Pint-sized router planes see a lot of use in my shop. Instead of using a trim router, I always prefer to cut mortises for hinges with a chisel and a router plane. So as soon as Veritas and Lie-Nielsen started making small router planes based loosely on the Stanley No. 271 about 18 months ago, I was first in line.
I now have many hours on both tools , I’ve sharpened each one about seven or eight times. And I have developed some firm likes and dislikes about each tool. The next paragraph is a spoiler, so if you like a little suspense when reading blogs, skip it.
Neither router plane is perfect. But nor is there one clear winner in the category. If I could combine the best of both tools (the Lie-Veritas?) I think it would be the router plane of my dreams. Here’s the lowdown on each tool.
The Veritas Small Router Plane
First the good: This plane has a closed throat and is quite compact. The closed throat allows you to work on the edges of boards without any danger of the tool tipping. The downside to a closed throat is you sacrifice a little visibility , it’s a tad more difficult to see where you are cutting.
The compact size is a big plus with the Veritas. The tool is 3-1/4″ at its widest, and that is an asset when you are cutting hinge mortises inside assembled casework. Sometimes larger router planes are too big and ram into the top or bottom of your case. This little guy sneaks in everywhere I ask it to go. The fit and finish is excellent, as is the knurled brass locking knob. The iron is durable.
The downside: I don’t care for the round shank that the iron is mounted to. No matter how tightly I secure the locking knob, the shank can shift if you take a big bite of wood with the plane. When the shank slips, usually the blade height doesn’t change, but the iron rotates left or right. You can rotate it back, but there is the danger of changing your blade’s projection. So take light cuts.
Lie-Nielsen Small Router Plane
The good: The blade-locking mechanism is incredibly solid and the iron never slips. The iron is mounted to a square shank, so there’s no chance that the iron can rotate during heavy use. Plus, I quite like the fact that the blade-locking knob can be turned with a straight screwdriver. The knob is small, so this is a big plus.
I also like the curved fingerholds on the body. These are comfortable and feel right when you are skewing the tool into a hinge mortise. Plus, they give the tool a little sex appeal. The fit and finish on this tool is also excellent. The iron is quite durable.
The downside: The tool has an open throat. The almost 3/4″-wide open section on the sole makes the tool unsuitable for work on narrow edges, such as cleaning up the ends of haunches in frame-and-panel work. If your work consists of a lot of work on edges, this isn’t the tool for you.
Bottom line: I think the perfect plane for my work would be a router plane that had a closed throat, a compact size, curved fingerholds and an iron that had a square shank. Perhaps there’s a vintage tool out there that meets these criteria, but I don’t plan to start scouring eBay any time soon. Having both these tools covers all my needs.
– Christopher Schwarz
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