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?Â°). So a paring chisel in O1 that is sharpened at 27Ã?Â° will last longer than a paring chisel in A2 at that same low angle. But move that angle up to 35Ã?Â° 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.