Steel Nut Bench Planes 1954 to 1961

 Original WW bench planes are those manufactured in “The Woden” factory of the Steel Nut & Joseph Hampton Ltd., Wednesbury
 Staffordshire, between 1954 and early 1961. The full range of Woden bench planes were introduced in catalogue 52e of 1954.
 See Woden plane line up in the History Page and catalogue IMG's 0001 and 0002.


IMG 0001
SNJH/Woden smooth and jack planes from Cat. 52E


IMG 0002
Woden  fore and jointer planes




  The first planes known to be advertised in the popular press were
  sizes W4 and W5,
in ‘The Woodworker’ magazine issues of 1954/55.
  See IMG's 0003 and IMG 0004.

  All the planes were manufactured to the Stanley Bailey pattern.

  Sizes W4 and W5 shared the same 2 inch cutter, frog, lever cap and
  cutter  adjustment mechanisms.
  W5 body castings were larger, as were the knobs.
  The W5 handle also incorporated a brass toe screw and cup
  Sizes W4-1/2, W5-1/2, W6 and W7 had larger cutters
  (2-3/8 inches), a common frog size for the cutter and also more
  substantial body castings.
  Similarly priced to Record and Stanley, these planes were
  based on the earlier bench plane range from W.S Manufacturing
  which SNJH acquired around 1952.

  They were substantially made and accurately machined.
   “These planes are made to the highest standards of
   British Engineering”.


   IMG 0003

 W4 as advertised in 1954


IMG 0004
Woden W5 as advertised in 1955

 Names for bench plane parts:

 Planemakers used a variety of names for the various parts.

 The following table lists the Woden parts for bench planes which are copies of Stanley originals.  The names originate from Woden catalogues,
 spare parts list (S.P.L.) or Woden plane instruction leaflets.  The part numbers are those given in Stanley catalogues of the same vintage.
 Other makers, for example Record, also used these part numbers.  The Stanley names and those used by other makers and/or common names
 are also  given.  See table 001

part number Stanley name(s) Woden name(s) Other names

3 cap screw cap iron screw
4 lever clamping plate with lever or
lever cap
(with cam)
cap iron
5 lever screw lever cap screw
6 frog complete frog complete or frog  
7 “Y” adjusting Lever Y adjusting lever yoke (cut adjusting mechanism)
8 adjusting nut adjusting nut depth adjuster, cut adjuster
8-1/2 adjusting nut screw  
9 lateral adjusting lever lateral adjusting lever lateral adjuster
10 frog screw and washer frog  screw
11 plane handle plane handle tote
12 plane knob knob handle knob
13 handle bolt and nut plane handle stud handle screw
14 knob bolt and nut knob handle stud knob screw
15 handle toe screw  
16 plane bottom body Body casting, bed
17 frog clip and screw frog clip screw (with clip)
46 frog adjusting screw frog adjusting screw
  Stanley single Iron cutting iron, single or
blade, iron
  Stanley double iron
(includes backing iron)
cutting  Iron, double
(includes cap iron)
(back iron, cap iron, top iron,
 chip breaker)
Table 001
bench plane parts

 Comparison with earlier WS planes:

 After taking over W.S in 1952, SNJH took time to set up a production line for bench planes, a new product for the company.
 According to the catalogues, all parts were made in The Woden factory which included a foundry, steel & screw works and laboratory.

 It is evident that its planes were derived from W.S, retaining some earlier features and changing the materials and finish of others.
 W.S bodies had rounded side tops.  The Woden body shape (W4) was similar to late W.S examples with a more gradual rounding down
 to the toe and a slope to the heel. See IMG's 0005 and 0006.


IMG 0005
Woden W4 side elevation for comparison


IMG 0006
W.S A4

 The Woden bodies were more uniform than W.S with no grinding marks and ground square top edges. These edges and the toe were

 W.S paintwork was lighter in shade with a hint of purple. Woden paintwork was darker.
 W.S planes had the earlier pre-war Stanley type frog receiver with unbroken transverse surfaces for the frog.  The frog receiver on Woden
 planes was the later Stanley type with split bearing surfaces for the underneath of the frog.

