A plow plane is a joinery powerhouse in the hand-tool shop. Not only can you plow grooves with it – you can, if necessary, use it for rabbets and tongues, though it’s a laborious tonguing process. Enter the combination plane – a plane that excels at grooves and has changeable cutters for not only other as well.
Hunting down a vintage Stanley No. 45 or Record #405 in good condition can be a challenge, though, and they’re often pricey. But there’s a new option: the Combination Plane from Veritas.
It’s heavier than the company’s Small Plow Plane (natch), but light enough to not tire me out. I weighed it on our postal scale against a Stanley No. 45, both with a 1⁄4” plow blade inserted. At 3.68 pounds, the Veritas is more than a pound lighter than the Stanley (4.72 pounds) – but still heavy enough to stay easily in the cut.
I tested it mostly with the 1⁄4” plow blade that it comes with; that’s what I’d use it for most often and it’s where this tool excels. Additional blades (for rabbets up to 1″ wide, and tongues, beads, reeds and flutes in various widths) are sold separately, as are straight plow blades from 1⁄8” to 3⁄8“. (Blades are also available in sets and in metric sizes.)
Perhaps most notable on this new tool is that Veritas has rethought the split-collet system used on some of its older fenced planes. Instead, this tool uses knurled thumbscrews that lock directly to the fence rods, the depth stops and other parts of the castings. And they lock tight. I tried mightily (applying far more force than typical) to overcome the depth stops and fence. I couldn’t do it.
Also notable is the blade guide knob. This clever improvement over the Stanley and Record combination planes snugs against the blade – any size blade – as you move the sliding section into position to set it in the correct location without much fussing at all. (If you’ve ever used the No. 45, you know it’s a matter of eyeballing the correct location of the sliding casting, locking it, testing it, adjusting it…repeat.)
The combination plane ships with two sets of rods (5″ and 8″), which allow you to use the fence and sliding section on either side of the body.
Shavings shoot nicely from the escapement. My only niggle is that the adjustable scoring spur on the body (there’s a second one on the sliding section) clogged a bit in softwoods, even though I had it raised completely. The engineers at Veritas suggested backing it off slightly by turning the set screw behind it, but that didn’t quite do it. However, these little blades aren’t used that often (they’re for scoring cross-grain work), so it’s simple to remove them when they’re not needed.
Compare the price ($399) with a new wooden plow (upward of $1,000) and this tool is a no-brainer as a plow alone. And, of course, if you don’t have dedicated planes for its other operations, it’s right handy for those, too.