Stanly 62 Sweetheart Review
I have had the Stanley Sweetheart products under consideration for a while now and after clearing out some unused tools I chose to buy......more tools. I was keen to make up my own mind on the range which has come under fire by many reviewers. I purchased the 62 Low Angle Jack, The No4, A set of four Socket Chisels and a Low Angle Block Plane. I'll add my thoughts on those in due course. This first post should be treated as an initial feel for the tool only. A few months of use next to a Record No5 & 5 1/2 should develop a clearer picture. I think "out of the box" reviews can be a little dangerous as we can all get rather excited with a new toy. Also these are purchased with my own money, no deals, and I have yet to have my palm crossed with silver by any supplier (never gonna happen) so I'm pretty independent.
Asthetics are very personal and subjective but from where I'm stood the 62 is a pleasing tool to look at, not too brash, clean lines with a nice blend of wood, metal & paint, a good start Stanley.I purchased the 62 from FFX http://www.ffx.co.uk/tools/product/Stan ... tAodVSAAsw for £85.00 delivered. I would normally go vintage or stop by Workshop Heaven but I felt I wanted to roll the dice..... As a quick comparison the other Low Angle Jacks in the market stack up as follows
Stanley 62 Sweetheart 62 via FFX - £85.00 with one A2 Blade Veritas via Peter Sefton - £239 on offer, normal price of £289.00 with one A2 Blade Quangsheng via Workshop Heaven - £149 with 3 A2 Blades ground for typical low, medium and high pitch work. Lie-Nielsen via Axminster - £219 with one A2 Blade
Although the Stanley is cheapest the QS from WSH is perhaps the best value based on the fact you get three blades. All the logistics and packaging were as you would expect in the modern world, all fine. Only a cardboard box for it to live in along with the various wrappers. All found there way into the bin, the 62 for the time being at least lives on the bench.
After a quick wipe down I got familiar with the plane. It features a Norris type adjuster which includes lateral adjustment, only the Veritas has this feature (I think please feel free to correct me here). To the best of my knowledge the QS and LN us the shaped end of the blade as a grip and or light taps with a hammer for lateral adjustment. I had to fiddle around with the position of the Norris Adjuster as from the factory it would not allow the blade to project, easy enough to do though. However, straight away I had a problem. Within the series of photos below you can see the area the blade is bedded down on.
The area that has been milled is sweet, however the bed has not been made wider at the top near the adjuster. There is a shelf that should not be there or at least it should be smaller. The issue is the blade is bedded so tight, lateral adjustment is only about 1mm, barely registering and change on the blade at the mouth. I'm not the only one with the issue. After some searching I found this http://www.ghostmill.net/?p=30. I gave Stanley UK a call to talk it through but although the person from Stanley was polite they knew nothing about the tool or any issues. I dropped Stanley USA a call too but they referred me back to the UK! I must admit the customer service here was poor. I was interested to know if the plane I have was an early version and the more recent ones are OK? Sadly nobody at Stanley wanted to engage in a conversation. Unlike the guy in the link I'm going to try and very carefully file away the shelf to allow lateral adjustment. Yes, I know, I should send it back but I don't want to save it from oblivion.
On a more pleasing note the blade is nice, my first time with A2. That stuff is hard! It comes from the factory sharp and ground at 25deg. This combined with the 12 deg bed gives a low angle of attack ideal for end grain. When alternative pitches are required a small secondary bevel is added or in the case of the QS you drop in another blade (ever get the feeling you backed the wrong horse)! I further honed the edge so it's on the same playing field as my other planes. Looking further into the future I'm not sure I'd want to maintain this blade without a powered grinder of some kind. The blade is so thick and hard trying to grind it by hand would be very boring. The adjustable mouth works very well indeed, it was easy to close the mouth up very very tight indeed or even closed. The only reason I mention that is some folks have had issues with closing the mouth. Much easier than adjusting a frog.
The lever cap has come in for some stick because it's made from Aluminium. I don't personally have an issue with this. The only potential problem could be with many, many ham fisted tightenings of the lever cap perhaps a thread could fail but personally I don't think that'll be a problem. If you own a 62 and have had a fail on the lever cap please drop a comment and let me know.
The Norris adjuster works well but has too much backlash. Once it engages it's very accurate and what lateral adjustment was on hand was easily set. So onto the fun stuff. I had some old sample blanks of worktop in Wenge, Zebrano, Bamboo and also some easy working European oak offcuts. I tried on end and long grain.
This was my first time with a Low Angle Jack and I rather like it! The tool feels well weighted and balanced when contrasted against my wooden, bailey and bedrock planes. The tote and knob seem fine and comfortable and feel well finished. Shavings were made easily on the long and end grain. The mouth was set really tight and light shaving only so surface quality was great. The easiest to plane was no surprise the Bamboo composite thingy and the European Oak, the hardest was the Wenge. The things that stand out more broady with this and other low angle planes is you can adjust the mouth without having to remove a blade and move a frog and in the Stanley's case and I'm sure the others too I found the norris adjuster more precise than the Bailey style.
Like I said these are first thoughts only but there is the basis for a good tool here. If Stanley had machined the bed width properly I would strongly recommend the tool to those on a tight budget. However all things considered if all these planes have a bed issue they would only be suitable for those on a tight budget and who are able to fettle their own tool. However with the poor customer service I would encourage those on a more modest budget to take a look at the QS 62 from Workshop Heaven . You will be sure of good service and an informed retailer. If Stanley want a part of the quality market staff training at the factory and at the customer point of contact will need to improve a lot.