E C Emmerich Dovetail Plane

  • Advertise with us
Review by TheGravedigger posted 01-23-2011 08:31 PM 10477 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
E C Emmerich Dovetail Plane No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Most of us have something on our Christmas wish list that we didn’t get – the thing that you turn around and spend your cash gifts on. In my case, it was a dovetail plane.

I like the idea of sliding dovetails for casework, but find fitting them to be a pain. Routing the socket is simple enough, but fine-tuning the router table fence for a perfect pin fit can drive me to distraction – all I have to do is breathe wrong to get it too loose. It seemed to me that routing the pin a hair fat and then final fitting with a dovetail plane would be a solution. Since Lee Valley still had free shipping, I went ahead and ordered an E.C. Emmerich from them.

Dovetail Plane 1

Dovetail Plane 10

The plane arrived in good condition, with the iron separately packaged, and included a wrench to adjust the nicker. The body is beech with a hornbeam sole, and is built along the same lines as their moving filister plane, but without the depth stop. The sole has a 10 degree slope, and has threaded inserts for the fence adjustment screws. The fence itself is simple and basic, and has a small machined recess to prevent contact with the blade. There is a metal button on the rear to act as a striking point for the plane hammer. The wedge seems unusually long, and may interfere with the blade as it gets ground down. Of course, the wedge can be trimmed to match when that time comes.

Dovetail Plane 11

The blade was surprisingly well ground, and only required a couple of minutes to flatten to my satisfaction. The skew angle is actually about 14 degrees, which seemed odd until I remembered that this is a compound angle situation. The sole is 10 degrees, and the blade is bedded at about 45 degrees, requiring a different skew angle on the blade. The bevel is 25 degrees, and I finished it off with a 27 degree microbevel.

Dovetail Plane 5

This plane has the new-style square nicker that is adjusted by loosening a screw and rotating the point to set the depth of cut. A word of advice here: use the shallowest depth that will give you a clean cut. An overly aggressive nicker setting will result in some serious shoulder tearout. The instructions tell you to rotate to a new corner when the nicker gets dull, and then simply replace the nicker when worn out. The problem is, I can’t find a source for replacement nickers. Even Emmerich’s catalog doesn’t seem to list one. Oh well, there’s always sharpening.

I tried the plane in two different modes: dovetail from scratch, and trimming a router-cut dovetail. Both of these were done both with and across the grain to simulate various types of applications. I used a variety of woods for the test – the photographs below were of soft maple.

Dovetail Plane 9

Cutting with the grain went very well. The shavings were smooth, even, and full-length. The only problem, shared by many planes, was that the mouth and side escapement tended to clog with shavings. As you can see from the picture, the shavings tended to make tight curls, which bunched up and filled the space above the mouth. This is a function of the fact that the blade’s cutting profile is skewed, and really is little more than an annoyance.

Dovetail Plane 8

Crossgrain cuts, such as on the end of a shelf, proved more of a challenge. The cuts here were noticeably rougher, and the plane tended to chatter more. As you can see from the photograph, most of the roughness was concentrated on the widest point of the dovetail. Just to be on the safe side, I resharpened the iron and tried again with the same results. The best results were obtained by setting for as light a cut as possible and using a sharp iron – just like best results with any other plane.

Dovetail Plane 6

There are several reasons for the rough cut. First, you’re planing crossgrain – that alone makes for a rough cut. Secondly, as you can see from the photo at left, while the blade is skewed, the mouth opening is not (yes, that’s my blood on the hornbeam sole – skew points get sharp!). This means that the gap in front of the blade gets wider as you move farther from the dovetail shoulder, giving less support for the cut. Thirdly, as you can (hopefully) see from my crude diagram below, the grain at the far end of the dovetail is composed of very short fibers as a result of the nature of the cut. In most woods you can get tearout here by flicking this point with your fingernail. Given this combination of factors, crossgrain dovetail tearout is practically unavoidable. The only possible fix I could think of would be to make a sole insert that would tighten the mouth and conform it to the cutting profile of the blade. That may be a project for later on if the roughness causes joinery problems.

Dovetail Diagram

All in all, I’m very pleased with this plane. The overall fit and finish are excellent, reflecting top-notch German craftsmanship. It cuts well, and is perfect for removing that last hair from a routed dovetail. You will, of course, need a 10 degree dovetail bit to match the plane, but that’s a minor expense. My only suggestion for improvement would be a revision of the mouth to give a tighter opening and improve crossgrain cuts. Final assessment: an excellent, though specialized, addition to your plane collection.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4797 days

3 comments so far

View swirt's profile


5231 posts in 3745 days

#1 posted 01-23-2011 09:55 PM

Interesting review. I am surprised by the wider mouth on that side. I guess I wouldn’t worry about it since that portion of the dovetail has almost no strength anyway and is typically hidden. The only place it might be visible is on the ends of the socket if it is not a stopped socket (like a stopped dado)

-- Galootish log blog,

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3832 days

#2 posted 01-24-2011 01:05 PM

Very astute observation about the mouth opening. I would contact Lee Valley about that. That does not seem normal to me. I have a few wooden planes with skewed irons and none of them have a mouth opening like that. Based on the prices that I have see on EC Emmerich planes, I would expect better than that.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View shoarthing's profile


1 post in 463 days

#3 posted 04-02-2019 10:59 AM

Interesting & helpful to see Emmerich’s dovetail plane reviewed – thank you.

An alternative I’ve used over the past 40+ years is Ullmia’s #496 grathobel (dovetail plane) . . . . still in production in red beech/hornbeam (sole) & afaik identical in design to my mid-30s hornbeam/lignum #496. Image below is from a site selling the current model.

The Ulmia grathobel’s mouth is parallel, & the nicker is a straightforward triangular-ended sliver of tool steel, with decades of sharpenable material. This plane is good for cross-grain work, with the usual proviso – noted above – of fragile tail corners.

Angle of the sole is an unusual 17° . . . . . only one retail dovetail cutter I know of is made to this slope; sold by Dictum in Germany. Not a hassle to me, since handwork trade practice was to cut with a fine-toothed version of a stair-saw, or use side-rebate planes inside a dado.

Current project is to make a matching-angle female dovetail plane, in maple/verawood

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics