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Veritas Plane Review - Part One. Block Planes (long)

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Alf

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Those marvellous fellows at Brimarc :wink: asked if I'd like to review the range of Veritas planes on behalf of the members here, and after pausing long enough to pick myself up off the floor, I said "oh, all right then". This is part one of the result. With luck and a following wind I'll get the rest done before they have to go back. If you're all very good, the next review won't be as long either... :oops: So hold tight please, here we go:

Lee Valley Veritas make three models of block plane; a small ”Apron” plane, and adjustable mouth Low and Standard Angle planes.


From left to right; Apron, Low Angle, Standard Angle

All are made with ductile iron, so they should survive any trips to the floor, although I did not test this. ;) All three are available with A2 steel , 1/8th" thick irons, with an option on a High Carbon Steel blade with the Apron plane, which is the one I had for review. They also have the same “Norris” style combined depth and lateral adjustment in common. Packing consists of those fold flat cardboard boxes and wrapping in rust inhibitor paper, a la L-N. The instructions are clear and comprehensive even including information about shooting boards - to see them for yourself, visit the individual product pages on the L-V site and click Instr. But enough of what you can read elsewhere :wink: , what were my personal impressions of these planes?

First of all the general appearance is a little modern, and does take a certain amount of getting used to at first. The very shiny black lever caps look good, although the reviewer who had them prior to me had managed to scratch one already, so maybe you’d need to take care of them to ensure they continue to look as good. The soles, sides and areas where the blade beds are nicely milled, and no nasty sharp edges. The castings themselves are left pretty rough where it doesn’t effect function, almost small scale pebbledash, but the paint on them is sound. I was a little surprised by the rough quality of the casting on the Low Angle; there were noticeable dinks out of the top of the wings and the bed has had to be milled on the skew to get it correct. The finish over the top of these rough areas and so forth is fine, it is just a rather coarse casting. As long as it works this isn’t really a problem I suppose, but I think if I’d bought the plane I’d have some concerns, although the box proclaimed it was checked for quality control, so obviously it’s well within manufacturing tolerances as far as L-V are concerned.


Low Angle bedding compared to Stanley #60 1/2.


Apron plane compared to L-N bronze #103

I’m not a member of the Flat Sole Society, but for the purposes of review I put a straight edge along the soles and sides, and a square too. All the planes have been designed to allow use on a shooting board, so squareness of the sides to the sole is an issue. By dint of holding them up to the light and squinting, I was just about able to make out that they were all slightly concave along their length, the Apron and Standard also slightly across the width, while the Low Angle was marginally convex across the width. I must stress, these are tiny, tiny amounts and only the hopelessly Sole Fixated would be getting out the lapping kit. The adjustable mouths were both level with the rest of the sole. Regrettably none of them had sides exactly square to the sole, although again it was marginal amounts and easily dealt with by minor lateral adjustment. I was going to try and use feeler gauges to see if they were within tolerances, but when I came to look I see no figures are given for that! Very cunning. :lol:

The blades are quite finely finished, all with a second bevel included. On the whole I’d sooner put my own secondary bevel, but that’s personal taste. I was going to try them “straight outta the box”, but as the previous reviewer had already done so, even to the point of leaving the gunk on the blades, and as I had no idea how much they’d been used, it seemed fairer to hone them as I would do usually. All the blades had a tendency towards Japanese-like hollows in the back, which I like. Beats a convex back any day for a start, and made sharpening quick and easy. On the Apron and Standard I did a full back and bevel treatment from coarse DMT right through to a polish with Autosol on MDF. It took 5 minutes to get a workable back and bevel on both the A2 and HCS, which is excellent. On the Low Angle I did a DC ruler job, which wasn’t much faster in all honesty.

All three blades bedded down solidly in the plane; I was particularly impressed with the fit to the top of the adjuster in all of them.


