Lie-Nielsen - #51 Shooting Board plane. (Rating: 5)

It all depends. Here is my philosophy for buying tools, if I say to myself "Gee it would be nice to have XXXXX tool so I could make this operation easier" 3 times, then I buy the tool. I do it this way because I know that I will be using the tool, and it makes my woodworking easier.

Shooting a board is one of those operations that seem simple enough, just make a shooting board and shave the end grain with a plane. THe problems comes with the execution. At least for me. I tried it with a jack plane, I then bought a Nº 9 shooting plane and with both I found out I had to have a gorilla grip on both the piece of wood and the plane, with the concurrent problems this causes, the piece of wood shifts, the plane tilts, etc, etc.

So how does the Nº 51 makes this process easier? 3 reasons, the handle, the skewed blade and being able to put a "track" on the shooting board.

The handle and track work together so that you can concentrate on pushing the plane with minimal effort, and the skewed blade goes through end grain with a lot less effort than a straight blade. The Nº 9 plane solves the grip solution, but the blade mechanism is too close to the side of the plane, making very difficult to make a "track" for the shooting board, and since the blade is straight it requires a lot more force to go through the end grain.

Lets tackle the price issue, yes, $500 is a lot for a "working" plane, after all you can do the same even with a block plane. First, there is a lot of metal in this plane, it is a heavy plane, another aid in making go through the end grain, second as always, there is the Lie Nielsen quality. The plane has a perfect fit and it is sent to you in a wooden box.

So the next obvious question is, why would you need such an expensive plane just to shoot boards? In my case for my furniture design I use a lot of end grain to end grain joints reinforced with dowels. I want those joints to be invisible. In the example pictures I posted above I am using a few pieces of flooring to show the quality of the joint after shooting the board, obviously for this any miter saw would yield a straight cut. Now imagine you are making the sides of a night stand where you want the walls curved concave side out. You make 3º or 4º cuts on the sides and your saw blade has a little flex and does not give you a perfectly straight cut. Here is where the shooting board operation is invaluable. With this plane you can make perfectly end grain cuts at any angle that will result in invisible joints.

Hope this review helps.

Jorge.