Stanley 12-404 No. 4 Adjustable Bench Plane

Stanley 12-404 No. 4 Adjustable Bench Plane

$14.39
Stanley 12-404 No. 4 Adjustable Bench Plane
5

Cost

9.0 /10

Ease of Use

2.0 /10

Durability

5.0 /10

Accuracy

4.0 /10

Usefulness

5.0 /10

Pros

  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • No Chipbreaker
  • Combined Knife Level and Depth Controls
  • Knife Controls Poorly Located
  • Knife Controls too Small
  • Thin Blade

I really wanted to like this tool, but after spending hours working with it, I hate it.  While those are strong words, I believe they are accurate.

I purchased this Bench Plane and the Stanley Low Angle Block Plane as my first two hand planes.  In light of my novice status with hand planes, I spent a lot of time working with this plane trying to get it to work.  I finally came to my conclusion after a few weeks of use, and the opportunity to use a nicer bench plane.

Cost

You can’t beat the cost of this Bench Plane.  It costs less than $15 at Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.  Other Bench Planes costs $50-$200+.  In addition, Amazon had a number of very good reviews for this plane.

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Durability

On arrival the plane seems very solid.  But on closer inspection, you will find that the handles are a very light plastic.  After a few weeks of use, the handles are already loose (although they can be tightened).

If you compare the Plane to other bench planes, you will also discover that the sole is made from a much thinner metal.  The knife is also short and about half the thickness of normal knives.  Finally, the screw system that is used to adjust knife position is made from very thing stock.

I don’t have a whole lot of hope for this Plane surviving a drop from a counter.  The handles could easily break, if the screw adjustment system is hit the screws could easily strip, or the thin sole could become slightly bent.

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Ease of Use

For $15, I could tolerate a lot of durability problems, I mean if it breaks once a year, I could go 10 years before equaling the spending of the high end planes.  Sadly, the problems extend well beyond durability.

As you can see in the above photo, the depth of the knife as well as the levelness of the knife are both adjusted by the same thumb screws.  As a result, you cannot change the depth of the knife without messing up the levelness of the knife.

The adjustment screws also cannot be reached without letting go of the Plane handles.  This is contrary to much bench planes which allow the adjustment of the knife depth in between cuts without letting go of the handles.

The adjustment screws are also way too small of a radius.  It is difficult to turn them at times and making fine adjustments is near impossible.

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Accuracy

The Bench Plane arrives in a completely inaccurate state.  It is hard to see in the image above, but the blade is very dull and has a number of nicks in it.  This isn’t totally unexpected, as many planes require sharpening and adjusting to start.  However, this one can’t even be used at all without an initial tune up.

Additionally, one of the images below shows the results of my initial sharpening.  As you can see, the initial grind on the knife from the factory is not even remotely straight or flat.

The sole of the Plane also arrives in a sorry state.  As you can see in the image below, the edges of the sole are significantly higher than the middle of my sole, it took a lot of sanding to get that flat.

Unfortunately, even after spending a significant amount of time tuning up the knife and sole the plane is still horribly inaccurate.

The knife is simply too thin and is prone to slight bending when used on hard woods such as maple.  This results in deep gouges at times.

The Plane also lacks a chipbreaker.  For a wide knife the chipbreaker is a necessity.  The lack of one again results in very uneven planing and gouging.

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Usefulness

I honestly can’t find much use for this tool.  My hope is that I can grind the blade into more of a curved shape so that it can be used for initial rough planing before using another tool to get a nice smooth surface.

Blade after initial sharpening.  Notice how uneven the initial grind was.
Blade after initial sharpening. Notice how uneven the initial grind was.

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