ECE Hand Plane Review

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The ECE Jack Plane - Hand Plane ReviewWe don’t do many reviews. That’s because I’m human and that makes me biased. But sometimes, something comes along that’s quite special, it’s then that I find it hard to shut up.

I discovered this hand plane when looking at commercially made frame saw blades for some future planned…plan? I ended up at fine-tools.com. It was 60 ish quid for a double iron wooden plane. I didn’t expect much!

When it turned up I quickly got rather excited. The plane looked and felt good, and there were sweets in the box. (I love the Germans). I set the plane, and out the box it took a shaving…

The build quality is very good, not in a Holtey or a Sparks kind of way. More donkey, well built working grade. The body is beech with a lignumvagina (or whatever) sole, that isn’t just glued on but has some weird double finger joint just in case. You could also have a hornbeam sole for a few bob less.

The ECE Jack Plane Alongside a Stanley No 4 Hand Plane

The sole had a slight hump around the mouth. It didn’t effect much and took less than a minute to wear flat on a diamond plate.
The iron held an edge for noticeably longer than my Stanley’s, and sharpens about as easily, and back prepping was minimal although I imagine that to vary.

The cap iron was a fuss free job, although due to the rather large amount of tension it applied, it makes it a tad more awkward to position, but an easy fix. Still prefer the Stanley cap.

Turn Any Bench Plane In To A Smoothing Plane By Setting Up The Cap Iron

ECE hand plane with cross pin

The most interesting thing is how the blade is held in the ECE hand plane. It’s not a traditional mortice, but instead their own take on the cross pin, and it works very well.
I should be shot in the knee for thinking, let along saying this, but I think I prefer ECE’s cross pin to the traditional mortice… I suppose time will tell.
It holds the iron superbly without much force, which means adjustments are quite predictable. The wedge also doesn’t self release when carelessly backing off the cut.

I’ve been using this plane for a few months now, maybe more (what month are we in?) and I have to say, this is a truly excellent hand plane. If you’re wanting to get into wooden planes or get going on the cheap without going down the usual ebay route then it’s a no brainer.
If you’re buying as a jack of all planes then I would buy the plane they label as their jack plane. The ECE jack and smoothing plane are both the same length (edit: the smoother is actually a tad shorter). The only difference is that the irons are bedded at a different angle. The smoother is bedded at 50 degrees which is too high for general use.
Either sole material will be fine. I didn’t find any noticeable reduction in friction compared to my usual woodies for having the lignum one.

This plane solves a huge problem for me, which is recommending good cost effective planes. The firm has been going years, yet they’re still a mainstream hidden gem. The plane isn’t just good for its money, it’s bloody good full stop.

Right then… I’m off to try and seduce Helen and see if she will let me have the jointer.

If You’re Getting Started With Hand Planes, Learn About Your Options & Different Types Of Planes Here.

 

Disclaimer – it feels necessary to add that everything here is my own opinion, and the tool was purchased at full price. We don’t even contact businesses to let them know we’re writing about a product and never accept payments for reviews. This website is fully self supported.
I’ve yet to use one of the ECE planes with the blade adjuster so I can’t comment on those yet, but I expect I will give one a try and report back. The plane I have here is the standard ECE German Jack plane, available from fine-tools.com, or Highland Woodworking if you’re in the States.

42 Responses

  1. Steve Tripp

    Great review. The opinion of an actual user who paid for the tool and has no connection to the company carries much more weight and is much more valuable.

    Reply
    • Micheal Kingsley

      I have had one of their block planes for years and it is still my best plane. I tried both a Veritas and a Stanley sweetheart and it is nicer that either. Both of them are of course metal planes and that makes them heavier and I thought that would help to make them easier to use, but I still reach for my ece wooden block plane first.

      Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      I’ve got on very well with the handle, which as you point out is handed. I’ve a post with more details coming later.

      Reply
  2. Jasper

    What month are we in? It will be April 1st soon…
    Be careful not to like it too much. And buy too many models in this very traditional German style. You might become “der deutsche Holzarbeiter”.
    I would like it even more without the lacquer (which I find too slippery), but that’s just my opinion.

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      Bloody taties, April already…
      I know what you mean, the styling is very distinct. The lacquered finished hasn’t given me too much trouble. I don’t like it though and would love to replace it with oil.

      Reply
  3. David

    It’s lignum vitae, in German “Pockholz”, which was used i.a. for mounting ship screw bars. I think it’s still used for special requirements. It’s one of if not the most dense wood, 1.2-1.4t/m3 which means it sinks in water.

    ECE is a traditional German company, maybe comparable to Stanley, though in Germany planes generally have been wooden ones. There is some argument about whether they still makes planes as good as they used to, given the declining outlet, but you can expect to get a quality controlled tool with warranty.