That's not a gap, just the shadow created by the bevel on the top of the adjuster pivot

The Apron and Low Angle were very easy , but the Standard has room for the adjuster to twist, so you need to take care in replacing the blade until you get the knack of keeping the pin upright while you slot the blade onto it. The adjusters themselves work very well. I was a little apprehensive as the original Norris ones weren’t actually particularly good, nor the GLT or Calvert Stevens subsequent versions, but these are smooth and precise. There is some backlash though, but this is covered in the instructions (a piece of honesty which I applaud!). The only difficulty I had was a tendency to adjust laterally when altering the depth without meaning to, but that’s probably down to practice. The lateral adjustment on the Apron plane was very smooth, but on the others the grub screws made it a little jerky. Probably I hadn’t quite set the latter correctly. The grub screws themselves are either side of the iron near the mouth, and pinch the iron in place. This stops the sideways slippage you otherwise tend to get when you use lateral adjustment, and it really does work. From an old tool junkies perspective though, I wouldn’t fancy having to deal with them if they got rusted in. :roll: The adjustable mouth is a simple matter of loosening the front knob and moving the mouth to where you want it; no cam lever required. The Apron plane has a fixed mouth, more or less identical in size to the one on the L-N.

Now, ergonomics. This is a tricky area, because what I might find comfortable, you might not and vice versa, so keep that in mind. The Apron is a bit bigger than the nearest L-N equivalent, and I found it more controllable with two hands.


Apron plane taking end grain shaving

I tend to prefer that anyway, so in a way having more room for them was much better. The Low and Standard Angles are again bigger than the L-N equivalent; more like the Record in width. Two hands worked best for me here too, but I felt in control of the Low Angle plane all the time. The Standard Angle I had more trouble with. The low profile lever cap must make a difference in how high your grip has to be, but it just wasn’t low enough for my hands. As I, er, perspired that shiny lever cap got slippery, and I found my hand sliding down towards the toe and inevitable loss of control of the plane resulted. I must stress, this is just what I found, and I’m sure many would not find it a problem, but perhaps something to bear in mind if you have small hands or short fingers.

When it came to using them, I tried a variety of woods; beech, ash, poplar, oak and so forth. They all dealt with end grain very well leaving a glassy surface, and whispy shavings. The Apron and Low were fine on long grain too, but I wasn’t terribly chuffed with the Standard. It took rather more effort to whiz along than I expected; but perhaps my trouble with the grip had more to do with it than anything else. To be fair, a large standard angle block plane is one of the few planes I don’t have (Gasp :shock: ), so I can’t base my observations about it on previous experience of other makes. When it came to shooting I was pleasantly surprised. On a couple of occasions I’ve been using my L-N bronze block and wanted to just shoot a small section of moulding or whathaveyou, and been thwarted by its curvaceous sides; the Apron solves this problem, and for small stuff it’s really very good.


Apron plane shooting end grain poplar

The other two also performed well, and their extra weight meant they could power through slightly larger stuff. You wouldn’t want to be shooting the ends of carcass sides with these planes, but for trimming mouldings, fillets etc, they’re a handy solution.

Finally I also tried the front knob and ball tail attachments for the Low Angle.



No mainstream manufacturer has offered a ball tail since Stanley many years ago, as far as I’m aware, so this really makes the Low Angle stand out from the pack. They’re both made from beech. The front knob simply replaces the brass one, while the tail is attached using two machine screws provided; a 5 minute job, tops. I have to say, it makes planing end grain a doddle. You can really get some power behind the plane and your control and grip is secure. The front knob was also pretty handy on the shooting board I found. In effect you get a small low angle smoother. If you have a young Galoot In Training who wants to plane “just like daddy”, this might be the solution. After all, if you GIT loses interest, at least you still have a jolly useful plane to use, as opposed to buying him/her a #1 or #2. ;) However, there is a downside. The adjustments are trickier to get to with it fitted, and the price. It puts the cost over the £100 mark, which I fear would put a lot of people off. I think they’re extras worth having, and I’d certainly suggest anyone considering the Low Angle try out the ball tail and knob as well, if they can. A bizarre aside; the tail is made in Canada and the knob in the USA?!

So, the verdict. These planes are just about mid-way between the Stanley/Records and the L-Ns in price, but much, much closer to the L-Ns in performance. In fact the ease of adjustment could arguably just give them the edge, even if their looks aren‘t everyone‘s taste. The low angle ones I particularly like (maybe you could tell? :D ), and at the price the Apron plane is an absolute bargain. As soon as Rob organises himself to come over for Tools 2000&when?, I’ll be buying one and getting him to sign it to go with my signed L-N ;) But I’d also make a plea for a lower price on buying the Low Angle with the ball tail and front knob as a set… If you’re in the market, take a good look at them. Yes, they are a bit different, but in a good way. :D

Apron Plane HCS blade £52.25 and £58.00 with A2 blade
Low & Standard Angle Block Planes £88.25 each
Ball Tail £16.00 Front Knob £4.50

<Edit> As of 1st October there's been a review of prices, viz:
Apron Plane HCS blade £49.94 and £57.58 with A2 blade
Low & Standard Angle Block Planes £81.08 each
Ball Tail £16.37 Front Knob £4.64
 

Noel

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Alf,

Excellent review and well written. I'll be very cross if the next review is any shorter. Can't beat an indepth appraisal from somebody who knows their subject very well.

