One of the joys of any road trip is the encounter of the unexpected. I had the good fortune to encounter some pieces of classic Australian post war hand tool manufacturing, in the form of two Falcon - Pope handplanes.
These are the less common F 5-1/2 and F 4-1/2. What a great opportunity for a mini-review.
These have spent the best part of the last sixty years in a trade college, but show signs of very little use, in spite of some running repairs to moving parts. The handles are dented and dinged about from rough storage - trade schools can be tough on tools.
Carter and Turner - other plane manufacturers in Australia.
The F 5-1/2 seems to be completely original, right down to its two piece depth adjuster yoke.
The F 4-1/2 has had a couple of modifications that, I assume, were essential replacements to keep it in service.
The most obvious of these is the addition of a Carter - Australia - Blade. Less obvious is the substitute depth adjuster wheel, and one piece yoke that engages the cap-iron.
I am guessing that these were added to replace "lost" items.
Both planes are well made, with flat bases and sides that are square to the soles. The frogs are made of cast iron, and on both, the sloped surface that supports the flat of the blade was well machined and completely co-planar. Later Pope planes had alloy frogs that were sometimes prone to bending - not so in this case.
The depth adjusters on both planes showed a certain amount of "slop" or play between the forward and backward engaged positions. The split yoke on the F 5-1/2 had around 2 full turns of the brass depth adjuster, the F 4-1/2, had only a little more than one. The solid yoke may account for this.
For comparison, here is the F 4-1/2 frog beside a 1920's Stanley frog. The Falcon Pope has a little lateral movement when the frog screws are loosened, where the Stanley has none. Stanleys of this era were among the best ever made, and their parts fitted together with very tight tolerances. The Falcon Pope tolerances are a little broader than that.
One thing that I have noticed on all Falcon Popes that I have seen, is the angled nature of the recesses for the frog screws.
The Stanley has recesses whose rear is at 90 degrees to the surface where the screws engage. The Falcon Pope's seem to be undercut. This does cause the screwdriver to jam against the frog when tightening the frog screws after adjusting the frog forward. Angling the screwdriver solves this, but it is impossible to engage the full flat of the screwdriver blade in the screw slots as a result.
The mouths of both Falcon Pope planes are square to the sides and a good size to accommodate the blades. They are more carefully machined and a more precise size than those of Stanleys that were being produced around the same time. They more closely resemble the quality mouths produced on Stanleys from a much earlier era.
Both of these planes have mouths that are the same size - it is the difference in blade thickness that creates the fineness shown here.
Falcon Pope blades are thicker than the standard Stanley offering, and the Carter blade found in the F 4-1/2 is thicker again.
Using these planes is quite a pleasure. Both of them are heavy - with thick castings. Compare the cheeks of the F 4-1/2 to those of the Stanley beside it in the picture - three above. A standard Stanley 4-1/2 plane weighs 4-3/4 lbs. The Falcon Pope F 4-1/2 tips the scales at 5-1/4 lbs .... quite a beast!
The mass of both of the Falcon Popes, ensures that they both absolutely breeze through timber in the planing process. Here is a piece of ropey old radiata pine that I set to with first the F 5-1/2 Jack, and then the smoother - the F 4-1/2.
Good thick chunky shavings from the F 5-1/2. Wood removed in short order - great fun.
Much thinner shavings from the F 4-1/2, and a quite acceptable finish. This from the Carter blade as found with no further honing.
For a quick comparison, here is my Bedrock 604-1/2 with a Lie Nielsen Blade, and the shaving that it produced. Much better.
Here is the result after honing the Carter blade. Virtually the same as the Lie Nielsen.
And look at that surface - glassy smooth.
Not too shabby at all.
These are very good planes, and well worth using in any workshop.
It is a shame that they were produced for such a short period of time, and that there are so few out there.
Finally, it is great to take pride in the fact that they were made right here in Oz.
For anyone looking for a very well made, Australian-built handplane, these can still be found at Sunday Markets and online auctions. Well worth the investment.
Happy shavings partners .....
.................... and happy woodworking to all ..............