Chris Schwarz's Blog

After Hard Use: Lie-Nielsen vs. Veritas Router Planes

Pint-sized router planes see a lot of use in my shop. Instead of using a trim router, I always prefer to cut mortises for hinges with a chisel and a router plane. So as soon as Veritas and Lie-Nielsen started making small router planes based loosely on the Stanley No. 271 about 18 months ago, I was first in line.

I now have many hours on both tools , I’ve sharpened each one about seven or eight times. And I have developed some firm likes and dislikes about each tool. The next paragraph is a spoiler, so if you like a little suspense when reading blogs, skip it.

Neither router plane is perfect. But nor is there one clear winner in the category. If I could combine the best of both tools (the Lie-Veritas?) I think it would be the router plane of my dreams. Here’s the lowdown on each tool.

The Veritas Small Router Plane
First the good: This plane has a closed throat and is quite compact. The closed throat allows you to work on the edges of boards without any danger of the tool tipping. The downside to a closed throat is you sacrifice a little visibility , it’s a tad more difficult to see where you are cutting.

The compact size is a big plus with the Veritas. The tool is 3-1/4″ at its widest, and that is an asset when you are cutting hinge mortises inside assembled casework. Sometimes larger router planes are too big and ram into the top or bottom of your case. This little guy sneaks in everywhere I ask it to go. The fit and finish is excellent, as is the knurled brass locking knob. The iron is durable.

The downside: I don’t care for the round shank that the iron is mounted to. No matter how tightly I secure the locking knob, the shank can shift if you take a big bite of wood with the plane. When the shank slips, usually the blade height doesn’t change, but the iron rotates left or right. You can rotate it back, but there is the danger of changing your blade’s projection. So take light cuts.

Lie-Nielsen Small Router Plane
The good: The blade-locking mechanism is incredibly solid and the iron never slips. The iron is mounted to a square shank, so there’s no chance that the iron can rotate during heavy use. Plus, I quite like the fact that the blade-locking knob can be turned with a straight screwdriver. The knob is small, so this is a big plus.

I also like the curved fingerholds on the body. These are comfortable and feel right when you are skewing the tool into a hinge mortise. Plus, they give the tool a little sex appeal. The fit and finish on this tool is also excellent. The iron is quite durable.

The downside: The tool has an open throat. The almost 3/4″-wide open section on the sole makes the tool unsuitable for work on narrow edges, such as cleaning up the ends of haunches in frame-and-panel work. If your work consists of a lot of work on edges, this isn’t the tool for you.

Bottom line: I think the perfect plane for my work would be a router plane that had a closed throat, a compact size, curved fingerholds and an iron that had a square shank. Perhaps there’s a vintage tool out there that meets these criteria, but I don’t plan to start scouring eBay any time soon. Having both these tools covers all my needs.

– Christopher Schwarz

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19 thoughts on “After Hard Use: Lie-Nielsen vs. Veritas Router Planes

  1. karlfife

    Time warp to Fall 2014:

    Lee Valley unveils the Veritas ‘medium’ router plane.
    Called ‘medium’ though it’s narrower than the Lie Nielsen plane listed above, and deeper than both. Uses the same blades as their full-sized tool.

    Lie-Nielsen now offers a closed throat version of their small router plane, plus a depth-stop accessory.

    These tools change the analysis somewhat, though I can’t offer any personal experience at this moment.

  2. G. D. Blake

    Good review, however there is another frustration to the LN small router plane. When mounted for bullnose work, the cutter is still recessed from the edge of the sole. The only fix is to file back the sole so that the cutter can protrude just a little bit. Maybe Stanley will revive their small router plane if their new planes take off (of course they have to actually get them to market before that can happen).

  3. Christopher Schwarz

    Ethan,

    The 271 that I owned had a round cutter and round hole. Like this:

    What shape is yours? I’d like to see it!

    Chris

  4. Ethan

    Ah, no, you’re right, Chris. It is probably round, as well. (Sorry, going from memory, which isn’t as good as it used to be. Add to that the fact I recently picked up a #71 at a tool auction and I can image that is where the memory confusion came in…)

    But it is notched down the whole of the shaft, as shown in the image you provided, to accept the knurled screw tip. That keeps it from rotating – at least it has never moved on me, anyway.

    In fact, I now recall an email I’d sent to LN when they first came out with their small router plane, asking if the cutters would fit my old #271 (they were going to add a spear point and I only had the 1/8" cutter) and they replied that they would not fit… so that makes me think mine is definitely not hexagonal in shape.

  5. Adrian

    I actually sent the Veritas plane back because the blade kept swiveling. I tried it on oak and soft maple and it was just too frustrating. Even when I tried to take light cuts I still had problems with it.

