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It’s rare indeed in the world of engineering that a product begins by simply being ‘made’. Starting with the initial brief and subsequent research, there’s always a vast amount of work involved behind the scenes, eventually culminating in the production of prototypes or models from which, after a further sustained period of development, the final product emerges. Even then, the process isn’t complete as there’s a constant process of detailed refinement and evolution.

It was ever thus and the recently introduced Axminster Rider bench plane range is no exception. The pics show the very first prototype.

Rider No. 4 prototypes
Rider No. 4 prototypes

The body and frog have been cast in bronze, with the other components produced from cast brass and steel, the original handles having been replaced with some in teak.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The initial design brief was to produce a good quality range of traditionally made bench planes, suitable for professional woodworkers, trade, apprentices, students and enthusiastic hobbyists; at the same time being affordable to all.

The production planes are made from high quality ductile cast iron, with additives such as copper and nickel to improve corrosion resistance. Casting takes place in an up-to-date, modern, computerised foundry and upon removal from the mould they’re left outside to age for several months, after which the soles are precision ground to 0.04mm or +/- 0.0016”. The handles and totes are made from selected, oil finished rosewood from a sustainable managed source. Other important components, such as the cap iron are made from solid brass.

Naturally enough, the blades are crucial and are made from 3mm thick, surface ground, high carbon spring steel, hardened and tempered to RC63.

Blades are honed with a secondary micro bevel and then all planes undergo a rigorous, careful inspection at Axminster prior to final packing and despatch.

Tim Styles inspects some newly arrived Rider planes
Tim Styles inspects some newly arrived Rider planes

The customer receives his or her plane in a high quality, black presentation box, together with a spare blade, protective sock and instruction booklet.

They require the bare minimum of preparation; firstly a wipe down to remove the protective coating and then a check on the blade ‘set’, after which the owner is ready to start planing.

The acquisition of a few, or even a set of bench planes by any aspiring woodworker can be a daunting prospect, especially if the premium makes are in the financial firing line. The Axminster Rider range offers a very attractive alternative which won’t leave the credit card too badly dented.

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