    I own the reviewed smoother, a scrubb plane, a fine adjustable smoother as well as a shoulder plane and a grooving plane made by ECE. However, since I have no formal education as a carpenter, I lack some practical knowledge and experience with these as of yet.

    Cheers,
    David

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      Hi David,
      Since I’ve had this plane I’ve fell in love with the company and I’d really hate to see a firm like this decline due to other companies having better marketing despite being more expensive. I can’t compare this to the old planes, but this new one does still give everything else on the market a run for its money, and it was shrapnel by today’s standards.

      Reply
  4. Micheal Kingsley

    I have had one of their block planes for years and it is still my best plane. I tried both a Veritas and a Stanley sweetheart and it is nicer that either. Both of them are of course metal planes and that makes them heavier and I thought that would help to make them easier to use, but I still reach for my ece wooden block plane first.

    Reply
  5. Lyndon

    I love my ECE planes; have 8 in my collection including right and left had models of the smoothers and German style jack planes as well as the English pattern jack. Dumped all my metal planes in favor of the ECEs. |After a head to head comparison with a friend’s Norris smoother, my friend’s comment was ‘don’t waste your money on a Norris…….so I won’t…… No I’m not connected with ECE in any way, just a fan of great planes for a reasonable price.

    Reply
  6. Tom Rathbun

    I have been using their smoother 1995. I have pre WWII iron planes and always go back to my the ECE smoother. Try the jointer, you won’t be disappointed.

    Reply
  7. Chris Raper

    Richard thanks for the review, I have some old ECE planes which I picked up on eBay.de
    cleaned & fettled they are simply good honest old hand tools, nice to see a company like ECE are still producing them. I have also used Dieter Schmitz Fine Tools they have never let me down & sometimes you don’t just get the sweets (Gummi Bears) ? you may even get nice pencil too.

    Cheers

    Chris

    Reply
  8. Derek Long

    I’ve been drooling over their dovetail plane for quite awhile. Their tools look pretty sweet. Good to read a first-hand account.

    Reply
    • Nikolaus

      Hi Derek,

      I’m a great fan ECE Planes, but for a dovetail plane I would highly recommend the Ulmia version, which you can buy here: https://www.dictum.com/en/tools/woodworking-metalworking/planes/western-wooden-planes/703800/ulmia-dovetail-plane
      It does have two huge!!! advantages over the ECE one: The blade is bedded skew but has the cutting edge at the normal 90° like any other plane and so is way easier to sharpen than the ECE. And it exits the shavings to the side not at the top. That might be only what I prefer, but it sure prevents clogging too.

      Reply
    • Simon

      Hi Derek,

      I have the ECE dovetail plane and you can’t really go wrong on that. Actually I used it today (and I don’t use it that often) and it definitely is fun fitting sliding dovetails.
      Nikolaus is right though that the Ulmia Version has the advantage of the straight iron. The skewed one is a little awkward to sharpen, but if you are doing it free handed it isn’t a problem. But getting the skew right on a machine is a bit of a challenge. I also dislike the fence a bit. But that is the same on the Ulmia one, it just guides the depth of cut, but getting the wall square needs a bit of practice.
      I have to say though I never had the mouth clog up. Can’t say that’s a problem. But anyway, Ulmia or ECE, they both make high quality tools, so as I said, you can’t go wrong either way and a dovetail plane is a really fun tool to use!

      Reply
  9. paul

    lignumvagina ,ha ha ha
    must ask my wife! that one ,
    seriously looks a good bit of kit for the price,and as you say better than the ebay route

    Reply
  10. patrick anderson

    Nice to see a review of them. Although I use Japanese planes, I’ve been tempted to give them a try.

    If this keeps up you’ll have to ditch the waistcoat for one of those German carpenter ones.

    Reply
  11. avid o

    GREAT. Honestly when’s the next project Richard even for entertainment value i bet it will be worth the fee.i’am learned an awful lot from the last two projects david

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks David,
      Very soon, hopefully we’ll be bringing some information soon.

      Reply
  12. David

    I have been using one of these for over 20 years with greatt sxuccess. It took me a long time to learn how to set the blade but once I learned how it worked great. I found it works even better when pulled.

    Reply
  13. Simon

    I have some ECE Planes too and really like them, I even have some of their older versions with the traditional mortice cutout, don’t know when they stopped doing that. I prefer them over the cross pins, but I guess mostly for aesthetic reasons. Both versions respond really well to the hammer.
    Are you sure that the Smoother is the same size as the Jack? Mine is about an inch shorter, but that is one of the older versions I have, so not sure if that is still up to date…

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      There is something very beautiful about a traditional mortice. Some of their planes, like the scrub do still seem to have this, which seems strange. I can’t imagine it to be a cost thing.
      Thank you for pointing out the plane length, I’ve just had another check and you’re quite right. Not sure how I missed that, I checked enough times! We’ll make an edit.
      Cheers.

