Veritas #4 Smoother - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

An exceptional hand plane. Could this be the new 'classic' smoother?

veritassmoother_lead

Veritas #4 Smoother



The Veritas #4 smoothing plane looks solid and substantial, coming in at just over 4-1/2 pounds. It is rather dull looking though, with its dark Bubinga handles, black lever cap, and black metal finish on the inside of the body. The substantial brass fittings and the well-finished exterior of the plane body soften its look. However, I would likely replace the handles with cherry or rosewood.
 
The sole wasn't perfectly flat: I found it to be off by .003" just behind the mouth, but increasing to .005" at the heel. As well, the sides were not precisely 90°; to the sole. However, they were off by less than .001", which is pretty acceptable. Lee Valley states that "the sole is guaranteed to be flat to 0.003" concave" and that the "wings are square to the sole within 15 minutes (1/4°)". Nonetheless I would flatten the sole. It really doesn't take that long, and gives better performance, especially for fine work. As it happens, Lee Valley has one of the best accessories for flattening plane soles - the Veritas Lapping Plate (05M20.02) - which you can also use to flatten the backs of chisels and plane blades.
 
Bits and Pieces:
 
The Veritas #4 is 9-1/2" long and 2-1/2" wide (with a 2" wide blade). The body and frog are cast in ductile iron, which seems to be the material preferred by most manufacturers. The lever cap looks to be cast iron. It is very well machined: smooth and flat.


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L to R: Lever cap, cap iron and blade
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Cap iron and blade mate beautifully - no gap
Likewise, the cap iron fit well, particularly at the tip, where it exerts pressure along the top edge of the blade. The cap iron is long, extending almost to the cutting edge of the blade. This is important in delivering a smooth, chatter free cut. The hollow ground 1/8" thick blade is available in either A2 or O1 steel, hardened to Rc 60 to 62. The primary bevel is ground to 30° with a micro bevel at 35°. The corners at the tip of the blade were thoughtfully rounded over just a tad, which I prefer. This lessens the chance that the plane will dig in; at the edges with each stroke. The plane comes with a honed blade, which, I guess, is a matter of interpretation. I felt the blade could use some honing.
 

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I doubt if anyone will ever make a more rigid plane than this one. The frog is attached to the sole by a frog locking screw, which you can access through the lever cap with a screwdriver, without removing the cap. Both the top of the frog and the base are screwed into the handle, making for a super stable unit. The surface of the frog appears to be dead flat and is highly polished. It sits at a 45° angle, which is consistent for this style of plane.
 
In order to adjust the mouth you also need to loosen the frog locking knob (as well as the frog locking screw). I did find it a bit awkward to manipulate the frog locking nut, and ended up using soft jawed pliers.
 

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A Sensitive Touch:
 

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There are two adjustments you can make, one to affect the size of the mouth opening, the second to affect the position of the blade. For fine work you'll want as narrow a mouth as you can get.
 
I begin by loosening the lever cap knob, then turning the blade adjustment knob until the blade is about level to the sole. Then I loosen the frog-locking screw and nut. There is no need to remove the lever cap to do this. Just put a screwdriver down the hole in the cap to reach the locking screw. I then turn the frog adjusting nut to advance the frog and blade to close up the mouth. Finally I tighten up the screw and knob.
 
Fine tuning the position of the blade, as well as lateral movement of the blade, is done with the blade adjustment knob. A 1/4 turn of the knob moves the blade about .006", so use a sensitive touch here. There are 2 set screws on the sides of the body near the mouth, which enable you to take up any slop in the sideways movement of the blade. They should just kiss the blade, not grab into it.
 
Show and Tell:
 

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Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the shavings. Once I put the plane back together, I took a cut off a piece of cherry. The shaving was about .006" thick. I turned the blade adjustment knob about 3/8" of a turn and made another cut. The shaving was paper-thin. The results with fir, oak and figured maple were similar. Imagine the cut once the blade is properly honed!
 
In my view this is a plane that any woodworker would enjoy owning and using. It is well-made, easy to use, competitively priced, and a solid performer right out of the box.
 
Follow-Up:
 
I've been using the Veritas #4 Smoothing Plane for over a year now, and am completely satisfied with it. I still haven't gotten around to flattening the sole, which I keep meaning to do. The #4 has become one of my favourite plane - it's the right weight for the majority of my hand planing tasks, is comfortable in use, and easy to adjust.


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Illustration courtesy of Lee Valley          

KEY FEATURES:


  • 2-1/2" x 9-1/2"
  • 1/8" x 2" blade ground to 30° with a 35° micro bevel
  • 2 set screws to align blade
  • Ductile cast iron body
  • Bubinga handles
  • 4 lbs 6 oz

Manufacturer:Veritas Tools Inc.
Available From:Lee Valley Tools
Retail Price:$199.00
Model#:05P26.01 (A2 blade)
05P26.51 (O1 blade)
Made In:Canada
 
Carl Duguay, April 2009, rev May 2010

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