Over the past few years, Lee Valley Tools, under its manufacturing arm, Veritas, has produced a complete line of high-end hand planes. The latest addition is the Veritas Standard Block Plane.
The standard plane (#05P22.30) is functionally the same as their low angle block plane (#05P22.01), except that it has a 20° bed angle. At 1.8 pounds and just under 6 ½” long and 2″ wide, this plane is heftier than most other steel bodied block planes on the market. The A2 steel blade is ⅛” thick and has a cutting width of 1 ⅝”. It has a primary bevel of 23° and a micro bevel of 25°. Although the blade comes sharpened (it cut nicely straight out of the box – see the shavings in the photo), it can stand final honing on a 4000-grit waterstone. The back of the blade was dead flat, and can be brought to a mirror finish in no time at all.
The sole of the plane was slightly concave (across its width and from the heel to the back of the mouth). You’ll find this on all hand planes, so the .003″ measured on this one isn’t anything to worry about. The concavity was uniform both vertically and horizontally. A cup of tea on a cold winter afternoon and a bit of elbow grease will give you a perfectly flat sole, if you’ve a mind to.
The body is made of ductile cast iron. The fittings are all brass. A really nice feature is the set of three fingertip indentions on the side of the body; it makes holding the plane noticeably more comfortable than my other block plane. The sides are dead square to the sole, enabling you to use the plane on its side (with a shooting board) to work end-grain.
As you would expect with a high quality plane, there is an adjustable toe that enables you to fine tune the mouth. I always keep the mouth as narrow as possible.
What I particularly like about this plane is the adjustment mechanism. Release the lever cap wheel and you can quickly, and accurately, adjust both the feed of the blade and its lateral movement. Once the blade is adjusted to your liking, you can lock it in place by gently advancing the set screws on either side of the plane body.
I used the plane straight out of the box for most of a morning, and was very pleased with its performance. During lunch I honed the blade and used it again throughout the afternoon. This is one sweet plane! It is priced competitively at $139 and is available at Lee Valley.