In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

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?°.

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

Looking for More Woodworking Information?
– Sign up for our newsletters to get free plans, techniques and reviews HERE.
– Looking for free articles from Woodworking Magazine? Click HERE.
– Like hand tools? Read all our online articles on hand work HERE.
– Want to subscribe to Woodworking Magazine? It’s $19.96/year. Click HERE.

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recommended Posts
Showing 9 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    The plane is for long-grain joints only. I’ve never heard of an application where it would be used for making stub tenons as you suggest.

    I hope this helps clear things up.


  • John Minster

    Hey Chris how do you use this on the end of a rail without blowing out the grain/wood. Do you have to attach a sacrificial piece to the back?

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’ve also heard that before. These joints close up perfectly if you want them to. Usually, however, a joint like is is used to accommodate expansion and contraction, so the shoulders are never tight.

    If you really wanted the non-show side to be open you could take a pass with a block plane…


  • Mark Wells

    When Roy Underhill uses match planes, he always makes a point of saying that the shoulder on one side of the tongue is lower than the other side. He says the higher shoulder is supposed to go on the show side of the joint to keep the joint tight as the boards expand and contract. Then the lower shoulder will never interfere with the joint.

    Is this plane intended to make the shoulders the same height? (I presume, "Yes, unless you want to do fancy sharpening.") If the shoulders are the same height, how much does that impact the effectiveness of the joint?


  • Christopher Schwarz

    1. Both faces of the fence are machined because the fence spins on a pivot point at the center. You use both faces.

    2. The knurled knob is not a micro-adjust. It merely applies pressure to the lever cap.

    3. You really cannot use it as a rabbet plane because the fence and irons are not adjustable. You could make small rabbets of a fixed tongue length in thin material.

    4. The fence isn’t supposed to come off the tool. I’m not going to remove it for fear it won’t go back together precisely. And I’ll try to get a photo of the blade channel today or tomorrow.

  • Lindley

    It is a good thing my wive understands my plane obsession. Thanks for verifying that we belong to a big club.

    A few questions:
    1. Is the fence reversible? It looks like both faces are machined.
    2. Is the knurled knob near your left fingers a fence microadjust?
    3. Have you tried using it as a simple rabbet plane or is it not balanced well for that?
    4. Could you include a picture or two of the plane’s base without the fence attached and also the channel the blade fits into?

  • Tom Fidgen

    Thanks for the review Chris,
    I was curious about the fence system as well.

  • Kevin Kuehl

    Cool. I’m glad this tool lives up to Lie-Nielsen’s normal outstanding quality. I’ll be ordering one of these next. 🙂

  • Doug Fulkerson

    Well, if your kids don’t want your old 48, I’d be willing to take it off your hands. 🙂



Start typing and press Enter to search