This Dunlap #408 came to me in a lot of other planes, so being a bit of a Sargent fanatic, I decided to see what it would take to tune it. I’ve always found Sargent’s so much easier to tune than Stanley’s, but these just look……well…….cheap. Which in their defense, is about what Stanley’s of that era look like as well. And this one cost me almost $0, so I had nothing to loose.
Flattening the bottom was a bit of a challenge. I must say it was out quit a bit. It had a major dish right in the center. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but it took a little time to get it flat. I hoped it would become a smoother, so I wanted it reasonably co-planar!
But there is nothing to these frogs, so support seems unlikely, and there really isn’t anything to flatten. You do want to make sure the frog face and the back of the mouth are in line to get the best support. It may take a little fussing, but once you get it set, it’s set. Don’t even think of it as an adjustable frog, once that is all in line, that’s where it needs to be.
Taking some images from the “Sargent Bench Plane Identification Guide The #400/#5400/#1400 Series” we see that these are the same as the Golden Cutter and the final production models of the Sargent hand planes. That puts them after 1950.
I was a little frustrated after day one with this plane. It worked ok in easy wood, but once I broke out this ash and oak, I got some major tear out and it just never felt right.
But looking at the massive cast at the bottom I couldn’t help but think there was enough support where it is really needed. And adding to the theory that a hand plane is really just a holder for a blade, I was determined to make this thing work. I decided to order a Hock iron and chip breaker and see how that would work.
It’s worth mentioning here that I’ve always been an advocate that the chip breaker should be the first upgrade you make on a hand plane. I know that goes against the grain and the typical belief is you need a thicker blade, but bear with me. I can make you a believer.
I tried the chip breaker out of my #603 and saw some improvement. The iron and cutter from my #603 showed even better results, but it just wasn’t there yet. After all, these light weight chip breakers and irons need some backing, and this frog just doesn’t have it. The Bedrock chip breaker is from a day when things where a bit better, but they still lack mass. In the bedrock and earlier vintage planes, the mass doesn’t help much if the plane is tuned. We’re dealing with a different animal here.
I set it aside and left it for a couple of days. When I came back I resharpened the blade and got slightly better results, but after fiddling with the original chip breaker for way to long I gave up. I’ve always felt the Sargent chip breakers were slightly better than Stanley’s, but not this one. It had some major flaws I couldn’t work out. It was not square and just didn’t seem strong enough to withstand the pressure. I constantly got oak stuck up under it, even after adding some additional bend.
Then the Hock set showed up. Ron, you’re a wonderful guy!
I couldn’t help but just try the set. Folks, we now have a useful hand plane.
This was just opening the Hock set and placing them in the plane. I haven’t sharpened or honed them yet.
But next I wanted to try adding just the chip breaker along with the old iron.
Note this isn’t just oak. Its white oak with knots!
and Ash? No problem.
I did put the original set back in, and for ordinary lumber its probably ok, but to make this thing sing, add a Hock chip breaker.
I would then put a camber on the original and make it scrub some stuff! So Who’s going to be first to try that? Just a small camber so you don’t need to move the frog.
So we’ve proven two points here. These later Sargent planes are worth bringing home. $10 at the flea, and $35 for a Hock chip breaker and you’re good to go.
But I also must confess however, I did see an ever-so-slight difference with the Hock blade over the original one. These Dunlap blades are pretty thin. I’d suggest the Hock set and be the guy that can do wonders with a $5 Dunlap. You don’t need to mention the $65 add on when you’re LN buddies are scratching their heads in awe.
So I guess next time I make the statement about not needing an aftermarket iron and chip breaker I’ll be sure to clarify what I mean by “vintage plane”. In my mind I really don’t classify these as “vintage”, but I suppose……………………….
I kid you not! This may well replace my 603 in the shop.