the plane. A few turns of the spinwheel relieves tension so that you can adjust the position of the blade, or remove the lever cap entirely if you need to extract the blade. The toe is perfectly flat and provides even pressure across the blade, helping to reduce chatter.

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Captive nut attached to the blade adjuster

The Norris-style blade adjuster is attached to a captive nut that slides along a track in the plane body. Two spurs on the nut engage the slots on the back of the blade, enabling you to move the blade in precise increments. With a bit of practice you'll get a feel for how much you need to turn the knurled adjuster knob to alter the blade position. I found the adjustments to be very smooth and precise with just the slightest amount of backlash. However, you do need to be careful that the blade doesn't wander to the left or right as you adjust its position - otherwise the edge of the blade won't be flush with the mouth of the plane.

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Well formed bevel and flat back

The 1/8" thick blade is made of Mn65 (ASTM 1566) high carbon tool steel hardened to Rockwell 60-64. Mn65 is similar to A2 tool steel, but it has somewhat less wear resistance. I measured the width of the blade at exactly .750" (3/4"), .007" wider than the body of the plane, which means the blade projects about .003" beyond each side of the body. This provides the clearance necessary to make clean, square cuts.

While I found that the blade was nicely sharpened and the back perfectly flat, I did take the time to hone the blade bevel, which only took a few minutes. To work effectively, the blade on a shulder plane (well, on any hand plane for that matter) needs to be super sharp. If you'd like to save a bit of time when honing the blade you can add a micro-bevel of 2 or 3-degrees. The micro-bevel has little effect on the effective cutting angle, and to some extent it does strengthen the bevel edge.

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Easily adjustable shoe

As on any hand plane a narrow mouth helps minimize tear-out. On the Wood River there is a screw located on the top edge of the plane that locks the shoe in place. Once the screw is backed out you can easily reposition the shoe, and then re-tighten the screw. For thinner cuts tighten up the throat; for thicker cuts open it up to prevent wood shavings from clogging the mouth.

When making throat adjustments I found that it's best not to back out the screw too much, just enough so that you can push the shoe forward or pull it backwards. This way you can make suprisingly precise mouth adjustments. As well, there's no need to over tighten the screw - moderate hand pressure is all it takes.

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The sole is dead square to the sides

I checked for flatness and squareness fore and aft of the mouth, and found the sole to be precisely ground and absolutely flat, with the sole perfectly square to the sides, a critical feature if you intend to have crisp, square corners.

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A joy to use, whether on long-grain or cross-grain

The Wood River soulder plane is a real treat to use. The heft of the tool, the way it fits the hand, and the tight mouth enable me to make precisely controlled cuts. I really like the sensitive, easy to manipulate blade adjuster. Normally I have it set to take thin finishing cuts. But, as needed, I can fairly quickly readjust the blade for a more aggressive cut. And, the cuts are completely chatter-free, regardless of the type of wood I'm working with.

The Wood River #92 has just about everything you need in a top quality shoulder plane - excellent fit and finish, good heft, a flat sole, sides square to the sole, and easily adjustable blade and shoe. This is a plane that I feel will be a welcome addition to any woodworker's hand tool repertoire.


KEY FEATURES:

  • Size: 3/4" (.743") W x 8-13/16" L (3-3/16" high at handle, 2-9/16" at body)
  • Bed angle: 15-degrees 
  • Blade angle: 25-degrees
  • Cutting angle: 40-degrees
  • Body: Cr40 stress-relieved ductile steel
  • Blade: Mn65 tool steel hardened to 60-64 Rc
  • Blade thickness: 1/8", 0.007" wider than plane sole
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 3.4 oz
  • 5 year warranty

COMPANY:Woodcraft
MODEL:154032
PRICE:$149.99 ($119.99 through December 30, 2013)
MADE IN:China
SOURCE:Rob Cosman (CA)
Store Locator (US)
Carl Duguay, December 2013
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