Rgds

Noel, in a mild state of awe.
 

Gary H

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Thanks for the great review Alf.
That's certainly given me food for thought, as I am looking for an Apron or a Low Angle Block plane next. (just can't get by with only my Bailey alone anymore!!)

All the info is there and I actually quite like the look of them. Performance-wise, though, it sounds very favourable. Just waiting now for TPTB to come home from work and give her the 'good' news. :D And then duck, quickly... :wink:

Ta muchly

Gary

(practising avoiding low-flying objects)
 

Chris Knight

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Alf,

That is a great review, thanks very much. I'm kind of in the market for a LA block plane (I have a Stanley and it works but I just know a LN or now, a LV would work far better!
 

Neil

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Superb review, Alf - like Noely I'm in awe! Can't wait for the next installment...

So, can we start the campaign now for someone to send you the complete sets of L-Ns and Cliftons so that we'll end up with the definitive set of plane reviews? :wink:

NeilCFD
 

Charley

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Great review Alf and thanks to Brimarc for sending her the planes :) Looking foward to the next one.
 

Philly

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Alf,
Lovely jubbly!
Nice work with the review-good work if you can get it! :D

Just out of interest, um, are you returning the planes after testing, or, ah, free to do what you want with them? I could use a regular angle block, if you don't really need it........... :D

keep up the good work,
Philly :D
 

Pete W

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Good job, Alf - and more applause for Brimarc. And another vote for the next review of equal (or greater!) length.

I guess from the review that you'd happily buy the apron and the low-angle block. But if you had to have just one, which one would it be?

Let me rephrase that. If a person of less-than-compulsive galootishness had to buy just one, which one would it be? :)
 
A

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Ta Alf.
Really enjoyed that even though I am not in the market for a new block plane, it is interesting to hear how Veritas are progressing with their range.

Rollo on the large shoulder plane - next major purchase on my list :lol:

Cheers

Tony
 

johnjin

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Hi Alf
Absolutely fantastic review. Whats this, just another one of your many hidden talents. I think you put it in the wrong section but I will overlook that this time. :lol: Interesting, informative, witty and I'm sure I could go on but in the end it comes down to the fact that it was a great review.
By the way contact Chris about new door size dimensions. :wink:
All the best

John
 

Alf

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Well if someone could lend me the use of a vacuum press, maybe I could get my head back to a reasonable size... :oops: Ta muchly, folks. Better reserve full judgement until the end maybe. :shock: If I get out of this alive, that is...

Neil":chgjbsh1 said:
So, can we start the campaign now for someone to send you the complete sets of L-Ns and Cliftons so that we'll end up with the definitive set of plane reviews?
Not just yet please, Neil. I'm going to need a while to recover I think. Nice thought though. :wink:

Philly":chgjbsh1 said:
Just out of interest, um, are you returning the planes after testing, or, ah, free to do what you want with them? I could use a regular angle block, if you don't really need it...........
I'll bet. Unfortunately they all go back at the end of the month. :(

Rob Lee":chgjbsh1 said:
A "Mangiamellian" effort!
Ooops, did it get that long? :oops:

Pete W":chgjbsh1 said:
I guess from the review that you'd happily buy the apron and the low-angle block. But if you had to have just one, which one would it be?
Just one?! Urgh... Well I do have a particular liking for fixed mouth block planes, but for all round handiness I think the Low Angle has to get the nod. The Apron plane is nice though... Ooo, it's too difficult. :?

Next up should be the shoulder plane; just got a couple of things to clarify. :D

Cheers, Alf
 

Rob Lee

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Alf":fzoygi1h said:
SNIP

Next up should be the shoulder plane; just got a couple of things to clarify. :D

Cheers, Alf
Gee -

We start shipping the LA Jack on thursday... should we send one of those??

Cheers -

Rob
 

Adam

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Nice one ALF.

Roll on the next review......

Adam
 

Neville Lawler

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Hi
Excellent and timely review,especially as I have just received the Veritas catalogue. I was undecided before reading your review but I will be purchasing the Apron.
Many thanks
Neville
 
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