Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Quangsheng Vs Lie Nielsen Bench Planes

A while ago I mentioned I was thinking about purchasing a Lie Nielsen no#5 Jack plane and also wanted a no#7. However, four months later I am still using my exceptionally crappy modern Stanley no#4 smoother and no#6 as a jointer / fore plane. With that in mind I have come to the conclusion that the preferred planes in my tool set would be a no#3 for smoothing, no#5 jack plane which could double as a large smoother if required and finally a no#7 for jointing and final flattening of stock.

I would probably only keep my crappy Stanleys for rough DIY type work or green wood etc.

In the perfect world I would love for all three planes to be made by Lie Nielsen, but at the following Axminster UK prices: no#3 £282, no#5 £282 and no#7 £369 - I simply cannot justify spending £933 - especially as a beginner! Can I?...

Having done a lot more research on plane manufacturers, I have discovered a UK company called Workshop Heaven who are selling planes made by Quangsheng at a fraction of the price of the Lie Nielsen ones. These planes are basically Lie Nielsen clones, based on the Stanley Bedrock design, complete with thick blades and 'improved' chip breakers 'a la' Lie Nielsen. The only constructional differences appear to be:
  • The  Quangsheng blades are T10 Carbon steel instead of A2 as used by Lie Nielsen. Some reviews have stated the Quangsheng blades are incredibly sharp and possibly sharper than A2 steel and hold a good edge.
  • The Lie Nielsen planes use bronze lever caps with the Quangsheng ones being brushed steel.
  • Lie Nielsen offer high angle frogs - whereas the only Quangsheng option would be putting a back bevel on the blade. I guess it's possible that the Lie Nielsen frogs might fit the Quangsheng planes?
Spot the difference...

According to the reviews I have found on the Internet and online wood working forum discussions, the Quangsheng planes are very good (albeit made in China) both in terms of construction, finish and performance, with some people stating there is very little difference between their Quangsheng planes and their Lie Nielsen planes. The biggest difference as far as I can tell is slightly tighter machine tolerances on the Lie Nielsen planes, translating in to slightly finer blade control.

The three planes listed above from Quangsheng would only cost £389 total, no#3 £90, no#5 £110 and the no#7 £190 - Wow!  That leaves a lot of change to buy some nice chisels....

I wrote to Workshop Heaven enquiring about the Quangsheng planes and they said:

'Officially the soles of all sizes are flat to 3 thou, although in practice they are typically better than half that.

We offer a lifetime guarantee on all of the tools we sell (your life not the tool's). I'm interested in regular happy customers, not a 100% record of never losing money on a deal.'

All in all they sound like a good buy...BUT ... would I regret buying them down the line?

So ... what to do?
Any readers own a Quangsheng plane or have any experience with them? Anyone know anything about them or can offer any advice - it would be greatly appreciated!

On a slightly different note - all progress on the Stools has been delayed due to me making the 'school boy error' of running out of glue - doh! I did intend to order some more glue online, but thought I might include a plane order...

Looking forward to your thoughts on the above...


upriver said...

I have no experience with these planes, but my own (admittedly self-righteous) politics and values just don't allow much if any purchase of Chinese goods. Its just wrong on every level, from their lack of environmental regulation in manufacturing to derailing domestic economies... If all you care about are the lowest possible prices and a workable tool, feel free, I can't argue but why not just seek out vintage Stanley or Record tools in that case?

I know this is perhaps a more emotional and philosophical issue for some than it needs to be, but thats my take on it. You will never regret a Lie-Nielsen purchase, and the same can likely be said of Veritas. I'd personally like to support the small high-quality tool makers, and barring that, support the used-tool sellers like Joshua Clark at (or whomever your national equivalent may be).

Simon (Boo). said...

Hi Upriver, I completely agree regarding the political and moral issue of buying from China.
I should be buying British - so thats basically Clifton. They are comparable in price to LN with flakey quality control. Vintage Stanleys - yeah ok, but its not cheap for a good one these days (especially a Bedrock) and even then its a gamble without trying them first.
If I could get LN at their published website prices (GBP equivalent)here in the UK - It wouldnt be such an issue I would buy LN in a second. But with import etc thats just not possible. I also wonder how close in quality the Quangsheng are to LN - if they are comparable I begin to question how much extra are we simply paying for the name LN at 3x the price?

This really is a tough think a No-Fuss-Tool Shroud will fit?

upriver said...

Ugh, I just looked at prices on Axminster vs LN (usa). You pay about $120 extra there (the price of an LN block plane). I see your reluctance is well-founded, as it is tough to justify the costs even here in the "cheap" US.

