For years I used my Stanley 71 router plane in blissful ignorance. I was happy that it was easy to adjust and maneuver. But in the last couple years my affection for the No. 71 has been shaken, first by the Veritas Router Plane, and now by the new Lie-Nielsen Large Router Plane. Both tools kick the old 71 in the teeth, particularly in the depth-stop department. But should you buy a new router plane? And if so which one?
First: Here’s the answer to the first question: If you’ve ever been stymied by the ability of your router plane to hit a mark over and over, then sell the sucker on eBay and come on over to the Ductile Side of things.
You see, Veritas and Lie-Nielsen have gone down divergent paths when designing their router planes. So they are hard to compare directly. For more detail on the Veritas, check out my article from the Fine Tool Journal at WKFineTools.com.
The Veritas is a closed-throat router. The Lie-Nielsen is an open-throat one. What’s the difference? An open throat offers better visibility ahead of the cut. A closed throat offer more support when working on narrow edges, such as cleaning out a groove on a door’s stile.
Another significant difference is how you set the depth stop on the tool. Stanley’s is a cruel joke. An afterthought. A jerry-rig. The Veritas’s depth stop is like a drill press’s jam-nut system. It locks down tighter than any other system I’ve ever used, but making quick adjustments is not in the cards. You spin the jam nuts up and down the post quite a lot. But when you’re locked, you’re locked.
The Lie-Nielsen depth stop is far faster. It’s a collar that surrounds the blade. You turn a thumbscrew to lock in the final depth adjustment and then you work in small steps to that setting. If you monkey the depth-adjust wheel you can make the depth stop slip, but the stop is more than robust for most woodworkers.
Another difference is in the blades offered. The Veritas offers three (a 1/2″ straight, a 1/2″ V-shape and a 1/4″ straight). The Lie-Nielsen has a 3/8″ straight blade. Lie-Nielsen plans to offer a full range of blades for its tool, but for now, the Veritas has the upper hand in this department.
The pointed blade is particularly helpful when cleaning out recesses with acute corners, such as a dovetail socket in casework. Vintage instruction manuals for router planes play up the fact that the pointed blade is better for producing a “show” surface. I think this is mostly bunk. The pointed blade is handy for getting into tight corners, sort of like the way pointy shoes are good for squashing insects in the corners of rooms.
Also worth noting: The two 1/2″-wide Veritas blades disassemble for easier honing. This is indeed easier than honing a one-piece blade, but the difference isn’t a deal-killer; it’s mostly a friendly touch and a nod to the woodworker.
Ergonomically, the Veritas looks nicer to drive with its rakish handles, but I found I like the classic straight-up knobs from the Stanley No. 71 that Lie-Nielsen has adopted. But this is a personal thing. I know some people prefer the canted handles. I think it depends on how you hold the tool. The straight knobs are good for an overhand grip (palms resting on top of the knobs); the rakish handles feel better when you grip them with your pinky fingers at the base of the tool (palms on the sides of the knobs). Both feel fine and work fine.
As to fit and finish, both tools are over the top. The castings and knurlings are first rate. I think things are a draw on this issue.
So which tool should you buy? If you do a lot of edge work, cleaning up stopped grooves and the like, I’d go with the Veritas. If your work requires you to hit a varying depths time and time again, I’d go with the Lie-Nielsen.
But most of you already know which one you’re going to buy. And I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice. I have both.
The Veritas (with three blades and a fence) is $139. The Lie-Nielsen (with one blade and a fence) is $125.