 W.S had the pre-war style Stanley parallel sided, continuous surface bed type frog, similar to Record.  Woden had an ‘Ogee’ side shaped
 frog from first introduction.   Substantial round headed frog screws seen on late W.S examples were used by Woden for all sizes.

 The W.S brass lever cap and knurled headed lever cap screw were replaced with parts in chromium plated steel. 
 Very early Woden planes had cutters with sharp angles to the top corners, as per W.S and early to mid-1950's examples by Record,
 Stanley and other manufacturers.  W.S and others used a stamping method  to mark their cutters (see IMG 0007), but Woden
 used a shallow surface printing process. See IMG 0014.

wsa4cuttermarkings   W.S and Woden cap irons were similar with the same top edge profile.
   W.S included its intertwined brand mark on the cutter face, together with
   cutter grinding angle instructions on the top of the cap iron.
   Woden cap irons were not marked.

   All Woden cutter depth adjustment wheels were made of brass and
   marked “ON OFF CUT” with directional arrows.  W.S adjustment
   wheels were not marked.

   W.S planes had the “Y”adjusting lever as a 2-piece pressed steel part,
   sometimes ebonised. Woden planes had a single piece, cast and
   painted part.
   The more substantial pressed steel lateral lever seen on later W.S was
   used by Woden for all sizes. However, the Woden part was
   chromium plated with a circular disc, rather than a rectangular profile
   to engage the double iron.

   W.S wood parts were mostly beech, finished in a clear or natural
   lacquer. Woden handles are flat sided, similar to W.S, but finished in
   dark stained lacquer with a more glossy finish. Woden retained the
   brass toe screw and washer of the larger W.S planes, fitted to the
   handles of all planes, apart from W4.

  IMG 0007, showing W.S markings on cutter and cap iron.
 The small parts fitted to W.S planes, lateral levers, screws, etc., varied over time and either had no protective finish, or were ebonised.
 Original Woden parts were consistent throughout the manufacturing period, with a protective finish.

 Woden sizes in detail:

 The description of individual parts that follow use Woden part names wherever possible, but see Table 001 above.

 Size No. W4:

 The smallest Woden smoothing plane and by far the most popular size sold.  IMG 0008 shows an original W4, an early production


IMG 0008 (above), an early Woden W4


IMG 0009 (right), showing the plane partly dismantled

 IMG 0009 shows the plane dismantled for sharpening the cutter, showing the main parts.  The user would not normally remove the
 frog, but this has been shown for clarity.  Should you wish to thoroughly clean, repair or restore the plane, it can be dismantled into 24
 individual parts.


 Woden body castings were made from “the highest quality close grained cast iron" and finished in “Woden blue high temperature stoving
 enamel”. The paint colour was very similar to Record (roundel blue). Length 9-3/4 inches (245mm), width 2-7/16 inches (61 mm),
 weight 3-3/4 pounds (about 1.8Kg). The sole thickness is nominally 5/32 inches (4 mm) and the sides 1/8 inch (3.2 mm), but this did vary
 slightly with finish grinding of different batches of parts. On this example, at the rear of the mouth where the cutter is supported, the
 thickness reduces to about 3/32 inches (2.5 mm), the same as the sides.


IMG 0010
W4 body showing side thichkness and cast marks

 IMG 0010 shows the Woden brand identification cast into the body, the seating for the knob and handle, and the frog receiver.

   IMG 0011 shows the frog receiver in detail.
   Note the end milling on the bearing surfaces for the underneath
   of the frog.


  The frog is cast iron and of the "ogee" sided type with a single
  number mark on the right hand side.  See IMG's  0012
  and 0013.

  This type of frog was designed to reduce friction between the
  cutter and its bed on the frog, whilst retaining maximum cutter
  support . Woden was one of the first British manufacturers to
  introduce it in 1954. Some cutter beds have a single lower
  inset pane across the lower width. Others have two panes.
  The underneath mating surfaces were well machined with a
  slight overspill of paint on some examples.

