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  1. #1
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    Oct 2019
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    Default Falcon Pope hand planes - underappreciated?

    Hi all, I thought I would share an in-progress photo of a restored vintage plane and a question.

    When I was looking for some fixer-uppers on ebay I came across Falcon Pope series. References suggest they were produced in the period 1946 to 1955 or so (Hand Tool Preservation Association of Australia Inc. - Pope Tools).

    Some sold are in truly awful condition. I decided to get a No 4, 5, 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 and clean them up in due course. I figured if I had a set I'd be motivated to get to them all. They usually go for $30-$40 on ebay. One 5 1/2 I unpacked had a snapped handle held together with a mending plate (I say "held together"... perhaps inadvisably). It also had a thick layer of ... I wouldn't even call it "gunk" more a decent sod of soil, at least 2cm thick, on the sole. This is after trying to pick the better-looking ones.

    I got some functional so far - the usual routine of an electrolysis bath, flattening the sole, squaring the mouth, flattening the frog, fixing the chip breaker tight mating with the back of the blade, and getting the blade sharp. I am working on the 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 as time permits. I decided to paint the non-working parts of the sole with a blue metal paint. My conceit was that it will have the flag colours together with the "Made In Australia" stamping.

    The No 4 and No 5 now great users! But the aesthetics are still a WIP.

    Attached are some photos of where I have gotten to with the No 4. I managed to clean all the nickel plating and crud off the front and sides of the cap iron today, but it does need a polish and will try and fix up the red paint on the frog and recess areas and get an even polish on the cap iron (the light shows up some irregular facets). Apologies for the sawdust - as I said it's a user not a museum piece.

    IMG_20200524_191958.jpgIMG_20200524_192022.jpg

    But the reason for posting was something I was curious about. I don't think I've ever seen them on any photos on anyone's bench, in any videos from Australian woodworkers, or anyone ever referring to their "Falcon". This is despite these being the only conspicuously "Made in Australia" Stanley-pattern maker that regularly shows on ebay.

    Am I the only one? Or are these sneakily under every neanderthal's bench?

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  3. #2
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    May 2018
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    Default

    I have a 5, 5 1/2 and a 6. The first 2 are usable but unrestored, the 6 is in a bad way and needs a lot of work. I couldn’t decide what size planes would be best so I just bought one of every size from 4-7, the rest are Stanley’s. I wasn’t concerned about collectability, just reasonably priced planes I could fix up.

    Cheers Andrew

  4. #3
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    Jun 2010
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    Turners come up rather regularly, they are definitely the best looking Stanley clones ever. Carters turn up as well, although as planes go they make adequate boat anchors (night fishing only so fish wonít get nauseous if they see them).

    I have used a Turner 4 and found it performs pretty much the same as the better post-WW2 models, but have never hankered for a Falcon/Pope. I've seen enough of them at fleamarkets and the like, but Iíll stick with my early Stanleys and Records.
    Nothing succeeds like a budgie without a beak.

  5. #4
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    Thanks Andrew - I've assumed they have nil collectability value - at least at present, given the prices they're chucked out for on ebay. But to me, that just makes me relaxed about having at them to customise/suit oneself.

  6. #5
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    Thanks Chief - you caused me to google them and see a video about the Turners.

    They do look striking. But I think I'd be too scared to use the handles if I had one. I dislike the idea of having planes I'm too scared to use.

    Although I did notice on a video that popped up what a difference in looks with the edge of the wings nicely squared off. That might be something I try and do to my frequent users when time permits.

  7. #6
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    Jul 2018
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    I have several 9in Falcons, the 4/12, a couple of 5s, one of which was my grandfathers, 5/12, 6 and 7, a 220 block plane and the spoke shave. They are my users, although I have a selection of Stanleys, Records, Turners and a Carter as alternates. I have 9x #4s, all of which I use.

