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Veritas Plane Review - Part Three. Spokeshaves

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Alf

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Continuing this epic journey, we reach stage three - A Close Shave (groaning at this point is optional but strongly advised)



Fairly recent newcomers to the Lee Valley Veritas stable are these two bevel down spokeshaves, round and flat soled, to join their already popular low angle cousin. Once more the butter-fingered amongst us have a chance of getting through the day without sobbing over a tool in more pieces than the designer intended, viz; a ductile iron body, nicely poised between two rather elegant rosewood handles. That’s what the blurb tells me, but I think I’m right in saying they’re bubinga, if that sort of precise info is important to you. :roll: The irons are A2 steel, 54mm wide, or 2 1/8” in old money. Packing is a long, white cardboard box and the instructions do double duty as protection for the tool inside. The latter are clear and helpful, and as before the miracle of the ‘Net means you can check them out for your very self on the L-V site. The plastic shims are protected in a little paper envelope, which is how small parts always used to be packed, so it appeals to my galootish soul. So far, so good.

Now stop and cast an aesthetic eye over these tools. Of course you’ve got one, every woodworker has. No? Well jolly well go and acquire one and then come back. Got it? Okay then… Pretty, ain’t they? Now these tools don’t give me the urge to build a darkened cupboard in order to hide them away from the light. No sir, they’re very classy in appearance indeed, in my opinion. :wink: The machining of the blade bed, front edge of the lever cap and sole is all fine, while the lacquered finish on the handles seems to have managed to avoid looking gloopy or too shiny and is pleasant to the touch.



The lever cap itself is a pretty thick casting, and the polish on the top of the front edge where the shavings have to exit is a nice feature. The fairly rough casting texture is left on the body but L-V seem to have dug up some finer sand or whathaveyou for the lever cap, and the finish on them both is good. These shaves have one unusual feature; the handles will unscrew from the body. This gives L-V the opportunity to sell a kit to enable to make your own handles to your own preferences, but it also means you can amaze your friends and family by producing a full size working spokeshave out of quite a small pocket, if that’s your idea of a good time…

Luckily for me and my sole testing phobia, the flatness or roundness of shave soles isn’t a matter for squares and straight edges, so I ignored them with some relief and turned instead to the irons. Now innovation and Veritas are practically synonymous, but anyone with a Record or Stanley shave will be familiar with the guts of these tools. Loosen the lever cap screw, push the lever cap up, and then lift it off the blade screw and remove. Then just hoick the blade off its twin adjusters and behold, I have another two irons to sharpen… :roll: By some quirk of coincidence the flat shave hade a hollow backed blade, while the round had a convex one, which struck me as rather neat and tidy.


Left: straight from the fine diamond stone. Right: Pesky secondary, or micro bevel

When it came to flattening them though, I’d have preferred two concave ones, but the grinding of them was good enough to make it pretty painless. That pesky secondary bevel on the other hand, I could do well without. Short spokeshave blades of any make are tiresome enough to sharpen anyway, but I’d sooner round over the secondary bevel of my choosing, given the choice. :roll: Never mind, it’s a small grumble in the big scheme of things, and eventually I got an adequate enough sharpening job done for the purposes of review.

So back the blades went, the notches in the top slipping over the depth adjusting screws. As suggested in the instructions, having just sufficient pressure on the lever cap while still allowing blade adjustment was the best technique. That cuts out all the loosening and tightening of the lever cap between depth adjustments. This was just as well because the adjusters and I didn’t exactly embark on a life-long love affair… In the blurb from Brimarc I read the comforting assurance that “The twin blade-adjust screws fit snugly in the blade recesses with minimal lost motion…”. Oh, if only. There was fully half a turn of slack unfortunately, and it’s more than enough to make blade adjustment on these shaves just as painful as it is on a similar Stanley or Record. I must admit, I was really disappointed. If truth be told I’ve been spoilt by my exposure, albeit a brief one, to the precise adjustments on the other Veritas goodies I‘ve looked at, and the adjustment here isn’t any worse than any other spokeshave of this type. Not to worry, with two adjusters you can set the blade on the skew, one side taking a deeper cut than the other, so when you don’t need the whole width of the blade for a cut that’d seem to be the best solution rather than fiddling with the adjustment anyway. A nice addition is the two plastic shims to close down the mouth. The usual mouth size isn’t exactly gaping, but with both shims in place on the bed (held in place with the blade screw) it’s virtually invisible. Just the job for those light cuts in difficult grain.


Left: Round sole, unshimmed. Right: Flat sole, where'd that mouth go anyway?

Now we come to the section that is so entirely my opinion as to be virtually worthless. :wink: Yes, it’s ergonomics time once more. The instruction booklet helpfully gives four suggestions for how to hold these shaves, three of them for a pulling grip. Now I’m more of a pushing style of spokeshave user; a lot of the work I do with them is to fair up curves across the thickness of a board for cabinet work (the curve of a shaker candle stand leg, that sort of thing) rather than shaving a spindle on a drawhorse, and I find I get better control that way. So I tried the suggested pushing grip first, which placed my grip rather more to either side of the blade than I’m used to.


Suggested grip, round soled shave

Unfortunately I didn’t feel I was getting the control or feedback that I usually do, and to a certain extent the shave tended to tip back off the work. I also ran out of room on the handles to rest my hands, which was surprising; possibly because the elegant cigar shape slopes away at the ends. After some head scratching, I came to the conclusion a more traditional paddle style of handle might have helped with the two latter problems, suggesting the make-your-own-handle option might be a benefit. In lieu of that, I tried something more like my usual grip in the hopes that‘d be better.


