Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Favourite Hand Tools

There are some tools which give real pleasure in use, and often seem to produce better results as a consequence.

My own favourites are planes, which can either sing through the timber leaving a mirror finish, or snatch and tear and produce nothing but frustration.

I have to admit being quite keen on planes and have, as a result, acquired quite a few of them. I am not a collector. They all get used and each has their purpose.

Probably one of my favourites is the Veritas Low Angle Jack which is truly a jack of all trades when equipped with a range of blades with angles to suit end grain, normal and high angle for difficult timbers

The Bevel up smoother makes an ideal companion as the blades are interchangeable. The best plan is
to have a series of blades ground to low, normal and high angles to be used in either body as required. Normally the Smoother is left on high angle and the Jack on low - but it's nice to be able to swap them around.

A second favourite is again from the Veritas stable and is a reincarnation of an old Stanley design (189 perhaps -no doubt the enthusiasts will correct me if I'm wrong) but with significant modern improvements. The skew rebate is a fine tool and has the option of a fence and nicker when needed. I love skew planes in general, with their built in tendency to keep in to the shoulder and clean up difficult or cross grain without tearing. It was definitely a cost inspired, backwards step to go away from skew bladed planes in general and a good example of what happens when you let accountants run companies.

Next up is the skew block from the same stable. Skew rebate planes are required in both right and left handed versions to cope differenet grain directions whilst rebating, however I favour a combination of skew rebate and block planes in different hands to cover all bases and gain some additional functionality along the way (not to mention saving a bit). I am right handed and use a RH skew rebate with a LH skew block. This allows the LH block plane to be suitable for cleaning tenon faces with the work held in the normal way i.e working on the right hand end of the piece.

Whilst on the subject of block planes, in addition to the top end suppliers Veritas and Lie Nielsen the Chinese have entered the market with the Quangsheng range. There is a significant difference in price so it is worthwhile taking a look at the actual differences in quality.

Below is a Lie Neilson 6 1/2 block plane on the left and a Quangsheng 9 1/2 on the right. The grinding is very similar but the knurling is finer on the LN. The mouth adjustment lever is better finished on the LN. Not a deal breaker perhaps, but nice?

When it comes to the body finish there is a difference, which again favours the LN but it is slight and I has no effect on the functionality. The LN does feel lighter in the hand and more comforatble and I cannot explain this easily. Maybe it is in the black art of plane making.

First the QS

The the LN

At the business end there are differences, coarser knurling and adjustment threads and a brass, rather than stainless adjuster.

Blade quality is a different matter. LN offer both A2 as standard and A1. This is a subject which deserves a section all to itself and the QS uses a different grade again, all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

 You won't be disappointed with either, but if I was a LN marketing man I'd be scratching my head for ways to justify the price difference. Having said that the QS marketing men have taken the oppotunity of hiking the price considerably since they were first introduced.

 I'll compare some of the other features of these and the Veritas in another post


Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding like an anorak, the Veritas skew rebate was based on the Stanley #289. The Veritas version is IMHO one of the best planes they have ever produced. Is your plane cabinet full yet, Brian?

Cheers ;-)


Modernist said...

Thanks for that Paul, you are correct. As you know I am also a fan. Have you tried the skew block yet? A great little plane and a vast improvement on the LN.

Whilst the drawer can never be full I don't feel any current need to expand the collection. I am trying to get more time to spend in furniture making.