Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Making a LN 4 1/2 work

While totally unscientific I did an interesting, at least to me, test today. I've always liked O1 better than A2. Most of the reasons are subjective and based more on "feel" when sharpening than anything else. O1 on a good translucent or hard black Arkansas is about as sinuous as is allowed in a work shop. It's a shame I use mostly diamond stones now, there is not the same feel with either diamonds or waterstones. The other reason is O1 matches my work habits better than A2, I like sharp iron, my sharpening bench is a step from my primary work bench and I do not mind honing often as long as it is fast.

Let's forget the above rabbit trail and set up the test. A couple of years ago, late one night, bored, surfing the Lie-Nielsen web site, I ordered a 4 1/2 bench plane with out thinking about the iron that would come with it. Lie-Nielsen, being the company they are, offered to replace it with an O1 iron free of charge but I got busy and time passed without my exchanging irons. Over the years I haven't used the Lie-Nielsen 4 1/2 much, it always felt too heavy and was hard to push no matter how much I waxed the sole. I would use my old Stanley 4 1/2 with a Hock iron or lately the LV #4 with the PM iron. Ah... hell that was a tasty looking rabbit....

Anyway, I was checking my planes for sharpness this morning and the LN 4 1/2 felt like it needed sharpening, I did and it still felt like it needed sharpening. Hummm, that's not good, what to do. I thought about finally ordering an O1 LN iron for it but that would take nearly a week this time of year. Then one of the Stanley #7s caught my eye, it had a Hock O1 iron and chipbreaker, I never use it, why not try it in the LN. Give you an ideal as to why I'm thinking about selling off some tools, the Hock iron had never been sharpened. The back and bevel were just as they were shipped from Hock and I'll bet that #7 had been on the shelf for at least 2 or 3 years.

I'll finally get to the chase, I sharpened up the Hock, resharpened the LN A2 just to be sure both irons were sharpened the same. BTW, my setting jig sets the iron at about 33 degrees, so it should be good for A2 as well as O1. Waxed the sole of the 4 1/2 and installed the A2. No difference, it still didn't sing. Removed the A2, installed the Hock O1, re-waxed the sole and Bob Wills lives in a LN 4 1/2.

Now the question is do I order an O1 iron from LN or just stay with the Hock. Whichever I finally have a useable LN 4 1/2.


  1. I'm coming around to the same feelings about O1 vs A2. I don't mind sharping when I have to and I find the A2's take too long to do. And I think the O1'a are a bit keener.

  2. This is really interesting--and the same as my experience. I ordered some of my LN chisels O1 and some A2 and I strongly prefer the O1. I just don't think the A2 tradeoff is worth it. I've been thinking of trying the new LV steel before selling all of my A2 and going with O1 exclusively.

  3. Folks that know say A2 needs a bevel >30 degrees to hold an edge. That's OK for plane irons and chopping but I like a more acute bevel for most other work. I know it's personal preference and better wood workers than myself swear by A2 iron.....plus companies make and sell what sells but I still don't get it.

    Maybe I'm missing something, been known to suffer from flat head syndrome.

  4. Andy,

    From Ralph's bench photos I think he has a set of Ashely Iles chisels. They are really nice O1 chisels, sides are ground very narrow, making it easy to pare dovetails without bruising. They are light, easy to sharpen and hold an edge as well as any O1 chisel. About the only negative is the brass ferrel will sometimes loosen and needs to be put back in place. I think they have a better design for cabinet making than the Stanley 750s and copies and best of all they are inexpensive for a top quality chisel. Check out Tools for Working Wood.