Veritas Shooting Plane - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

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Veritas Shooting Plane

Veritas Shooting Plane



While I can make reasonably straight cross-cuts with a hand saw, the ends are usually never clean enough to be used on exposed joinery. There are always some teeth marks that need to be cleaned up. And more often than not, the cuts aren't perfectly square. Even when I cross-cut on the table saw, if the end-grain is going to be exposed, I'll often resort to a hand plane or sandpaper to tidy up the cut end.

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Veritas block and bevel-up planes are widely used for shooting end-grain

There are a few ways to deal with end-grain - by hand with sandpaper, with a stationary sanding machine, or using a hand plane. On small stock I like to use a low angle block plane, like the Veritas Skew Block Plane, often with a shooting board. It's light, easy to grasp, has a low bed angle, and a bevel-up skewed blade, all which combine to do a splendid job of tidying up end-grain. On thicker stock I use a low angle bevel-up plane and a shooting board. Two of the Veritas Bevel-Up Planes work quite well for this, the Low Angle Smooth Plane and the Low Angle Jack Plane. They have flat sides milled square to the base, and larger, heavier bodies that provide greater mass. This gives better control, and reduces blade chatter when shooting end-grain. However, the bevel-up planes lack skewed blades. To get around this you can angle your shooting board, which has the effect of reducing resistance as the plane slices the wood fibres.

To get the full Monty - skewed blade, lots of mass, low bed angle, comfortable to use - you'll want a shooting plane. Up until recently there really has been only one choice, the Lie-Nielsen #51, a modern rendition of the old Stanley #51 shooting plane. But, at $500 (excluding shipping, import duties, and taxes) it's a hard pill to swallow.

Now, however, there is a second choice, with the recent introduction of the aptly named Veritas Shooting Plane, and, at a much more palatable $325 (for O1 blade, $345 for the PM-V11 blade). I've had the opportunity of using the plane over the past few weeks, and I'll share my initial impressions with you.

Body

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(L) Veritas shooting plane; (R) Veritas Low Angle Smooth Plane

The first thing that you'll notice with this plane is its weight. At 7-3/4 pounds it's the heaviest Veritas plane that can be used for shooting. As you've no doubt noticed when chopping mortises, cutting across grain fibres takes more effort than cutting with the grain. With this plane, mass becomes your friend. The weight generates a lot of momentum once the plane is moving along the shooting board, making it easier to sever grain fibres.

As with all the Veritas hand planes, materials, machining, and finish are first class. The Shooting Plane has a ductile iron body, which is the norm for most planes manufactured today. There are different grades of ductile iron, but they share the general characteristics of high tensile strength, very good fracture resistance, and high vibration dampening properties.

Common to all Veritas hand planes, the body is stress-relieved after initial rough machining. As I understand it, the process involves heating the body to upwards of 700°C until it's achieved a uniform temperature all the way through, maintaining the heat for several hours, and then, gradually cooling the body to reduce any thermal stress. The result is a dimensionally stable body that can better take hard knocks of shop life without cracking.

I used my engineer's square to check the flatness of both the base and side of the plane - they were spot on. As well, the cutting side is perfectly perpendicular to the base. 

You can't help but notice that the blade is positioned on the side of the plane, rather than the sole. A logical inversion given that any standard plane used for shooting is positioned on its side for use on the shooting board. 

The bed is set at a 12-degree angle, essentially making this a low-angle plane. Coupled with a common 25-degree blade bevel, this gives an effective cutting angle of 37-degrees, which is what you want for working end-grain. While a cutting angle higher than this is better for dealing with interlocked grain, a lower angle does a better job of severing end-grain.

You'll also notice that the bed isn't straight, as you'll find on virtually all bench and most block planes, but skewed 20-degrees. Planing with a skewed blade produces a shear cutting action that goes a long way to reducing cut resistance. You've probably noticed this when you're hand planing wood with really weird grain - orienting the plane so that the blade cuts into the wood fibres at an angle gives a smoother surface with less tear-out. 

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Mouth adjusting screw (A) and Toe locking knob (B) enable you to set the mouth opening

Generally, you want to keep the mouth of the plane as small as you can, yet still allow enough space for shavings to exit. On this plane, once the blade is set, you can quickly and adjust the gap between the cutting edge of the blade and the front of the movable toe plate by simply turning a mouth adjusting screw. This feature is found on quite a few Veritas planes.
 

Blade Adjuster

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The Norris-style blade adjuster enables precise blade setting

I dare say you won't find a more effective, easier-to-use blade adjuster than the Norris-style mechanism. Veritas uses this adjuster on a number of its hand planes. The adjuster enables you to make very precise blade depth adjustments, as well as tweak the position of the blade if you find that it's cutting a bit too much to either the left and right side of the mouth. 
 

Blade & Lever Cap

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The massive blade with its lever cap

The Veritas Shooting Plane comes with a massive, 3/16" thick by 2-7/32" wide blade that is available in either O1 or the new PM-V11 tool steel. O1 blades are oil-quenched and double-tempered to Rc58-60. I like these blades because they're quick to sharpen and they hold an edge tolerably well. According to Veritas, the new PM-V11 steel will hold an edge longer than O1 steel, but take longer to sharpen. Personal preference will dictate which blade you choose. The important thing is to keep your blades sharp all the time. You can get the full story on this new tool steel here.

