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Tool Reviews #1: Veritas Large Shoulder Plane

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Blog entry by TheGravedigger posted 07-03-2007 01:06 AM 5814 reads 0 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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Every now and then you stumble upon a tool that makes you wonder how you ever got by without it. For me, that was the shoulder plane. My present workbench base project was going to require 28 large mortise and tenon joints, and practice joints showed me that fitting was going to be difficult. I had tried a combination of block plane and chisel to clean up the tenon cheeks and shoulders, but the intersection of the shoulder and cheek kept causing me problems. The shoulder plane seemed like the best solution. After considerable deliberation, I settled on the Veritas large shoulder plane from Lee Valley. I wasn’t disappointed.

Veritas Large Shoulder Plane

Except for final honing, mine was really ready to go right out of the box. The sole was flat, the sides were square, and they even lap the back of the blade! I chose the O1 blade instead of the A2 since I use oilstones to sharpen and didn’t want to work myself to death. I DO have to sharpen more often, but that’s no big deal with this plane—more on that in a minute.

It’s a strange looking contraption compared to a Preston-style like the Lie-Nielson or Clifton, but there’s method in their madness. The boxy blade lever nestles right into your palm in the perfect position, and my middle finger drops automatically into the round hole when holding the plane vertically for cheek cuts:

Shoulder plane in action

By the way, be sure to remove your finger from the hole when making shoulder cuts with the hand-side up, or you’ll get a nasty pinch when your digit collides with the cheek!

The front knob can be repositioned into a threaded hole on either side of the body, where it projects at an angle. This has its uses, but I found repositioning to be more trouble than it was worth when switching back and forth between cheek and shoulder. Besides, the front of the plane is easy to hold as is when laying on its side. The rear knob pivots from side to side, and is locked in place by screwing it down. This feature really shows Veritas’ quality machining. When the knob is loosened, it doesn’t flop. Instead, some sort of internal friction bushing partially resists the motion, giving repositioning a solid “wiping” feel. My favorite way to use this is to not tighten the knob down completely, but leave a little play. This way, the knob can “self-adjust” slightly as my hand position changes during use.

The plane weighs almost four pounds, but I prefer the mass of a heavier plane. To me, this improves authority with end-grain cuts, and reduces effort on cross-grain. The 1 1/4” wide cutter is almost a match for most low-angle block planes. The iron is bedded at 15 degrees which, with the 25 degree blade bevel, gives an effective cutting angle of 40 degrees. The mouth adjustment consists of an adjustment screw and a separate locking screw. This allows the nose to be removed and replaced without losing the mouth setting, giving you a quick chisel plane option if needed.

The depth adjustment mechanism is smooth, but with some backlash. Veritas points out in their well-written manual that you should take up the slack after blade retraction by making you final turn forward (just like almost every other metal plane). They also give you a neat tip for fine depth adjustment: Changing tension on the cap lever will cause a minor deflection of the plane body, giving you a small degree depth adjustment. This is particularly handy when you run into those minor variations in the wood, or want to lighten up for one last pass—a slight tweak of the locking knob generally does the trick.

These are all neat features, but I saved the best for last. The real deal-cincher for me was the set screws on either side of the body. These can be seen in the first picture above on either side of the finger hole. The screws allow you to accurately set the position of the blade relative to the side of the plane. It took a bit of fiddling to get this right, as the rear screw will change the angle of the blade, knocking it out of square with the body. The two must be adjusted in concert to correctly set the angle and reveal of the blade. Once you’ve got it right, the two screws on the other side are brought into contact and then backed off just a hair (“Yoost a har,” as an old Swedish carpenter I knew used to say). This allows enough slack for depth adjustment, but maintains blade alignment.

Yes, I know you can align any plane, but how many keep alignment when you take the blade out? With this one, you can remove the blade, sharpen, and drop it back into place while keeping that perfect setup you had to start with. I can’t count the number of times in the past where I kept on planing with a dulling blade rather than lose my settings. As for durability of the O1 blade, I trimmed all 56 of the short tenon cheeks for my workbench base without needing to sharpen. I then popped the blade out, touched up the micro-bevel, and was ready to go on the side cheeks with exactly the same set-up. Sweet!

