Lee Valley Plane Steel Choice

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Forum topic by pete79 posted 11-18-2009 08:54 PM 1722 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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154 posts in 3163 days

11-18-2009 08:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane question

Can someone please explain the difference between choices of steel type on the Lee Valley Veritas Bench Planes? I’m seriously considering getting the #4, but I’m confused by the choice of steel type (A2 or O1) and what it means.

-- Life is a one lap race.

7 replies so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4119 days

#1 posted 11-18-2009 09:06 PM

Check out this write-up from the Hock tool web site.

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

View Kugel's profile


23 posts in 3292 days

#2 posted 11-19-2009 01:37 AM

There are pluses and minuses to both types, and only you can decide which is better for you and the way you work. O1 steel is high carbon steel (carbon acts as a hardener in steel, the higher the carbon content the harder and stronger the steel) which gives razor sharp edges but dulls quicker than A2 Steel. A2 steel is almost a stainless steel but does not have quite enough chromium. A2 is MUCH tougher than O1 meaning it stays sharper longer. However, it is very tricky to sharpen A2, if sharpening by hand, it takes a LONG time and HARD sharpening stones, but the edge stays longer. My personal preference is O1, because I can sharpen it relatively easily by hand, its cheaper, and I believe it gives you a sharper edge than is possible with A2. A2 has the element chromium added into the steel, on a microscopic level, chromium is a very “Blocky” akward element, unlike carbon and iron. Due to the blocky nature of chromium, the steel cannot achieve a cutting edge as sharp as O1 steel, which has a very fine grain structure. Just my 2 cents, I’m sure others will disagree.

-- J. KUGEL Kirkland, WA

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3548 days

#3 posted 11-19-2009 04:56 PM

A2 iron makes for a good sharp blade, (no more hair on the arm) but does take a lot of time when they are new to bevel them to the degree you want.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View pete79's profile


154 posts in 3163 days

#4 posted 11-19-2009 05:10 PM

What would you guys suggest for a beginner? It sounds like O1 is easier to sharpen, gets a sharper edge, but dulls quicker. I don’t mind sharpening more often if it means that I’ll actually get it done right and learn to enjoy planing. I don’t have ANY experience sharpening tools, so I’m thinking A2 might just frustrate me. Would it be a good idea to learn on O1 and go from there?

-- Life is a one lap race.

View rustedknuckles's profile


160 posts in 3774 days

#5 posted 11-19-2009 05:17 PM

You are on the right track Pete, I have used both and done so for many years, I prefer the O1 and actually enjoy sharppening my plane blades. It gives me a mental “walk away” from what ever project I’m working on at the time, this leads to fewer mistakes or accidents.

-- Dave- New Brunswick

View TheDane's profile (online now)


5438 posts in 3685 days

#6 posted 11-19-2009 05:20 PM

When I replaced irons in a couple of my vintage planes, I went with the A2’s from Hock.

It may take a little more to sharpen them (I have a WorkSharp 3000, so that wasn’t a huge problem), but I like the fact that they hold their edge so well. IMHO, I get cleaner, more consistent shavings which makes for a smoother finished product.

This is just a WAG, but it seems like I am touching up the bevel on the A2 blades less than half as often as I did with the other plane irons.

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

View ondablade's profile


105 posts in 3220 days

#7 posted 11-19-2009 06:32 PM

I’m just starting down this road with some Veritas planes, and got some blades of each type to try out. I guess one other factor regarding chrome containing alloy steels versus carbon steels (in general, i’m not sure about those cyrogenically treated varieties) is that they are reckoned to be a bit tougher, but as a result a bit more inclined to form a wire edge when sharpening.

It seems that whatever about planes that brittleness can be a factor in chisels – that especially low angle bevels can be inclined to chip in heavy use with carbon steels.

That’s the conventional wisdom. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if it turned out that the devil is in the detail – that the exact metallurgy and heat treatment of individual maker’s blades might be nearly as big a factor as the nominal material. i.e. that carefully made carbon blades can be quite tough, carefully made alloy steels take a very good edge, and while poorly optimised varieties may be very brittle or very soft and coarse grained respectively…


-- Late awakener....

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