Veritas - Low-Angle Jack Plane (Rating: 5)

A few years ago, I worked for Microsoft. These days I work for HP. And while both companies have been good employers, I found that my personal computing preferences tend to drift towards Apple Computers. Why? Because they are innovative, have great design, and do a damn good job of taking care of their customers.

If I were to translate that to hand tools, I would have to say that Stanley is Microsoft and Veritas is Apple.

When you buy a PC running a Microsoft OS (even something as good as Windows 7) you have to do several things before you can actually start working with it. You have to install anti virus, you have to get applications to run on it. If you really know your stuff, you do a bit of fine tuning to get it running as smoothly as possible. If you buy from HP, Dell, or a number of other OEMs, you also have to uninstall a lot of crap.

When you buy an Apple, you take it out of the box, plug it in and start working. It comes with software (iLife) that lets you start working immediately. Other software for it isn't even that expensive. I hate to quote Steve Jobs (because he can be a smug sonova-you know what) but "it just works".

The same analogy can be applied to the Veritas Low Angle Jack Plane that I recently took delivery of. "It just works", right out of the box. (go take a look at my blog for the un-boxing) Whereas a Stanley (even the new Sweethearts) almost always needs some effort put into them before you put them to work (see my previous review and blog entries)...

Some folks mistake this tool for a bench plane. Sure it looks like one. It can certainly be used as one. Lee Valley even lists it in their bench plane section. However it is not one. It is a block plane. A REALLY BIG Block Plane. The giveaways, of course, are the lack of a chip breaker and the fact that the iron is beveled up instead of down like a bench plane. Block planes are mainly meant for working with the end grain of wood stock. But because a low angle jack plane is so big, it can also be used for smoothing, planing, or shooting like a traditional bench plane.

But I digress, we were talking about how, "it just works"

Just to prove that point, I took my unaltered Veritas and immediately put it to work. The results were very thin wood shavings.


Just how good is this plane out of the box? One of the first things I did was to check the flatness of the iron. To do this I placed 2000grit wet sanding paper on my granite block and rubbed the back of the iron on it exactly 10 times to polish it. There was absolutely no indication of a low spot anywhere on the iron near the blades edge.



I also lapped the sole of the planes body with only 20 strokes on 2000grit wet sandpaper. Again, no indication of the sole being anything but flat. After this I also tested the body of the plane for squareness. As you've heard a million times from other reviewers, Veritas planes are DEAD ON square. I could use this thing to help me setup my jointer.



As with most high end planes, the Veritas has an adjustable mouth to makes it easier to control the thickness of cuttings. But Veritas differs in how you adjust the mouth. Most manufacturers (Stanley, Lie Nielsen, etc) have you loosen the knob on the toe of the plane and perform the adjustment with an adjustment lever. Veritas also loosens with a turn of the knob but the adjustment is done with a brass screw affixed to the body of the plane inside the throat. I found that this screw makes VERY VERY VERY fine adjustments of the mouth extremely easy. It is one of those ideas that makes you slap your forehead and wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. Genius.

The Veritas also uses a Norris style adjuster for changing the lateral position of the blade in relation to the mouth as well as changing the depth of the cut. This adjuster is very well built with only about an 1/8th of a turn of back lash and no slop in the overall mechanism. It is really a joy to use.



Another great feature on the Veritas are two set screws on either side of the plane's sole. These screws allow you to easily insure that your iron is centered in the mouth opening. They also act as pivot points for the blade when it is laterally adjusted with the Norris adjuster.

So what can this bad boy really do? How well can it perform? Well, after a little extra honing of the iron I put everything back together and put the Veritas through its paces. (it didn't really need any more honing but I am addicted to sharp objects. I'm sure I'm on someone's watch list).

The proof is in the puddin'. Check out that shaving.


But that shaving was with the grain, how about across the grain? The Veritas did not disappoint.


This shaving was 0.004 inches. I'm sure I could have gone thinner but I'm lazy.

This was the result of the end grain of my work piece.


Summary

The Veritas Low Angle Jack Plane is a joy to work with. "It Just works" It even does a great job smoothing rough boards. This is my 2nd Veritas plane but it sure isn't going to be my last.

This Veritas plane cost $219.00 plus $13.50 shipping from Leevalley.com. Surprisingly, its main competitor (from Lie Nielsen) cost $245 plus $6 shipping. That makes the LN cost only $18.50 more. The shipping for the LN cost even less if you get it from Japanwoodworker.com. I haven't used the LN but I'm pretty sure I prefer the mouth adjustment nut on the Veritas as well as the fact that it has more lateral adjustment. The later is a personal preference but that mouth adjustment is definitely an advantage.

Rating: 5 stars… (6 if Lumberjocks would let me)..

I hope you find this review useful