IMG 0011
W4 frog receiver detail

 After assembly, some mid production frogs were coated with a clear protective lacquer.


IMG 0012
Early 2 inch frog face

IMG 0013
2 inch frog undersides

IMG 0014
Early cutter, top profile and marking

 Lever Cap and Screw:

  Woden lever caps were chromium plated steel.  IMG’s 0014 and 0015, show the front and reverse of a typical lever cap.  The front and
 sides are smooth; the reverse is rough but plated.  The spring steel plate to secure the lever cap on the cap iron (operated by the lever
 cam), is smooth chromium plated steel.  The ‘WODEN’ brand name was cast into the face below the orifice and was surrounded by a
 painted red background.  Some very early lever caps have an indistinct 9/32 inch (7 mm.) flat across the lower inside edge.

 (see Dating Page).

IMG 0014
2 inch lever cap, front view

IMG 0015
2 inch lever cap, rear view

 The lever cap screw has a 24 tpi 9/32 inch USA UNF thread, in common with other vintage planes, and is chromium plated steel.
 The screw has a distinct  chamfer and “waist” underneath the screw head.  The orifice for the screw is about 21 x 12 mm.  This ensures
 that the lever cap cannot be tightened in an incorrect position after replacing the cutter, as it cannot slide down to be locked by the cam
 unless the screw is approximately in the correct postion.  See IMG 0016.


IMG 0016
Woden lever cap screw

IMG 0017
Woden cap iron screw

IMG 0019
Depth adjustment
 wheel marking

 Cutter and cap iron:

 All Woden cutters were "Finest Sheffield crucible cast steel, hardened and specially tempered”.  Cutters were “precision ground and
 individually tested for the correct hardness”. The cutter would have been shaped, ground, hardened and tempered at the factory,
 before final testing and marking. See IMG 0014.  On 2 inch cutters, the measurement from ground edge to adjustment slot was
 approximately 1-7/8 inches, giving a maximum of about 1-1/2 inches of usable cutter.


IMG 0018
Cap iron profile

 The cutter and cap iron share the same top edge profile with sharp corners. Unlike other makers, the Woden cap iron shows no identity
 marks. The cap iron has a distinct round shape at the cutter face end which serves to exert good pressure on the back of the cutter.
 See IMG 0018. The cap iron remained the same throughout production but the cutter top profile and finish did vary. The cap iron screw
 was always a knurled and blued steel finished slotted screw, 18 tpi. 5/16 BSW thread. See IMG 0017.

 Cutter adjustment and small parts:

 Cutter depth adjustment on Woden planes is by means of a cast brass adjustment wheel, 1-1/4 inches diameter, moving on a left hand
 threaded adjustment screw.  The adjustment wheel is marked "ON OFF CUT" with directional arrows. See IMG 0019. The “Y” lever is a
 painted wishbone shaped casting.
Lateral adjustment is by means of a substantial chrome plated lever, formed into a “U” shape at the
 finger end. The lever is riveted into the top of the frog. Unlike other planes, the rivet is countersunk into the back of the frog and finished
 flush. See IMG 0021.

 The Frog adjuster screw, frog clip and screw are chromium plated steel. The screws are cheese headed and bevelled.
 The frog clip is angled backwards to make a right angled connection with the slot in the frog adjuster screw. See IMG 0020.
 Frog screws were always substantial round headed screws “treated with an anti-rust process”.


IMG 0020
Depth adjuster, "Y" lever,
Frog adjuster, clip and screw

IMG 0021
Woden chrome plated
lateral lever

 With the exception of the lever cap screw and cap iron screw which had threads in common with other manufacturers, all other Woden
 screw threads were 26 tpi, inch BSF.

