A Milbro #4 Smoother

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originally posted 2011

I purchased this plane on ebay. I bought it because it was advertised as an aluminum plane, and I love my Stanley A5. Someday I’ll buy an A4, but they are a bit pricey. Other than materials and the cap, its almost identical to a Stanley. The frog is like a Stanley and is metal. The base seems to be some kind of aluminum, it looks like aluminum, but is heavy. This plane weights just as much as my Stanley #4. The knob and tote are also “aluminum” looking but heavy. A magnet does not stick.

Its not what I expected, but since I paid about $17 with shipping, I’ll just restore it up and use it.

I also can’t find anything on Milbro. The plane says “Made in England” on the base. Anybody know anything about these. An internet search has brought me nothing.

I’m sure once restored it will be a great user.

a magnet does NOT stick on the body.

after clean up.

I was again disappointed during the restore. Certain things like the lateral lever adjustment is plastic. With the “aluminum like” sole, it definitely wouldn’t be an every day user, I think it would wear quickly. The knob was made in 3 pieces, so polishing it was a pain(at one point I thought about painting the stupid thing). The tote didn’t like to seat properly going back on. At one point I almost threw it aside.

I was however pleasantly surprised when I tested it. It handles extremely nice. It seem to “smooth” really well. Holding it seems awkward and out of balance until its on the wood. Then it seems to know what its suppose to do. So it has won itself a test period. I’ll hang it beside the rest, and see how it goes.

Good points
The aluminum like handle and knob is cool. (not as cool as rosewood, but different).
It polishes shiny. Shiny distracts certain people.
It seems to work extremely well (much to my pleasant surprise).

So here are the bad points:
Its made from an aluminum like metal, so it dings and scratches (and will wear) faster than a “normal” plane.
The cap iron is made of the same material, so I had to “spring” it back to hold the iron.
It polishes shiny. Shiny distracts certain people. (me)
It makes my 6th #4.

I heard (and maybe wrong) that these were made in England just after the war, from the surplus alloy. MILBRO, which was the brand name used by Mills Brothers of Sheffield who made the no 4 plane just after WW2. It was made from ‘pot metal’ – a zinc or aluminum alloy – the only steel parts being the cap iron, cutting iron and screws! Not sturdy enough for tradesmen or heavy use and the alloy sole leaves black marks on the wood being planed. The Milbro brand was also used by a company called Millard Brothers who made and supplied hardware, tools, air rifles and catapults from early 1900’s in London. From 1950’s they concentrated on air rifles and catapults and fishing gear. Whether Mills Bros of Sheffield were suppliers to Millard Bros of London, allowing use of the brand is not known
Guessing they didn’t make too many of them.

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