|Mujingfang plow plane as shipped|
As regular readers may know, I do some hand tool based workshops and am on the hunt for some plow planes for student use. That's how I came across this one from Mujingfang. At $66 from JapanWoodworker it's definitely accessibly priced but is it any good?
This plane is described as being in the Chinese style. What's the difference you may ask? In most eastern forms of woodworking many tools are pulled instead of pushed like their English/European counterparts. This plane arrives set up to be pulled by a right handed woodworker.
As I'm right handed and work in an English manner this plane has the fence on the opposite side as would be normal for me. It also works against my bench, as it is set up to restrain material against pushing forces. So why did I buy this again? I think with a few modifications it can be a good plow plane for this style of work.
|Mujingfang Plow and Veritas Small Plow|
Those familiar with Veritas planes know the quality is quite good. So how about the quality of the MJF? From my vast sample of one, I'd say it's pretty good. The wood components are nicely made but you can tell it's made mostly by hand. The finish is nice and well applied and the mortices through which the rods fit in the fence and the plane body are accurately sized. The fence locks are a simple kind of affair made with a wing nut and a bent piece of threaded rod that bears on the slide rods when the nut is tightened. That said they work. There is no depth stop, full depth of cut is 3/8".
The irons are hand forged and are sized 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 3/8, & 1/2 inch. I measured them, curious if they were metric or what. My 1/8 was undersized a couple thousandths, the 3/16 was oversized, and the rest were on size with English measurements. Take note though that the irons have kind of a dovetail shape to them and will get narrower with sharpening. I'm unsure if this is a big deal since when I make panels I end up fitting them to the groove anyway, not relying on a measurement. I can't comment on the quality of the steel at this time as I've only had the plane a short time but it seemed reasonable when sharpening.
|Bottom view, showing the skate and an iron. The little groove on the iron keeps it centered on the skate.|
|Screws removed from the top, rear rod removed.|
|Reassembled with the fence on the other side.|
|Proof of operation.|
So it plowed a groove and worked well. Is it as convenient as the Veritas? Well, not quite but it's quite usable. Blade depth adjustment is via hammer taps just like any other wedged plane while the Veritas has an adjuster. There is no depth stop as mentioned above. It takes 2 measurements to make sure the fence is parallel to the skate, whereas the Veritas fence sets parallel readily. The fence locks hold the setting well but may wear the rods over time. It takes a little time to find a comfortable hand hold, but I eventually settled on having my left hand fingers pushing the fence into the work and my right hand palm on the butt of the plane with my thumb to the left of the iron and my fingers around the rear rod on the right. It's comfortable but not as obvious as the tote on the Veritas.
My conclusion is that the MJF is a usable plane and a good value for the price. For the woodworker on a tight budget it may be the obvious choice. I'm going to work on figuring out a depth stop for it so you may see that in a future post. If I can do that reasonably I'll be adding at least one more of these to my student tool kits.