Chris Schwarz's Blog

The Lie-Nielsen No. 51 in Use

A dedicated shooting plane is a luxury item, much like a European table saw with a beautiful sliding table or a full keg of beer by your bedside.

For many years, I’ve used my jointer plane to shoot edges and ends, and I’ve never wanted a fancy tool for the task. But after some arm-twisting by readers, I broke down and purchased a Lie-Nielsen No. 51 shoot board plane to give it a try.

It’s a massive beast: 9 lbs. 4 oz. of iron, steel and bronze. It has some clever engineering: The plane offers a skewed cut, but it does this with a straight iron, so it’s easier to grind and hone. And it is well made: The base of the plane is exactly 2-1/8” wide so it runs smoothly in a track in your shooting board.

All these factors add up to the nicest shooting experience I’ve ever had.

In essence, the No. 51 removes some of the skill required to shoot a board, particularly the difficult end grain. Learning to shoot is all about learning when and where to put pressure on the work and on the tool. You are pressing down, in and forward with both the tool and the work.

I wouldn’t say that shooting is the hardest thing to learn (see also: finishing). But some people do struggle with it.

The weight of the No. 51 keeps it planted down. The track on the shooting board keeps it in the cut. And the skew cutter makes it easier to push. All in all, it’s more like using a well-tuned miter box.

I prepared the following short video that shows the No. 51 in use and shows how I true my shooting boards using a shoulder plane.

— Christopher Schwarz

Other Shooting Resources
Evenfall Woodworks makes a very nice adjustable shooting board, if you don’t want to build your own.

• I also got a chance to try the new Super Chute from Tico Vogt during a woodworking show. Very nice!

• If you want to learn more about specialty handplanes such as the No. 51, check out the book “Handplane Essentials,” available in our store with free domestic shipping.

10 thoughts on “The Lie-Nielsen No. 51 in Use

  1. GordonC

    Got a chance to use both the 51 and 9 on a 5 degree angled shooting board at the Manchester, CT LN Tool Event. The additional mass makes the job much easier, but I will stick with my LN 9 and just push a little harder. Denab was especially helpful in setting up my 164 finisher and determining the problems with my old LN block skew. It seems the latter cutters, I have 3, were groung at too steep an angle and will be re-ground to 18 degrees by LN.

  2. tsstahl

    I was at a hobby store the other day watching a custom frame job. They were using a machine was pretty much just a shooting board and plane on training wheels. I’m betting that machine cost way more than a LN 51.

  3. philjohnwilliams

    I had a chance to try this plane at the Lie-Nielsen tool event in Montreal a few weeks back. Very nice tool, but probably beyond my budget for the foreseeable future. Also got to try some of Konrad Sauer’s planes. That was an experience I will not soon forget.

  4. atleast27things

    Last Thursday I had the good fortune of a personal dovetail lesson from Deneb at Lie-Nielsen. After watching him use the #51 to square up drawer sides, I know I need it. I didn’t know what square was.

  5. benchdog

    Like Mark, I too would like to see a nice plow plane from L/N. Guess I’ll finally have to cave and get one from Lee Valley because i’m tired of waiting!

  6. Mark

    A sweet tool and well made to be sure but I always thought it odd that Lie-Nielsen chose to produce this form of plane. I heard Tom himself say they were getting a significant number of requests for it so I suppose there was enough interest out there for it. Personally, I’d really love to see them offer a well designed plow plane but perhaps the customer base is, overall, still overwhelmingly in favor of routers. Someday perhaps.

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