Some things to think about:

Will LN ship directly to you?

If so, are there tariffs? If not, what if an American friend sent you the tools?

Can you get Veritas tools there? In my experience they are every bit as capable as LN tools for a bit of a lower price. They are not always as gorgeous, but when it comes to working that is just fine.

For vintage tools, are you familiar with this list:

I would tell you that in USA you can wholly trust the hyperkitten tool company to identify a good user tool for you (and he'll take it back if you don't agree). Not sure if he will ship overseas but it is worth asking,

Maybe you should make a trip to Woodworking In America this fall and do some shopping!

Good luck, and I am sorry you have such a dilemma in finding your core tools.

Simon (Boo). said...

Cheers for the info, I'll check out the links. Yeah big price difference, I did a price comparison a while back.

I am pretty sure that even if I personally went shopping in the USA I would have to either be brave and dodge customs on my return or pay import duty + VAT tax, not to mention the flight costs. The same applies if they are posted directly to me from the USA. I will contact LN and find out for sure. I might reluctantly settle for a vintage Jack plane, but Id prefer new smoother / jointer.

Derek Cohen said...

Simon, I totally agree with Upriver - purchasing the Quangsheng tools is not only supporting those who do not care about copyrites and patents, but it places the original designers at risk financially. Why should Western companies go through all the design, testing and other pre-production work, which costs an arm and a leg, and then see their designs stolen and reproduced at a lower cost. There are reasons that the costs are lower, as outlined by Upriver. The bottom line is that when you purchase a tool from a company such as Quangsheng you are voting for all they support.

You have other choices. You could purchase LN or Veritas, which are expensive. If you cannot afford these, then purchase Clifton. Not only are the Clifton excellent and equal to the LN and Veritas in many ways, but you will be supporting your local economy. If you cannot afford these, then buy vintage Stanley. The fact that you cannot afford LN does not justify immoral acts.

Or make your own planes. That can be hugely fun and they can be just as good. Visit my website for information. Its free.

Regards from Perth

Derek Cohen

Simon (Boo). said...

Hi Derek, thanks for commenting, very interesting & informative website btw.

Like I said previously, I completely understand the morality of this decision, but it's not that simple is it. Is it even possible to be alive and not own a single thing that's 'made in China'?

If LNs cost the same as QS, I would buy LN - no problem. But they are 3X the price, not slightly more expensive or even twice as expensive, 3X! .. for essentially the 'same' thing.

Lets cover, the issue of design and innovation. Veritas is the only 'mainstream' company I know who design their own planes from scratch - still in the LN price bracket (slightly less expensive), but I just dont like the look of them - stupid I know. Im sure they are wonderful and I do have other Veritas kit and know their quality.

Lets be honest, LNs are self confessed clones of Stanleys, ok - albeit with different chip breakers but they are still basically Stanley Bedrocks as are QS planes, no difference.

I agree I should buy Clifton, but over here in the UK they are a comparable price to LN without the solid reputation for quality. A few well known wood workers have tested them and openly said the quality control is flakey. So why still pay a lot of money for an inferior product - I may as well go with LN (which I love).

Lastly, Vintage planes - sure you can get good vintage planes if you get lucky or want to do some metal work. Even then, you still couldn't get a mint condition, guaranteed flat, Stanley Bedrock design for the price of a QS plane. Sad but True...

Lastly, my money would be supporting a UK business - Workshop Heaven.

For the record, I did buy from a reputable company for the first two planes I purchased to start my woodworking journey - both Stanley - both 'made in China' - both crap!

Usually, anything made in China is pure crap - granted, but we can only go by reviews and research and in this case it looks like a Chinese company (who listens and acts on customer feedback) has pruduced a worthy quality product - as simple as that. Between a modern new Stanley and a QS, I'd take the QS!

Dont get me wrong I havent made up my mind yet and am looking into getting LN kit here in the UK for closer to US prices. If I could do that, no question I'd be the proud owner of a three LN planes.

Maybe LN should produce a range of their planes at QS prices with steel lever caps instead of the bronze - but, I wont hold my breath!

Until then, beginners like myself in the UK have very few options to obtain good quality kit at affordable prices.

Morality and political views aside, I would love to hear from someone who owns or who has experience with a Quangsheng plane.

Simon (Boo). said...

For the sake of others in the same dilemma or simply interested in this thread of conversation:

A regular reader contacted me offline as there were problems posting here and pointed out that the WoodRiver v3 planes which has had input from Rob Cosman is made by Quangsheng.

The reader also said "I've tried them out and while the finish is no where near as good, they are a good plane".

