Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Falcon Pope Hand Planes - A Small Review

One of the joys of any road trip is the encounter of the unexpected.  I had the good fortune to encounter some pieces of classic Australian post war hand tool manufacturing, in the form of two Falcon - Pope handplanes.
These are the less common F 5-1/2 and F 4-1/2.  What a great opportunity for a mini-review.



These have spent the best part of the last sixty years in a trade college, but show signs of very little use, in spite of some running repairs to moving parts.  The handles are dented and dinged about from rough storage - trade schools can be tough on tools.

 Falcon Handplanes were introduced just after World War II in 1946, and had ceased manufacture in 1956 - a very short history to be sure.  Yet they were an essential part of Australia's post-war development and housing boom. They were contemporaries of  Carter and Turner - other plane manufacturers in Australia.

The F 5-1/2 seems to be completely original, right down to its two piece depth adjuster yoke.

The F 4-1/2 has had a couple of modifications that, I assume, were essential replacements to keep it in service.

The most obvious of these is the addition of a Carter - Australia - Blade.  Less obvious is the substitute depth adjuster wheel, and one piece yoke that engages the cap-iron.
I am guessing that these were added to replace "lost" items.



Both planes are well made, with flat bases and sides that are square to the soles.  The frogs are made of cast iron, and on both, the sloped surface that supports the flat of the blade was well machined and completely co-planar.  Later Pope planes had alloy frogs that were sometimes prone to bending - not so in this case.
 The depth adjusters on both planes showed a certain amount of "slop" or play between the forward and backward engaged positions.  The split yoke on the F 5-1/2 had around 2 full turns of the brass depth adjuster, the F 4-1/2, had only a little more than one.  The solid yoke may account for this.


For comparison, here is the F 4-1/2 frog beside a 1920's Stanley frog.  The Falcon Pope has a little lateral movement when the frog screws are loosened, where the Stanley has none.  Stanleys of this era were among the best ever made, and their parts fitted together with very tight tolerances.  The Falcon Pope tolerances are a little broader than that.

 One thing that I have noticed on all Falcon Popes that I have seen, is the angled nature of the recesses for the frog screws.

The Stanley has recesses whose rear is at 90 degrees to the surface where the screws engage.  The Falcon Pope's seem to be undercut. This does cause the screwdriver to jam against the frog when tightening the frog screws after adjusting the frog forward.  Angling the screwdriver solves this, but it is impossible to engage the full flat of the screwdriver blade in the screw slots as a result.


The mouths of both Falcon Pope planes are square to the sides and a good size to accommodate the blades.  They are more carefully machined and a more precise size than those of Stanleys that were being produced around the same time.  They more closely resemble the quality mouths produced on Stanleys from a much earlier era.

Both of these planes have mouths that are the same size - it is the difference in blade thickness that creates the fineness shown here.


Falcon Pope blades are thicker than the standard Stanley offering, and the Carter blade found in the F 4-1/2 is thicker again.

Using these planes is quite a pleasure.  Both of them are heavy - with thick castings.  Compare the cheeks of the F 4-1/2 to those of the Stanley beside it in the picture - three above.  A standard Stanley 4-1/2 plane weighs 4-3/4 lbs. The Falcon Pope F 4-1/2  tips the scales at 5-1/4 lbs ....   quite a beast!

The mass of both of the Falcon Popes,  ensures that they both absolutely breeze through timber in the planing process.  Here is a piece of ropey old radiata pine that I set to with first the F 5-1/2 Jack, and then the smoother - the F 4-1/2.


Good thick chunky shavings from the F 5-1/2.  Wood removed in short order - great fun.


Much thinner shavings from the F 4-1/2, and a quite acceptable finish. This from the Carter blade as found with no further honing.


For a quick comparison, here is my Bedrock 604-1/2 with a Lie Nielsen Blade, and the shaving that it produced.  Much better.



Here is the result after honing the Carter blade. Virtually the same as the Lie Nielsen.
And look at that surface - glassy smooth.
Not too shabby at all.