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with this plane. In fact, if I ever decide I need a smaller one, I’ll definitely buy its little brother, the medium shoulder plane. Veritas is really on to something with these tools.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com



27 comments so far

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2835 days


#1 posted 07-03-2007 03:53 AM

Great review GD….I need to work on getting some planes. This is one I’ve looked at. So many tools…so little money! Gotta make sure I get maximum bang for the buck.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12302 posts in 2846 days


#2 posted 07-03-2007 04:21 AM

This post is making me think. I was considering the LN version of this plane. I will have to recalibrate.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2785 days


#3 posted 07-03-2007 04:27 AM

I’ve been trying to find a reason to buy one of these planes. I think they are just amazing. Thanks…just when I thought I was done buying hand tools for the summer. Nice review!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2909 days


#4 posted 07-03-2007 11:05 AM

what a great review. I’ve never used a plane but you sure do make this one sound like it’s a good one to own.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3971 posts in 2812 days


#5 posted 07-03-2007 12:14 PM

The medium shoulder plane is a joy to use as well. I have only Stanley in my bench (Bailey #4, 5 & 7) and block plane selections. If I won the lotto, I’d replace them with Veritas bench, block or bevel-up planes. Everything they innovate has a touch of genius.
The latest thing I have gotten from them (it was less than 5 bucks, right in the price range this summer), was a doo-hickey that fits on a tape measure with slots and rare earth magnets allowing no guess measurements of diagonals when gluing up carcases, and it has a feature that lets you post the end of the tape on a nail (again with no guess or fiddle measuring) so one person can take accurate and long measurements.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2909 days


#6 posted 07-03-2007 12:31 PM

gotta love doo-hickeys!!!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2835 days


#7 posted 07-03-2007 04:48 PM

I think the actual technical term for those is thing-a-ma-bob.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2909 days


#8 posted 07-03-2007 05:54 PM

says “Bob” :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View woodspar's profile

woodspar

710 posts in 2848 days


#9 posted 07-04-2007 02:06 AM

Thanks for this tool review, Robert. I have a block plane and a smoothing plane, and a shoulder plane would round out the set.

-- John

View Dorje's profile

Dorje

1763 posts in 2745 days


#10 posted 07-06-2007 09:23 AM

Just recieved the LV medium shoulder plane this week – can’t wait to actually use it!

Robert – I’m really enjoying catching up on your bench progress blog series! It’s such a great process that you’ve documented here!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3971 posts in 2812 days


#11 posted 07-06-2007 10:22 AM

The doo-hickey-ma-bob (casting oil on the roiling waters) I referred to is featured here http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&p=56766&cat=1,42936
and it’s only 3.95. Veritas hits the mark again!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View TheGravedigger's profile

TheGravedigger

963 posts in 2773 days


#12 posted 07-06-2007 03:16 PM

The more I use this thing, the better I like it. The subtle depth adjustment by way of the lever tension wheel is really handy for trimming cheeks and shoulders when you often need just a touch of change.

The only fault I find is that the blade adjustment knob tends to back off during use. I think this comes from the way the heel of my right hand tends to brush it when using it sole-down (as opposed to on its side). l guess every design has its quirks—I just have to keep checking it as I plane.

Dorje- This bench is definitely a learning experience for me. There are certainly better ways to build a bench, but I wanted to see what could be done with basic dimension lumber. Joinery on this scale is certainly different than what I’m used to.

Let us know how the medium version works out. Who knows? I may need a smaller version somewhere down the road.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com

View Dorje's profile

Dorje

1763 posts in 2745 days


#13 posted 07-07-2007 04:25 AM

Yeah – we could do that cyber tool share like mot and David! Have you seen that?

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View TheGravedigger's profile

TheGravedigger

963 posts in 2773 days


#14 posted 07-07-2007 04:59 AM

No. I must have missed it. How does it work?

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog: http://littlegoodpieces.wordpress.com

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12302 posts in 2846 days


#15 posted 07-07-2007 05:50 AM

Here is a link to it…

http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/David/blog/1227

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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