 Wood parts and fittings:

 Woden plane handles were dark lacquered beech with a smooth gloss finish.  The finish did vary slightly but is, perhaps, best described as
 dark mahogany, maturing to chestnut brown. They are well contoured with flat sides.
The handle is screwed into the body and there is a
 locating stud on the body which fits into the base of the handle. The knob is also well contoured and the base fits into a boss on the plane
 body. The steel rods which secure the handle and knob have brass nuts with straight sides and a mushroomed top for the screwdriver slot.
 See IMG 0022.
The WODEN brand transfer slide sticker was always affixed to the top rear handle surface.  See IMG 0023.


IMG 0022
W4 wood parts and studs


IMG 0023
Woden brand transfer slide
affixed to top of handle

 Size No. W5:

 The smallest Woden jack plane. Length 14 inches long (355 mm.), weight 5 lbs. (about 2.3 Kg.).

 IMG 0024 shows a late example with a new improved cutter (NIC).


IMG 0024
A late example W5 with NIC.

 W5 has identical parts to W4, apart from the body casting, handle and knob. The body has flat transverse strengthening ribs at the toe
 and heel which are 7/32 inch (5.5mm) wide.  It has a raised platform at the rear to accept the handle. The platform has two screw sockets,
 one for a toe screw and the same pillar as W4 for the handle stud. There is also a strengthening rib from the front of the handle platform
 to the back of the frog.  See IMG 0025.


IMG 0025
Rear of W5 body showing strengthening ribs
and raised platform for larger handle.

IMG 0026
W5 knob and  handle with toe fittings

 As described above, the handle base is longer and the handle front is secured to the body with a brass toe screw and cup washer.
 The handle is the same height as W4 but it has a more curved profile at the front, flattening out to accept the washer and screw.

 The knob is also slightly larger than W4, at 70mm in height and a maximum 40 mm in diameter. See IMG 0026.

 Size  No W4-1/2:

 The larger or “heavy” smoothing plane.
 W4-1/2 is the smallest plane with a 2-3/8 inch (60 mm.) cutter.
It is 10 inches (254 mm.) long and weighs 5 lbs. See IMG 0027


IMG 0027
An early W4-1/2 complete with instructions and packaging.

 The body sides are thicker than W4 but similar to W5 with the same handle platform details. The handle and knob are the same as W5.
 The frog is wider to accept the larger cutter and has a two vertical lower pane arrangement instead of a single lower pane.

 There is also a break in the bearing surfaces above the lever cap screw. See IMG 0028. The lever cap is also wider and all 2-3/8 inch
  lever caps had an indistinct 9/32 inch (7 mm.) flat across the inside lower edge. See IMG 0029 and the Dating Page for more information.

 All other parts are the same as W4/W5.


IMg 0028
2-3/8 inch frog face


IMG 0029
2-3/8 inch lever cap, rear view
The indistict 'flat' at the bottom is clearly visible

 Size No. W5-1/2:

 The larger or “heavy” Jack Plane.
 W5-1/2 has identical parts to W4-1/2 apart from the body casting. This is similar to W5 but is 15 inches long (381 mm.) and weighs 6 lbs.
 (2.7 Kg.). It has substantially thick sides at around 3.5 mm to 4 mm.  See IMG 0030. The Under handle mark on this size is bigger
 (9/32 inches or 7 mm.) than all the other sizes.

 All other parts are the same as W4-1/2.

 Sizes No.  W6 and W7:

 Fore plane W6 is 18 inches long (452 mm.) and weights 8lbs. (3.64 Kg.)
 Otherwise, parts are identical to W5-1/2.  See IMG 0030.

 Jointer plane W7 is 22 inches long (554 mm.) and weights 8-3/4 lbs. (4 Kg.).
 Otherwise, parts are identical to W6. See IMG 0032.


IMG 0030
A collection of larger Woden planes
left to right, W6, W5-1/2, W5 and W4-1/2

 Other differences:

 On the bodies of sizes W5, W5-1/2, W6 and W7, the “W” in Woden is large, the same vertical height as the size number. 
 There is less room on W4 and W4-1/2 bodies, so the “w” is smaller. Also on the larger bodies “No” appears before the size number but
 “No” on W4 and W4-1/2, to fit around the knob boss. On W5, “No” appears but the significance of this difference, if any, is unknown.

