Irwin Record No. 7 Jointer 2 3/8in

Wednesday 11 July 2018

When was the last time you used a jointer? For me it was when I was training to be a joiner, far more years ago than I care to remember. And, as a woodworker who likes to think he's OK with the hand tools, I thought it was high time I tested one.

Obviously, the first requirement for a jointer it to have a completely flat sole. One of the criticisms levelled at the lower end of the plane market, is the quality of the casting. So, what of this one?

In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised. The sides and sole were nice and square for shooting and I would say the plane was a fraction out over its length. I was fearing worse.

Anyways, I found the flattest area in our workshop… an aluminium extrusion on the table saw, spray-mounted wet and dry on this bed, and gave the sole a good rubbing through the grits, and you can see the results.

There were definite high spots on the very front edge of the plane, and at the back, and around the mouth. As I've said, these were only a fraction out, so a bit of work sorted the sole.

Then it came to sharpening the blade. This is the other area of contention in modern planes, the thickness and hardness of the blade steel. Well, it is what it is, so I went to work flatting the back. As you can see from the picture, the back of the blade was really quite concave, and it needed a lot of work to get the first few millimetres of the blade completely flat.

The whole purpose of a jointer is to plane long, flat surfaces, so a perfectly flat blade with no hollow in the cutting edge is essential.

Anyways, then to setting up the plane. It's all fairly standard, with a screw knob to hold down the cap iron, and a large slotted screw to hold the chip-breaker to the blade.

I put two long purpleheart boards side-by-side in the vice, and planed them together.

There's very little play in the blade height setting wheel, and it took no time to get the plane cutting beautifully. And, though I'm rusty with this plane, it only took me a few strokes to produce a joint that butted up beautifully.

The verdict

For the money, I don't think anyone can complain. It required tuning up of course, but, crucially, I got the results I wanted. To be honest, the blade was more of a disappointment than the body, but with work the plane did the job it was designed for. The two boards I planed for butt jointing fitted together beautifully, and the blade kept its edge really quite well.