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In a move that will please traditionalists and people who pare, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has started offering some plane irons and chisels made using oil-hardened (O1) steel , in addition to the more modern A2 steel.

The O1 steel is available right now in the 2″- and 2-3/8″-wide bench plane irons, according to Thomas Lie-Nielsen. And soon the company will also begin selling irons for the Nos. 102, 60-1/2 and 62 planes in O1. After that, Lie-Nielsen said he will add O1 plane blades to the line according to customer demand.

Lie-Nielsen will also offer its bench chisels in O1 steel; the standard five-piece chisel set in O1 will begin shipping in about a month.

If you’re not a steel geek, should you care? I think so.

A2 steel is a hard-wearing steel. I have found it holds an edge better than O1 steel in operations that tend to abuse the edge, such as in my fore plane, my jointer and the chisels that I use for chopping out dovetail waste.

However, I prefer O1 for paring chisels and for smoothing planes. I have found that O1 is superior to A2 at low sharpening angles (basically the tipping point is about 30Ã?°). So a paring chisel in O1 that is sharpened at 27Ã?° will last longer than a paring chisel in A2 at that same low angle. But move that angle up to 35Ã?° and the game changes in my opinion. That’s when A2 shines.

I like O1 for smoothing plane blades because it is easier to sharpen , it develops a polish with fewer stokes than an A2 blade. Other woodworkers report that O1 also gives you a finer edge compared to A2, but I haven’t really seen this.

Lie-Nielsen sent me some samples of the O1 smoothing plane blades and a chisel. They are nice, just as you would expect. One thing I noted is how thin the side bevels of recent bench chisels are compared to my earlier Lie-Nielsen chisels.

No matter which steel you prefer, you can’t lose. The A2 and O1 blades and chisels will be the same price. I plan to purchase O1 blades for my smoothing plane and low-angle jack. Plus a few wider O1 chisels for paring jobs.

If you’d like to check out the O1 chisel sample and the O1 plane blade, feel free to stop by the free Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Indianapolis this weekend. I’ll have both tools at my bench.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Rob @ Evenfall Studios

    The LN 9 would be a great candidate, and would benefit from a blade made from O-1. The angle the blade must be sharpened for this plane is a difficult angle for the A-2 steel to endure.

    With a 20 degree bedding in the plane, the bevel up iron must be sharpened to 25 degrees, and 25 degrees is a tough angle for A-2 steel. Tougher still, the A-2 steel presenting a 45 degree bevel to end grain does not always have it as easy as a 38 degree bedding will, and with a 25 degree bevel on the blade to do the work… It is an easier job for O-1 to live at 25 degrees by far.

    We should all consider emailing and calling Lie Nielsen to register a vote for an O-1 blade for the LN 9. If TLN hears from enough of us, perhaps he will consider this as a possibility. If there isn’t demand, it may take much longer to happen.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’m sure that some steel could be pared away. But there are a couple things to consider:

    1. Breakers aren’t generally high-quality steel. All the ones I’ve worked with are unhardened.

    2. The breaker has to be long enough to sit under the rear point of the lever cap. You want the entire assembly under tension.

    3. And the breaker has to be long enough to accommodate a wide variety of setups, including right up on the cutting edge.

    4. The breaker does help stiffen the blade, so a little length will help that.

    Those are my thoughts. I’m sure others will chime in.


  • David Williams

    Question… why do tool makers leave so much metal above the slot on plane blades (like the one pictured)? What function is performed by it? Seems like we’re paying for high quality steel that we don’t get to use… could you cut cost of blade 20% less if you made this part stubby?

  • Eric

    Have you had a chance to check out the new Pinnacle irons that are now being carried at Woodcraft? If so, what are your thoughts on them?



  • Richard Dawson

    David makes an interesting point, and I think raises a worthwhile question: Does Ron Hock go into the differences between blade materials (O-1, A-2, etc.) and how they affect sharpening technique and performance? I assume that most readers are going to buy his book anyway; this material would simply be another reason to wait, and wait. Then wait some more.


  • David

    Interesting. I’ve seen this discussion (argument) on WW net forums, but I’ve never really been able to tell the difference in my shop. I’ve a number of (OK, OK – WAY too many) planes, some with Hock O-1 blades, some with Hock A-2 blades, older L-N planes with W-2 blades, and British infill planes with their original cast-steel blades. I honestly cannot tell the difference in keeness of the edge after sharpening, wear resistance in the shop, nor chip-resistance. And the woods I work, while not the really hard stuff that our Australian cousins have, is still pretty nasty on blades – hard maple, rosewoods, ebony, etc…, as well as the softer and easier to work materials such as cherry, walnut and mahogany.

    I wonder if this has anything to do with sharpening methods – in my case, japanese water stones up to 8000 grit, with maintenance in the shop by strop and compound.

  • John Cashman

    I also get confused if an older blade is A2 or O1, and asked Ron Hock at WIA if there was a way to tell on his irons. He said that, while they are not marked, the A2 blades have the two top corners angled, and the O1 blades have a radius. This seems like good information to have.

  • Rob Porcaro

    OK, Chris, I see. It sounds like a good idea, then, if L-N were to offer an O1 blade for their wonderful #9 iron miter plane which I love for shooting.


  • Don Peregoy

    Junior Brake

    Hi- Why do you think that A2 is a bit hard? Are you turning a burr?


    I am still using the old Type blade (no name on blade) for low angle on my bevel-up jack. Do not know what type this is. Think the O-1 would be worth getting.


  • Christopher Schwarz


    I use a bevel-up jack on the shooting board, and for cleaning up end grain in general. That’s why I really like low sharpening angle for this plane.


  • Rob Porcaro


    I feel sure that A2 is the tougher steel which is why I like it in a workhorse jack plane. I also feel sure that O2 is easier to sharpen. I’m not sure if O2 hones to a keener edge than A2 or if it’s just easier to get there.

    In any case, it’s great to now have the option in L-N blades. It is also good to have O2 for blades that don’t get a lot of use but which need careful edge geometry, such as skewed edges, where hacking away at A2 could cause one to lose a critical shape that would be easier to maintain in friendlier O2.

    Chris, I’m curious as to your rationale for O1 in a low-angle (I assume bevel-up) jack. With a 12 degree bed and, at most, a 30 degree sharpening angle, you’ve got a total of 42 degrees. Do you like that in a BU jack?




    Generally speaking, O1 steel will stand up better than A2 in any situation where you want under 30° of bevel–this includes most bevel up planes like block planes (since a bevel down plane can sharpen at 30° with no change of functionality) as well as paring chisels. If you do put A2 steel in a bevel up plane you will probably want to put a slight back bevel on the blade so the included angle is 30°, even if the angle the plane is presenting is something else–Lee in his book advocates using a 15° conventional bevel and a 10° back bevel to convert a standard block plane to a "low angle" version.

  • Junior Brake

    This is great news. I am attending Inside Passage woodworking school, and we are taught to use the O1 Steel(we use hock Blades in out wooden planes). When I give this news tomorrow in class, I think most students will be looking to replace their Blockplane and spokeshave irons asap (most of us use Lie-Nielsen)
    I know I would like to see O1 Blades for Lie-Nielsens scraper planes, as the A2 is a bit hard for that use.

    Junior Brake

  • Doug Fulkerson

    Interesting. What about low angle and standard block planes? Does O1 have any advantages there?

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