Over the past year or so Veritas Tools (aka Lee Valley Tools) has brought a fine range of bench planes to market, from the classy Standard Block Plane (see Canadian Woodworking Aug/Sept 2003, Vol. 6 No. 4) to the imposing #6 Fore Plane. These planes are proving to be a real hit with the woodworking community. No great mystery here: you get an exceptionally well-machined product at a very reasonable price. Quintessentially Canadian, eh! It wouldn’t surprise me if over the coming decade the Veritas line of hand planes become the tool-of-choice within the woodworking community.
The Shoulder Plane is a precision tool typically used for trimming and fitting the shoulders of tenons or sizing the tenon (top photo). It also does an excellent job of smoothing the bottom of dadoes cut on the table saw, or fine tuning rabbets.
To work efficiently the shoulder plane needs to meet three criteria: sides ground flat and square to the sole, a very narrow mouth, and an exceptionally flat sole.
The Veritas Shoulder Plane meets these three criteria, and then some. At just over 2 lbs, 7” long, and a hair’s breath under 3/4” (.700”) this could be considered a mid-sized shoulder plane. The body, cap, adjustment knob, and blade are very well machined. The parts are smooth, accurately ground, and precisely milled. No sloppy tooling here.
There are obvious similarities among the Veritas, Clifton, Lie-Nelson, and defunct but much sought after Record 073 shoulder planes. They share fine adjustment knobs that allow you to minutely advance or retract the blade and an adjustable toe so that you can close up the throat for very fine cuts. They also share a common cutting angle of 40°.
Unique to the Veritas plane however, is a pivoting knob on the top of the lever cap and a finger hole through the plane body, which enhance the balance and control of the plane. Additionally there are two set screws on each side of the body that enable you to precisely align the blade to the plane sole. This is a very nice feature, since to get a full cut across the edge of the blade it needs to be precisely parallel to the sole.
I have tried a larger shoulder plane (a four pounder with a 1/1/4” blade), and found it somewhat awkward to use, particularly when trimming smaller tenons and narrow rabbets. The Veritas Shoulder Plane, on the other hand, is very comfortable, easy to control, no chatter on the blade whatsoever, quick to adjust the blade, and the right size for a wide range of work. The perfect accompaniment to this plane would be a matching 3/8” rabbet plane.
If you need any other inducement to get this plane, consider the price. At $179, it’s at least 40% less than imported models.
The scraping plane is a cousin to the hand scraper and the cabinet scraper. It’s designed for final leveling of large surfaces, and is particularly effective on figured wood or when you’re dealing with grain structure where tear out may occur.
The Veritas Scraping Plane is based on the venerable Stanley #112 (a highly sought after hand tool).
The features that make the Veritas Scraping Plan so practical are it’s large size (3 3/4” wide by 10” long with a 3” blade) and weight (4 pounds): sole milled flat and true, easy blade angle adjustment mechanism, and ample handles that provide good control and comfort. As with the Veritas Shoulder Plane there are set screws to help you align the blade level to the sole.
A scraping plane is easier to use than you might think, and much more effective on large surfaces than a hand or cabinet scraper. Additionally, a hand planed surface has a different feel and look than a sanded surface. Three factors contribute to success in using this plane: a properly configured blade, the correct angle of blade presentation, and adequate projection of the blade below the sole of the plane. The brochure that comes with the Veritas Scraping Plane does a good job at explaining these three topics.
The blade that comes with the Veritas plane is 1/16” thick; an optional 1/8” blade is available. On both, the bevel angle of the blade is ground to 45°. The thinner blade can be slightly bowed by means of a thumbscrew. This helps prevent the corners of the blade from digging into the work surface, and altering the cutting dynamics of the blade, increasing cutting action towards the center of the blade.
I prefer the thicker blade; no chattering of the blade, and if you round its corners, no digging in. Either blade will need some ‘conditioning’. You should lap and polish the back of the blade and then hone and burnish the bevel. This is the same technique that you use for hand scrapers. If you are unfamiliar with burnishing, it involves creating a burr or hook along the cutting edge of the blade.
With a bit of practice you’ll find the right blade depth for you. Because the surface of my workbench is a bit worse for wear and tear, I do my adjustments on a piece of melamine. I adjust the pitch (angle of the blade) first, by means of the blade adjustment wheels. Hold a bevel gauge against the blade to approximate the angle you want. Veritas recommends an angle of about 5°. I prefer a steeper angle (10°). Obviously a steeper angle deepens the cut; a shallow angle takes a lighter cut. Next, I set the blade by placing a sheet of paper under the sole (ahead of the throat), then lowering the blade till it touches the melamine. The set screws on the side of the plane make it pretty easy to ensure that the blade is (and stays) parallel to the sole. Depending upon the job you did conditioning your blade, you may have to adjust the blade pitch or depth to get some decent cutting action. Photo 7 shows the surface of a piece of figured hard maple after five or six passes with the scraping plane.