The blade has a 23-degree bevel, and a 2-degree micro-bevel. Coupled with the 12-degree bed, you get an effective cutting angle of 37-degrees. In case you're wondering, you can set the Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide to hone the blade at 23-degrees - best that you refer to the instruction guide.


You've got to be grateful that the blade comes lapped to a flatness tolerance of 0.0005" over the working surface. Flattening the back of a blade has to be the most time time-consuming part of the honing process. All that you really need to do with this blade is polish the bevel and hone the micro-bevel. 

The lever cap is an important component of any plane - it's role is to hold the blade down firmly on the bed of the plane. The lip on this lever cap is perfectly flat and smooth, and the 1" diameter foot helps to distribute clamping pressure evenly across the front edge of the cap. Just a few turns of the knurled lever cap knob is enough to lock the cap into place.

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Set screws help you adjust the blade square to the stock

There are three set screws machined into the sides of the plane. I find them invaluable for setting the blade square to the stock. It's reasonably easy to align the blade square to the mouth of the plane, and then snug up the set screws so that the edge of the blade is exactly parallel to the mouth. With the base of the plane upside down I then pull a thin piece of flat hardwood across the blade bevel to ensure that the whole width of the blade will engage the stock. I can also quickly gauge whether I've correctly set the depth of cut. I find it easier, with the plane upside down, to fine tune the cutting depth.

Handle

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Adjustable handle

The Bubinga handle is adjustable across a 60-degree arc. With the handle in the upper most position there is no chance you'll scrape your hand against the shooting the board when using the plane. With the handle moved to a lower position you can use the plane with the cutting side facing down - the same orientation you would with your other hand planes.

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Using the Shooting Plane on long grain

I tried using this plane as I would a standard bench plane, but found it somewhat awkward, particularly as there isn't a front handle that you can use to stabilize your grip on the tool. Veritas suggests clamping a straight edge to the side of the stock against which the plane can run. A bit of a runaround I think.

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Threaded holes for attaching an auxiliary fence

Another way of using this plane for edge jointing is with an auxiliary fence. You can attach the fence that comes with either the Veritas Skew Rabbet Plane or the Jack Rabbet Plane to the two threaded holes in the base of the plane. If you don't have either of these planes you can custom ordered the fence from Lee Valley. Even though you can use this plane for working long grain, it's essentially a specialty tool, designed to be used for shooting end grain, and isn't a replacement for a bench plane.
 

The Plane in Use

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You'll need a shooting board

The plane is meant to be used with a shooting board that has a fence on the side of the platform that the Shooting Plane runs along (in the photo above, on the right side of the platform). Essentially this creates a runway along which the plane travels without risk of the plane wandering off the board. It also serves to hold the plane against the side of the platform on which the stock rests. 

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Ensure the fence (top photo) and platform (bottom photo) are square to the plane

A shooting board is very easy to make. I used scrap ply and a piece of Ash for the fence. Oversized bolt holes enable me to readjust the fence should it ever get out of square. A bit of wax on the runway and it's ready to rumble. You can also use the board for shooting miter cuts by angling the fence to 45-degrees, or making a second shooting board with a fixed 45-degree fence.

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I decided to test the Veritas Shooting Plane straight from the box, as I have no doubt that many woodworkers will do just that. I make test cuts with softer woods (Alder, Douglas Fir) as well as harder woods (Ash, Maple, Oak). All told, the results were very satisfactory. Cuts in softer woods were easier to make, and the results were excellent. On harder woods it required somewhat more effort to plane the end-grain. The results were equally satisfactory. As you might imagine, the thicker the stock, the more 'body English' you need to use. The key though, is to keep the plane blade razor sharp. As soon as you notice that the end-grain isn't as clean, time to hone the blade. What makes this plane work so well is a combination of the almost 8 pound weight of the plane, the low, 37-degree cutting angle, and the 20-degree skew angle of the blade. You also want to set the blade to take a very light cut, and, of course, ensure that the blade is consistently sharp.

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Off the table saw
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Straight from the shooting board

Summary

If you only occasionally plane end-grain, then the Veritas Shooting Plane is probably not going to be of much use to you. However, anyone who currently makes use of a bench plane for shooting end-grain will, I think, love this plane. Ditto for anyone who is frustrated with what comes off the table saw, or the results of their hand sawing endeavours. It's a superb piece of machining, wonderful to use, and it performs beautifully. Plus, it'll look great on your work bench and in your tool cabinet.
 

KEY FEATURES:

  • Size: 2-1/8" W x 3-5/16" H x 15-7/8" L (excludes handle)
  • Weight: 7-3/4 lbs
  • Body: Ductile cast iron
  • Blade: O1 or PM-V11 steel
  • Knobs: Brass
  • Handle: Bubinga (adjustable over a 60-degree arc)
  • Bed angle: 12-degrees
  • Bed-skew angle: 20-degrees
  • Blade bevel angle: 25-degrees
  • Effective cutting angle: 35-degrees
  • Blade size: 1/8" x 2-1/4"
  • Available LR and RH

COMPANY:Veritas Tools
MODEL:05P54.51 (RH, O1 blade)
05P55.51 (LH, O1 blade)
05P54.71 (RH, PM-V11 blade)
05P55.71 (LH, PM-V11 blade)
PRICE:$325 (O1 blade)
$345 (PM-V11 blade)
MADE IN:Canada
SOURCE:Lee Valley Tools
January 2014
Author: 
Carl Duguay
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