Tool Test: Veritas Small Plow Plane
Plow planes are workhorse of the hand-tool shop when it comes to cutting joints with a plane. With a plow plane you can, if you are so inclined, cut many of the important joints for a carcase: rabbets, grooves and even tongues.
Before electric power tools became affordable, plow planes were even a status symbol among craftsmen. If there was one fancy tool with ivory inlay and nickel silver tips in your chest, it was your plow.
Since World War II, plow planes have all but vanished from tool catalogs , their functions being taken up by routers and table saws. But now Veritas, the manufacturing arm of Lee Valley Tools, has revived this important form. And I think that anyone who gives this tool a try will get hooked on how easy it is to use, how crisp the results are and how fast you can make simple joints.
The Veritas version of this tool improves on many of the details of the old tools (both the metal and wooden versions) that have vexed woodworkers for generations. Let’s start with the fence, which is the heart of the plow.
To make a straight groove, the fence must be locked parallel to the skate , the thin rail of iron that’s the plane’s sole. All vintage plows I’ve worked with require fussing to get the fence parallel. The Veritas makes it almost impossible to skew the fence, and you can thank router technology for that. Veritas uses, in essence, router collets to lock the fence in place. And the collets work quite well.
Another improvement is the fence itself. Wooden plows eject shavings onto the bench (nice). But vintage metal plows eject them into your fence and hand. This means that you have to clear that trap every few passes. Veritas improved the way shavings eject. And though it’s not a jam-free set-up, you do have to clear the tool of curls far less than usual.
The third major improvement is in the controls themselves. Everything adjusts through knurled knobs , no tools are required. Metal plows require at least one screwdriver. Wooden plows require a mallet to adjust.
The Veritas comes with a 1/4″ cutter (the most useful size) in durable A2 steel. Four other sizes are available from 1/8″ to 3/8″. The plane body is lightweight at 1 lb. 14 oz. and is made from unbreakable ductile iron. The plane costs $199 with a 1/4″ cutter. Additional cutters are available individually or in a set. The plane is available only through Lee Valley Tools.
In use, I found the tool superior to my old plows. Everything locks with hand pressure, and the tool balances on the work. The fence has a large bearing surface so you can keep it firmly against your work, a critical point (and the fence is bored to accept a longer wooden fence if you require it). The workmanship on the tool is top-notch.
Here’s the best part: This is the Veritas Small Plow. With a name like that, you have to think that other versions are on the way.
Made for joinery. Here you can see how the fence is relieved so you can close it up to cut rabbets. Also note the slight curved shape of the depth stop. This prevents the stop from ramming into your work.