It's some time now since Stanley yielded up its reputation as a manufacturer of quality hand tools. The old Bailey pattern launched by Stanley served as the template for generations of planes and even up to the 1970's the standard remained high. After this, however, Stanley shifted its range towards the lower end of the market, where it has remained ever since.

Now Stanley is seeking a revolution of sorts with a new range of higher quality tools, starting with the No.4 Smoother. This is exciting news for woodworkers, as these tools may offer top performance at a fraction of the cost of other high-end manufacturers.

GW testing know-it-all Andy King has been lucky enough to have a first look at the new range. Here's a bit of what he has to say about the No.4:

"Stanley has certainly gone a very long way to make sure you get a plane that needs very little work from the end user to get it working. Compared to a brand new No.41/2 Bailey, the enhancements are huge. Starting with the iron, on some planes these seem to be getting close to tin foil thicknesses, and need some prep work to get them up and running. But the Premium iron is a very impressive A2 steel (60-62 Rockwell hardness), 3mm thick, and has an equally thick cap iron. A 0.5mm raised lip at the front of the cap iron gives enough spring when screwed together to ensure the irons sit together without any light passing through."

To read the full test review, be sure to get your hands on a copy of GW217, on sale 24th July. Or, avoid disappointment by subscribing now here.


Above: How does the Stanley Premium (far right) compare to its high and low end rivals?