Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Taming of the Skew

Lie Nielsen vs. Veritas

A couple of years ago I wanted to order a left handed Skew Block Plane from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren, Maine so I called their Canadian representative, Rob Cosman. At the time Rob informed me that the left handed version was back-ordered and said he had a right handed model available. He assured me it didn't really matter if I had the left or right model because it would always depend on the grain direction when planing a rabbet if I needed a specific orientation of hand plane. Trusting Rob knew what he was talking about I went ahead and ordered it. He was right, no big deal that it was a right handed version, it exceeded my expectations and has been a pleasure to use these last few years. Late this summer Veritas introduced their Skew Rabbet Plane also available in a left or right handed version; I decided that those times when my right-handed Lie-Nielsen would tear out wood grain when planing against the grain I would order the new Veritas left handed model. It arrived quickly and well packaged as all of my Veritas tools have. Sharp and ready to go I was surprised at the size of the plane.
Now that I have one of each I'll compare what I think are the advantages and dis-advantages of each one of these models. First up,
The Lie-Nielson Skew Block Plane:

When this plane arrived in my mailbox it was ready to work right out of the box. Finely casted bronze with a comfortable front knob in Cherry. The plane set up quite easily and even though it was a right-handed model it felt quite comfortable in use. I decided to add a longer fence to the existing bronze one that came with the plane and the folks at Lie-Nielsen had already tapped out a couple of holes just for this purpose. The plane comes with a nicker that's great for scoring a line just before your cut which seems to help a great deal at eliminating any tear out. I find the size of this plane suits my hand very well but one problem I do encounter while using it is it can sometimes wander away from the inside edge of a rabbet while in use. I'm not sure exactly why this occurs, I try my best at keeping it firmly registered against the side of the work being planed however it still can wander just enough to leave a bit of material on the inside corner. I wonder if the Lie-Nielsen had a second post to support the fence would it correct this problem? This small left-over material is something I'll correct by finishing off the cut with my small shoulder plane. Not a big deal but one negative against. Another item is the Lie-Nielsen model has no depth adjustment or fence. Again, not the end of the world but a depth stop would be handy when you want to cut to a certain depth and no deeper. I would not hesitate to recommend anyone purchasing this hand plane or any other models from Lie-Nielsen.

Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane

I'll start of with saying one of the obvious differences you'll notice right away in these two planes is size. This is not a one handed tool. Perhaps this entire article is a little 'apples to oranges'...I know the Lie-Nilesen is technically a block plane and the Veritas clearly is not. So why bother comparing? Why not.
The Veritas came sharp right out of the box, great except that the front edge of the bottom fence and the front leading edges on the depth stop were also sharp enough to tear out some wood grain while in use. This I quickly fixed by taking a few light passes with a small file and finishing up with some 320 grit wet/dry paper. Problem solved but still my first experience with this kind of thing from Veritas...perhaps this one was made on a Friday? I also find the Veritas a little bulkier which makes set up and blade adjustment a little tricky. I'm one who likes to see down through the throat of my plane while I'm taking a shaving however the Skew Rabbet design makes this almost impossible to do while standing over it working. The design is aesthetically pleasing, it seems to have some extra 'contours' molded into the body just above the mouth and throat area. I'm not sure if these are there to aid in handling however, I found that they created a kind of 'catch all' for shavings and needed to be cleaned out after every other pass. Some advantages I found on the Veritas are these: The double pole for the bottom fence keeps things super straight and performance at cutting down a 1/4" Rabbet in Walnut was effortless. (once I rounded over the sharp edges and finely tuned the set-up) The large front knob is also extremely nice, they also put it on an angle or skew. Having the depth stop is also great for the reasons I mentioned earlier. Another big difference between these two planes is the over-all blade set-up. This is more of a bench plane and features a bevel down blade while the Lie-Nielsen has the blade bevel up. This again is neither here or there except this: The Lie-Nielsen can be used in all sorts of planing scenarios, simply remove the fence and you basically have a nice big block plane. That said the veritas is pretty much dedicated to what it was made for. Hey, we are what we are...So with that can I say I prefer one over the other? No not really, in my perfect plane world my Skew Plane would be about the size of the Lie-Nielsen, have all of the same features it has but borrow the depth stop, the angled, slightly larger front knob and the double pole system for the fence, from the Veritas model and I think it would be 'damn near perfect'. I'll also suggest if you've been thinking about purchasing a Skew plane either one of these fine tools are far more than standard or adequate. They each have a few pluses and minuses but hey, nothing is perfect. In my shop the great thing is this; I needed a left handed model and a right handed do what I did and get one of each.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One Mans Treasure is Another Mans...

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

A few weeks ago I was walking along our street here in Toronto and noticed this old wooden door on the curb side of a neighbours house. They were throwing it out so I decided to take it home. I'm just finishing off a modern sideboard for a client here in the city and once completed I'll be starting an exterior door for a Heritage property in an old area of town. This will be a great point of reference when building my clients new door; at the very least I'll be able to dissect it and see how things were done in years gone by. Once I have it apart I'll re mill the lumber into some smaller pieces to use in some project down the road. Reduce, reuse and recycle...It just makes sense. (The Beagle in the foreground is Sally, our first born)