      Reply
  14. Stefan

    Once again your post inspires to think about it.
    And I’m pleased to see that you use one of these good old German hand planes. 😉
    I didn’t managed it to get familiar with them. Blade adjustment drives me crazy.
    BTW, what’s about your plane builds? Any news so far?

    Cheers,
    Stefan

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Stefan, adjusting wooden planes is one of those things that you either love or hate and you certainly shouldn’t do what you don’t get on with.
      The plane build though, at last, has finally gone in to the editing room.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  15. Walter Ambrosch

    Great job Richard…
    You may need to explain a bit more about the Irons… and how you get the shaving so excited it want’s to jump out of the plane.
    Keep up the good work, you are making a difference.

    Reply
  16. Kyle

    Those planes do look nice and would love to try them but they cost nearly 2x the amount in Australia (240 AUD ~ 127 pounds) D:

    Reply
  17. Blaz

    Funny, yesterday I read your post and just this morning I discovered this very plane in my fathers workshop. Waiting for me I guess to put it into shape.

    Reply
  18. Florian

    I don’t think that setting the iron is very difficult to learn, you just have to use a (steel) hammer of the right size and a bit of patience. My hammer weighs about 350 g which gives me a very good feeling. Sometimes the screw that holds the cap iron in place is a bit too long, so if you hit the wedge to secure it the iron moves as well which can be frustrating especially if you don’t know why it moves. It is then a question of filing down the screw or carving a small relief in the back side of the wedge.
    Then, it’s easier to start setting-up the jack or smoother before moving on to the jointer which is significantly heavier. Beside that I really enjoy the lightweight and balance of those planes. Even a standard Stanley no. 4 (which I only lifted once) feels so much heavier due to having most of it’s weight in the sole. I did acquire most of my woodworking skills online and through books in the last few years and since there is such a variety of great english or american teachers, and as far as I know only very few german joiners willing to share their knowledge online, I initially thought I had to use cast iron planes, too, to be able to follow the courses adequately but now I am happy that I didn’t.
    Thanks for the post Richard, and now get the Jointer! I don’t know about today but a few years ago there were tons of those ECE and ULMIA planes on eBay.de I bought Smoother, Jack, Jointer and Rabbet (double iron adjustable mouth) in great condition for 70 Euros in 2008.

    Reply
  19. Dave

    Richard,

    Just wondered if you have tried any of the asian style wooden planes?

    Either the Taiwanese style such as the Mujingfang or some Japanese ones?

    I ask because the Mujingfang ones are a steal at around £50 for the Jack/Smoother. Was thinking of picking one up to try it, as I haven’t been able to find a bad word said about them on the web!

    Regards

    Dave

    Reply
  20. G. Randal

    The ECE Primus model is a magnitude nicer to use than the standard ECE plane. The plane blade is spring loaded which reduces chatter and drag to almost nothing. The Primus model will glide through birds mouth maple like butter. It is expensive. I recommend it highly. That said, I will not be giving up my power plane.

    Reply
  21. chris bailey

    Just bought one of these planes Richard~it arrived yesterday complete with jelly baby sweets …yum yum.
    ‘Worked out of the box’…. though I will hone it myself. Excellent feel and balance.
    Email to company saying that you are to thank for my ‘investment’… hope this is ok?
    Keep up the good work….both of you…
    Best wishes,
    Chris Bailey

    Reply
  22. chris bailey

    Hi Richard,
    Just bought one of these planes….
    Great fast delivery complete with jelly babies~yum yum.
    A quick ‘test’ revealed that the plane iron worked well straight out of the box … I will of course hone it on my diamond plates.
    Balance and feel excellent.
    Can’t wait to use this now on my next project. Given you/your review credit for its purchase.
    Keep up your great work.. . .both of you.
    Kindest regards
    Chris Bailey

    Reply
  23. chris bailey

    Oops just realised both of my comments have been posted… thought the first one hadn’t! Sorry.

    Reply
  24. David Weaver

    You picked the best of the bunch. I’ve had the one with the adjuster, and it’s probably nice for people who like adjusters and taking things apart and putting them togehter, but it made me wish I’d bought a plane with no adjuster.

    I found the iron to be similar to the older stanley irons (not the ones that have rounded corners at the top of the iron as yours does) in terms of edge holding, but it liked to hold its wire edge a bit more than old stanley irons.

    I bought the “primus” plane I had used and sold it for as much. I have also found continental vintage smoothers for $10-$15, and those are just as nice, but maybe not something you’d recommend to a bunch of beginners in case one comes through needing some significant tuning.

    I still prefer a stanley plane to all of the continentals as far as smoothing goes, though.

    Reply

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