    In general Carter had the best blade, but its a big chunky casting. The number 6 carter was an absolute gem as a fore plane. We haveone at the woodcraft Guild which everyone loves to use. Their laminated blades were excellent. I use Carter blades in my wooden planes where possible.
    The Stanley 4 and 5 can both be tuned marginally better than a falcon at what they do, but the Falcon 9in is what I go to rather than get out my Hobart manufactured number 3 Stanley (with wood handle) or my English Stanley #3. I use my 2x Falcon 5s, a Turner 5 and a 1990 era Record 5 about equally.
    The 5 1/2 Falcon is my favorite.
    My #6 Falcon was rated by my friend, a door installer, as the best hand plane he has ever used when he installed my front door..
    My #7 Falcon is every bit as good as my 1990 era Record #7 and better than the Turner #7 which I use when I am at the Woodcraft Guild . In general I find the Turners had more backlash in them than the Falcons, making them a bit of a pain to adjust.
    The 220 block plane is a good plane, but the Stanley is just a little bit better in the blade adjustment, probably because mine had a hard life with its former owner.
    The spoke shave is a delight to use. I just made a 5' Cant Hook handle out of a piece Red Box and it handled the task faultlessly. I prefer it to my record spoke shaves.

    That is my experience with Falcons anyway

    One of the #6 Falcons and the #7 are missing from this shot as are a couple of the smoothers

    I notice you have a stanley blade in that #4... try properly flattened and sharpened 2" falcon blade, they are quite good
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #7
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    I'd say they get about the correct amount of appreciation. Unfortunately for the Falcon Pope's, there are so many Records and Stanleys out there. So the Falcons aren't rubbish, but get edged out by others in the vintage market. I have owned a few but haven't been able to fettle them to my satisfaction. I am sure it can be done by others with more patience and skill than me. For me, there was no comparison to the old Stanleys that I currently use, though. Especially considering that I didn't have to pay any more for the Stanley planes I now use.

  9. #8
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    I have four falcon popes, a 4, 41/2, 5 and a 6. 5 and 6 are delights to use. The #4 still has some work to do. I have made significant improvement on the #4 by honing the cap iron, so it sits flat on the blade. I think there's still work to be done. I haven't touched the 4 1/2 for a while. I think the #5 is on par with a Stanley no.5, but I like the Falcon Pope #6 better than my Stanley #6, but the difference is marginal.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
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    Darling Downs West Aus
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    I'm withya on the Falcons.
    Beginner here but I have been using Stanley 4 and 5 as well as the equivalent Falcons all side by side pretty evenly.
    At this stage they seem to work just the same for me. mind you, Ive only been using planes for a few months. on old jarrah and some pallet wood.
    mine are deffinately users. simply cleaned them up and flattened them enough to use.
    perhaps when I get more skill and ask more of them I might find a difference.

    falc n stan sml.jpg
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  11. #10
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    Way back, I had a Falcon #6 that was just as good as any Stanley I've ever owned & used it as my jointer until I stumbled on an old Record 07. It was not a better plane but quickly convinced me that 'longer is better' for a jointer, so the 6 slipped into the shadows. Eventually, I swapped it for a near-mint Disston D8. The new owner is no mean woodworker, and has a good arsenal of planes of several makes - the Falcon holds its own with them all.

    I think the "cultural cringe" effect is at work against the Falcon - anything made in Australia can't be any good, can it? You can strike duds or badly-treated planes in any make, so I'm sure Falcon had its share. I would avoid anything with an aluminium frog, that's for sure (but even Stanley had its flirtation with that junk metal!), that was definitely up there with the dumber ideas!

    If it's true that there are more beaten-up Falcon-Popes than Stanleys in any given sample, it's interesting to ponder the reasons why. Perhaps because they were a bit less expensive at the time, they were more likely to be bought by backyard 'handymen' & left out in the weather, or used as 'disposables' by tradesmen, & thus more likely to suffer rapid deterioration?? Just a suggestion....

    Cheers,
    IW

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    ...I think the "cultural cringe" effect is at work against the Falcon - anything made in Australia can't be any good, can it? ...
    You guys should be proud of those Aussie made planes.

    The Carters seem to be a bit rough (but with good irons), but the Falcon-Popes and Turners seem to be reasonably made planes. I have a couple of Falcon-Popes but haven't fettled either of them - but there don't seem to be any obvious flaws*. I use my Falcon spoke shave from time to time and love it.

    I also have a near mint Turner 5 1/2 and it's just beautiful, especially those "permaloid" handles. My only reservation is the non-iron frog.

    And I don't think the Aussie Stanleys were any worse than English or USA Stanleys of the same period - and again the irons have a very good reputation.

    * and I've seen some really poorly made planes .

    Cheers, Vann.
    Gatherer of rusty planes tools...
    Proud member of the Wadkin Blockhead Club .

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