 As the size number and body size increases, there is a proportionally larger throat, the distance between the front of the mouth and the
 transverse rib behind the size identification at the front of the casting. See IMG 0031.


IMG 0031
Size number cast marks on larger bodies
Also showing how depth of throat increases with size


IMG 0032
The Woden W7

 Corrugated base or “C” sizes:

 All SNJH Woden bench planes were available with corrugated bases.

 As far as is known, the body castings did not include the suffix “C” as indicated in the catalogues and price lists, so it is assumed that the
 corrugations were machined into the soles of standard sizes as ordered. These planes are extremely rare.


 IMG 0033 shows the Woden Plane Instructions for bench planes.


IMG 0033
Extract from Woden Plane Instructions

benchplaneperormanceimage  Woden planes easily accomplish the design objectives of all sizes in
 all types of timber.

 With the cutter prepared as per the Woden instructions, a shaving thickness
 of about 2 to 3 thousands of an inch may be obtained.  This equates to the
 typical error in the flatness of the sole and is an excellent result for a 1950’s
 vintage tool.

 If you wish, and depending on the timber and type of planing operation to be
 performed, performance may be improved by flattening the sole, tuning up the
 frog-cutter mating surfaces and closing up the mouth with the fine frog

 A thicker cutter also improves performance and the new improved cutter
 (NIC) found in later examples performs really well, especially if both edge
 surfaces are given a ‘mirror’ finish. 

 There are some negatives, as in all tools in volume production.

 Generally, body castings have an excellent smooth finish but there are
 early examples with a rough finish to the sides with coarse radial grinding
 marks, where finish grinding has not been carried out.

 On most examples, the top of the lateral lever is only a friction fit to the
 rivet at the top of the frog.  This is not a problem when the tool is in use but such
 levers may fall off when the cutter is removed  for sharpening.  Over time,
 some users have attempted to cure this problem by peening or mushrooming
 the top of the rivet.

 There can be some lost motion in the lateral adjustment on some examples,
 as the circular end of the adjustment lever may be quite narrow in relation to the
 width of the slot in the cutter. As with all Bailey pattern planes, after adjusting the
 cutter to reduce depth of cut, take care to advance the adjusting wheel
 clockwise to take up any slack in the mechanism.  

 Planes made from the mid 1950’s have a smooth and lacquered finish to
 both sides of the cutter and cap iron.  This has the advantage of protecting the
 metal, but makes it tricky to mate the two components together after
 sharpening as the cap iron can slip too near the cutting edge as the
 cap iron screw is tightened.

 As with most vintage grey iron castings, the body is quite brittle so If the plane
 is dropped, it may break or fracture, typically around the
area of the mouth or
 side cheeks.
Take care to handle and use the plane with two hands to avoid
 damage by fracturing the handle at
its weak point, the "short grain" at its base.
 This is particularly important with the larger, heavier sizes.

IMG 0034
A late Woden planes advert
from The Woodworker, 1960/61


 There are some examples with an unusual  finish such as the rounding to the bottom corners of lever caps from around mid 1954.
 This aids the clearance of
 shavings from the mouth but, unfortunately, was not retained. It could have prevented ‘chipping’
 to the brittle corners of the part.

 Buying a Woden Bench Plane:

 The best Woden planes to buy as 'Users' are from the mid production period (1955/57) as described in the Dating Page.
 This is confirmed by the number of consistent quality examples from this period with Woden factory parts.
 Around mid 1957, the New Improved Cutter (NIC) was introduced in the 2-inch size for W4 and W5. A mid production plane with this cutter
 is the very best example. To date, no 2-3/8 inch NIC's have been identified.  If you want one of the larger sizes, a more substantial
 carbon steel or A2 cutter can be fitted.

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