The vintage Stanley No. 48 plane was one of the most gizmo-tastic planes in the company’s arsenal. It’s a single tool that can cut both the tongue and the mating groove. All you have to do to switch the plane from one function to the other is pivot the fence 180Ã?Â°.
I’ve had a No. 48 for years and I’ve inspected a bunch of vintage ones, and they seem to have a common flaw: a wobbly fence. I don’t know whether the wobbly fence is caused by years of use or from less-than-perfect manufacturing, but it does hurt your results.
When the fence wobbles, your tongue tends to look like a real human tongue: It’s rounded at the top and let’s say it’s “organic” looking. And the groove tends to look more like a strip mine than a picture-perfect European canal.
The resulting “organ and gash” joint will fit loosely. This may or may not be a big deal depending on the project at hand.
So I knew exactly the problem to look for when I purchased one of the new Lie-Nielsen No. 48 planes last week. I’d worked with a couple of the prototypes while visiting Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Maine, and at the company’s Philadelphia show during the last two years. The prototypes were better than my vintage No. 48. And as it turns out, the production version of the No. 48 is even better than those tools.
The No. 48 is designed for work on 3/4″-thick boards and cuts a 1/4″-wide x 5/16″-deep tongue and a matching groove.
The plane’s fence set for grooves.
The plane’s fence set for tongues.
The fence is quite solid, swings smoothly and locks soundly. There is virtually no play in the mechanism. The other improvement that Lie-Nielsen made to the original is that the new version comes with one iron that is forked instead of two irons that have to be individually set.
This is a real improvement. The single O1 iron is simpler to sharpen and set in the plane. (Note: I don’t recommend using a side-clamp honing guide to sharpen this blade. You could pinch the forks and bend them.)
I also like the comfortable wooden rear tote , the tote on my Stanley is metal.
The front knob, while well finished, isn’t really necessary. In fact, like the front knob on the nice Veritas moving fillister plane, it can throw you off. When using a joinery plane, I recommend that the fingers of your off hand be used to press the fence to the work. And press your thumb on the metal body of the plane right in front of the mouth.
Whenever I try to use the wooden front knob of any plane when working on the edge of the board, I tend to tip the tool and spoil the cut.
The Lie-Nielsen No. 48 is becoming part of my permanent tool kit , I’m going to retire my vintage No. 48 (perhaps my kids would like to play with it). The other good news: Thomas Lie-Nielsen reports the company is working on a No. 49 version of this tool that will deal with thinner stock.
The plane is $195.
– Christopher Schwarz
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