My reply - Hi there ... Thanks for taking the time to email. Yeah I did see the Rob Cosman uTube video of the QS (WoodRiver branded) v3, also reviewed highly by Shannon Rogers.

The Workshop Heaven QS is v4 has been further improved and has a better lateral adjuster (identical to LN) which is a properly machined component and is unbranded on the lever cap. Also the Y-yoke lever has been made larger which I think tightens the amount of backlash on adjustment. I also hear that David Charlsworth has had some input but have no details.

I didnt expect this to be a moral / political decision and more of a quality / value decision, but the more I learn about these QS planes the more Im torn.

Simon (Boo). said...

A post on exactly the same topic...

Derek Cohen said...

Hi Simon

Just to be clear, this is not about buying from China. The problem is not China, per se. The problem is buying from Quangsheng. The factory is well know in the industry for ripping off designs from other manufacturers. not just LN, but LV as well.

FWW magazine completed an investigation a few years ago. They examined a Stanley Bedrock, a LN and a Quangshang. It was apparent that the Quangshang were not copying the Stanley, but had taken a copy from the LN.

LN may produce planes based on the stanley. However the copyrite on Stanley ran out a hundred years ago and, more importantly, Stanley showed no interest in making the planes anymore.

I repeat, this is not about China. This is about supporting a company that rips off designs, designs that are paid for by other companies, small companies that rely on our support to stay in business. Support Quangshang by purchasing from them and you contribute to the undermining of these companies. It is as simple as that. Buying cheap is fueled by greed.

Regards from Perth


Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

Hi there Simon!

Quangsheng has just showed up on my google tool search and it got me confused as it probably did to many woodworkers, I have found a post by which has cleared my mind a little, hope this info helps you out.

Tim said...

I know this is a but late to post - but just thought I would add an observation: a LN 5 1/2 Jack will do almost anything you might need in a workshop. I bought this model after much deliberation and advice from some seasoned cabinet makers... I found they were not wrong. Five years later and I still have not bought a smoother or jointer - the 5 1/2" is just so versatile !

Unknown said...

Hi there friends across the pond.
It looks like these planes are identical version of the Woodriver planes sold in the US without the brand name on the cap iron.
The tolerance on these tools are not as tight as LN or Veritas rightfully so, hence the price difference, however (I own a few), they're great tools despite the ripoff. If you have a problem with that, I suggest, you have Record planes in the UK that are good quality or restore an OLD Stanley, there is a lot of good literature How too and a lot of videos on YouTube including respectfully your own native Paul Sellers, I'm a great admirer of him, met him and saw demos at Woodworkers show, great man and top notch Craftsman/Teacher of woodworking, he recommends to restore and use the Stanley's for every woodwork, his favorite is a #4 or #4 1/2 which I did restore and I'm getting shavings of <0.001" in hard maple.
If you have the dough, than there is noting wrong to own the best but, for the rest of us, there is a great satisfaction (IMHO) in restoring a tool to work with, you probably never going to sell that tool and pass it down to your family or someone who will value and appreciate the effort you invested in it and the great pieces you created with it.
Cheers and good luck.

Unknown said...

I've been using Woodriver planes for a while now and have had no problems. They are better quality than current Stanley planes and cost a lot less than LN. If I had the money to buy LN, I would, but I don't and that's the reality of my situation.

I've also purchased two Anant Kamal planes and have not been happy with either of them.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I've been reading this with great interest as I'm in the market for a new block plane, an I too have stumbled across the Chinese dilema.
Where as I hate rip of artists with regards to copying designs, I in no way can afford the beauties of Lie Neilson or Veritas, and although they may be 'the mustard' so to speak, in their own way their pricing creates the opportunity for the Chinese brands to prosper, especially if they are doing a good job of reproduction.

The bottom line is, if I could afford it there would be no question, but as both a begginer, and someone who doesn't have a spare couple of hundred quid, these Chinese planes are produced at a more realistic price, and while you may be paying for quality with the others, you also end up paying for the branding and the priveledge of owning one. This boulsters the Chinese market, especially if they manage to produce a consistently good product.

So the answer I look for is if the product is any good and no longer if it has ripped of someones design in the process. If it can be done cheaper then theres more money for a decent sharpening stone.

Unknown said...

Please don't buy Chinese. Build up a collection of older Bailey planes as I have done; you will find most, with a little fettling make excellent tools. My only criticism of the old Stanley planes is that the irons are a little thin and of variable quality. This can be rectified by using a laminated Japanese iron.
The Chinese play foul with our manufacturers, they use what amounts to slave labour and allow no dissent. I do my best to avoid buying their products, including clothing and electronics.