More like my usual grip, but the thumb wanted to get in the picture, so moved round...

Obviously not a good grip in this case ‘cos my forefingers rested on the thin edge of the front of the body while my thumbs made painful contact with the sharp edges of the flat areas where the depth adjuster threads enter the rear of the body. Ho hum. The suggested grip wasn’t so bad when it came to chamfering an edge or shaping a spindle, mainly because I didn’t need to put so much pressure on my thumbs to get the tool through the narrower cut I think. While my digits recovered their sang froid I tried a pulling grip instead, which was much better. My thumbs naturally rested on the depressions provided and the handles were particularly comfortable for the fingers to wrap round. It almost felt like a different tool; so much so I got carried away and forgot to take any pictures. :oops: After all this rigourous testing, I came to the conclusion these spokeshaves are made much more with chairmakers and their ilk in mind than cabinetmakers, at least as far as my hands are concerned. But perhaps that do-it-yourself handle option might help, should it become available over here.

My main test material for these were three reject cherry leg blanks from the a previous project. As far as performance goes once the blade was set, they were flawless. No chatter to be seen, whether they were wispy shavings or thick. ‘Nuff said I think. :D


Flat sole doing a fine job

So what’s the conclusion then? The woodworking world has really needed a well-made, reasonably affordable, bevel down spokeshave for a while now, and this could well be the answer for the majority. Not perfect mind, but streets ahead of the modern Stanleys and Records of this world for the precisely machined bedding of the blade alone, never mind the A2 blade and excellent lever cap. It’s not, worst luck, the solution for me, but for the craftsperson more into spindle-making and the like, just happier with pulling spokeshaves rather than pushing them or who simply finds them more comfortable to use than I do, I think they must be a winner.

Flat and Round Soled Spokeshaves £36.00 each, available in Blighty from mid July.

<Edit> As of 1st October there's been a review of prices, viz:
Flat and Round Soled Spokeshaves £48.18 each :(
 

Chris Knight

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Alf,
Another great review!

One of these days, you must compare them with the Boggs shaves from LN. These hold the blades differently - not a lever cap but a thick flat plate bearing on a much greater area of the blade. Also there are no adjusters, and they plainly didn't please you greatly and which on Stanley's I find truly horrible (I have never used these Veritas shaves but lost motion and a fiddle to get the blade parallel were my bugbears) .

I push and pull with abandon and no great difference in comfort (but as you say, this will be a very personal thing).
 

Aragorn

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My sentiments exactly! Another great review. Thanks Alf. How many more of these have we got to come. I'm really enjoying them. Don't let the day job stand in the way will you :wink:
As for the Boggs - it's nearly three times the price! Your comparative review /opinion woukd be interesting - is it three times as good?
These L-Vs seem very reasonably priced for quality tools?
 

johnjin

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Thanks Alf
Another great review.
I can see that you are getting very professional at this.
A very enjoyable read. Just make them a little longer in future.

All the best

John
 

gidon

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Another excellent review Alf - may finally inspire me to (finally) purchase my first spokeshave (shock, horror!)
Chris - there was a good review in Pop woodworking a month or two ago, comparing about 10 spokeshaves (including the LNs and LVs) - not sure if you saw it? Need to dig it out but both came out well - I think the LN Boggs was preffered by a whisker - but then it costs more.
Cheers
Gidon
 
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Thanks Alf

I was feeling a little unsure until the bottom line. £36. Sold!
 

Alf

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Drat. I really should have agreed the commission before I started doing this... :roll:

Chris, I'd very much like to try the Boggs, I must say. Not that I think I can justify the cost, shave enthusiast that I am, but it's be very interesting to see if you can feel the £54 difference! :D The Veritas did so well in terms of lack of chatter and so forth, it seems to me it really would come down to personal preference.

Cheers, Alf
 

Aragorn

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Alf - Let me get this right.... Are you saying you don't own the Boggs? So can't review it/compare it??
If so, say no more - PM me your details and you can borrow mine for a little while. :shock:
 
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Alf

Is the £36 spot on? I only ask as your link to veritas site shows them at $65 and in my experience this usually comes out at £65 once imported, knocked up and VATed.

If they come out at £65 then I may just go the LN way. You know my weakness for LN :cry:

Cheers

Tony

Who's hoping not to be too disappointed by the response
 

Alf

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SDP,

Hmm, good question. I think not, but I'll dig one out of the box again and have a look see.

Edit: I had a look by trying in a Stanley 151 c.1960. The blade does go over the adjusters, with considerable slop, but the mouth's too tight. Now there's always been complaint about recent examples having much wider mouths, so that might not be a problem... On the whole tho', I reckon you'd be better off with a Hock replacement, if you're in the market. At least it's made for the job, although at a higher cost. :(

Cheers, Alf
 

Gman

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Alf":2md4nxrn said:
Tony,

Yep, spotters. I have it from the horse's mouth, if the chaps at Brimarc will forgive the expression. :wink: I was pleasantly surprised myself.

Cheers, Alf
Interesting to see how much they are today - even with the exchange rate as good as it is.

Denis
 

Good Surname or what ?

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Up from £36 to £55 (2004-2007) for those that can't be bothered to look.

I hope that isn't incorporated in the inflation figures or we'll see another 1/2% on the mortgage rate!
 

Alf

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IIRC fairly early on the £36 turned out to be a cock-up somewhere along the line, so it's more accurately from £45 to £55. Increases in the prices of the raw materials due to demand from China etc have contributed quite a bit recently I gather.

Cheers, Alf
 

Martin Brown

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Thanks Alf you are correct £36 was a mistake. Please add to this the quite strong change to the Canadian dollar. Hmm.
 
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