Thursday, August 07, 2014

A2 vs. PM-11

Let me state up front this is not a A-2 bashing thread, my experience with working a well sharpened A-2 iron in a plane vs. either an O-1 or a PM-11 if it were a "blind" test I doubt I could tell the difference. Sharpening is another story and that is the reason I prefer either O-1 or PM-11 irons.

As I posted awhile back LN no longer offers O-1 in their planes. Which is a shame because LN made a good O-1 iron for their line of planes and I prefer the Bailey style adjuster to the Norris style of the LV planes. More than likely that preference is just "because" but whatever it is what I prefer. BTW. I have a LV #4 and use it, it is a very nice plane with good features but....I ordered a LN #4 the other day with the A-2 iron.

Last night I finally got around to prepping the LN #4 for use. After an hour of working on the back of the A-2 iron I remembered I had a new in the box with chip breaker LV 2" PM-11 iron on the shelf. Out it came and on to the 3mu diamond "stone". BTW, I knew that starting on the 3mu stone would work because I've used several of the new LV irons and they are all perfectly flat and only need polishing. After no more than 30 seconds on the 3mu stone and a few strokes on the 0.5mu "strop" I had a good back.

Like I said earlier I had already spent over an hour on the back of the A-2 running through my diamond stones going so far as to dig out the Extra-Extra Course one and all the A-2 did was laugh at the effort by skittering across the stones. I guess the bottom line of why I don't like A-2 is not just the time it takes to get a good edge it is also the "feel" on the stones. I just do not get good feed back while sharpening A-2 and much of my sharpening depends on how the iron feels on the stone. Maybe if I worked more with A-2 I could develop that feel but the question is why......What does A-2 bring to the table that would make the effort worth while?

One other thing I found interesting: The LV chip breaker doesn't seem to work with LN planes. Not a biggie, my new LN #4 now has a LV PM-11 iron and a LN chip breaker with the LV chip breaker screw (I like the LV chip breaker screw, it is knurled and has a shoulder) and is a really sweet working plane. Damn I can be picky :-).

The iron on the left is the A-2 LN after more than an hour of work. The one on the right is the LV PM-11 after maybe 1 minute of work.

A better image:

I expect it will just be SOP, order a LV PM-11 or O-1 iron when I order a new LN plane. Adds to the cost but I'm too old to spend time flatting backs on irons. That's the bad news, the good is I don't need any new planes, of course need and want are two different things.


  1. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Surprised to hear that one needed to spend an hour or more just on the back of a new blade from a reputable source...was it an A2 blade from LN? Was it an overkill or was it a defective item to start with?

    I have never needed to work anything over 1 minute on the back of any blade from Lee Valley. Truth be told, I don't even touch the back of any new A2 or PMV 11 blades from LV. I never encounter a problem, but if I did, I would exchange it with a replacement from LV.


  2. Anonymous12:31 PM

    I stopped flattening backs of plane irons after learning about the "ruler trick". There really is no need to polish more than 1/16" of the back - takes almost no time and achieves great results for me.

  3. Ray,

    That, backs that need a lot of flatting, has been common with LN A-2 iron, at least in my experience. LV irons for the last couple of years come flat, a quick polish on a polishing stone and they are ready to work.


  4. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Ditto comments about LV and LN irons. They are probably flatter out of the box than after they are worked on by hand. And I reserve the ruler trick for vintage irons that may be a bit rough. Again, premium irons are dead flat.
    Jim B

  5. I'm glad the "ruler trick" works for you. I hope I never own one of your old irons.

    There is nothing that pisses me off as much as finding the iron in one of my used planes has had the ruler trick used to sharpen it. Once an iron has been sharpened by elevating the angle of the back it is close to impossible to re-flatting the back. In other words, the iron is trash. of course YMMV.


  6. I agree with AOKG about the ruler trick.
    It's a quick expedient that takes an inordinate amount of work to reverse.

    On the other hand, although it's nice to have a uniform mirror effect on the back, 'flatting' is only necessary, in my opinion, on the final 3 or 4 mm of blade that is covered by the cap iron (which should also be flattened on the inside edge), prevents whiskers piling up in the junction and provides one face of the cutting edge.

    After that it's back to work.

    Can't comment on so-called A2 steel. I haven't got any, but it doesn't make sense to me to have steel so hard that it cannot reasonably take an edge.

    All best from Wales


  7. "Can't comment on so-called A2 steel. I haven't got any..."

    Good on you :-). As you can tell I'm not a fan but it is getting harder to find OEM tools with other steels.

    Lee Valley has really stepped up with their irons over the last couple of years, they are the only ones I know of that come ready to use.

    I've a reasonable collection of older Stanley planes, most of which I've had to replace the irons either because of pitting or some variation of having the "ruler trick" used which is a shame because the OEM iron can be very good.


  8. Thanks............
    ............when I said I haven't got any A2 blades I should have said that I don't have many modern planes. By 'modern' I mean post war.
    Many of my blades are pre-War - that is pre-Boer-War. In the majority of cases the best quality was a thin billet of cast steel forged onto a firm backing. They knew how to make good, enduring steel in those days.

    If you don't mind a bit of elbow-grease, I have got rid of the ruler-camber in the past by bringing the blade forward, (bevel facing) when almost vertical on a very coarse diamond plate until I have a continuous burr right across that is removed when the back is wiped flat on the plate. Thereafter it's a matter of re-establishing the bevel of choice going down the grits. As I said, it's a ferocious amount of work............
    ..............Otherwise call in a favour if you know a guy with a precision grinding shop!

    Anyway, I admire the monumental bench..... even though I'm a confirmed dogs-and-vice-man!

    All best from Wales

  9. Hand,

    While most of my Stanley's are turn of the last Century as best I can tell none have laminated irons. If they did I would go to the trouble of saving them, all the while cussing whoever screwed 'em up :-).

    Thanks, the bench is proving to be very good. BTW I still have the old bench with a wagon vise and dogs if needed but as posted before most of my holding is done with holdfasts, battens and stops. I can see with a lot of drawer building and groove cutting where a vise and dog system would be advantageous.

    Pat's folks still live in Kilmarnock, we occasionally cross the pond so don't be surprised if someday a scruffy Texan shows up looking for a pint of something.