Unknown said...

Hi all, I'm sorry to join the debate so late & I doubt I have anything to contribute that no one else hasn't already, but having just qualified as a bench joiner in London as part of a two year fine woodwork diploma, acquiring tools that will last on in to my career is a hot topic for me.

So far I've managed to build up a small but high quality collection of tools, I don't have a lot of money to spend as paying course fees is the dominant drain on my funds at the moment, so I've tried to choose carefully & spend money wisely. I firmly believe in the old mantra 'buy cheap, buy twice', as I've found this to be true even in my limited experience. So when I wanted a smoother, I went all out & invested in the ultimate tool for life, a LN bronze No. 4. It is a beauty, the extra weight helps it glide & it is simply a pleasure to use & I can approach any smoothing task knowing that with this tool, if I have the skill, then I have the potential to get the finish as good as it's possible to get it. I also figured, in the grand scheme of things, when weighed against other aspects of life that can cost the same, it actually isn't THAT much for something this well made that stands to last three lifetimes if looked after. Some people readily spend the same amount on a flight, a weeks holiday, even a fancy meal which is gone in no time.

However, I'm now in the market for a good block plane & I don't currently have the funds to buy a LN or Veritas, mother do I have the time to wait for the right vintage plane to come along (these are rarely any cheaper anyway), or indeed to spend the time getting it performing correctly, flattening the sole, replacing any dodgy parts etc. I need a block plane I can use within the next two days because a job has just come in & I'm fairly certain I'm not the first new woodworker to find themselves in a similar position, so while moral considerations are important it can often mean the difference between getting the job and not getting the job, so while there are planes of acceptable quality that are affordable what would those against buying say, a Quangsheng plane suggest someone in my position does?

Are you saying those who can't afford LN/Veritas but need something good quickly should simply turn down work in order to not support Quangsheng?

In addition, I don't see spending time getting an old plane up to scratch as an obvious or always viable option. This is a skill in itself & if attempted by a beginner there's every chance they'll make a hash of it & end up making it worse. There's been a lot of discussion about the fine tolerances found in products from LN/Veritas & how they have spent years & invested a lot in producing tools that are the best, if this is a task that requires years of R&D, lots of money & experience to achieve then how likely is it a woodworker (end user) spending a couple of days drawing a crowned/hollowed plane across a flat piece of granite with sand paper stuck to it will ever get their plane to perform at the desired level when compared to using a LN plane? The two paths are simply not akin & it's unhelpful to suggest doing this as a viable alternative to splashing out on a LN.

Ok I've said my bit, & I still don't know what to do, I'll probably end up getting myself in financial difficulty & just buying the LN or Veritas...although I must say the over engineered nature of some of Veritas' products often winds me up, especially their honing guide...what a disaster!? But if I do, it won't be because I disagree with companies producing cheaper alternatives, it'll be because I don't want to be a year down the line wondering if I'd be getting a better finish if I'd just bought the damned Lie Neilsen!

Best of luck finding the right tool for the job, whoever makes it!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Unknown said...

I have no experience with the China made planes, That said I have three LN planes. I have theBronze block plane, a small should plane and my wife just bought me a large closed throat router plane. I a month or so I'm going to their shop and but a Carcass saw, Low angle Jack plane and a bronze edge plane. I knew their expensive, but their greta people to deal with and once you use their products you want only their tools.
They work so well, appreciate in value and I feel make my woodworking better and more enjoyable. I equate
it to like taking a beautiful vacation that just keeps going on and on. Buy them You'll thank later!


Unknown said...

I currently have the Woodriver 4, 4 1/2, 6, and 62 low angle. Are the good planes? Yes all were flat to within .0015 inch and the blades just needed minor honing. The tote and know are comfortable and the blade adjustment has very little backlash. These are all the Version 3 as they were built after Rob Cosman helped to re-develop them. Are they a tool that can last a lifetime? I would say yes with the only difference between them and a Lie Neilsen would be the extra price you pay for the name and very minor differences in machining. I can easily take .001 shavings on hard maple after the first tune up. T10 steel is basically the Chinese version of 1095 High Carbon steel. Because it does not have chromium in it the grain structure is finer and can be sharpened finer than A2. But the Chromium adds wear resistance so with the T10 you might have to sharpen a bit more often on abrasive wood.

Unknown said...

Sorry I realise this is an old thread, but my teacher has recommended dictum tools as a good cheap alternative to LN and veritas. Buying mine for Christmas (that way I'm guaranteed at least one decent present!)

Unknown said...

Dictum planes are Quangsheng..

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