High-tech and versatile skew block plane

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Review by live4ever posted 06-12-2010 09:51 AM 10237 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
High-tech and versatile skew block plane High-tech and versatile skew block plane No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’ve never been able to restore a cheap or older block plane to complete satisfaction. Not knowing whether it was me or whether I was working with inferior quality, I became frustrated and resigned myself to never experiencing the titillating joy of transparent shavings and effortless planing.

I began considering simply purchasing a high-quality block plane, either a Lie-Nielsen or Veritas, because I had wasted enough time trying to restore junk and a properly tuned block plane is too handy. Sure, I might never give up my power tools for a large stable of assorted hand planes, saws, and chisels, but I’ve found that a good block plane is a must.

That mindset, plus a caffeine and sugar-induced euphoria, led me to pull the trigger on the Veritas skew angle block plane. Actually, not one, but the pair of left and right-handed models. Oh God, what have I done?

What I have done in fact is purchase myself two very, very well-built block planes. I am no hand tool connoisseur, but I know quality when I see and feel it. The plane is beautiful to look at and to hold. The bottom comes fully lapped, and was dead flat. The wooden knob for toe adjustment and the wooden fence are made from a lovely bubinga. The polished brass fittings and knobs – silky smooth. The plane has a nice heft to it – not too heavy and not too light. It fits perfectly in my medium-sized hand. By no means the work of art that the NX60 block plane is, I still felt like I should be building a glass display case to house the thing in.

It comes out of the box almost ready to roll (plane?). As I mentioned, the bottom is dead-flat and polished, and needs no lapping. Veritas laps the backs of all their plane irons, so all that was needed was a final honing of the blade. I used a 6000 grit waterstone and freehanded (more on this later), which was sufficient for effortless, transparent shavings leaving a glass-smooth finish on the workpiece.

The Veritas skew block plane is actually a very feature-rich block plane. In a nutshell, these features are:

- the 15? skewed blade
- lateral adjustment set screws
- adjustable mouth with set screw for blade protection (and “memory”)
- retractable scoring spur for cross-grain work
- removable fence

There are three set screws (for a grand total of five) on the body sides that set the lateral position of the iron. You set the blade in place, make sure it’s parallel and square to the mouth , and advance the set screws to hold it there. Lateral shifting was a huge problem with my old (cough cough cough cough cough Groz cough cough cough) block plane and I appreciate that the blade will stay where it’s set.

The depth-adjustment is silky smooth. I’m able to advance or retract the blade in very small increments, something I was not able to do with my old block plane. The toe adjusts easily by loosening the bubinga knob – a nice feature is the hidden set screw in the throat that keeps the toe from whacking the blade and allows you to return to a particular mouth position.

The skew angle definitely helps make cuts more easily, but also can make life a bit tougher going in the “wrong” direction. This is why there are left and right-handed versions of the plane – the pair gives you the ability to handle any grain direction. The skew also does have the downside that it is more difficult to hone. Standard honing guides are designed to hold blades squarely; you can’t have a lateral angle as well. If you have the Veritas honing system, you can get a skew registration jig for it. I don’t have it, so for my initial honing to test the plane, I just freehanded and it was fine. In the future, I will probably just make small wood wedges with the correct angle that I can use with my standard honing guide.

The iron is flush with the side of the plane which makes corner cleanup possible and is also an ideal setup for rabbets when combined with the fence. In my limited testing of this function, the plane performed as advertised. It cut cleanly right to the corner of the rabbet. The bubinga fence face can be removed – the fence support is tapped so you can add your own deeper/longer/wedged fence faces.

You can get the plane with A2 or O1 blades. I know the prevailing mantra is O1 for low-angle planes, but I went with A2, which is harder and holds an edge better. This is an argument better left to the neanderthal gurus – personally, I am perfectly happy with A2, and probably don’t know any better!

Overall, I’m very pleased with this block plane. I’ve now experienced the joy of those whisper thin savings, much to the dismay of the scrap boards in my possession. I’m still not sure whether I will keep the right-handed one – even though they are most useful as a pair, the purchase of the pair was a bit extravagant for me (and the result of legal substance abuse).

Do I recommend this plane? Definitely. It cuts like a dream (and I imagine even better if I honed with a higher grit, strop, etc.). On paper, it’s the most feature-rich block plane available. It does everything a standard block plane does, plus the fence allows trimming rabbets (note that rabbeting with the skew block is really meant for fine finishing work, not hogging rabbet material quickly) and the skew angle helps to slice cross-grain and end-grain.

It is not by any means an inexpensive plane, and everyone has to decide for themselves whether it’s worth it. Since I’m simply stepping up from cheap block planes, haven’t used other comparable planes, AND still consider myself a woodworking noob, I may not be the best reviewer to help you decide whether this is the right block plane for you compared to all the other options out there. But I do have that satisfying feeling of buying a quality tool I know I will use for a lifetime.

NOTE: The photos are LV’s. I will be adding some of mine shortly.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View live4ever's profile


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5 comments so far

View velo_tom's profile


123 posts in 4261 days

#1 posted 06-12-2010 11:13 AM

I concur! I’ve the right hand plane and am very happy with it. There are times already that the left one would have come in handy. If I had both I don’t think I’d be willing to part with one of them.

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 5115 days

#2 posted 06-12-2010 03:21 PM

I agree as well, its a hard plane to beat.. just a sweetheart

View a1Jim's profile


118258 posts in 4822 days

#3 posted 06-12-2010 04:49 PM

View velo_tom's profile


123 posts in 4261 days

#4 posted 06-12-2010 07:06 PM

3fingerpat, I went through the same mental gymnastics trying to figure out if I really needed this plane since I already have the other LV planes you mention. I’ve been very happy I bought it because it actually fulfills another function. Though it’s like a miniature version of your skewed rabbet plane, this one sets up quick and easy and is easier to keep in place on a narrower board. I find myself using it all the time. I still use the rabbet plane on longer boards, it’s easier to feel your angle is correct with the larger one plus you have the depth stop on it.

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 4282 days

#5 posted 06-14-2010 05:54 AM

Many thanks for the review! As of now, I am perfectly happy with my cheap Bailey block plane (and can easily get transparent shavings when I need/want to), but the idea of a skewed angle plane that doubles as a tenon plane is definitely tempting. Glad to hear you enjoy them so much.

-- David from Indiana --

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