E.C. Emmerich 711 Plane Review

Description
The ECE model 711 Smoothing plane is made of wood with a long wearing Lignum Vitae sole. There is a resin which exists naturally in the species, this resin along with the hardness and durability of the wood fiber itself imparts a lower coefficient of friction compared to other planes. The body is made of Cherry with a contoured grab-point in the rear and an unusual (compared to iron planes) handle up front. My point of reference for the 711 comes from the Stanley #5 and Veritas #4 that I have, any references to iron planes in the text refer to these.
ECE 711
Aside from cleaning the blade, the plane was basically ready to use right out of the box. The blade is held in place by the same Primus adjusting mechanism found in the 741-P model and works every bit as well in the 711. When you are trying to tune the plane for the finest cut, this adjustment mechanism really shines. The plane also has a moveable section in front of the blade to vary the blade opening; it is locked into the desired position via a slotted screw on the top of the body.

Ergonomics
The 711 is quite a bit lighter than the typical iron plane; this coupled with the different handles put the user in a different stance (or it at least feels like it) when using the tool. The effect is hard to describe and probably quite subjective but here goes: When I grab one of the iron planes they seem to fit my hand okay but it's like holding an inanimate object; they work fine but there isn't as much feedback from the workpiece. The 711 feels entirely different to me; when I grasp it with both hands I have this distinct impression that I AM the tool! Again this feeling is probably subjective and certainly hard to convey in words.

I am right-handed and the front handle looks as if designed with "righties" in mind. I was curious to see how it felt operated left-handed and to my surprise it actually seemed like it would be just as comfortable operated that way as well.  ECE also sells this model with a horn (handle) made for lefties.

Being lighter and having a natural self-lubricating sole makes for a pretty quick "action" when using the plane as well. I have noticed another benefit of its light weight, it is much easier to pull the plane if you needed to use it in some awkward situation that required it.

Comparisons
Compared to my iron planes I experience less chatter, the chips are ejected much better, and there is quite a bit more feed-back from the stock yielding (I believe) a little more control. The 711 is as flat and square as the iron planes. The anti-backlash adjustment is a great deal more refined than the Stanley and better than the Veritas. What this means to a user is when the blade needs to be lowered or raised, it doesn't have a "dead" spot on the knob where there is no blade movement. This makes it very easy to make small adjustments with out a lot of tedious back and forth adjustments required of the other planes. The Veritas feels better when I pick it up, the 711 feels better when I use it. The smoothness of the cut is just a tad less smooth than the iron planes (with equally sharp blades and equal depth of cut) but not such as to be considered poor by comparison.

Summary
Iron and bronze smoothing planes tend to dominate the woodworking catalogs. My recent experiences with the ECE line of wooden planes and the 711 smoother in particular have me thinking that my earlier biased preconceptions of the superiority's of all metal planes has been in error. My only nit-pick with the tool is that the throat opening adjustment requires a screwdriver. In direct comparisons I find there to be one aspect (the Primus adjustment mechanism) that is clearly superior to the metal planes. There are other aspects that make them more desirable and any areas left over are generally every bit as good as the metal counterparts. The 711 is without doubt a true contender in the affordable smoothing plane category.

Other reviews of ECE planes are the 710-P Rabbet and 741-P English Pattern Jack planes

 

In the interest of full disclosure E.C. Emmerich provided this product to facilitate this review.