Great plane, great customer service, surprisingly bad quality control

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Review by bobasaurus posted 08-17-2013 08:41 PM 7869 views 0 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great plane, great customer service, surprisingly bad quality control Great plane, great customer service, surprisingly bad quality control Great plane, great customer service, surprisingly bad quality control Click the pictures to enlarge them

Let me start off by saying this is the best plane I’ve ever used. I can run it any direction with or against the grain and leave a mirror-smooth surface, taking translucent shavings. The reason I docked a star is Lie-Nielsen’s quality control isn’t very good. When I first received the plane (ordered brand new off their website), there were several problems:

- The chipbreaker’s leading edge didn’t contact the blade, it was ground wrong. This means small shavings were getting stuck under it and clogging the mouth quickly.

- I couldn’t close the mouth more than about 1/8” without the frog adjuster screw jamming. I took it apart and found bronze shavings stuck in the hole. I blew-out the shavings with compressed air, but they had only tapped the hole down to where it stopped, which was on the shavings (poor practice not to count turns when tapping).

- The large screw attaching the chipbreaker to the blade was mangled by someone using a too-small screwdriver to tighten it. It’s a minor thing, but sloppy since they sell a screwdriver just for this purpose (which I bought to avoid making this mistake myself).

To Lie-Nielsen’s credit, it only took one email for them to issue me a return label and take the plane back for fixing. It took one week for the plane to originally come to me, another week for it to get back to Lie-Nielsen, a third week for them to fix it, and a fourth week for it to ship back to me. So a full month after my original order, I received the “fixed” plane back and discovered yet more problems:

- The replacement chipbreaker AGAIN wasn’t ground properly, but this time the leading edge at least connected. They left the edge very thick though, maybe 1/32”, rather than grinding it to a near knife-edge like usual. This made a wall that shavings contacted, again clogging the small mouth with shavings immediately. I wasn’t about to wait another 3 weeks for them to fix it, so I ground the bevel down myself on diamond stones until the leading “edge” was close to being an actual edge. Before I fixed it, the edge looked like this (it was hard to take a picture of, but there’s a 90 degree wall where shavings were hitting the chipbreaker edge):

- The lever cap was scuffed-up. A minor problem but it irks me a little on a brand-new plane. Fortunately I can buff it out if I want to:

- Another minor problem is they didn’t do a great job lapping the back of the blade. Only the leading about 1/2” has been flattened, and at what looks to be a very coarse grit. Fortunately I use the ruler trick when sharpening, so it doesn’t matter to me. It’s a bit surprising, though, since the Veritas blades I’ve seen have been dead-flat and somewhat polished.

Despite the poor quality-control and frustrating wait, the plane is amazing. I sharpened the blade using Rob Cosman’s freehand technique on Shapton 1000 and 15000 grit waterstones, and adjusted the plane’s mouth to about 1/32” wide. On a piece of reversing-grain hard maple, I was getting a mirror-smooth surface (regardless of planing direction) with translucent shavings less than 0.0005” thick according to my calipers:

The maple felt like glass afterwords. The high-angle (50 degree / york pitch) frog seems to help a lot on the reversing grain, as I have another smoothing plane at 45 degree pitch that tears out a little on reversals. The extra weight of the heavy bronze castings seems to help reduce chatter, too.

I used this smoother to do the final planing on a project I’m completing and only needed to do a light sanding before finishing (mainly just so the finish would absorb). It worked like a charm, even at a skew to get at some low spots. Here it is in action:

So in conclusion, I love this plane and will use it for all my smoothing tasks, but I might think twice before ordering another. This plane cost me $350… it’s the single-most expensive hand tool I own, but even my chinese-made woodriver came in better condition out of the box. For a tool of this quality, you’d expect more attention to detail and inspection before shipping. Still, it will be a beautiful user in my shop for the rest of my days and I can’t wait to smooth some more wood. Here’s a picture of it mingling with my other planes:

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View bobasaurus's profile


3633 posts in 3951 days

38 comments so far

View TheDane's profile


5822 posts in 4430 days

#1 posted 08-17-2013 09:15 PM

bobasaurus—Excellent review/commentary. You are right … I would expect more attention to detail from Lie-Nielsen.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2774 days

#2 posted 08-17-2013 09:51 PM

Hmmm. I wonder… If they see this review, what are the chances they’ll have their technician give one some “special handling” and tune one up, then send you the new one and ask you to return this one ?

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View TheDane's profile


5822 posts in 4430 days

#3 posted 08-17-2013 10:25 PM

joein10asee—That would be the RIGHT thing to do!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Mark E.'s profile

Mark E.

