Shocked and Pleasantly Surprised
Chad Stanton, a good friend, excellent carpenter and furniture builder, host of the net program Woodchoppin’ Time and Dancing Master nonpareil recently told me about some wood bodied planes made in China. The name alone sparked my curiousity – Mujingfang. Chad said that they performed well, were well made and (of incredible importance) were inexpensive. I was intrigued. I found that there are a number of planes available from the maker. But I selected two sizes of polishing planes, the smallest and largest. I figured that if they could make a polishing plane that worked well in figured wood, they might be okay.
As you see by the scale in the picture, the smaller of the two planes is quite small. But don’t be fooled by it’s size. The plane is well-made. It is designed to be pushed or pulled, ergo the “cross-beam” The single bit is bedded at 60 degrees. After very little preliminary honing and stropping, I set the little plane atop a piece of gnarly curly maple and was pleasantly surprised that it did, indeed, perform very well. Planing diagonally, I achieved a surface that was more than acceptable and could be brought to a “Class A” finish with the slightest amount of scraping or sanding. (In a pinch, the iron could be reversed and the plane could be used as a 90 degree scraper.)
The secret is the plane’s very tight mouth. An added feature is a dovetailed wear insert at the mouth’s leading edge.
The body of the plane is made from a member of the rosewood family. It appears to be coated in shellac (or some synthetic equivalent). The finish needs to be rubbed out. But, that is a minor issue. All in all, I’m very happy with this tool. In the right situation, it should prove to be very useful.
The larger (2 inch wide) polishing plane shares all of the same features found in its smaller sibling. However, it does appear that the bed will need to be undercut a bit to eliminate some slight chattering. This, of course , is not unusual when working with new (or old) wooden planes.
Ultimately, these planes appear to be great value and should be useful to anyone working in figured wood. Who knows? A few more of these Mujingfang planes might find their way into the shop.
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