    Could the choice of a round shaft be driven by cost? The larger Veritas router has a square shaft.

  6. Bill Owens

    Getting a bit further afield, perhaps it would be possible to modify the Veritas version by switching to a cutter made from a hex key (a’la John Wilson or Derek Cohen) and filing out the hole into a hex shape. I don’t know the diameter of the existing cutter, but if there’s a hex key just slightly larger it should be possible to make that change without making it impossible to go back to the original cutter, and then perhaps also follow Alessandro’s recommendation of grinding the front of it.

    Personally, since I’m too cheap to buy either mini router plane, I’d like to see a good homebrew design. Derek’s is nice, but it’s the ECE style body and I think there are some advantages to the metal-bodied planes. I just haven’t worked out how to roll my own yet, short of casting one (too advanced for me 😉

  7. Ethan

    Chris,

    How do both of these tools compare to the Stanely #271?

    The small Stanley router plane has an open and a closed throat; the shaft mounted to the blade is not round, so it doesn’t rotate when taking heavier cuts, and you tighten it with a knurled screw as the LN plane does.

    It’s interesting to see both companies obviously took the time to redesign the plane and yet neither of them got it quite right.

    Maybe there was nothing on which to improve with the original?

  8. Alessandro

    You can grind the front side of the round shank of the veritas one and plane-file the front side of the hole so the skank will no more slip.

  9. Take Alberts

    The flattening wouldn’t work, because the screw doesn’t contact the iron’s shaft, it just pulls the iron against the groove in the fingerholds, by tightening the iron’s holder (see top photo). The rosin idea I’m going to try.

  10. James Watriss

    I really dig the rosin idea! Very cool… I have to imagine that any of the microcrystalline products out there these days, from diamond paste to the lee valley screw drops, would also take care of this problem.

    I own the L-N version, but I do think once in a while about the Veritas. Why? I learned a long time ago with my stanley 271 that if you ever need a smaller cutter, all you need is an old allen key, a grinder, and about 5 minutes. Makes short work of even the tiniest details. But they wouldn’t work too well with that square hole, I’m afraid.

  11. Chris

    Just a thought….. I don’t have either tool yet but the problem is a familiar one, this twisting of a round piece of steel in a clamp. In a previous life as a gunsmith, having rifle scopes twist in their mounts were a constant problem. How to clamp a thin tube without crushing it, and keeping it firmly in place? The answer was a pinch of powdered rosin on the bearing surfaces. Just snug it up and it would stay put. We had a 10 lb bag in the shop so I don’t even remember where it came from but it’s the same stuff as used on violin bows and by athletes who need a firm dry grip on things.

    The open/closed throat issue… can’t the LV have it’s cutter mounted on the other side so it’s out front and be used as an open throat?

    Having said all that, I do wish Veritas/LV had used the same square style cutter shaft as used on the larger unit, it would have eliminated the problem all together.

  12. Archae

    I would think flattening the screw side of the Veritas iron’s shaft with a file would reduce the likelihood of the iron turning. The flat end of the screw against a flat surface about half the width of the screw should be sufficient to prevent radial movement and increase the forward clamping pressure. This then might be enough to make this plane the clear winner.

  13. Rob Porcaro

    Chris,

    Having owned the Veritas for over a year and seeing the L-N at shows, I’m convinced I got the right tool for my needs, and your criteria seem right on.

    I haven’t had trouble with the blade rotating since I use the tool only for light cuts. The cylindrical shank has a rough surface (almost like ground glass) which helps the grip of the holding mechanism.

    So why did LV make a cylindrical shank? They are very thoughtful in their designs so I’m thinking they have a reason. Sometimes I set the blade "foot" at an angle, which on certain edge work gives a longer contact area of the sole on the work. Who knows? Maybe it’s just easier to make the blade with a cylindrical shank and/or to make a round (not square) hole in the gripper.

  14. AAAndrew

    I just got the Veritas one for Christmas and have used it a couple of times already. I came to the exact same conclusions as far as it’s limitations. I need a slightly larger gripping surface, and the blade kept turning on me as I used it on hard maple, cross-grained. It was very frustrating. I kept trying to tighten the brass knob tighter and tighter with my fingers and it never was quite enough. I eventually learned to take a lighter pass and to "steer" the blade back to straight should it twist.

    Otherwise a nice little tool that honed up quite nicely and works better than my old 71 in these small areas.

    AAAndrew

  15. Christopher Schwarz

    Yes.

    Double-stick tape would be the easy way. Tapping the body would be the harder way.

    Chris

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