387 posts in 4510 days

#4 posted 08-17-2013 11:01 PM

Wow. You really don’t expect to see those kinds of issues with a top quality, premium product.
It’s very surprising that even after a second chance to get the plane up to spec, they still did not get it right.

-- Mark

View NormG's profile


6506 posts in 3771 days

#5 posted 08-18-2013 01:29 AM

Congrats on the plane. Call them, they will make it right

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View lj61673's profile


271 posts in 3166 days

#6 posted 08-18-2013 02:02 AM

I just checked the chip breaker on my LN bronze #3 and your right, my chip breaker is honed to a fine edge, almost like the blade.

I’m sure if you wanted they would take this plane back and send you a new one. Good luck.

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 4126 days

#7 posted 08-18-2013 03:06 AM

If I spent $350 on a brand new plane, I’d expect it to be perfect. I can understand a plane sneaking through the first time, but to repair a plane and send it back out like that is amazing to me. Personally, I’d call and insist on speaking with a CS supervisor. They should just send you a new plane and take that one back.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View Dusty56's profile


11858 posts in 4455 days

#8 posted 08-18-2013 03:14 AM

I think I would have asked for a new plane…that IS what you paid dearly for in the first place.
Shame on them for making you wait for all that time rather than just sending you a replacement.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View TropicalWW's profile


39 posts in 3419 days

#9 posted 08-18-2013 03:39 AM

I’ve heard of this a few times with LN. Someone buys a new tool, something isn’t right, and the buyer has to send it back for repair. I just don’t understand that customer service approach. If a new tool isn’t correct, just replace it! LN should do the repairs on their time, not their customer”s!

I’ve tried very hard to purchase LN products in the past even when other options have been cheaper or in some cases better. I like the look of LN products, and the customer service was always great to deal with, but lately I’ve heard from more and more people that didn’t get the service they should. (I’ve experienced it myself, too) It almost seems to me like Tom LN is absent, and the inmates are running the asylum. Or maybe LN thinks they can coast on the success of their past. Either way, I see more and more of my $ going toward Lee Valley.

View michelletwo's profile


2783 posts in 3783 days

#10 posted 08-18-2013 10:14 AM

what a shame..I adore my LN planes bought many years ago..they must be having issues today..they should have sent you a new plane .(or at least new parts)

View JohnChung's profile


421 posts in 2842 days

#11 posted 08-18-2013 10:29 AM

I bought a few stuff from LN. Mortise chisels, 102 and tenon saws. Of all the items, the 102 quality was the lowest…. Here is why. The blade was not as sharp as those from LV. There was some cosmetic scratches with the 102 and the depth screw was not that smooth.

The blade state of sharpness I could live with it. As carpenters we are all expected to know how to sharpen our blades. The scratches….. Call me silly but I do expect a shiny body with the money I spent. The depth screw at first I thought it was an issue but it actually turns out to allow the user to feel more control on the blade depth. Something which I do not quite get with the LV.

There are many things that could GO wrong with the gear we buy but somethings does NOT justify the cost when the machining or customer happiness are not met.

So what it means to me. I will support LN. The customer service is not great nor as quick as LV but they will do they best to make the customer happy. That I am certain. If you do get their gear and the quality is within expectation, I am certain you would enjoy your tools which I do certainly.

View NiteWalker's profile


2741 posts in 3344 days

#12 posted 08-18-2013 11:28 AM

I agree with what Dave said.
You paid for perfection, you deserve it.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4101 days

#13 posted 08-18-2013 01:41 PM

This is a very good and fair review. I hope LN will read it. They had a chance to show off their customer service and failed in my opinion. This is bound to cost them. At the same time, while I personally think LN’s QC should have been better in this case, if you wind up with an extraordinary tool, the aggravation is worth it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12169 posts in 4196 days

#14 posted 08-18-2013 02:15 PM

It’s excellent reviews like Bob’s in forums like this that MAYcause companies to take note. When we receive an inferior product and/or experience poor CS, many of us (me included) will often fix it ourselves and just not patronize that retailer/manufacturer in the future. That’s the wrong approach! We should widely publicise our dissatisfaction as Bob has done.
OTOH, positive experiences should be just as widely published, too.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View grizzlymunchin's profile


47 posts in 2510 days

#15 posted 08-18-2013 05:55 PM

these are production line planes not custom built, so that means tuneup, if you want custom you will pay a big price just sayin

-- woodshop by the cornfeild

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