 Instead of the traditional japanning, these planes have a painted stippled finish that is quite pleasing to the eye. On these two planes it is still near complete after sixty odd years, showing little - if any - wear. Obviously this was a quality choice by the original manufacturers.

These are very good planes, and well worth using in any workshop.
It is a shame that they were produced for such a short period of time, and that there are so few out there.


Finally, it is great to take pride in the fact that they were made right here in Oz.
For anyone looking for a very well made, Australian-built handplane, these can still be found at Sunday Markets and online auctions.  Well worth the investment.

Happy shavings partners .....
.................... and happy woodworking to all ..............


23 comments:

  1. "yoke" is a semicircular loose tie from one part of a mechanism to another. "yolk" is what eggs have in the middle.

    Last I taught, we did English at trade schools.

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  2. Thank you anonymous.
    We don't make omlettes without breaking eggs, and a small dose of humility does none of us any harm.
    Spelling mistakes attended to.
    "Inner peace - bring it on ......." Kung-Fu Panda 2

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  3. Thanks for this good review about Falcon Pope planes. I had seen them sometimes in ebay auctions but I thought they were not very good. Now I'll look at them with a more positive eye.
    Ciao
    Giuliano

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    Replies
    1. Falcon Pope have been treated as undeserved poor cousins in the handplane family by some collectors. Others have recognised a good product and got on with using them.
      They are not Bedrocks, and neither are they quite as well made as the golden era Stanleys, but they are good planes - and are streets ahead of any of the consumer grade handplanes being produced at the moment.
      Falcon Pope blades are particularly good.
      Thanks for your kind words Giuliano.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    Replies
    1. What James had written was:
      Nice post. Hand planes are excellent for more compact projects, but an energy planner will protect you a significant amount when it comes to time and effort in a larger undertaking. Thanks..

      Unfortunately the published comment had a link that was deleted along with the post. So I have added the comment here.
      Thanks for your comment James, and I agree. For larger jobs power equipment is a real boon.
      Cheers
      Tom

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  5. I managed to get hold a Falcon pope No 113, are they scarce

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    Replies
    1. Do you have any photos of it?
      Alan L.

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  6. Any idea of the type of wood used in the handles, I have two a F6 1/2 and an F 4 1/2. One has handles which are very good order almost knew but the other is quite shabby. It looks like rosewood but Iam unsure, anyhow I would like to refinish the handles in poor condition. Can you help identify the stain, varnish and or wood used.

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    Replies
    1. I am an avid Pope/Falcon collector. I have posted a reference to your query re. handle & knob timber elsewhere in this blog. I am quite sure they used Jarrah on Falcons - Pope timber I am not sure of. I have made a lot of handles from Jarrah and the wood is identical, weight, workability, grain and colour all being the same.
      Alan L.

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  7. Sorry Alex. Unsure myself on the details of the handles. Perhaps the HAND TOOL PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA can help.
    Contact them via their website:
    http://www.htpaa.org.au/index.php
    Cheers
    Tom

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  8. I just picked up what looked like a NOS F5 1/2; still had makers grease and sole showed original machining marks. I would normally have passed on but I was looking for a 5 1/2 and had a rule with me to check the sole. Surprise for me was the sole was pretty well flat instead of the banana such good looking planes normally are. Took two hours to tune up the plane and it is now taking 1 thou (0.025 mm) shavings so I am very happy.
    Whilst many tools can be used for slightly different purposes I understood the 5 1/2 is what the English called a Panel Plane. These were long soled smoothers and so needed the full tuning and care of any smoother; actually more due to the sole length. A jack plane can be set up as a smoother but more typically would be a fore plane and so needs far less tuning.
    I concur with your summation, Falcon planes are worthy subjects for consideration. I will not be passing one because of its name in the future but then I am a user not a collector.
    Thanks for the comments.
    Richard

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Richard.
      The 5-1/2 plane generally has a great balance when working and the Falcon Pope is especially good I think in this size.
      I am so pleased that you are enjoying using these lovely old tools.
      Happy shavings
      Tom

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  9. I came across your blog whilst looking around for stray Pope/Falcon planes. I have a full set of Popes and Falcons. I have been collecting them for about 12 years. It all started with my old dad's F5 which had a broken handle. I made a new one for it and the result was very encouraging. By the way I see some one has posted a query here regarding the type of timber used on the falcons. I firmly believe it to be jarrah and I now make all of my handles/knobs from it. A different timber is used on the Pope planes.The colour, weight, grain and workability are all identical. identical. I also have four of the very hard to come by "Transitional Falcons". I call them "blue falcons" as they are painted in Pope colours but with falcon base castings. I'm not sure whey they are referred to as transitional. My opinion is that Pope eventually dropped the "Falcon" line and sold only the Pope branded planes. They had some Falcon base castings left over and these resulted in the blue falcons. The "Blue Falcons" that I have are 9', F4-1/2 and F5.
    Alan L.

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  10. Thanks for those observations Alan.
    You may be correct about the handles.
    A full collection would be a real treasure.
    Happy shavings
    Tom

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  11. I have just bought an F5 which had a plastic handle only paid $25 for it. I made a handle out of some quite dense mahogany but I may rethink this and make another out of Jarrah. The blade isn't original quite thin a recent stanley blade I think.
    Thanks for the history. I may never get rid of it as its is older than me.

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  12. Hi I received this morning two wood planes one a Pope (made in Australia) indicating only the words Pope and made in Australia even the blade indicated the Pope name Further indications are No 7 it is about 22 inches long. I believe it may suit me to use it as a Jointer due to the length. It is all original and a little rusty. It is my intention to restore it into a near new contition. Could anyone advice me where I could get a new handle. The other plane I received was a Stanley but I am OK to locate parts for it.

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  13. Hi I have 2 falcon planes just finished tuning my F5 my dad bought off a carpenter at garden island also a no4.
    The handles appear to be coachwood with a red varnish on mine.
    Seeing I will be using mine I will up grade the blade to an IBC blade
    great write up I must say

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  14. I just found an old pope falcon hand plane in my fathers garage said it was his grwat grand fathers hand plane busy cleaning it up and restoring it this weekend will post pics wen im done

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  15. These are really good planes. They go for less than the Stanley and even record equivalents on eBay. They are essentially localised reproductions of Millers Falls planes of the era. I picked up a 9" (no 4 equivalent) for 30 something bucks and an F5 for 17 bucks. Intention was to restore the 9" but it is actually too good to touch - a little age and patina, and working superbly as a smoother. The F5 will need work - complete but grotty and rusty. Both are sole mates in that they are the same vintage per the "Falcon" and "A Pope Product" cast into the lever cap. Love 'em!

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  16. As with CeeGeeBee, I was fortunate enough to collect the same 2 planes from my local second hand shed. On inspection, the layer of dust and grease was hiding two well preserved and only slightly used items, with original blades. Some surface rust that was easily removed, and a quick degrease, a spot of TLC and I am the proud owner of two of the nicest planes I have seen in a long time. The paint looks as fresh as the day these babies were built. Some slight bubbling in the plating, but nothing I can't live with. They were marked at $35 and $50 respectively, but I walked out with the two for $40
    As far as I can find out, these were manufactured from 1946 to 1956 when the business closed. (Please correct if the info I have is wrong) I would like to try and date them more accurately if anyone knows anything about the Pope line of planes.

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  17. I just bought a No 6 Falcon/Pope in reasonably good condition. Paid $120 AUD for it. Not sure if that is good or bad but was glad to read your blog. Time will see if I am happy with the use. Seems a good length and nice weight and balance. cheers Andy

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  18. Thanks everyone for the feedback. The F4 and F5 were the workhorses of Australian carpenters and builders and were made in large numbers. It is still great to find them and press them back into service. A number 6 Falcon/Pope would be quite a rare find these days Andy. Not common at all. Congratulations

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