An Affordable, Yet High Quality Jack Plane

An Affordable, Yet High Quality Jack Plane

An affordable yet high quality Jack plane; does this sounds like an improbable reality? In the case of the Taytools #5 bench plane I believe that the two attributes are compatible.

I am always on the lookout for new (and worthwhile) products and tools that can benefit my work and my students’ projects. If I find the item to be of potential interest to my readers I will dedicate a blog posting or even create a video to showcase it. In this dissemination I strive to give an in-depth critique of the product and highlight both its strengths and weakness.

Last fall I received three new Indian made planes from Taylor Toolworks to be used in our woodworking program. Taylor Toolworks welcomed a thorough and critical analysis of their tool, as they want to encourage themselves and all woodworkers to seek the best tools they can. In this blog post I will talk about one of them, TayTools #5 Bailey style plane, which turned out to be a very nice shaving machine.

Some Background

A few years ago, after I created a Youtube review video on the Indian made Soba shoulder plane (a worthy contemporary to the famous Record 311), I was approached by the manufacturer Shobha Industries who was very interested in hearing what I had to say about their soon-to-be-released premium bench planes. The manufacturer contacted me a few more times over the years, asking questions, which I was happy to answer, and even promised to send some sample planes for me to test (these planes unfortunately never arrived). At some point they emailed and said that their planes had finally been picked up by a US company, but that they had to put a hold on their distribution because they needed to replace their rosewood handles with another wood. They explained that because our laws prohibit the importation of this endangered species of tree, a substitute wood was needed, and by the way, what did I think that wood should be? It turned out that the US company that began carrying them was Rockler, under the brand name of Bench Dog. On that note and if you live in Europe, the Axminster Rider planes such as this one are comparable with the Bench Dog planes. When the first Bench Dog planes began appearing on the Rockler site and in their catalog, I was anxious to give them a try.  

Just before the current school year began, I conducted an internet search in hopes of finding one or two new bench planes for our program and I was hoping they would not cost us an arm and a leg. The Bench Dog was on my shortlist, but I also wanted to see if there were any chances to find alternatives. After a few minutes on the Amazon search, a picture of an intriguing plane and a new brand name that I never heard of before, popped up – enter Taytools.

On first glance the Taytools plane looked similar to the Bench Dog plane, except for the lever cap. The Taytools’ cap seemed nickel plated while the Bench Dog one was solid brass. The images and the description on Amazon denoted a plane with great potential; ductile cast iron body and frog, precision ground and verified flat sole, thick blade and chip breaker, and nice handles made from sapele wood. My appetite was whet and I decided to contact Taytools the next day.

In my phone conversation with Taylor Toolworks I learned that my hunch was correct: Taytool planes are indeed akin to the Bench Dog planes, and are made by the same Indian manufacturer that sought my advice. I also learned a few things about the company: Taylor Toolworks is a woodworking tool distributor from Missouri that specializes in hand tools. Two brothers founded the company, and it carries a few very recognizable brands, such as Narex, Sorby and Clifton, but also a few niche products from makers such as Ledin (a French maker of compasses), Swann Morton (a British maker of surgical tools and great all-purpose marking knives) and Kinex (maker of measuring tools).

Later that week I spoke to one of the owners, who is a woodworker and a connoisseur of woodworking tools. We compared notes on our mutual relationship with the plane manufacturer, and at the end of the conversation the owner offered to send me some planes for use and evaluation.  

So here we go….

The Taytools #5 Bailey plane is made accurately from quality materials. The fact that the plane’s iron parts are cast from ductile iron is a huge benefit. The sole, the sides and the frog’s blade bed are accurately machined and ground flat. I did not have to deal with flattening anything on the plane. The tote and knob are very comfortable to hold. All the moving parts are operating smoothly. The frog advancement mechanism is not an adoption of the Stanley Bedrock design, such as the one you see on the paragon Lie Nielsen or the well-made WoodRiver planes. That said, I don’t think that this is a major disadvantage. While having a Bedrock style plane is a plus if you routinely need to adjust the mouth opening, for most of us who keep the mouth relatively closed most of the time, this will not be an issue. The plane’s blade and chip breaker are nice and heavy at  7/64” or 2.8mm each. The blade is flat and needed minimum work on the stones. I don’t know what steel it is made of but I speculate that it is high carbon O1 or so.

#5 Bailey style Bench Plane From Taytools

I really like this plane. Its sole is flat, its handles are very comfortable, the mechanism works well. The blade is heavy and not too hard to sharpen, and its back came from the factory quite flat.

Both the blade and chip breaker are robust and heavy, around 7/64″ (2.8mm) thick.

The frog’s blade bed is very flat too. Notice the two substantial fillister frog mounting screws and their brass washers.

To advance the frog and close the throat, you need to remove the blade assembly, loosen the two frog mounting screws and then turn frog adjusting screw (pictured) as needed. Next, re-tighten the two frog mounting screws and place the blade assembly back.

Suggestion for Improvements

Here are a few detailed comments and suggestions that I shared with Taytools in hopes that SOBA will be open to hear them, and possibly act upon them.

Chip breaker:  The chip breaker is thick and heavy. The integral slot that accepts the yolk is machined in trapezoid geometry to better match the advancing/retrieving yolk.  I think that the maker needs to refine the geometry of the chip breaker’s front. I had to hone the edge/tip of the bevel and round it a bit. It was just too blunt and if I hadn’t refined it, wood shaving would not have flowed smoothly over it. I also think that the under ledge (heel?) that SOBA created to press down on the blade’s cutting edge should not be milled so narrow. I think that they should increase the thickness of this ledge.

The geometry of the trapezoid slot in the chip breaker allows for a smoother yolk movement.

To make the chip breaker more effective I added a slight radius at the foot of the bevel.

Adjustment yolk: The yolk that advances/retrieves the blade seems to be made of cast iron, or cast steel – it’s hard to tell. While I like the cast yolk better than the stamped steel one that the Bench Dog planes are fitted with, I do think that SOBA should consider beefing up the yolk or perhaps narrowing the frog opening that engulfs it. In my opinion, the yolk is a tad too thin, so once the plane blade assembly is removed it moves around too much and creates the impression of a lower quality tool. Don’t get me wrong here, it is a strong yolk with no apparent slack and a minimum amount of backlash.  Still, a slight increase of thickness would benefit the mechanism.    

The Chip breaker screw: The slot that accommodates the screwdriver is too thin for my Lee Valley ‘Plane Screwdriver’.  It would be great if they could beef up that screw and widen the slot.

The adjusting brass nut: I was puzzled as to why the manufacturer went the extra mile and milled out the inside of the adjusting brass nut. I believe that any plane user would appreciate a heavier and heftier adjusting nut, plus it would have saved some time and resources for the manufacturers if they just left it thick. That is, unless they recycle the extra brass and recast it. But obviously I can’t answer for that? On this last point I already heard back from the owner of Taylor Toolworks who said that SOBA will leave the nut thick and heavy during the next manufacturing run. 

In conclusion, at $110 for the #6 plane, $100 for the #5 plane and $65 for the #4, the Taytools bench planes are a good bargain. Flat, massive and equipped with a heavy blade, these planes stand high above the current production line of the Stanley Bailey planes and almost shoulder to shoulder with the WoodRiver planes. If you can afford a Lie Nielsen go for it – this is the best tool around. But if you are looking for a tool in the $70 – $110 range the Taytool planes are a perfect fit.

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