At $160usd, I was not expecting much. I have seen various reviews on WoodRiver hand planes. Some were glowing, Rob Cosman, some were disappointing.
Some time back, I purchased a WoodRiver No. 1 smoothing plane. I wanted to evaluate the design, fit, finish, and performance of a WoodRiver Plane so why not add another No. 1 size plane to the shelf? I already had an antique Stanley No. 1 and a modern Union X0A No. 1 size bench plane. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
At $170usd, I was not expecting much. I have seen various reviews on WoodRiver hand planes. Some were glowing, Rob Cosman, some were disappointing. This seems to be true of any product these days.
My WoodRiver No. 1 plane arrived quickly, well packed and wrapped in VCI paper to prevent rust. Nice start! The plane had a thin coating of oil which was easily wiped away. Thank goodness it was not Cosmoline! I have been down that messy road before.
Initial appearance was surprisingly good. Nice hardwood handle and knob with attractive grain and finish. Brass depth adjusting nut and, to my surprise, a cast Y yoke! I fully expected the more cost effective stamped steel two piece Y yoke. A nicely embossed lever cap featuring the script WR trademark and a consistent black finish on the body. I suspect the finish is enamel rather than powder coating as found on Lie-Nielsen and Union planes. Not nearly as durable but it arrive without a scratch or chip.
Now to examine the machining. Here is where I really expected to see the differences in a moderate priced hand plane. I set about finding all the tooling marks and sharp edges. None! The plane is well machined with a very nice precision ground sole and cheeks. All parts have been deburred and the brass depth adjusting nut is nicely knurled and finished.
There is a low to average backlash in the depth adjuster/yoke/chip breaker slot combination, better than most antique Stanley planes and similar to my Lie-Nielsen planes. This is usually hit or miss depending on how all the tolerances of the various components line up.
Typical of No. 1 size bench planes, the WoodRiver has no lateral adjustment lever, there simply is not enough room between the handle (tote) and the iron. The iron and chip breaker appear slightly thicker than a typical Stanley, but not on par with the Lie-Nielsen or Union irons. But hey, this is a No. 1 size bench plane, are your really going to count on it to smooth your rock maple cabinet doors? Planes this size represent the pre-block plane era and are really designed for trimming a small through tenon or chamfering an edge. Jobs that are well managed by today's block planes. The No. 1 simply is more fun to grab from the till and put to use that a common block plane. Let's all admit it, as much as we love our No. 1 bench planes, they were surpassed in practical use by the block plane 100 years ago. Yes, I use my Stanley No. 1 and my Union X0A, and I will use the WoodRiver, but only because doing so feel special.
Bottom line, the WoodRiver No. 1 smoothing plane is a real bargain in today's world of $300-$1500 No. 1 size bench planes. It may not have the prestige of an antique Stanley, the flash of a bronze Lie-Nielsen, or the features of a modern adjustable mouth Union X0A, but if your budget does not allow for those expensive treats, don't hesitate to add the WoodRiver No. 1 plane to your toys....er.....tools.